An overseas possession of Portugal since the mid 16th century, Macao was, until 1999, the last European outpost in Asia. Today, it boasts the highest per capita income in the world. Located on the southern coast of the People’s Republic of China, on the western side of the Pearl River estuary, Macao is one of the most visited cities in the country, with more than 30 million tourists every year. As history tells us, on December 20, 1999, it became part of mainland China and was established as a special administrative region with autonomous powers.
The last European colony in Asia, Macao is an unusual and surprising place. Very small with an area of only 12 square miles and a population of 650,000 inhabitants, it is also one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Walking about its streets, squares and parks often, one gets the feeling of being in the Old Continent. The historical city center, which includes some twenty-five historic locations was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015. Furthermore, Macao’s has the world’s highest per capita income and the fourth-longest life expectancy, according to the World Bank.
Though Las Vegas, Nevada (USA), is usually considered the gambling paradise par excellence, Macao has successfully emulated the American city, to the point of being known as “Las Vegas of the East.” In 2014, Macao’s casinos, the biggest and most luxurious of the world, operated the equivalent to more than US $35 million. This activity generates such wealth that it is tax-free since the government coffers are well provided by direct gambling taxes.
The last European colony in Asia, Macao is an unusual and surprising place.
On the other hand, hotels in Macau are impressively luxurious. There’s plenty to choose from, but none like the Grand Lisboa Hotel, with its 48 stories, 430 rooms and suites, and a restaurant where the iconic French chef Joël Robuchon just shines with his three Michelin stars. The City of Dreams, a hotel complex, is worthy of praise as well. It comprises five large towers full of comfort and luxury, and, of course, casinos. The fifth and last building of this opulent complex is a tower designed by the late architect Zaha Hadid.
Macao is also known for its magnificent dining scene. The best chefs of the moment have moved there to open new restaurants or reinvent themselves in this hedonistic corner. Very few cities can brag about having so many Michelin stars: a total score of 18!
And, if all this was not enough, lovers of luxury items will find a wide selection here, with large areas dedicated to shopping centers. An example of this is the Grand Canal at The Venetian Macau Casino and Resort, with more than 350 select stores and high-end shops.
But that’s not all! There are many events and festivals that take place throughout the year. One that is particularly interesting takes place every November and attracts crowds of fans who love the car and motorcycle races. The Macao Grand Prix resembles the Monaco event of the same name—with Formula 3 car races, TCR, Motorcycle races, FIA GT WC, CTM Touring Car, Chinese Racing Cup, and Road Sports Challenge. ■
PHOTOS: © Diego Delso, Melv L., MGTO, Ngchikit, Wing.