Senado Square, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is also the historic centre of Macau. It is therefore a must visit destination when in Macau. Besides the many historic European styled buildings; the other uniqueness of the square is the white and grey stone pavement arranged in a wave pattern.
This is exactly the same as the ones at Praca do Comercio in Lisboa.
Read Also: Lisboa Baixa – Heart & Soul of Portugal
Being a small square, all the points of interest in its surrounding can be easily reached on foot. Let’s start exploring!
St. Dominic Church
Our first stop was to St. Dominic Church. The church with its simple, non-elaborate facade, was difficult to notice.
It took us almost 15 mins (walking past the structure a couple of times) to finally notice it. It is ridiculously funny given that we were in there just last evening for the Procession of Our Lady of Fatima! Guess we were over-whelmed by last night’s event.
The church is made up of 3 floors. The first floor is the place for worship; while the second and third floors houses the Treasure of Sacred Art Museum. The small museum showcases religious collection of the church. Being the only visitors in the church, we were able to appreciate every part of the church hall fully.
Holy House of Mercy
Our next stop was to visit the Holy House of Mercy. Being a UNESCO fan, this is a must visit place for us.
The colonial style building with its white-washed (to the point of reflective under the strong sunlight) wall was a stark contrast to the other buildings in the Senado Square. As it is the working office of the Santa Casa de Misericordia, a Catholic non-profit organisation, touring of the building is not possible.
Portugese Egg Tarts in Sao Paulo street
Since it was near noon and most tourists should be heading off for lunch, we made our way to the icon of Macau, St Paul’s ruins. The best route to take from Senado Square to St Paul’s ruins has to be via R. de Sao Paulo. Even if you couldn’t find the street name, you wouldn’t miss it. The moment we step foot into this street, we were engulfed by the slightly burnt and sweet aroma of custards from the freshly baked Portugese egg tarts.
Moving through the street, we were continuously being offered free sampling of egg tarts from various bakeries. If we were to sample all egg tarts offered from the start to the end of the street, each of us would have eaten at least one whole egg tart!
If you’re like me, the wife who hates custard and therefore egg tarts, do give the Portugese version here a chance. The aroma was too inviting and it definitely looks different from the ones back home. After the first bite, we were hooked on! The crust was fluffy and crisp; the slightly burnt custard had a perfect egg, milk and sugar ratio; and was so soft and smooth that it melts in our mouth. It was simply heavenly.
Read our verdict on the original Portugese egg tarts from Pasteis de Belem: Lisboa Belem – District of UNESCO Monument & Icon of Portugal
St Paul’s Ruins
Greeting us at the end of this ‘full”-filling (after eating 3 egg tarts plus some free sampling) street is the iconic St Paul’s ruins.
Some planning ahead and we were rewarded with the perfect timing….two bus load of tourists were just leaving…Phew! The attraction was quite small and mostly outdoor with no shade (well, it’s a ruin right?). The only shaded area here is the tiny Museum of Sacred Art and Crypt.
Though only the front facade of the entire church remains, its charm did not fail to captivate its visitors.
Next to the ruins is Monte Fort. It took us less than 10 mins walk to reach the summit. Here, the shady garden and the breeze provided our toasted body the much needed respite. And the tranquility helped relax our minds (great place for an afternoon nap). Being on higher ground, the fort offers unblocked view of the surrounding. Nevertheless, I would not suggest coming here for the view….there are better offers elsewhere in Macau. So, if you are short of time, drop Monte Fort from your itinerary.
Another good place for resting is Cathedral Square. There are cafes or if you prefer takeaways, there are free seats around the square to munch, rest and people watch.
Being in Cathedral Square, of course we had to visit the Macau Cathedral.
One annual event that visitor can look out for if visiting in late February or early March is the Way of the Cross procession. Every year on the first Sunday of Lent (* to determine this date, count six Sundays back from Good Friday), the statue of Jesus is carried from St. Augustine’s Church to the Cathedral through the streets set up with Station of the Cross. The next day, the statue will be carried back to St. Augustine’s Church from the Cathedral. As it is a solemn event, do respect its solemnity even as an onlooker.
St Joseph’s Church
Naturally, our next destination was to St. Augustine’s Church. Unfortunately, it was closed when we visited. Just when we were wondering where to go next as we wander the streets, we saw St. Joseph’s Seminary and Church. The seminary is off-limit. St. Joseph’s Church is somewhat similar to St. Dominic Church in their facade; however it has a much elaborated interior, and we were especially captivated by its dome ceiling.
To walk back to Senado Square, we had to navigate through numerous narrow streets as if we were in a maze. It was already 5 pm, and we reckoned it would be better to find our way back now before it gets too dark. After all, we don’t have a map or a GPS. As most of the streets are in residential area, the walk back was surprisingly fun. We managed to visit a few shops where time seems to have stood still since 60s, and we had the opportunity to see the ‘real’ side of Macau.
Senado Square is the perfect place for us to spend the rest of our evening. It has a large variety of shops ranging from international brands, high-street fashions, gift stores to factory outlet stores (mostly at the back alleys…products are really cheap but beware fake products). And when it comes to food, there are numerous cafes and street food vendors to choose from. Definitely spoilt for choice.
The square can be very crowded on Friday nights and weekends. That means, lots of pushing and shoving around. If it gets too much to bear, there are always quiet corners to take a breather.