Macau – colonial era architecture

The Portuguese were in Macau for around 450 years and only gave the territory back to China in 1999 (two years after Hong Kong was returned).

The most famous landmark is the façade of St. Pauls, a Jesuit church that burned down on three separate occasions in its history (a hint from above perhaps?).

This famous ruin is the main spot for visitors taking group photos and selfies. Personally I don’t see what all the fuss is about but I suppose it has to be ticked off the list.

Leading up to the St. Pauls steps is the pedestrian shopping street Rua de São Paulo which begins in Senado Square. Together they form the epicentre of the old town. There are a few attractive historical buildings along here, like these two wedding cake churches.

You know when you’re in the old town because all the pavements are mosaics.

Above St. Pauls, at the top of Mount Hill, is the Mount Fortress which was built by the Jesuits between 1617 and 1626.

The guns have a commanding view over the bay and the town as you can see from my short video. It was demilitarised in the 1970s and is now the location for the Macau Museum which I didn’t have time to see sadly.

It was a bit cloudy on the day I went but the views were still good. The forsest of cranes on the horizon point to Macau’s status as one the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the world.

On the other side of Mount Hill, the streets around Igreja de São Lazoro (the Church of St.Lazarus) are nice to walk around. I walked along Calçada da Igreja de São Lázaro which has some attractive old buildings.

At 7 Calçada da Igreja de São Lazoro is Chui Lok Chi Mansion. Once a Catholic school it now houses the Tai Fung Tong Art House, a cultural centre.

On the other side of town, another interesting building is the Mandarin’s House.  

It was constructed around 1860 by the Zheng family. With more than sixty rooms and a series of courtyards it is Macau’s largest mansion.  Not all the rooms are open though so you only need about thirty minutes here.

It has many of the characteristics of a traditional Guangdong residence, including moon gates; circular doors between garden areas.

It subtly incorporates architectural details from other cultures as well, such as arched doorways and French windows.  One of my favourite features is that the drainpipes are designed to look like bamboo poles.

Elsewhere, at 975 Avenida da Praia Grande, is the Clube Militar de Macau, now a private club The restaurant is open to the public but I mistimed my arrival so I didn’t get to eat here. Inside it looks like a very atmospheric dining spot.

My time in Macau was limited so I didn’t get to see everything I’d like to. Here are some suggestions for walking tours which I didn’t have time to do; two from Frommers here and here and some ideas from the local tourist board here. My Google map with all these places on is here. Please see my previous posts for food and modern architecture in Macau.

Holidays in Tokyo next!

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