Get us in your inbox

Search
Cathedral of the Nativity of Our Lady
Photograph: Colin LamCathedral of the Nativity of Our Lady

Incredible historical landmarks to see in Macao

Historical spots in our sister SAR that represent a rich mixture of both Portuguese and Chinese influences

Written by
Time Out Hong Kong
Advertising

Macao has a rich history unlike any other city, and its heritage dates back to almost five centuries. It is home to numerous historical gems that showcase a little slice of Portugal. Here you'll find well-preserved colonial architecture and cobbled streets that have been declared significant World Heritage Sites. Known as the Historic Centre of Macao, twenty-two buildings and eight adjoining public squares were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site on July 15, 2005. Experience the city's unique and fascinating history through places that have stood the test of time. Read below and bookmark these places for your next visit to Macao.

RECOMMENDED: Get to know Macao, one bite at a time. Visit this link for a roundup of traditional Macao dishes that you must absolutely try when you're in town. 

A-Ma Temple
Photograph: Colin Lam

A-Ma Temple

A-Ma Temple is the oldest temple in Macao. Though its current structure was finished in 1828, the initial build started in 1488. The temple consists of various pavilions, including the Gate Pavilion, the Memorial Arch, the Prayer Hall, the Hall of Benevolence, the Hall of Guanyin, and Zhengjiao Chanlin (a Buddhist pavilion), all of which are dedicated to the worship of different deities. The pavilion forms a well-ordered complex that represents the Chinese culture's varied folk beliefs. Elements like the lattice windows, upturned roof ridges, roof charms, flush gable roof, and decorative porcelain pieces showcase excellent craftsmanship and artistry. 

Barra Square, Macao

Moorish Barracks
Photograph: Colin Lam

Moorish Barracks

Moorish Barracks was built in 1874 on the slope of Barra Hill to accommodate hundreds of troops from Goa – a state in India that was under Portuguese rule for four centuries – designated to strengthen Macao's police force. Today the building serves as the headquarters of the Marine and Water Bureau, but its brick and stone neoclassical structure designed with Mughal influences is perfectly preserved. Its light yellow building with accents of white is hard to miss when you're in the area and is a sight to behold when its long veranda are lit at night.

1 Calçada da Barra, Macao

Advertising
Leal Senado Building  
Photograph: Colin Lam

Leal Senado Building  

Constructed in 1784, the building has served as the centre of Macao's politics and currently houses Macao's Municipal Affairs Bureau. It has gone through several renovations over the years but has retained its original master walls and primary layout, including the courtyard garden. The neoclassical two-storey building shows its southern European influences through its white walls and dark green doors and window frames. The upper floor houses a ceremonial meeting room that leads to an elaborate library that is styled after the library of Mafra Convent in Portugal. 

163 Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro, Macao

Mandarin’s House
Photograph: Colin Lam

Mandarin’s House

Built around 1869, Mandarin's House is a Chinese-style compound that housed the famous Chinese writer and philanthropist Zheng Guanying (known as 'The Son of Macao'). Covering an area of about 4,000 square metres, the complex extends more than 120 metres along Barra Street and houses a gatehouse, courtyards, servants' and master's quarters. Though predominantly showcasing a traditional Chinese style of architecture, some of its elements feature Portuguese influences. Today you will see this structure when walking from Largo do Lilau (Lilau Square), and it is such a stark contrast to the rest of the Western structures surrounding the area. 

10 Travessa de António da Silva, Macao

Advertising
Sam Kai Vui Kun (Kuan Tai Temple)
Photograph: Colin Lam

Sam Kai Vui Kun (Kuan Tai Temple)

Sam Kai Vui Kun was built in 1750 and initially served as a meeting place for Chinese merchants during the olden times. The temple was dedicated to Kuan Tai, a general in ancient China also known as the God of Wealth. The small complex features a nine-ridge roof covered by glazed tiles and a simple grey brick facade. Today, the area is no longer used for business meetings, but people continue to visit the temple to pray for fortune and good luck. 

Rua Sul do Mercado de São Domingos, Macao

St Joseph's seminary and church
Photograph: Colin Lam

St Joseph's seminary and church

Founded in the 18th century by Jesuit missionaries, the seminary, together with St Paul's College, was the base for the Jesuits missionary work in China and the surrounding region. The church beside the seminary was second in size only to the original Church of Mater Dei (Ruins of St Paul's) when it was first built. The modest seminary stands in contrast to the lavish Baroque-style church. One of Macao's prized religious relics lies in one of the altars: a piece of arm bone from St Francis Xavier, one of the most prolific missionaries of Roman Catholic history. The seminary also houses a number of religious artefacts like statues and oil paintings. 

