Catching a shuttle bus from Macau’s Cotai Strip to the historic Taipa Village is a pretty journey. It’s simple enough to catch from the City of Dreams casino resort in Cotai. Driving along the water, there are dozens of beautiful Mediterranean style buildings that make it hard to believe you’re in Macau. Before visiting, I was only really aware of Macau’s glitzy Vegas style strip and casinos. But my goodness, there’s so much more to Macau than this, with a rich and fascinating history. Let me show you around Taipa Village.
Arriving in Taipa Village
We left the coach and straight away found the buildings a unique contrast to those of neighbouring Hong Kong. Firstly, there’s the imposing Grand Lisboa tower which is unmissable from the skyline against the grey clouds.
Initially, Macau was just one square mile in size, reclaiming land to make way for areas like Cotai. Back in the sixteenth century, Macau was rented to Portugal as a trading port, and settled in 1557. Transfer of Portugal’s reign was handed back to the Macanese in 1999. Today, much like Hong Kong, Macau remains a Special Administrative Region with its own government. It does, however, retain many Portuguese features, from cuisine through to architecture. This influence is apparent as you walk towards Macau’s Senada Square in Taipa Village.
Senado Square, Macau
Taipa is an interesting blend of Eastern and Western cultures, much like its sister, Hong Kong. Macanese food is considered the world’s first example of fusion cooking, and this is apparent throughout the village. You’ll find your first instance in Senado Square.
Senado Square is the hub of Macau’s primary peninsula. I love the beautiful pastel buildings, and the pavement is traditionally Portuguese with mosaic tiles. It’s such a contrast to the skyscrapers of nearby Cotai.
The square was named back in the Ming Dynasty. During its Portugese sovereignty, local authorities would review troops here on their inaugurations. The buildings and central fountain are very western in their sentiment and design, although the lanterns reassure you that you’re in Asia. Around the square are restaurants and shops selling souvenirs and popular local snacks.
Pastelaria Koi Kei
Within the iconic pink building in Senado Square, you’ll find a great store. Translating to the Koi Kei Bakery, it’s part of a chain of stores in Macau selling traditional Macanese and Chinese snacks. These range from nut cookies to egg rolls, peanut candy, various types of jerky, and much more. What’s even better is that you’re able to try pretty much everything in the store. All souvenirs are also packaged with great presentation, and you see many people walking around with bags from the store.
First up, you’ll find Chinese delicacies like bags of dried fish. Lucy and I weren’t so keen to try these.
The cookies, on the other hand, are delicious. I loved the taste of most of the nut cookies and would have brought back plenty if I could fit them into my suitcase.
Jerky’s another popular treat in Macau, with most shops selling a variety. As you walk around Taipa Village, no doubt you’ll have various opportunities to try it. The famous Portuguese pastel de natas are another popular choice in Macau.
Ultimately, the streets around Senado Square are beautiful and it’s an incredible contrast to the rest of Macau’s modern architecture.
St Dominic’s Church, Macau
Turning the corner past Senado Square, you’ll see the beautiful Portuguese architecture of yellow St Dominic’s Church. It was built in 1587 by Spanish Dominican priests, only to be taken over the following year by Portuguese disciples. In the seventeenth century, it was rebuilt in stone and today stands as an iconic monument of the Historic Center of Macau.
The stunning Portuguese colonial Catholic church comprises three halls inside. The main hall boasts stained glass windows, and there’s also a plethora of oil paintings and statues to discover.
It’s a beautiful building and I just love the intricacies and ornate decor, both inside and out. My outfit even matched. We continued on to explore the remaining streets of Taipa Village and Macau’s Historical Center.
On the way up the street, you’ll likely pass shops and cafes, tempting you with Portuguese cookies and jerky to try.
We didn’t travel far before coming across the striking ruins of St Paul’s.
Ruins of St Paul’s, Macau
The ruins of St Paul’s are likely Macau’s most famous landmark. As well as being an interesting sight, the ruins are particularly pertinent in Macau’s rich history.
The site was built in the early seventeenth century by Jesuit priests who travelled to Asia to spread the word of Catholicism. Here, originally, lay both the Church of St Paul, a church for St Paul the Apostle. The building was once the largest church in Asia, considered to be the Vatican of the Far East. There was also once St Paul’s College on the same site.
The Church of St Paul was originally a wood structure which unfortunately burnt down in a fire during a typhoon in 1835. As you can see, only the granite facade remained, as well as the staircase that takes you to the entrance of the building itself.
Just like Macau, the ruins of the church are a beautiful blend of East and West. It was built and decorated by Japanese Christians, and they were involved in the design of the facade which is very visible. The West influence is evident in symbols of doves, suns, moon, and stars to reflect the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, Chinese symbols and lions indicate the East.
From the behind of the ruins of St Paul’s, visitors can climb a stairway. This takes you to the top of the facade. Visitors gain a closer view of the design, as well as vistas across the Historic Center of Macau.
Adjacent to the ruins of St Paul’s, you’ll find Monte Fort. It’s a stone fort dating back almost four hundred years, offering incredible views across Macau from the top. Despite the drizzly weather and grey clouds, we climbed the staircase to the top of Monte Fort.
Much like St Paul’s Church, Monte Fort was a creation of the Jesuits, back in the seventeenth century. Up here, soldiers and storehouses once lived behind the imposing walls, with cannons along the battlements. The fort was originally for helping Macau survive a two year siege. It since remained a military base up until 1965. Nowadays, it’s the perfect place for catching a 360 degree view of Macau. You can see from the glittering casino lights to beyond the Historic Center of Macau’s Taipa Village.
When the weather isn’t so muddy and drizzly, there are some hammocks at the top. Visit when it’s dry so that you can relax with one of the best views across Macau.
Feeling a little thirsty and in great need of a sit down, we set off in search of a bar with an equally fabulous view.
Sky 21, Macau
We discovered that Sky 21 Bar also offers some of the best views of the Macau skyline. At the top of the AIA Tower near the waterfront, we set off in search of the bar. We walked back through Senado Square. It looks even more impressive when illuminated at night by lanterns.
We came across a supermarket called Sunsco that looks suspiciously similar to the supermarket giant, Tesco, back in the UK.
Sky 21 is a luxurious bar that’s the perfect hotspot for admiring the view of Macau with a cocktail or glass of champagne. Enjoy happy hour on the rooftop for a chilled vibe and reasonable drink prices.
I loved taking in the glitzy views and neon lights of Macau, with the Grand Lisboa Tower a starring feature of the skyline. On the other side, you can see across to Cotai and the glittering casinos and skyscrapers across the bridge.
We sipped Prosecco and enjoyed watching the sky slowly fade to darkness and the lights come out. A perfect way to spend an evening in Macau.
Afterwards, we walked along through the lights of the casinos to get back to the ferry terminal. It’s quite an incredible sight that really did remind me of the Las Vegas Strip. Don’t miss the fountain show at the Wynn. Every fifteen minutes, there’s an impressive fountain display synchronized to music. It’s nothing on Vegas’ Bellagio fountain show, but worth a watch.
After a forty minute walk past some dazzling lights and impressive hotels, we reached the ferry terminal. Back to Hong Kong, and on to some incredible days ahead for the rest of our stay.
Have you visited Macau’s Taipa Village? What are your highlights of Macau? Let me know your recommendations in the comments below.