Macau is often referred to as the “Las Vegas of the East”, though the truth is Macau is the gambling capital of the world. Macau is a modern city with a unique old-world charm and a rich heritage of Chinese and Portuguese culture for visitors looking for attractions beyond the gambling tables and slot machines.
I visited Macau purely because of curiosity. What I found was unbelievable. I had known Macau was a growing gambling mecca though I didn’t expect the magnitude of the casinos and construction of more all around me. Like other popular destinations around the world, Macau stays true to its roots and culture which is evident mere steps away from the glittering casino lights.
I explored both the casino areas and the authentic neighbourhoods to get a true sense of the area. It’s easy to be ‘wowed’ by the glitz but it’s Macau’s genuine side that won me over.
When you plan to visit Macau, consider the following interesting facts:
Macau was considered a de facto colony of Portugal and was returned to China on 20 December 1999 Macau was initially leased by the Portuguese merchants in 1557.
The area functioned as a trading centre, shipping gold, silk and spices back to Europe until the 18th century.
The Portuguese first arrived in the 16th century and the last Portuguese governor left in 1999; thus Macau is the first and last Asian country to remain a European colony.
Macau was once a human trafficking point for Chinese slaves to Portugal.
Before the Portuguese arrived, Macao was originally known as Haojing, meaning Oyster Mirror, or Jinhai, which literally means Mirror Sea.
Locals believe the name Macau derived from Matsu, a deity who is the goddess of seafarers and fishermen. It’s believed Matsu worshipped at A-Ma Temple built in 1448.
Portuguese and Cantonese are the official languages of Macau.
The area has its own dialect of Portuguese called ‘Macanese Portuguese’. There is also a distinctive creole generally known as ‘Patuá.
95% of Macau’s population is Chinese. The population density of Macao is the world’s highest at 20643 people per square kilometre.
50% of Macau’s residents are Buddhist.
The official name of Macau is Macau Special Administrative Region.
Macau is governed under the ‘one country, two systems’ arrangement for fifty years from 1999 by an elected local authority. In the year 2049, Macau will revert to Beijing’s full control.
One of the most convenient and affordable ways to travel between Macau and Hong Kong is by ferry. The Hong Kong International Airport even allows visitors to bypass Hong Kong Immigration and transfer directly into a ferry to Macau.
Macau is the only place in China where gambling is allowed.
50% of Macau’s revenue comes from gambling. It’s no surprise that 20 % of its population is employed by the casinos.
The impressive Venetian Macao is owned by the Las Vegas Sands and is the largest casino in the world. The Venetian is also the largest single structure hotel building in Asia and the sixth largest building in the world by floor area.
New hotel rooms were constructed at a rate of 16 per day to keep up with Macao’s exploding tourism industry.
In 2012, Macao had the world’s fastest-growing economy.
The original Casino Lisboa and 15 stories round Lisboa Hotel tower were built in 1970 making it Macau’s oldest casino.
One of its most famous residents is ‘The King of Gambling’, Stanley Ho Hung Sun, who had a 40-year government granted a monopoly of gambling in Macau.
With the non-stop development of casinos in Macau, it has become the world’s largest gambling market, far outgrowing iconic Las Vegas.
Gambling revenue in Macau is five times the amount in Las Vegas.
There are more than four times as many gambling tables per 1000 residents that hospital beds. The Cotai Strip is often referred to as the largest tourism project in the world.
Cotai Strip is named after the Las Vegas Strip and is a major land reclamation joining the islands of Coloane and Taipa.
The entire area of Macau is no larger than the size of 700 football arenas.
The Historic Centre of Macau (also known as “澳門歷史城區” in Mandarin and “O Centro Histórico de Macau” in Portuguese) inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2005 is actually a collection of 25 historic monuments and public squares which bore witness to the assimilation and co-existence of Chinese and Portuguese cultures in Macau.
The Cathedral of St. Paul, built by Jesuits around 1580-1625 AD formed Macau’s ‘Acropolis’ and was the largest Catholic church of its time in East Asia. The baroque five-tiered façade and the 66 flight of stone steps leading to it are all that remains of the Cathedral of St. Paul.
Monte Fort (also known “Fortaleza de Nossa Senhora do Monte de São Paulo” in Portuguese and the “Fortress of Our Lady of the Mount of St. Paul” in English) constructed from 1617 to 1626 was principal military defence structure and held off the attempted invasion of Macau by the Netherlands in 1622.
The Guia Lighthouse dating from 1865 was the 1st modern lighthouse on the Chinese coast.
The A-Ma Temple existed in 1488 long before the city of Macau came into being and is an exemplary representation of the true diversity of Chinese culture, inspired by Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and multiple folk beliefs.
Plan Your Visit With This Collection of Macau Tourist Maps
Where Is Macao (Macau)?
GPS Coordinates of Macao :: 22.1987° N, 113.5439° E
Map Showing Location of Macao