Living in Hong Kong means one of the quickest, easiest out-of-town escapes is right over the water. Whether you take the bus or the ferry (we took the bus since I get extremely seasick), Macau is just under 2 hours door-to-door. I had always been eager to explore Macau. On extremely clear days, you can even see Macau from Hong Kong. I’ve seen Macau multiple times from the airplane as we make our final descents into Hong Kong or initial ascents departing Hong Kong. But I had never actually been there. The pandemic meant that both Hong Kong and Macau closed their borders to tourists for 3 years, so once both special administrative regions’s borders had reopened, I was ecstatic and began planning to visit Macau as soon as possible.
It seemed like a magical idea to visit Macau in December, with everything decorated for Christmas left and right. Even if you don’t visit during the holiday season, the streets of Cotai will remind many of Las Vegas and the streets of Macau will take you back in time to the days of when Macau was a Portuguese colony. And while it’s so easy to simply spend the day in Macau when visiting (or living in) Hong Kong, I’d argue it’s even easier to stay the night so you can enjoy the city after the sun sets. The beau and I spent two nights at the Wynn Palace in Cotai, giving us plenty of time to explore during the day and sample delicious cuisines at night.
Travessa da Paixão and Ruínas of São Paulo
About a 20-minute drive from our hotel (add on another 10-15 minutes during rush hour) is the famous Ruins of St. Paul’s, which are the remnants of a 17th century Portuguese church. This is one of the most popular tourist spots in all of Macau. Unless you get here right at sunrise, never expect this spot to be empty (much like the Duomo in Milan). But right off to the side of this UNESCO World Heritage Site is the Travessa da Paixão, a romantic cobblestone alley adorned with colorful buildings of pink, yellow, and green. A glimpse of the Ruins of St. Paul’s dominates the end of the alleyway which is perfect for photos especially if you get the street all to yourself.
The Streets of Macau
About a 10-minute walk from the Ruins of St. Paul’s is another popular tourist highlight called Rua da Felicidade, or the Street of Happiness. Once known as the city’s red light district, it’s now a popular spot for locals and tourists for incredible Chinese, specifically Macanese, delicacies. While Travessa da Paixão is uniquely European with callbacks to Macau’s Portuguese history, Rua da Felicidade is uniquely Chinese with distinct architecture and undergoing a renovation nearly 30 years ago that painted all the doors and shutters a vibrant red. Along this street, you’ll find shops selling Macanese treats such as noodles, congee, and peanut candy.
A little tip: if the weather is favorable, ditch the taxi. Take advantage of walking Macau’s many picturesque streets. Not only are they full of incredible culture, but you might find some wonderful surprises along the way. In our case, we came across shops in colorful alleyways selling traditional bowls and china, snacks, and hong bao (red envelopes). We even came across a pet shop that had a very welcoming cat sitting on the sidewalk outside, eager for some kitty cuddles that I happily obliged.
One spot we did not get to visit was the A-Ma Temple, the oldest temple in Macau. I really wanted to visit first thing in the morning when the temple is quiet (and when the weather was slightly cooler as it was abnormally hot in December), so we have that saved for our next visit.
Portuguese Egg Tarts
You can’t come to Macau and not try a Portuguese egg tart. Living in Hong Kong for the last 4 years means I’m much more familiar with egg tarts than I was before I lived in Asia, but egg tarts in Macau are a little different. The beau had been talking about Portuguese egg tarts for years, so of course I was eager to try one. But not just any egg tart – it needed to be from a specific place with a well known and positive reputation. So, we headed straight for Margaret’s Café e Nata. As soon as we turned the corner into the alley where the cafe sits, we saw a queue. A queue is a good sign. Another good sign is an actual sign that displays their closing hours, but it also states they close up entirely for the day as soon as they sell out of egg tarts. I’m sure they never actually make it to their written closing time because my goodness these egg tarts are divine. Hot and fresh, my first bite practically melted in my mouth and I finally understood what the beau had been raving about for so long. Buttery, flaky, and oozing with the right amount of custard, we ordered several to go because I just knew I was going to want another one later.
Dinner in Cotai
There is no shortage of incredible restaurants in Macau, so picking a restaurant for a date night with the beau was actually a tough mission. Since had enjoyed a delicious, multi-course steak dinner on our first night and Jiangnan cuisine for lunch, we were in the mood for some pasta. La Terrazza at Galaxy Macau came highly recommended by a friend, so we made a reservation (highly suggest to make one!). It wasn’t far from our hotel either, so after we walked along the Estrada do Istmo after sunset, which will very much remind you of Las Vegas, we made our way over for dinner. Our pasta craving was more than satisfied. We dined on carpaccio and cheese along with fresh pasta (squid ink pasta for the beau, tomato and basil pasta for me). We sat indoors, but that’s only because I didn’t realize there was an outdoor terrace (I should have guessed from the name – *insert palm in face emoji*). The weather was unusually warm which would have made it quite nice to dine outside, so I recommend asking for an outdoor table weather permitting.
Our 2-day trip to Macau was too short to see everything, so we are planning another visit very soon. You could easily spend up to a week in Macau, exploring all kinds of historical, educational, and cultural sites during the day before hitting up the glamorous restaurants and casinos in the evening. I’m looking forward to adding more sites to this list. If you’re looking for a little escape from Hong Kong, resident or tourist, Macau is literally the sweet spot.