What are the five best things to see and do in Macau?

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Ruinas de Sao Paulo©iStock/torsenstahlberg

Perhaps no other place in Asia is transforming as rapidly as Macau, with development of the Cotai strip under way and dozens of hotels, casinos and restaurants and more set to open. Whether you're on your way to Macau for your first time or your fiftieth, there's certain to be something new to see and do. Visit the top of the Macau Tower, educate yourself at Macau Museum and gamble at any of Macau's many casinos. Don't forget to take a ride on the world's smallest cable car or visit the iconic Ruínas de São Paulo. Here is our Forbes Travel Guide editors' list of the five best things to see and do in Macau:

1. Go straight to the top. To get a grip on just how fast things are changing for the island, there's only one place to go — the top of the Macau Tower. From its observation deck 223 meters above the ground, you can marvel at the cityscape. Or, if you're brave enough, sign up for "the world’s highest commercial bungee jump" at the tower.

2. Live some history. Head to the Macau Museum for an informed presentation on the history of the area and a bird's-eye view of the city from the building's rooftop. The structure is also known as the Monte Forte (Mount Fortress), and it was once the center of the former colony's defenses, complete with still-visible cannons aimed at sea.

3. Bet on it. You cannot leave Macau with partaking in its most famous pastime: gambling. The only difference is that these days, you have a host of new, upscale casinos to wager your money in, including Wynn, Venetian, City of Dreams, MGM Grand and Sands. Besides the slots and roulette tables, there's also the option of betting on horses at the Macau Jockey Club, or the greyhounds at the Canidrome — Asia's only dog-racing track.

4. Step back in time. Occupied by the Portugese from 1557 till 1999, Macau has an expectedly rich history and heritage, probably best exemplified by its most iconic structure — the Ruínas de São Paulo, or the Ruins of St. Paul's. Once the largest Catholic cathedral in Asia, the structure burned down in 1835, leaving only the stone façade standing. The façade, the result of collaboration between Jesuit priests, Cantonese workers and exiled Japanese Christians, is reflective of the mixed cultural makeup of Macau itself: Europeans, Chinese and others.

5. Rise above. As well as being home to the world's third largest building (The Venetian), Macau is also the place to find the world's smallest cable car or, as it's known, the funicular railway. It takes 80 seconds for the trip from the street to the enclave's highest point, Guia Hill, which lies a mere 94 meters (308 feet) above sea level. At the top you'll find a 371-year-old chapel (built in 1637), the Guia Fortress completed a year later in 1638, and south China's oldest lighthouse, built in 1865 by a locally-born Portuguese, Carlos Vicente de Rocha. You won't have such a grand view from the top, but there's enough history to see and explore on top of Guia.

Paulo Barbosa

The mix of heritage sites and casinos makes Macau unique. An afternoon spent in the Senado Square area is like a history lesson. The unusual number of churches reminds of the period when the small peninsula was the center of the Roman Catholic Church in the Far East.  Monuments of Chinese and Portuguese origin are a living proof of the melting pot that happened here.
Another thing to do besides sightseeing is gambling.The gaming industry gained such a dimension that it is hard to avoid the casinos and their promises of instant wealth.
The Macanese cuisine is well known and visitors should taste it. There are many restaurants that will leave the costumers satisfied, or even asking for more. Shopping antiques in the old quarter and spending time in one of the luxurious spas located inside the casino-resorts are also good options

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