The Portuguese settled in Macao during the mid-1550s. Today, 95 per cent of its population is Cantonese-speaking Chinese. The remainder is mostly Portuguese, with a sprinkling of other foreign nationals. A reclamation project is under way to convert Taipa and Coloane Islands into one island, making space for the new Macao International Airport and increasing the territory’s land area by 20 per cent.
Church of Sao Paulo
The fine Baroque facade and stairway are all that remain of this 17th-century Catholic church. Built between 1602 and 1637 with the help of Japanese Christians, who had fled persecution in Nagasaki, it was all but destroyed by a fire in 1835. Rua da Ressurreicao. City centre, adjacent to the Citadel of Sao Paulo do Monte. Free admission.
Citadel of Sao Paulo do Monte
Also known as the Monte Fort, the powerful defensive Citadel of Macao was built between 1617 and 1626, and was responsible for the defeat of a Dutch invasion force in 1622. It now houses the Macao Weather Observatory, and offers fine views over the town and to China, across the Pearl River. Travessa dos Artilheiros. City centre, adjacent to the Church of Sao Paulo. Tel: (0853) 363 057. Open: daily 7am-6pm. Free admission.
Covering 20 hectares, the gardens are wonderfully colourful, with a wide range of trees, flowers, and plants, as well as ponds and a walk-in aviary. Coloane Island. Near the Taipa-Coloane causeway. Tel: (0853) 870 295. Open: daily 9am¡ª7pm. Free admission. Bus: 21A from Macao.
Dominating the highest point in Macao, this fort sits atop the green and tranquil Guia Hill. Among the old cannon-dotted walls, which date from the 1630s, are a lighthouse and a small church. The lighthouse dates from 1865, and is the oldest on the Chinese shoreline.
Kun lam Tong Temple
The 360-year-old Ming-dynasty Buddhist temple is dedicated to the Queen of Heaven and the Goddess of Mercy. It is the largest temple in Macao, and around one of its altars are three gold-lacquered statues of the Buddha. In the garden is the Lover’s Tree which, according to legend, arose on the spot where a suicide pact was observed by two young lovers. Avenida do Coronel Mesquita. Macao town centre. Tel: (0853) 556 127. Open: daily 7am-6pm. Free admission.
Leal Senado (Municipal Council)
The Loyal Senate House dates from 1784, and contains a stone tablet, inscribed in Portuguese, describing Macao as the ‘City of the name of God, Macao, there is none more loyal’ because it remained loyal to Portugal when the home country was occupied by the Habsburgs.
Taipa House Museum
A new museum housed in one of the old Portuguese colonial villas in Taipa village, this is devoted to exhibiting the old style of life in the territory. Taipa Praia. Near the Taipa-Coloane causeway Tel: (0853) 827 088. Open: Tue-Sun 9.30am-lpm & 3-5.30pm. Free admission.