Slipping more and more comfortably into its reputation as the “Vegas of the East,” Macau plays host to a dizzying array of large-scale casino resorts. Famously the world’s biggest gambling hub, it is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People’s Republic of China – the other being neighbouring Hong Kong.
Macau showcases many of the same brands as its Nevada counterpart: MGM, Wynn and Sands are all in town, while its flagship Venetian Resort – complete with canals and mock Italianate plazas – is currently the largest casino on the planet.
But there’s more to the destination than poker tables and betting halls. When Macau's historic centre was added to the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list in 2005, it underlined the strategic and cultural importance that the territory has had over the centuries.
Portuguese colonists arrived in the mid-16th century and developed Macau into a major regional trading post. They held onto it long after it had been eclipsed by Hong Kong as a magnet for merchants; longer than they held onto Goa or Brazil.
Overlooking the South China Sea, Macau consists of a peninsula and two small islands, Taipa and Coloane. The three areas have been artificially joined by land reclamation, much of which is covered in casinos. For those after something more sedate, it is possible to escape the neon lights and gambling dens in Macau’s urban parks and historic centre, where colonial Portuguese architecture sits among the bustle of a modern Asian city.
The street stalls and restaurants of the old town are also a fine introduction to local food, which encompasses traditional Chinese and Portuguese dishes alongside Goan, Brazilian and African influences.