A glimpse of old Portugal
Wander around Senado Square, the heart of Macau since the 16th century. On the western side is the Leal Senado, built in 1784 as a municipal office. It’s been remodelled over the years and the pretty tiled steps leading to the first-floor library are a glimpse of old Portugal.
Further west is one of many beautiful European-style squares with St Augustine’s Church, Sir Robert Ho Tung public library (a charming 1890s villa and gardens) and the 1858 Dom Pedro V Theatre – luckily for me, it’s open. Nearby, office workers sip on coffees at Terra cafe; they could as easily be in Rome or Melbourne.
To the east of Senado Square, all signposts lead to the ruins of the Jesuit church St Paul’s, Macau’s best-known historic site. Built in 1602, it was destroyed by fire in 1835 and only the facade remains. Right behind the ruins is the tiny 19th-century Taoist temple Na Tcha.
Macau comprises the old city, set on a peninsula and cut off from mainland China by the historic Border Gate, and two islands, Taipa and Coloane, linked by bridges. The marshy land between the islands was reclaimed to form Cotai, now home to a jaw-dropping number of huge hotels and casinos. This precinct, like all gambling places, is about creating illusions. You can visit a mini Eiffel Tower at the Parisian, see fake Roman ruins at Fisherman’s Wharf, ride a cable car at Wynn Palace or take a gondola at the Venetian. Shows aren’t on the same scale as Vegas but the Monkey King and House of Dancing Water are local favourites.