Sights on the Macau peninsula comprise the best of the narrow lanes, colonial buildings and cobbled squares which make Macau so much more charismatically historic than Hong Kong – though there is, of course, a strikingly modern district too, along Avenida da Amizade, where a string of casinos jostle for your attention. Everything is technically close enough to walk between, though it’s likely you’ll resort to buses or taxis to reach more distant attractions up along the Chinese border. Macau’s older core centres around Largo do Senado, a large cobbled square north off Avenida Almeida Ribeiro and surrounded by unmistakeably European-influenced buildings, with their stucco mouldings, colonnades and shuttered windows.
Macau’s 33 casinos (with several more under construction) are all open around the clock and have no clothing restrictions, though you must be at least 18 years of age, are not allowed to bring in cameras, and often have to show your passport and go through a security check at the door. Once inside, many games have a minimum bet of MOP$10–100. For information on how to play the various games, ask MGTO for a leaflet; signs in tiny print at the entrances to the casinos politely suggest that punters should engage in betting for fun only, and not as a means of making money.
Each casino has its own atmosphere and (almost exclusively Chinese) clientele, and a casino crawl will provide a wide scope for people-watching, even if you’re not interested in gambling. The Casino Jai Alai on Avenida do Dr. Rodrigo Rodrigues is dark and verging on sleazy, with the feel of a hardcore den; the gold-windowed Sands on Avenida da Amizade has a Las Vegas slickness and colossal, open interior; the Wynn offers a sophisticated and elegant atmosphere; while the Galaxy – despite a smart exterior and bright lighting – is another low-end deal specializing in tacky carpets and an ocean of slot machines (known here as “hungry tigers”). Save time, too, for a look around the old Hotel Lisboa, the orange- and white-tiled building at the junction of Avenida da Amizade and Avenida Infante D. Henrique, still Macau’s best-known casino despite being upstaged by its own new incarnation over the road, the Grand Lisboa, whose soaring, gold-topped tower proves that casino mogul Stanley Ho has no peer when it comes to ostentation.