What is Macau’s cultural scene like?

©iStock/faiwong

With all the ongoing excitement over Macau being the new Vegas, you'd be forgiven for thinking that there was little else to see or do but gamble. However, the city is surprisingly rich with culture, and boasts a year-round roster of entertainment that doesn't involve entering a casino. Events include the International Music Festival in October; the annual Macau International Fireworks Display Contest in September; and the famous Formula 3 Grand Prix held every November — a glamorous motorsport carnival that is often compared to Monaco's yearly Formula 1 race. Still not convinced? Check out one of the many performances by major music acts — such as Avril Lavigne, Linkin Park, Sting, Celine Dion and Beyoncé — or Cirque du Soleil and its amazing acrobatics show Zaia, all of which have been held under the towering roof of the Venetian.

  • On April 28, 2013
    Paulo Barbosa answered the question: Paulo Barbosa

    What are the best museums in Macau?

    My favorite museum in Macau is Maritime Museum. It opened in 1987 and is a legacy left by the Portuguese administration in Macau before the handover. Macau started as a small fisherman’s village and all its history is related to the sea and the Pearl River. Besides depicting the lives of the local fishing community (a large community until recently), the museum explains about the evolution of navigation and shows many rare models of ships of all ages. The museum was placed near the A-Ma Temple, right where it is said that the first western ships docked. Located on Mount Fortress the Museum of Macau opened on April 1998 and houses a rich display of Macau’s history. The large collection of artifacts is displayed over three levels. The first floor showcases the early history of Macau, before the Portuguese got here during the 16th century and the initial interactions between the two cultures. The second floor shows how the Macau people lived in the past, focusing on the local customs. The upper level is more contemporary. Besides the museum’s collection, visitors also can see many exhibitions of art themed on Macau. One of the best recently held focused on the work of George Chinnery, an English painter who lived many years in Macau during the first half of the XIX century.
  • On April 24, 2013
    Paulo Barbosa answered the question: Paulo Barbosa

    What are the best fine jewelry stores in Macau?

    Duty-free Macau is traditionally known for its jewelry shops. Recently new ones have been springing up one after another alongside pawnshops, their sister business. Macau has countless jewelry stores, especially around the casinos. Many of the costumers visit after loosing all their money in casinos or because they want to use their credit cards to buy jewelry and watches that they immediately sell in the same shop. This scheme is done to get around the tight rules that limit the amount of money that the Chinese mainlanders can take out of the country. Another reason for the shops is the traditional appeal that precious metal has for the Chinese that buy jewels for both investment purposes and for practical uses especially as dowries. The Luk Fook is a well know brand, with about a dozen jewelry shops in Macau and many more in Hong Kong.
  • On April 24, 2013
    Paulo Barbosa answered the question: Paulo Barbosa

    What are the best fine jewelry stores in Macau?

    Duty-free Macau is traditionally known for its jewelry shops. Recently new ones have been springing up one after another alongside pawnshops, their sister business. Macau has countless jewelry stores, especially around the casinos. Many of the costumers visit after loosing all their money in casinos or because they want to use their credit cards to buy jewelry and watches that they immediately sell in the same shop. This scheme is done to get around the tight rules that limit the amount of money that the Chinese mainlanders can take out of the country. Another reason for the shops is the traditional appeal that precious metal has for the Chinese that buy jewels for both investment purposes and for practical uses especially as dowries. The Luk Fook is a well know brand, with about a dozen jewelry shops in Macau and many more in Hong Kong.
  • On April 24, 2013
    Paulo Barbosa answered the question: Paulo Barbosa

    What are the best festivals in Macau?

