(SPOT.ph) If there's one thing Macau (or Macao) is known for, it's probably their state-of-the-art entertainment centers. Think casino resorts left and right, dancing lights at night, and bars that are open until late. It’s not hailed as the "Las Vegas of Asia" for nothing. With this reputation, it may sound like traveling to Macau is expensive, but it doesn't have to be! There are other activities that do not require cashing out any Macanese pataca. You just need to know where to look.
Here are free things you can do in Macau:
Get closer to nature in Lou Lim Ieoc Garden
Built during the 19th century, Lou Lim leoc Garden is one of the most underrated tourist spots in the region. Stroll around the 1.78-hectare public park which has a big pavilion for a quiet stopover, a scenic koi fish pond, a quaint grotto with turtles, a stylish bridge, a bed of colorful flowers, and astounding architecture—truly a Suzhou-style garden. The spot offers plenty of shady areas, fresh air, not to mention, nature's calming beauty.
The Lou Lim leoc Garden is at 10 Estrada de Adolfo Loureiro, Macau. It is open daily from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Learn more about the importance of tea in Macau’s history
Found next to Lou Lim Ieoc Garden is a cultural center that traces the history of tea-making and its crucial contribution to the food culture of China. The Macau Tea Culture House displays tea-themed paintings, tea-inspired poems, teaware and beautifully made pots, and a tea table set-up. With the popularity of milk tea in Asia, the museum, more than anything else, fosters appreciation for the long history of tea and its significance in different aspects of everyday life: trade, economics, health, art, and tradition. The space also serves as a venue for different tea-related performances.
The Macau Tea Culture House is at 10 Estrada de Adolfo Loureir, Jardim de Lou Lim Leoc, Macau. It is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
View contemporary art at Tap Seac Gallery
Tap Seac Gallery, which was founded to bring art closer to the people, is situated in the largest public space in Macau—the Tap Seac Square—which locals and foreign visitors frequent. Its central space is bathed in natural skylight, which makes for perfect lighting. Tap Seac Gallery also serves as venue for touring international exhibitions.
Tap Seac Gallery is at Praca do Tap Siac, Edif. do Instituto Cultural, Macau. It is open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, visit Tap Seac Gallery’s website.
Browse through archives and books at Biblioteca Central de Macau
Aside from the central library's wide collection of reading materials, Biblioteca Central de Macau features playful colors and geometric shape-inspired interior—from the stairs up to the ceiling—and comfortable facilities. It seats up to 200 people, most of which are students busy with research work and elders who still get their daily news from broadsheets.
Bibliotecca Central de Macau is located at Avenida Conselheiro Ferreira de Almeida, Macau. It is open daily, from 2 p.m. to 12 a.m. (Monday) and from 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. (Tuesday to Sunday). For more information, visit Biblioteca Central de Macau’s website.
Be awed by the talents of young artists
Pavilion de Exposicoes de Espectaculos Artisticos para Jovens (Pavilion of Exhibitions and Artistic Shows for Young People) features the artistry of Macau's young talents. It is housed in the 20th-century Caixa Escolor Building, which features a mix of classical and Art Deco design elements. The space displays works of children in the form of drawings, installations, and video art; and is also an event venue for cultural performances.
Pavilion de Exposicoes de Espectaculos Artisticos para Jovens is at Caixa Escolar Building, Tap Seac Square, Macau. It is open on Tuesday to Sunday from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Explore the largest wet market in Macau
If you are looking for something unusual to do, why not explore Macau’s largest wet market? The three-storey Art Deco building is easily recognizable because of the red bricks on its façade. It is said that aside from museums, the wet market is the best place to be if you want to discover new things about a particular city, and it's true for Macau Red Market. It's where you can buy freshly caught seafood, like huge prawns and oysters; fruits, like cherries, at an affordble price; and ready-to-eat snacks like radish cake, buchi, and steamed sticky rice.
Macau Red Market is located at 125 Avenida Almirante Lacerda, Macau. It is open daily from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Find comfort in Jardim Da Flora
Jardim Da Flora or Flora Garden is a European-style garden at the foot of Guia Hill, which used to be the site of Flora Palace—the residence of Portuguese Governor Tomás de Sousa e Rosa until he moved out in the 1930s. It is the only public space that, aside from the colorful flora, also features a small zoo of various animals such as turtles and fowls. The cable car—though not free—will take you directly up the hill, which gives you a view of the entire park.
Jardim Da Flora is at Avenida de Sidónio Pais, São Lázaro, Macau. It is open daily from 6 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Take that picture-perfect tourist shot at Macau Fisherman's Wharf
Macau Fisherman's Wharf is a theme park popular for its picturesque Roman-inspired infrastructure. Finding a spot for photos can be a bit challenging because of the busy foot traffic, but it is going to be worth your wait once you see your snap. The site is home to casinos that operate 24/7, like Legend Palace Casino and Babylon Casino; restaurants that serve international cuisine, like Talay Thai Restaurant and Brasserie de Paris; and shopping boutiques, like jewelry brand Kowsky. It also offers a closer view of the sea while enjoying a cup of coffee.
Macau Fisherman’s Wharf is at Avenida Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, Macau. It is open 24 hours every day. For more information, visit Macau Fisherman’s Wharf’s website.
Immerse yourself in Macau’s art and culture
The region’s largest museum, Museu de Arte de Macau, showcases a good mix of traditional and contemporary art: from Chinese painting to installations. If you are into ceramic art, there’s the Gallery of Chinese Ceramics. The Grand Prix Museum and Macau Wine Museum are about 15 minutes away from the Macau Museum of Art.
Museu de Arte de Macau is at Avenida Xian Xing Hai, Macau. It is open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more information, visit Museu de Arte de Macau’s website.
Travel back in time in Macau’s The Ruins of St. Paul
The Ruins of St. Paul's features the façade of the 17th-century Church of Mater Dei and St. Paul's College, both razed by fire in 1835 and restored in the 1990s. Along with Mount Fortress, the complex is referred to as Macau's "acropolis," and listed in 2005 as part of the Historic Centre of Macau, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Baroque church stone façade measures 23 meters in width and 25.5 meters in height, boasting intricate carved Chinese characters made by hand in the 1620s. This part of the ruins can be reached through what remains of the grand staircase, which has 68 steps. Food stalls dot the area, but if you’re on a tight budget— Pastelaria Koi Kei gives away free samples of local biscuits.
Ruins of St. Paul's is at Monte Fort, Macau. The Façade of the Church of Mater Dei is open 24/7. The Sacred Art Museum and Crypt and Ruins of St. Paul's is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, visit Macau World Heritage’s website.