The Ultimate UNESCO Heritage Trail Across Macao: 15 Sites You Must Visit

The Ultimate UNESCO Heritage Trail Across Macao: 15 Sites You Must Visit

Who knew that Macao has so many UNESCO Heritage Sites?

Dubbed as the ‘Vegas of Asia’, Macao is known for its huge and glitzy casinos, mouth-watering delights and East-meets-West architecture. Formerly a colony of Portugal, modern-day Macao is still filled with traces of Portuguese culture and traditions – as evident from its food and architecture.

However, did you know that besides being paradise for gamblers and foodies alike, Macao is home to numerous UNESCO Heritage Sites? Food, culture and heritage – Macao is a one-stop destination for all! Ready to get cultured?

1. Ruins of St. Paul’s

Image credit: Jakub Halun

The Ruins of St. Paul are the remains of the Church of Mater Dei, a former Portuguese church that was destroyed in a fire. Having gotten its name for standing next to St. Paul’s College back then, the church was never rebuilt. The Ruins of St. Paul are probably one of Macao’s most iconic landmarks, and one which you’d have seen on social media or on television! Visitors flock here all year round to take photos of its amazing architecture which stands out against a backdrop of blue skies. For an elevated and panoramic view of the city, head to the inner part of the facade. The staircase in front of the Ruins of St. Paul’s is also where the famous dragon parade begins during Chinese New Year, so make sure to time your trip with the festivities!

Address: Rua de Sao Paulo, Macao, China
Opening Hours: 24/7
Price: FREE

2. St. Dominic’s Church

Image credit: (left) Jakub Halun; (right) edwin11

Located at the far end of Senado Square is St. Dominic’s Church, which is arguably the most well-known church in Macao. A late 16th-century Baroque-style church, it is renowned for its grand and unique architecture which exhibits a mixture of European and local Macanese features. This can be seen from the church’s use of Chinese-style roof tiles and doors made of teak. Besides its eye-catching bright yellow and green exterior, its interior contains a high altar which features a statue of Madonna and Child. This centrepiece is flanked by wood and ivory-carved statues of several saints. If you have more time to spare, pop by the three-storey building attached to the church, which hosts the Treasure of Sacred Art Museum. The museum houses over 300 religious artifacts and artworks, and is a sight to behold!

Address: St Dominic’s Square, Historic City Centre, Macao, China
Opening Hours: 10am-6pm Daily
Price: FREE

3. A-Ma Temple

Image credit: (left) Santosdo

The A-Ma Temple is the oldest temple in Macao, and is situated on the southwest tip of the Macao Peninsula. In fact, the temple was built more than 500 years ago, even before the arrival of the Portuguese to Macao! Constructed in the year of 1488 to commemorate a sacred sea goddess, the A-Ma Temple is filled with rich history and culture. Besides being a religious site, it is also a cultural gem that offers spectacular views. With six main sections that make up a series of classical Chinese architectural treasures, the temple contains various halls, all of which are tastefully designed in terms of size and architecture.

Address: Barra Square | Rua de Sao Tiago de Barra and Calcada da Barra, Macao, China
Opening Hours: 7am-6pm Daily
Price: FREE

4. Senado Square

Located right in the heart of old Macao, Senado Square is a bustling outdoor atrium surrounded by colourful vintage colonial buildings. Due to its proximity to iconic sites such as The Ruins of St. Paul’s and the Holy House of Mercy, Senado Square is a popular venue for hosting public events and celebrations. Tourists from all over the world flock here to admire and photograph its stunning architecture, which is mesmerising by both day and night. The Square is also surrounded by cafés, which is perfect for a bout of people-watching.

Address: Largo do Senado, Macao
Opening Hours: 24/7
Price: FREE

5. Mandarin’s House

Image credit: (left) Andrew Moore; (right) lienyuan lee

Mandarin’s House is an interesting heritage site that both the young and old alike will love. A Chinese residential compound with glimpses of western architectural influences, Mandarin’s House was previously home to Zheng Guanying, a notable reformist and literary figure. Zheng Guanying was a scholar whose idea of ‘serving the nation by enriching the nation’ influenced many Chinese leaders such as Sun Yat-Sen and Mao Tse Tung.

Besides being a hot spot for taking gorgeous and nostalgia-evoking photographs, visitors can wander through the numerous rooms, hallways and courtyards – all of which showcase various styles of historical Chinese design.

