48 Hours: Your Weekend Guide to the Authentic Side of Macau

Travel

July 27, 2016 | BY Venus Wong

We explore a side of Macau you’ve never seen before — no gambling involved

Welcome to The Weekender, a recurring travel series focused on destinations ideal for a quick getaway. With less than 48 hours at your disposal, escaping from the clamour of Hong Kong becomes a lot more feasible when you can just grab your bags and come back recharged on Monday. This week’s tried-and-true agenda (yes, we actually went there): Macau.  

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Photo courtesy of Taipa Old Village

For most Hong Kongers, trips to Macau are those of a fleeting nature: many brave the rocky ferry ride to catch concerts, nosh on a bifana (pork chop bun) or check out the latest casino — only to hurry themselves back to the other side before nightfall.  

The glitz and glamour of this diminutive region — the world’s most prominent gambling capital — tends to dominate most of the coverage on Macau. It’s the easier narrative to take: after all, the region boasts the top honour of having the highest concentration of five star hotels. However, there’s a side to the city that’s more “Lisbon meets China” than “Las Vegas of Asia”. 

From local shops to culinary highlights, we count the historic gems that reveal an authentic side of the former Portuguese colony — one that’s rid of Baccarat tables and oversized chandeliers. 

 Go for a Walk in the Old Village 

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Photo courtesy of Taipa Old Village

The small island of Taipa is made famous by Rua do Cunha, a thoroughfare teeming with souvenir shops. However, there’s more to this neighbourhood than beef jerky stands and almond cake vendors. The cobblestoned streets surrounding the road, known as Taipa Village, has been thriving for over a century. A recently revitalisation has breathed a new life into its decaying facades, and many old storefronts and residences have now been converted into coffee shops, boutiques and bakeries. 

  Shop Chic Home Wares

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Photo courtesy of Quarter Square

The crown jewel of the collection of storefronts is by all means Quarter Square, a lifestyle boutique started by a New York-based interior designer. From innovative kitchen tools to body products, the shop carries an eclectic mix of merchandise that reflects the owner's refined, modern aesthetic. The store also serves coffee from Beans Aloud, a local roaster. The cup of Joe is best enjoyed on the rooftop space, where you'll get a charming panorama of the village — with the casinos on Cotai Strip glimmering at a distance. 

Quarter Square, 89 Largo Maia de Magalhaes, Taipa, Macau; quartersquare.co 

 A Taste of Portugal

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Photo courtesy of Portugalia

Unsurprisingly, the neighbourhood is packed with authentic Portuguese restaurants: Head to António Restaurant for a high-end feast that many top food critics have raved about. The seafood rice comes highly recommended. For grabbing a casual bite, the village is home to the only Asian outpost of Portugália, a well-known restaurant chain in Portugal. The perfect signature dish go with your pint is the eponymous steak. For an East-meets-West meal, head to A Petisqueira, a Macanese restaurant and local dining institution that marries traditional Portuguese cuisine with Chinese influences.

 Portugália5 Rua dos Mercadores, Taipa, Macau; portugalia.com.mo

António Restaurant, 7 Rua dos Clerigos, Taipa, Macau; antoniomacau.com

A Petisqueira, 15 Rua de São Joao, Taipa, Macau; +853 2882 5354

 Where to Stay 

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Photo courtesy of Pousada de São Tiago

It's not everyday that you get to spend the night at a castle in Asia — one that claims a storied history dating back to the 17th century, at that. Formerly a fortress built by the Portuguese to ward off European invaders and pirates, Pousada de São Tiago has since been converted into a charming boutique hotel boasting incredible views of the Macau Tower. A chapel erected on the premises back in the 1800s remains intact till this day, along with a small wishing well — making this hotel a popular wedding destination. 

Pousada de São Tiago, Avenida da Republica, Fortaleza de Sao Tiago da Barra, Macau; saotiago.com.mo

 Where to Stay (Continued)

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Photo courtesy of Pousada de São Tiago

The hotel is more than just a historical landmark: it's a time capsule that transports visitors back to a long-lost era. The entrance of the hotel is a stone-paved tunnel illuminated by faint yellow bulbs that are meant to resemble candlelight. Many corners, from the azulejos (traditional Portuguese tiles) to a stone fountain, are marked with a motif of the structure's remarkable birth year: 1629. The view from the balconies of each of the harbourfront suites — consisting of both the hotel's well-preserved tile roofs and the futuristic-looking Macau Tower — is an incredible one to behold. 

Pousada de Sao Tiago, Avenida da Republica, Fortaleza de Sao Tiago da Barra, Macau

Where to Stay (Continued)

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Photo courtesy of Pousada de São Tiago

Like any five-star property, the hotel doesn't skimp back on amenities. The baths are equipped with toiletries from Hermès and a state-of-the-art rain shower. While the façade of the hotel is distinctly European, the interiors take a more global approach, as seen in the chinoiserie bedding juxtaposed with Indo-Portuguese style carved bed frames. Locals love swinging by the hotel's intimate dining space, La Paloma, for afternoon tea and a temporary escape from the city.

Pousada de Sao Tiago, Avenida da Republica, Fortaleza de Sao Tiago da Barra, Macau

Don't Leave Macau Without…

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Photo: Amarita/Thinkstock

Filling your stomach with pasteis de nata, one of Macau's signature delicacies. While you can get a taste of Lord Stow's Portuguese egg tarts at The Excelsior Hong Kong, these treats are meant to be consumed piping hot and on the spot — most preferably at the original flagship, looking out to the quaint Coloane Pier. Some have argued that Lord Stow's hearty iteration of the egg tart bests the original version in Lisbon's Belém, but we'll let you be the judge.

 Lord Stow's Garden Café, G/F C Houston Court 21 Largo do Matadouro, Coloane Village, Macau; lordstow.com

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