The Macau Peninsula makes up the main section of Macau and it is here that you will find the ferry terminal, the old town, and several of the larger and better known casinos like Grand Lisboa. As most visitors to Macau arrive by ferry, it makes sense to start here before heading off to explore the other islands that make up Macau, namely Coloane, Cotai, and Taipa. Not only will you get a look at the historic center of Macau, but you can also try your luck if you came here for the gambling.
Fortaleza do Monte (Monte Fort)
Fortaleza do Monte is one of the best places to explore old Macau and it is located within an area known as the ‘Historic Centre of Macau’, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fort dates back to the 17th century and sits on the top of Mount Hill and was originally built as a way of protecting the region from pirates. You can either take a guided tour around the fort if you like tours and feel that you would like to hear more of Macau’s history, or you can stroll around at your leisure and take in the sights on your own. Things to look out for include the original cannons that were once used to defend Macau in the days of old and the fort offers stunning views over the rest of Macau, particularly at sunset.
Ruins of St. Paul’s
After you leave Monte Fort, you can walk down towards the city center and past the Ruins of St Paul’s. The name is actually slightly misleading as it makes it sound as if the church still stands when actually all that is left is a single stone wall. Still, as walls go this one is stunning and you can walk around the site and look out for the intricate stone carvings and original pillars. As you continue on down from the ruins you will come across a pedestrianized area selling local delicacies like Macau’s famous Portuguese tarts as well as a range of souvenirs and handicrafts.
Modern day Macau is known for its casinos, but if you want to head back to the beginning then you have to visit Casino Lisboa, the oldest casino in Macau. Casino Lisboa opened in the 1960s and has perhaps lots some of its former glory but it still has a lot of charm and a rather shabby old-school air about it. Inside you will find gaming tables, cafes, a variety of restaurants, and live shows and other events. If you don’t want to gamble there is still a lot to do and experience here. You can do worse than grabbing a drink in this former gambling powerhouse and imagining the crowds who came before you hoping to win big at Casino Lisboa. If you cross the street, you will come to the new Grand Lisboa, a much more modern partner hotel and casino that looks to some like a giant pineapple but is actually meant to resemble a lotus flower, the official symbol of Macau. The outside is paneled with lights and it is definitely worth a look at light when it sparkles across all of Macau.
Fisherman’s Wharf is self-styled as an ‘entertainment complex’ that features over 70 retail outlets and restaurants, as well as a model of the Roman Coliseum. Not only that but you will also find ‘Victorian’ architecture, vistas of ancient Rome, and models of towns like Amsterdam and Cape Town. There are even Aztec walls and gateways and although it may all seem confusing this is a perfect example of the new Macau. For that reason alone, come here just for the Disney-style decor that neatly sums up Macau’s sense of identity.
The Macau Peninsula is by far the best part of Macau to head for if you want a mix between modern casinos and old style buildings and ruins such as Macau’s former fort. This is also a solid base if you want to get a flavor of Macau before exploring the islands further away, and there is enough here to keep you occupied for a few days before moving on to Coloane, Taipa, or Cotai.