But there’s a lot more to this tiny, special administrative region than meets the eye. The city’s historic role as a trading post where East meets West has created a colourful and harmonious blend of Chinese and European culture that can be seen in its UNESCO-listed architectural jewels, its unique fusion cuisine, and even in its friendly, multi-heritage and multilingual local population.
The gaming revolution brought not just pleasure palaces for punters, but also a new retail renaissance. At One Central Macau, an elegant shopping mall connected to Mandarin Oriental, Macau (and named after its location near the city’s commercial centre), luxury goods to suit the most sophisticated tastes vie for attention, with sweeping panoramic views of the Outer Harbour and Nam Van Lake. The Louis Vuitton Maison presents its chic clothing and accessories on three floors, together with fine art installations and video screenings. Names such as Gucci, Fendi and Hermès are in good company here, side by side with Dior, Dolce & Gabbana and Emporio Armani. The spotlight is on top-of-the-line cell phones at Vertu, while exquisite jewels dazzle at Cartier and Bulgari. Back outside, along the plaza, don’t miss Macau’s One Impression by artist Qi Xinghua, which is the world’s longest anamorphic art, at around 120 metres.
Just a short walk from Mandarin Oriental, Macau, the heart of the old city brings a nostalgic contrast to the modern commercial district. A trip to the iconic Ruins of St Paul’s, by far Macau’s most famous landmark, starts at Senado Square; flanked by centuries-old colonial buildings, it forms part of the Historic Centre of Macau. This collection of more than 20 monuments, according to UNESCO, provides ‘a unique testimony to the meeting of aesthetic, cultural, architectural and technological influences from East and West’. A narrow cobblestone lane lined by tiny shops selling souvenirs and antiques winds up to the Ruins. The stunning façade itself is worth the walk, but there’s plenty more to see here, such as the bones of 17th-century Christian martyrs in the crypt beneath the Ruins, and the Monte Fort (now the Museum of Macau).
Housed in the Tourism Activities Centre on Rua Luis Gonzaga Gomes, near the golden lotus sculpture, two Macau museums stand out for their hands-on exhibitions. Visitors to the Wine Museum don’t just learn about Portuguese wine production, they can sample vintages on site. And at the Grand Prix Museum, they can drive a racing-car simulator that recreates the behind-the-wheel thrills and spills of races as the drivers experience them.