    Considered the largest festival in Macau, the International Music Festival is entering its 27th year and always brings great performers to Macau. There are usually many symphonies and operas, but other musical genres are also well represented. The festival occurs during the months of October and November. Also organized by the Cultural Affairs Bureau, the Macau Arts Festival is an event held during the month of May to promote the development of the local arts scene. This year marks the 24th edition of the festival featuring thirty-four acts, half of which are local productions. The variety of shows included range from exhibitions of traditional Chinese calligraphy and painting to contemporary dance and comic theater. One interesting thing about both festivals is that the shows are held in a variety of locations. Besides the city’s performing arts venues, you could see a music concert seated on the sands of Hac Sa beach or an audiovisual performance at the Ruins of St Paul’s. For taste buddies there’s also the Macau Food Festival that showcases dozens of restaurants with gastronomy from all over Asia and farther afield. It’s scheduled for November.
  • On April 24, 2013
    Paulo Barbosa answered the question: Paulo Barbosa

    What are some things to know before visiting Macau?

    To fully appreciate Macau one must understand the city’s historical background. Many historians point out that it’s not correct to say that Macau was a Portuguese colony because the administration was shared with the Chinese, but obviously the Portuguese had a major influence here. That influence can still be seen in the architecture and in other aspects, like the law system and the Macanese community features. Alongside the Portuguese, the Roman Catholic Church had an important role, trying to convert (without great success) the local population and building countless churches. The St Paul’s complex (of which the only remains are the Ruins of St Paul’s cathedral) built by the Jesuits during the XVI century included a college considered “Asia’s first university”. Besides the Portuguese, other westerners left their mark on Macau. Before the rise of Hong Kong during the XIX century, Macau was the place where traders were allowed awaiting for Canton’s commercial season. That’s why there’s a protestant cemetery where many American sailors and traders are buried. What one must remember before a visit is that Macau is and always was an international city. For that reason, it’s perhaps the rarest pearl in the Pearl River, completely different from strictly Chinese cities like the neighboring Zhuhai.
  • On April 21, 2013
    Paulo Barbosa answered the question: Paulo Barbosa

    What is public transportation like in Macau?

    Since August 2011, Macau public bus service system is operated by three companies. Reolian, a joint venture of French-based Veolia and Macau’s H. Nolasco, joined TCM and Transmac. There are now more routes and more buses, but many locals still have complaints regarding the service. At peak hours the buses are crowded and not all parts of the Macau are benefitting from an efficient service. One main advantage of using the public buses is that they are very cheap (around fifty US cents). Their price is only beaten by the casinos shuttle buses that connect the gambing venues and the city’s borders to mainland China and Hong Kong. The taxi service is also comparatively cheap, but in the land of gambling you must be lucky to get a cab. There is lack of taxis and numerous complaints that most of them flock to casinos and hotels neglecting older districts. Local taxi drivers have gained bad reputation for refusing to pick up passengers, and overcharging when typhoon warning signals are issued and in other occasions. Things are expected to get better when the first section of Macau Light Rapid Transit (LRT) is open. After several delays, the Taipa section construction is expected to finish in mid-2015.
  • On April 17, 2013
    Paulo Barbosa answered the question: Paulo Barbosa

    What language is spoken in Macau?

    The most commonly spoken language in Macau is Cantonese, similar to the neighboring Guangdong province. But Mandarin has been gaining ground since Macau’s handover to China in 1999.  Other Chinese dialects, like Hokkien, are also spoken. The other official language besides Chinese (the region’s Basic Law does not clarify whether it be Mandarin or Cantonese) is Portuguese, spoken by a minority of the population made up of Portuguese and Macanese. Official data indicates that 0.7% of the population speaks Portuguese, but the language retains its prestige in areas such as law and journalism. Macau has a lively Portuguese press, including three dailies and a radio and a TV channel. It’s calculated that around 2.3% of the population speaks English, which makes it much more difficult to communicate using Shakespeare’s language than in the neighboring Hong Kong. Other languages, like Tagalog and Bahasa Indonesia, are predominantly spoken in the large communities of Filipinos and Indonesian. The endangered Patuá language dates back to the epoch when the first Portuguese traders arrived in Macau and mixed with the local population. This creole language mixes Portuguese, Cantonese and Malay and was spoken by the Macanese community. It is estimated that the number of Patuá speakers may be in the hundreds.
  • On April 15, 2013
    Paulo Barbosa answered the question: Paulo Barbosa

    What are the best restaurants in Macau?

