While famous for its glitzy casinos and resorts, there’s far more to Macau than meets the eye. The former Portuguese colony is full of interesting historical sites and offers a mix of heritage, culture, and cuisine like no other destination in East Asia. Even if you only have one day in Macau, explore this unique region to its fullest with this complete itinerary for first-time travellers!
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What to do in Macau in 24 hours: A complete 1-day itinerary
Enjoy the view from the lighthouse at Guia Municipal Park
If you’re visiting Macau on a day trip from other destinations like Hong Kong or Shenzhen, you’ll likely start your day at the Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal. Fortunately, the outer harbour provides the perfect starting point for exploring the city!
From the harbour, head to Guia Municipal Park. Although it’s only a couple blocks from the terminal, the route into the park isn’t direct. To save yourself a 30-minute walk, you might want to take a 3-minute taxi ride instead.
Guia Municipal Park is home to several attractions, including a complex of military tunnels, a chapel, and a lighthouse. The lighthouse is part of Guia Fortress, built between 1622 and 1638 to fend the city against attacks by the Dutch. It’s easy to overlook the lighthouse as you explore the park, which is a magical destination in and of itself. The area includes lots of local foliage and flowers, creating a distraction from the surrounding urban development.
To reach the Guia Lighthouse, you’ll need to ride a cable car. It’s a short ride with beautiful views of the surrounding city. When you get to the top, you can learn a little more about the history of the area and snap a few photos before riding back down.
Enjoy lunch before a stop at Pau Kung Temple
When you finish exploring the lighthouse, continue by taking the main road west of the park for several blocks until you reach a roundabout surrounded by cafes and restaurants. Pau Kung Temple is just a block away from here, but this is the perfect chance to stop for a bite to eat.
From the roundabout to the temple, you’ll pass at least a dozen cafes and restaurants. From traditional chicken rice to Western fast food, you can find just about anything your heart desires.
To experience the local Macau cuisine, try one of the establishments without any English signage. Let your sense of smell direct you to these small mom-and-pop restaurants that line the streets of downtown Macau.
After you finish off your meal, wash your hands and travel to the temple. Pau Kung Temple isn’t the most famous temple in Macau, but it’s the closest to Guia Park and the next destination.
The small temple features attractive murals covered in red lettering against a yellow exterior. It’s bright and features a small main hall containing a shrine and the usual hanging incense coils.
A trip to one of these temples typically only lasts 10 to 15 minutes, as there isn’t much to see or do. It’s still a unique site that you won’t find in the West, making it a necessary item to cross off your Macau bucket list.
Explore the historic ruins of St. Paul’s Church
Almost every Macau itinerary includes a stop at the Ruins of St. Paul’s Church, located on the avenue you took to reach the temple. You’ll recognize the area when you see the walls of Monte Fort.
St. Paul’s Church sits at the end of the fort. Built between 1602 and 1640 by Jesuits, the church was once one of the largest in Asia. Consumed by fire in 1835, the façade of St. Paul’s Church is all that remains. The intricate carvings on the stone wall create an impressive attraction. You can view a detailed relief of The Virgin Mary stepping on a hydra next to carvings of other religious figures.
Besides the façade, St. Paul’s Church includes a small museum housing some of the artifacts uncovered below the ruins.
Walk the fortifications and view more Macau skyline at Monte Fort
When you tire of examining the façade of St. Paul’s Church, cross the street to Monte Fort. The fort was built by Jesuits to defend the area against pirates, constructing barracks, storehouses, and tall fortifications lined with cannons.
At one point, the fort connected to the old city wall of Macau. All that remains of that connection is the door that soldiers entered through. Luckily, most of Monte Fort remains intact, including the cannons. You can walk parts of the walls and look out over the city.
The fort also houses the Museum of Macau. Learn about the history of the area, including how the territory went from a Portuguese colony to a Special Administrative Region of China.
Shop and eat your way around Senado Square
From the fort, you may see the buildings surrounding Senado Square. To reach the large public meeting spot, you’ll need to cut through a series of short residential streets.