Address: 10 Tv. de Antonio da Silva, Macao
Opening Hours: 10am-6pm (Thursdays to Tuesdays), Closed on Wednesdays and Public Holidays.
Price: FREE

6. Sir Robert Ho Tung’s Library

A European-styled public library shrouded by a serene and beautiful garden, Sir Robert Ho Tung’s Library is the ultimate place to kick back, relax and dive into a world of literature. Before it became a library, this building was initially home to Sir Robert Ho Tung, a rich businessman and philanthropist, until his passing in 1955. It was then converted into an elegant and charming library, complete with a tranquil garden, as per his will. Now a library containing a plethora of valuable ancient and religious books as well as an exhibition site, it is the largest library in Macao and a place where locals and visitors visit to satisfy their thirst for knowledge. The recently built four-storey building also employs a glass wall and provides a panoramic view of the garden. There are even dining halls, an area for socialising and audiovisual studios within the library itself.

Address: 10 Tv. de Antonio da Silva, Macao
Opening Hours: 10am-6pm (Thursdays to Tuesdays), Closed on Wednesdays and Public Holidays.
Price: FREE

7. St. Lawrence’s Church

Image credit: Abasaa

Established in 1560, St. Lawrence’s Church, also known as Feng Shun Tang (Church of the Smooth-Sailing Wind), is one of the oldest and most beautiful churches in Macao. Boasting an impressive bright yellow exterior as well as a majestic grand staircase, recent renovation efforts have ensured that it still retains its neo-classical beauty. As you enter the church, do keep an eye out for subtle hints of the traditional Baroque design (especially where the altar is), as well as the wooden baby blue ceiling which complements the yellow walls of the church.

Address: R. de São Lourenco, Macao
Opening Hours: 10am-4pm (Monday to Friday), 10am-1pm (Saturday), Closed on Sundays and Public Holidays
Price: FREE

8. Dom Pedro V Theatre

Image credit: lienyuan lee

Built in 1860 and situated at St. Augustine’s Square, Dom Pedro V was China’s FIRST Western theatre. A mint-coloured building with a neo-classical facade and impressive Ionic columns, it is one of the most striking buildings in Macao. Now open to public, it currently serves as a performing venue for music, dance and various performances, and visitors are allowed to view the lobby and peer into the 300-seat auditorium. If you’re around the area, why not stop by to catch one of its amazing performances and marvel at its exquisite romantic interior? You definitely won’t be disappointed!

Address:  Largo de Santo Agostinho, Macao
Opening Hours: 10am-6pm (Wednesday to Monday), Closed on Tuesdays
Price: Free to look around, ticket prices vary accordingly.

9. Leal Senado Building

Image credit: Paolobon140

Serving as Macao’s municipal chamber since the 18th century, the Leal Senado Building is the seat of Portuguese Macao’s government and one of the city’s most important sites. It’s name means ‘Loyal Senate’, and was derived from the title ‘City of Our Name of God Macao, There is None More Loyal’, and was gifted by the Portuguese government as a reward for Macao’s loyalty. A white and brown U-shaped building, the Leal Senado Building contains an exhibition hall, convention hall and public library. Currently the headquarters of the Institute of Civic and Municipal Affairs, visitors are allowed into the gallery, library and beautifully pruned gardens, so do step in to marvel at its intricate interior! If you’re lucky, you might also be able to catch small afternoon concerts or free art exhibitions whilst you’re there.

Address:  No. 163 Av. Almeida Ribeiro (San Ma Lo)
Opening Hours: Gallery–9am to 9pm Daily (Closed on Mondays); Garden–9am to 9pm
Price: FREE

10. Lou Kau Mansion

A 19th-century historical house in Macao, Lou Kau Mansion is a beautifully preserved mansion which gives visitors a glimpse of the opulent lifestyle that the wealthy local merchant, Lou Kau, led. Located near Senado Square, this two-storey mansion is a smaller version of the Mandarin House, and is a typical traditional Chinese mansion that contains subtle motifs of western influences.

The ground floor of Lou Kau Mansion is open to the public, so feel free to explore the courtyards, rooms and hallways for a feel of how a rich merchant lived back in those days. With grey-brick walls, wood carved canopies and traditional Chinese furniture, get ready for an interesting and eye-opening experience!

Address: No.7, Travessa da Se, Macao, China
Opening Hours: 10am-6pm (Tuesday to Sunday), Closed on Mondays and Public Holidays.
Price: FREE

11. Sam Kai Vui Kun Temple

Situated in front of St. Dominic’s Market Complex and near Senado Square, Sam Kai Kui Vun Temple, also known as Kuan Tai Temple, is a place of religious worship dedicated to Guan Yu. Guan Yu is an important general from the Three Kingdoms period whom Taoists and Buddhists worship. Besides being a place of religious worship, this temple and its surrounding areas played a key role in the commercial and civic life of the city, especially as it was a meeting place for businessmen who worshipped Guan Yu.

