A decade ago, if you’d asked a seasoned traveler (or even the great online oracle Google) what the hottest destinations to visit in Asia were, you’d have gotten the usual suspects. Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore—all these places offer Western-style shopping and entertainment with a decidedly Asian twist.
Today, these cities remain as popular as they have ever been, but there’s a new destination with a growing reputation to join them. Macau, sometimes known as the “Las Vegas of the East,” has long been known among well-to-do Asians.
Chinese businessmen, in particular, have a reputation for relishing its more relaxed leisure facilities and freedoms. However, the whole world is increasingly getting in on the fun, a trend that seems poised to intensity once the coronavirus pandemic has abated.
Is Macau Worth Visiting?
Before we get into all the reasons people are flocking to Macau, let’s ask ourselves—you should ask yourself—a more fundamental question: Is Macau worth a trip? In recent years, to be sure, Macau has seen a growing influx of tourists from Europe and North America, even those who might otherwise have perused the games on the best casino sites, or not tried their luck at all.
Personally, Macau has always wowed me—and I’m not even really a gambler! I find the sheer amount of Portuguese-colonial architecture, cuisine and culture in its historical center to be fascinating, to say nothing about the gorgeous lushness of its subtropical setting. This doesn’t even take into account how convenient it is to access from Hong Kong or the Chinese mainland.
Top Reasons to Visit Macau
The Vegas connection
The clue to Macau’s biggest draw is in the aforementioned nickname. Macau has gone from being a luxurious (but somewhat staid) business hub to one of the top casino destinations on the planet. In an era in which thousands of people play casino online, there is a growing enthusiasm for experiencing the sights, smells and sounds of a real-life casino.
If you want to play blackjack or roulette in style, Macau is right up there with Vegas, Monte Carlo or Morocco in terms of places you have to visit. All the major companies operate here, and as you stroll through the mega casinos like the Venetian or the Parisian, you really could be in Las Vegas.
A family destination
Another thing that Macau has in common with Vegas is that despite a certain reputation, there is more to it than gambling. In fact, if you have children, it is a great place to visit as a family. The Macau Tower is a must-visit for everyone, and has a range of activities for different ages. The skywalk might look terrifying, but you are securely strapped in, so it is actually suitable for people of all ages. The world’s highest bungee jump, on the other hand, is strictly for the most adventurous.
Other exciting attractions people of all ages will adore include the Dreamworks Experience, the Science Center and, not least, the unique Hac Sa Beach with its black sand and its range of water sport activities. Macau’s historic center, on the other hand, hearkens back to the city’s Portuguese-colonial heritage, whether you prefer traipsing amid landmarks like the Ruins of St. Paul’s Church, or simply devouring a delicious egg tart.
Where to Stay in Macau
As you might expect, Macau’s big casino hotels have a wide range of packages available and offer something to suit any budget. That’s fine if you’re in Macau to gamble, but on a family trip, there are some great apartment offers with sea views that come in at only around $100 per night. This also allows you to live like a Macanese local, and to wander amid stunning Portuguese-colonial architecture as you go about your daily business.
If you’re on a tight budget, on the other hand, there are still one or two old-style hostels left in the Old City, although they are rapidly disappearing. Otherwise, you’ll see familiar budget hotel brand names like Best Western and Holiday Inn throughout Macau. In general, you can stay anywhere on the Cotai Strip and be in the thick of the action!
FAQ About Visiting Macau
Why should you visit Macau?
Many people visit Macau because of its world-famous casinos, but they’re really just the beginning. Beyond this, Macau is home to some of the most impressive Portuguese-colonial architecture in the world, to say nothing of a cuisine that can only be described as captivating Cantonese-Portuguese fusion.
Why is Macau so popular?
Macau has historically been popular because of businessmen from China and Hong Kong (and later, from elsewhere in Asia), who came to “blow off steam” here. As news of Macau’s casinos and other entertainment offerings spread, so too did its offerings for tourists diversity, which has led to a seemingly endless fountain of growth and popularity.
Is Macau better than Vegas?
It’s difficult to compare Macau and Las Vegas, beyond the fact that both are paradise for casino lovers. In addition to the fact that the setting of each city—subtropical Asia and the American desert—couldn’t be more different, the feel of these two cities is totally unique. In my opinion, you have to visit both for yourself!
The Bottom Line
Casinos are the main reason people come to Macau—but they’re not the only game in town. From historical attractions, to water sports, to family-friendly entertainment, to a day at the beach, Macau truly has something for every traveler. Even better? It’s just a short ferry ride from Hong Kong, so whether you’re coming for a day trip or want to stay overnight in one of Macau’s top-rated hotels, it’s an easy and stress-free destination. Consider hiring me to plan your post-pandemic trip to Asia, whether or not that ends up including Macau.