How to spend a weekend in Macau for less than US$250

Check out our value-for-money guide to the 'Vegas of China'

Macau

Day 1: Walk in the park

There’s only one way to begin a visit to Macau and that’s with a freshly baked pastel de nata (egg tart). If you’re starting on Macau’s main peninsula, your best option would be Margaret’s Café e Nata (US$3). From Margaret’s, make your way over to Guia Hill, where a 15-minute hike will reward you with uninterrupted city views and historic monuments to explore. Next, head down the southwest side of the hill and walk towards Camões Garden and Grotto for another nature-oriented excursion. There’s a lovely sculpture garden shaded by leafy trees.

A batch of freshly baked pastel de nata
A batch of freshly baked pastel de nata

Assuming you’ve worked up an appetite, the next stop will be a worthy splurge. The Eight, inside the Grand Lisboa Hotel, is considered to be the best Cantonese restaurant in Macau. Once there, you can keep an eye on the budget by sticking to the dim sum menu and skipping the wine (US$35).

After that, wander over to Macau’s historic heart: Senado Square. Follow the wave-like cobblestone deeper into the square until you reach the Ruins of St Paul’s. The weathered façade is all that remains of the Baroque-style church, which burned down in 1835.

To cap off the outdoorsy day, hop in a cab (US$8) and make your way to A-Ma Temple on the southwestern edge of the Macau Peninsula. The temple draws devotees from all over the world, paying tribute to the Chinese sea goddess Mazu. Built into a steep hillside, you can scale the maze-like temple grounds and enjoy views and solitude at the top. Once you’ve taken it all in, find your way to A Lorcha (US$20) for a traditional Portuguese-style dinner.

Day 2: Food crawl through Taipa

Venture down to Taipa island to experience the slow, relaxing pace of village life (US$0.50 aboard bus service 25 or 22). Even better, this is the foodie mecca of Macau — there’s an entire street, Rua do Cunha, that’s devoted to mom-and-pop operations. Start the day with a caffeine injection at Fong Da Coffee (US$3; 15 Largo Maia de Magalhães), where you’ll want to try the famous iced coffee and enjoy it in the old-school 1950s setting.

From there, start your food crawl through the little lanes — flanked by hole-in-the-wall eateries on either side. Look for addictive biscuits and peanut candies at buzzing Koi Kei Bakery and homemade durian ice cream at Mok Yei Kei (US$25). After you’ve filled up on local bites, walk back to the village and look for Quarter Square, where you can recharge with a creamy cappuccino (US$5) and a seat outdoors in the pedestrian square — or with a quick browse of their eco-friendly Nordic home accessories.

Koi Kei Bakery on a colorful Taipa village laneway
Koi Kei Bakery on a colorful Taipa village laneway

For dinner, it doesn’t get much livelier than Comida Portuguesa O Santos. The cheery, no-frills atmosphere will effectively transport you to Portugal. Inside, it’s all checkered tablecloths and big portions. Try the chorizo (US$11) or baked duck rice (US$22) and homemade sangria (US$11.50) — all accompanied by classic Portuguese tunes.

After dinner, walk over to a new spot called Goa Nights. The sleek, three-story cocktail bar is all about contemporary Indian tapas and drinks — with a tropical twist. Soak up the bohemian vibe from the open-air terrace, while award-winning mixologist Chetan Gangan stirs up one of his signature cocktails (from US$9.50). From the Lisbon (with turmeric-infused gin, Aperol, grapefruit, port wine and egg white) to the St Helena Bay (vodka with pickled cucumber), each drink is dedicated to a stop on Vasco de Gama’s first voyage from Portugal to Goa.

Day 3: Coloane’s Portuguese charm

Hop on bus service 26 (departing from City of Dreams; US$0.75) and head to the seaside town of Coloane. It feels as if time has stood still since the 1870s — picture two-storey shophouses, a romantic waterfront promenade and a buttery yellow church overlooking a pedestrian square.

The main tourist landmark is just off to the right as you alight in town. This is the original Lord Stow’s bakery, which opened in 1989. There’s usually a line out the door, but it’s well worth the wait to experience the crispy caramelized top and flaky pastry shell that make its pastel de nata (US$3) so universally adored.

Once stuffed with pastries, scramble up to Coloane Peak. At the top, enjoy views overlooking the South China Sea and the famous “Lonesome Rock”. Afterwards, continue down the path and you’ll arrive at the doorstep of Fernando’s, a Macau institution. The Portuguese restaurant draws a regular following with its boisterous atmosphere, signature clams and potent sangria (US$30).

A welcoming, family feel at Fernando's
A welcoming, family feel at Fernando’s

After lunch, head to Hac Sa Beach next door. The black-sand beach offers a low-key way to enjoy one of Macau’s most secluded shores. When you’re ready, head back to the village in a taxi (US$10) for a drink at Hon Kee Café (US$2). The place is run by a “kung fu coffee master”, who whips each cup thoroughly by hand to ensure that it has a frothy, airy texture.

Next, explore the narrow lanes of the village, and admire the little antique shops. At nightfall, the best place to be is Restaurante Espaço Lisboa. The village house welcomes guests with family-style sharing portions. Ask for a seat on the upstairs terrace and enjoy the chef’s signatures (US$25), such as codfish cakes and African chicken — paired with crisp vinho verde (young Portuguese wine; US$10).

This article first appeared in the July 2018 issue of Smile magazine.

Written by

Kate Springer

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