Despite having a rather simple and unassuming grey exterior, it contains many fine architectural details, such as the green glazed titles on the roof (in Yingshan style) and ornamental features that visitors may not notice at first glance. When you’re there, do keep a lookout for these exquisite features as you learn about the history associated with this temple.

Address: No. 10 Rua Sul do Mercado de Sao Domingos, Macao, China
Opening Hours: 8am-6pm Daily
Price: FREE

12. Section of The Old City Walls

Image credit: Hiroki Ogawa

One of Macao’s most prominent tourist attractions, the Old City Walls are the remains of a wall that surrounded the colonial city of Macao during the period of Portuguese Macao in the 16th and 17th centuries. Uniquely constructed with clay, sand, rice straws, rocks and oyster shells, these walls were used as defensive measures against invader attacks. Situated right next to the renowned Na Tcha Temple, tourists from all over the world come to have a look at these well-preserved walls that retain evidence of Macao’s history as a Portuguese colony.

Address: On the left side of the Ruins of St. Paul’s Church and next to Na Tcha Temple
Opening Hours: 24/7
Price: FREE

13. Old Protestant Cemetery

Image credit: (left) Glio~commonswiki ; (right) Jacklee

An iconic cemetery established by the British East India Company in Portuguese Macao back in 1821, the Old Protestant Cemetery was built due to the lack of burial sites for Protestants in the Roman Catholic Portuguese colony. Back then, it was difficult for non-Catholics to bury their loved ones on Portuguese colonial soil and such burials had to be done in secret. This cemetery thus allowed non-Catholic foreigners to be buried. From then, many important historical figures have been buried here, such as the missionaries, Robert Morrison and Samuel Dyer, and even Royal Navy captain, Henry John Spencer Churchill (great-great-grand uncle of Winston Churchill)!

Address: Praca Luis de Camoes, Macao, China
Opening Hours: 8.30am-5.30pm Daily
Price: FREE

14. Guia Fortress

Image credit: J. Patrick Fischer

Guia Fortress is one of the most eye-catching and iconic buildings in Macao, comprising a 17th-century colonial military fort, chapel and lighthouse complex situated at Guia Hill. Having taken over 15 years to complete, the Guia Fortress still remains beautifully preserved. Donning an attractive yellow and white exterior, it is a popular photo-spot! Although visitors aren’t allowed to enter Guia Lighthouse, the attached Guia Chapel is open to public and contains unique Portuguese and Chinese religious frescos. You can also opt to take the Guia Cable Car (located outside Flora Garden) to get there. This is a showcase of Portuguese architecture at its finest, and a definite must-see in Macao!

Address: Praca Luis de Camoes, Macao, China
Opening Hours: Fortress–9am to 6pm Daily, Chapel–10am-6pm Daily (last admission 5.30pm)
Price: FREE

15. Holy House Of Mercy

Image credit: lienyuan lee

Founded in 1569 and strategically located in Senado Square, the Holy House of Mercy is a historic building famed for its magnificent white arcaded facade. In the past, it was one of Portugal’s oldest charitable organisations which contained a medical clinic and several other welfare services, such as helping the families of sailors who had drowned at sea. Throughout its long history, the Holy House of Macao was sometimes involved in crucial changes and decisions relating to medical and social assistance for the underprivileged. It thus retains its importance till date, thanks to its role in shaping the history of Macao. In 2001, the Holy House of Mercy Museum was also built, and houses an invaluable collection of Macao’s Catholic relics and more. Do head there to find out more about its exciting history!

Address: No.2 Lane Right, The Holy House, Macao, China
Opening Hours: 10.30am-5.30pm (Tuesday to Sunday), Closed on Mondays and Public Holidays
Price: Museum–MOP 5 (~S$0.85) for a Regular Ticket, Free for Students and Senior over 65

Bet you never knew that Macao consisted of so many UNESCO Heritage Sites, huh! With such a rich history and vibrant culture on top of delectable delights, Macao is undoubtedly a place where every history and culture buff HAS to visit. Start planning your trip now!

Brought to you by Macao Government Tourism Office.

About Author

Joyce Khoh
Joyce Khoh

Curious by nature and armed with a heart of wanderlust, Joyce enjoys nothing more than discovering new places and cultures, meeting people and telling stories. When she's not embarking on some crazy adventure, she loves a good book or film. An avid coffee-drinker and crazy dog lady, she is fascinated by the human condition and passionate about social issues, photography and fashion.