Luckily, it’s only a 10-minute walk. As you approach the square, you’ll notice that the pedestrian traffic grows a little thicker. Senado Square remains the most visited public square in Macau. Crowds of pedestrians naturally bring the need for commerce. The area around the square is lined with shops and restaurants.
Take a 360-degree tour around the square and check out your options. You can find Portuguese, Chinese, Russian, and Western cuisine, along with cafes serving a wide range of flavoured coffees and iced drinks.
Find the best skyline views at Macau Tower
After shopping and eating near the square, it’s time to climb Macau Tower. Located on the southern end of the peninsula, the tower stands 338 metres tall, providing the most impressive views of the region.
From the top of the Macau Tower Convention and Entertainment Center, you can see it all. The panoramic views go on for miles, covering the peninsula to your north and the islands to your south.
With an endless list of things to do & see in Macau, a trip to the tower tops everything. The tower has all the amenities you need. View the rest of Macau from the observation decks or grab a bite from the restaurants. You can also fill your bags with more shopping at the tower stores.
Enjoy the tranquillity in the Garden of Flower City
The tower is the last stop on the crowded peninsula. Now, it’s time to relax in the Garden of Flower City. To reach this small Chinese-style garden, you’ll need to travel from the peninsula to Taipa Island, connected via three bridges. Two of the bridges are just a few minutes from the tower, but they’ll take almost an hour to cross on foot.
If you want to save time and energy, take a taxi across the bridge and into the centre of Taipa Village. The enclosed garden sits in the middle of a residential area near the main section of Taipa. The Garden of Flower City has a small walking path around a pond, creating a hidden retreat surrounded by towering modern structures.
If you happen to visit during the summer, you’ll get to see the garden full of lotus flowers. In Chinese culture, the lotus symbolizes purity, which perfectly captures the atmosphere of this little oasis.
The Garden of Flower City is the only stop on this itinerary inside the Taipa district. If you come back for a longer trip, try to check out some of the other sites in the area. Taipa is known for its historic village and modern shopping malls.
Gamble at the Venetian Macau on the Cotai Strip
After the peace and quiet in the garden, the lively streets of the Cotai Strip should wake you up. The entire district of Cotai sits on reclaimed land built between Taipa Island and Coloane Island. Most of that land is now covered with casinos and resorts, including The Venetian Macau and dozens of other options. To end your China trip plan in style in Macau, check into one of the casinos.
The Venetian is just down the street from the garden, past the park and man-made lake on your left. Besides the Venetian, you’ll find plenty of recognizable names, including the Sheridan, Hotel Parisian, Wynn Palace, Grand Hyatt, and the Galaxy. You’d almost think you’re in Vegas!
No matter where you stay, you’ll get to gamble, drink, and eat until it’s time to check out the next morning.
Where to stay with 24 hours in Macau
Unlike Hong Kong to the east, choosing among the best places to stay in Macau isn’t as much of a challenge, thanks to the territory’s ultra-compact size. If you’ve just got a short 24-hour layover, sticking around the Macau Centre will be your best bet. (Pun intended!)
- Harbourview Hotel Macau: An elegant hotel inspired by 18th-century Europe, offering lovely city views from spacious & comfortable rooms. There’s an all-season indoor pool to chill out after a long day of sightseeing in Macau.
- Grand Lapa Macau: An affordable 5-star experience in the heart of the city, this luxury hotel features large rooms with excellent panoramas over Macau. The heated outdoor pool and five on-site restaurants—serving a variety of food, including Chinese, Portuguese, and Thai—make the choice to stay here a tad easier.
- Mandarin Oriental Macau: If you want to bask in Macanese luxury in the city centre, there’s no better choice than this insanely popular 5-star hotel. Following the brand’s fame elsewhere in Asia, this property pulls out all the stops to keep you comfortable, from its spacious, elegant rooms to its world-class spa treatments and dining.