China - A Planner's Journey

Macao's Colonial City

Largo do Senado

The Largo do Senado is a large plaza with a round fountain as its focal point. It is a good place to begin a visit to the Portuguese colonial heart of old Macao.

Across the Avenida de A. Rubiero bordering the plaza is the Leal Senado (white building at the far end of the plaza in each photo) which still houses the city administration today. In the distance modern highrises encroach upon the old city, but the resources spent on preservation during the last decade indicates that the colonial heritage will survive.

When it was still under Portuguese rule, the old city was almost lost in the 1990s because of its poor physical condition. The UN declared it a World Heritage Site and money was somehow found to save it.

Walk to Fortalesa do Monte

Leaving the Largo do Senado we traversed the Travesa de Misericordia to reach the Largo da Se fronting the Macao Cathedral. This smaller plaza was higher in elevation and provided a number of places to sit, relax and watch the world go by. Then a walk along Rue de Sao Domingo. After climbing a particular steep street, we reached the ramparts of Fortalesa do Monte (Monte Fort).

Fortalesa do Monte

This former fort only fired its cannons once, against the Dutch in 1622. In the center of the earthen platform which is the fort's upper surface sits the Macao Museum. This neat museum is mostly underground, with the various floors connected by an escalator descending from the fort's upper surface to an entrance at the bottom of the hill.

Looking out from the fort ramparts, a most puzzling structure rises on the horizon. The strangely shaped building is the new high-rise casino called the Grand Lisboa, whose owners have promised to give 10,000 Hong Kong dollars (1,300 US dollars) to a random guest every 15 minutes. The shape of the upper floors is supposed to resemble either a lotus flower or the feather crown of a revue dancer.

Given this behemoth rising over Macao, some might want to shoot those cannons again.

On the north side of the fort heights can be seen the high-rise residential district of Macao. These buildings are of more recent vintage than the colonial city we have been traversing.

Church of Sao Paulo

Down the hill to the west of the fort are the remains of the facade and stairway of an ancient church. This Igreja Sao Paulo, which burned in 1835, is blessed with a site topping a rise above the colonial city. A small plaza at the foot of the stairs widens from a narrow pedestrian street to a span that defines the bottom of the steps and an adjoining green park. Beneath a plaza behind the facade is a small museum and crypts of Christian martyrs.

H Graem © 2007