    The most famous Chef active in Macau is certainly Joel Robuchon. The haute cuisine restaurant Robuchon au Dôme at the Grand Lisboa offers more than 3,000 wine labels. The options are endless for Chinese Cuisine, but Wing Lei at the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Wynn Macau and North at The Venetian are two good picks. 360° Café at the Macau Tower combines sightseeing with dining. The revolving restaurant situated 220 meters above the ground offers great views of Macau and its surroundings. The Macanese cuisine blends Portuguese, Chinese, Southeast Asian and African recipes. There are countless Macanese restaurants, some more genuine than others. Nga Tim Café in Coloane Island and the renewed Riquexó are some of the best places for Macanese food. Macau also harbors many Portuguese restaurants, such as A Pestisqueira, the unpretentious Afonso III and the Macau Military Club, charmingly located in a nineteenth century pink house.
  • On April 4, 2013
    Paulo Barbosa answered the question: Paulo Barbosa

    What are the best bars in Macau?

    The so called Docks are a good area with bars and nightlife outside the omnipresent casinos. The street lined with bars and restaurants it’s not so close to the river as the name would indicate, because it’s facing a road and a large stretch of reclaimed land. Some of the bars there, like Casablanca and Hole in the Wall, are a meeting place for the expat community. In the nearby MGM resort there’s Lion’s bar featuring popular live bands, many of them from the US. The place get’s crowded with revelers during the weekends. There’s also a good live band show in Bellini’s, located in the middle of the biggest casino in the world (The Venetian, on the Cotai strip). The Sky 21 is a bar that caters to sophisticated tastes. Located on the 21st floor of the AIA tower building, it features a panoramic esplanade overlooking the river, Taipa Island and the Nam Van area. From there it’s easy to see how the Guia lighthouse, once the tallest building in Macau, lost its scale overshadowed by huge new buildings. Other option is China Rouge lounge. It’s a 1930s Shanghai-style private club and bar at Galaxy Macau that presents concerts by performers like the Grammy Award-winning smooth jazz saxophonist Kenny G.
  • On April 2, 2013
    Paulo Barbosa answered the question: Paulo Barbosa

    What are the best restaurants in Macau?

    The most famous Chef active in Macau is certainly Joel Robuchon. The haute cuisine restaurant Robuchon à Galera at the Grand Lisboa offers more than 3,000 wine labels. The options are endless for Chinese Cuisine, but Wing Lei at the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Wynn Macau and North at The Venetian are two good picks. 360° Café at the Macau Tower combines sightseeing with dining. The revolving restaurant situated 220 meters above the ground offers great views of Macau and its surroundings. The Macanese cuisine blends Portuguese, Chinese, Southeast Asian and African recipes. There are countless Macanese restaurants, some more genuine than others. Nga Tim Café in Coloane Island and the renewed Riquexó are some of the best places for Macanese food. Macau also harbors many Portuguese restaurants, such as A Pestisqueira, the unpretentious Afonso III and the Macau Military Club, charmingly located in a nineteenth century pink house.
  • On April 2, 2013
    Paulo Barbosa answered the question: Paulo Barbosa

    What are the best restaurants in Macau?

    The most famous Chef active in Macau is certainly Joel Robuchon. The haute cuisine restaurant Robuchon à Galera at the Grand Lisboa offers more than 3,000 wine labels. The options are endless for Chinese Cuisine, but Wing Lei at the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Wynn Macau and North at The Venetian are two good picks. 360° Café at the Macau Tower combines sightseeing with dining. The revolving restaurant situated 220 meters above the ground offers great views of Macau and its surroundings. The Macanese cuisine blends Portuguese, Chinese, Southeast Asian and African recipes. There are countless Macanese restaurants, some more genuine than others. Nga Tim Café in Coloane Island and the renewed Riquexó are some of the best places for Macanese food. Macau also harbors many Portuguese restaurants, such as A Pestisqueira, the unpretentious Afonso III and the Macau Military Club, charmingly located in a nineteenth century pink house.
Next