Rua do Seminário, Macao

Advertising
Dom Pedro V Theatre
Photograph: Colin Lam

Dom Pedro V Theatre

Dom Pedro V Theatre was the first western-style theatre in China. Built in 1860, it has served as an important event venue for the Portuguese at the time. The theatre has a neoclassical design that incorporates a portico front on a rectilinear plan. The façade is painted green, which complements the darker shades of the door and window frames housed under a terracotta roof. The colour of the structure stands out against the blocks of yellow buildings in the area. Today the venue serves as an important cultural landmark and is still used for big public events and celebrations. 

St Augustine's Square, Macao

Cathedral of the Nativity of Our Lady
Photograph: Colin Lam

Cathedral of the Nativity of Our Lady

Originally constructed around 1622, the Cathedral went under many restorations, from a small wooden chapel to a stone structure, before eventually turning into a concrete building in 1937. Today the Cathedral is the headquarters of the Diocese of Macao and hosts a large number of Catholic holy masses and other big religious events all year round.

1 Largo da Sé, Macao

Advertising
Holy House of Mercy
Photograph: Colin Lam

Holy House of Mercy

Holy House of Mercy is a charitable organisation founded by the first Bishop of Macao, Dom Belchior Carneiro, in 1569 and has served as a medical clinic, orphanage, and refuge for widows of sailors lost at sea. The Holy House of Mercy has a decorative façade with a mixed variety of columns set between the archways. The whole building is painted white, except for the granite baseline of the ground floor arches. In 2001, a museum opened in the area and currently houses a collection of Macao's Catholic relics. 

2 Travessa da Misericórdia, Macao (Senado Square)

Ruins of St Paul's
Photograph: Colin Lam

Ruins of St Paul's

One of Macao's most treasured sites, the Ruins of St. Paul's refers to the site of the Church of St Paul, also known as 'Mater Dei', which were razed by a fire in 1835. The structure was one of the largest churches in Asia at the time and was known as The Vatican of the Far East. After the fire, only the towering granite façade and a grand staircase of 68 stone steps leading up to it remain. The Baroque façade is divided into five levels that follow the concept of divine ascension, where the horizontal base levels evolve from Ionic, Corinthian, and Composite, and the upper levels gradually narrow into a pediment at the top. It features distinct oriental motifs mixed with western and religious elements that reflect the fusion of global, regional, and local influences. 

Company of Jesus Square, Macao

Advertising
Lou Kau Mansion
Photograph: Colin Lam

Lou Kau Mansion

The mansion is presumed to be built in 1889 and was the home of a prominent merchant named Lou Kau. The two-storey grand grey-brick courtyard house has architectural characteristics typical of residential houses in the late Qing Dynasty. It has a symmetrical design and is arranged in a three-by-three grid. Three main halls (Entrance Hall (Men Guan Hall), Tea Hall (Sedan Hall) and Senior Hall (Tou Hall) on the ground level) are separated by two courtyards. The decorative motifs are a seamless integration of East and West influences, where oriental elements seen in the windows decorated with oyster shells, carved bricks, and roof statues are contrasted with Portuguese-style colourful glass windows and false ceilings.

7 Travessa da Sé, Macao

Na Tcha Temple
Photograph: Colin Lam

Na Tcha Temple

The temple, located near the Ruins of St Paul's, was built in 1888 dedicated to the deity Na Tcha, the son of mythical military commander Li Jing. The proximity of a Chinese temple to the remains of a church is another demonstration of Macao's multicultural identity and religious freedom. Na Tcha Temple is a small single chamber building with brick walls and a traditional flush-gable roof. The grey structure has little ornamentation except for the paintings under the entrance porch and the ceramic animal decorations on the roof that serve as decorations and as guardians to the temple. 

Calçada de São Francisco Xavier, Macao (next to the Ruins of St Paul’s)

Advertising
Guia Fortress, chapel, and lighthouse
Photograph: Colin Lam

Guia Fortress, chapel, and lighthouse

The fortress is a 17th-century colonial military fort complex perched on the top of Guia Hill overlooking the Macao Peninsula that served as a restricted military zone until 1976. The Guia Chapel located inside the fortress was built around 1622 and was originally established by Clarist nuns. Its elaborate frescoes showcase religious and mythological themes with Chinese and Western influences. The lighthouse, on the other hand, was later built in the 19th century and was the first modern lighthouse on the Chinese coast, and its exact location is the official geographic coordinates of Macao.

Guia Hill, Macao

Recommended
    You may also like
      Advertising