The name “Macau” loosely means “Gateway” or “Door.” And a perfect name that is: Macau history shows that its role has been exactly that, a gateway between East and West. The settlement of Macao by Portuguese navigators in the mid-16th century empowered nearly five centuries of cultural and economic exchange between Europe and Asia.
Today, Macau remains a gateway, encouraging development by granting business licenses to western casino financiers, bringing Las Vegas into the mix. Whether you look at Macau’s architecture, its food, or its music, Macau culture is all about fusion. Old and new stand together, east and western influences mixed.
To appreciate this, take a stroll through the historic center of Macao. Many Macau attractions can be seen in this richly condensed area. The A-Ma Temple is located on the southwestern tip of the Macao Peninsula, overlooking Barra Square and the seashore. Around the corner on Barra Street are the imposing Moorish Barracks. Further up the hill, the path opens to Lilau Square, the first residential area of the Portuguese settlers. There you can see the Mandarin’s House peeking from behind the pastel facades.
Exploring Prata Street can be a religious experience, given that one can see St. Lawrence’s Church and St. Joseph’s Seminary, and climb up the hill to St. Augustine’s Square. It is surrounded by a cluster of landmarks – St. Augustine’s Church, Sir Robert Ho Tung Library and the still active Dom Pedro V Theatre. Moving down the shopping street Almeida Ribeiro Avenue, one reaches the beautiful wavy-tiled Senado Square, where cafes and coffee shops provide welcome rest. Ascending from the base of this urban piazza along Palha Street, the bluestone cobbled road leads to the grand façade of the Ruins of St. Paul’s, with Mount Fortress to the side of it. Behind the majestic front is tucked the Na Tcha Temple. Along the skyline of the peninsula, on the highest hill in Macao, one can see the Guia Fort and Lighthouse, accessible by daily cable car rides.