If you are looking to spend more than just a day at Hong Kong’s most typical day trip destination, this guide on where to stay in Macau is all you need to choose your accommodation in the gambling capital of Asia.
I put together this accommodation guide to Macau after visiting twice and spending 15 nights across five hotels. Aside from the hotels I stayed at myself, I visited a few others and have seen the rooms at a couple more (I was visiting for a conference and saw the rooms of my colleagues). That means that my recommendations are not just based on guest reviews and reading online but on actual first hand experience at quite a few of the best luxury hotels in Macau.
Before we get into the list of the best luxury hotels, I want to give you a rundown of the best areas to stay in Macau because location is everything and if you get it right, you will have a much smoother time.
Macau is a relatively compact place but Uber is not yet there (at least not at the beginning of 2018) so taking a taxi is not as convenient as in other places and it can be a real issue if you are in one of the areas farther from the busy parts of Macau. Fret not, I put together this guide on where to stay in Macau to help find the right hotel for you. Let’s get started.
- Deciding where to stay – Best areas to stay in Macau
- Staying in Cotai
- Where to stay in Cotai
- Staying at Old Macau
- Where to stay in Old Macau
- Getting to Macau
Deciding where to stay – Best areas to stay in Macau
The list of the best places to stay in Macau is divided into two parts because, well, so is Macau. A former Portuguese colony that was handed back to China together with Hong Kong in 1999, one fact about Macau is that it is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China and enjoys its own independence. For example, the currency in Macau is the MOP, Macanese Pataca, which is almost exchanged 1:1 with the Hong Kong dollar for ease of conversion. For more Macau facts, see this post.
Macau is made of four areas: Old Macau, Taipa, Cotai and Coloane. Old Macau is located in the mainland part of China, on a peninsula, while the other three parts of Macau are located on the island. Today’s island used to be made of two separate land masses which were joint by landfill at the beginning of the millennium.
Originally, Taipa in the north and Coloane in the south were separated but landfill created the Cotai where the largest casinos are. Coloane also has beaches if you are planning a longer trip to Macau and want to stay by the beach.
Grand Coloane Resort and Pousada de Coloane are your best options for a beach stay, but are not recommended if you wanted to be in the center. Check out the best beaches in Macau here as well as how to get to them and what to expect.
If you have heard of Macau before you probably know that it is often referred to as the Las the Vegas of the East because of the many casinos, despite Macau is the actual gambling capital of the world as it is several times larger than Las Vegas.
Most of these casinos, or at least, the Las Vegas style ones we think about, are mostly concentrated on the Cotai strip on reclaimed land that was previously water. It is quite fascinating to think that the huge Galaxy, Venetian and the rest of the ginormous casino resorts in Macau are standing on land that did not exist a couple of decades ago.
What part of Macau you choose to stay at will depend on the type of trip that you are looking for. If you are more interested in shopping and gambling, Cotai is the right place to stay.
If you are more interested in the food and the heritage, you should stay in Old Macau. Here is our guide on the best food in Macau including where to it. The two parts are not very far from each other so you would be ok if you stayed in the wrong part of town but remember what I said about getting taxis.
I have stayed on both sides of Macau and if you are looking to visit for longer than two days, you may want to consider splitting the trip into two and spending a couple of nights at either side. This is what I did in my last visit: three nights on Cotai and three on Old Macau. If you’re only visiting Macau for a day, you may want to look at my guide here.
Summary table to help you decide where to stay in Macau
Fit with Macau’s areas
|Activity||Old Macau||Cotai strip/Taipa|
|Shopping for clothing||Medium||High|
|Shopping for souvenirs||High||Medium|
|Entertainment, shows, fun||Low||High|
Let’s have a look at the best hotels in Old Macau and on the Cotai strip.
Staying in Cotai
The first casinos in Cotai opened in 2007, three years after the first American casinos opened on the Old Macau area. Four years later, in 2011, Macau was already four times bigger than Las Vegas in terms of revenue. As The Venetian, the first casino resort to open on Cotai, celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2017, Macau’s casino revenues reached a three-year high.
Macau is the only place in China where gambling is legal and is a magnet for mainland Chinese tourists who make up 70% of the visitors to Macau, visitors from greater China (including Hong Kong and Taiwan) make up nine of every 10 arrivals in Macau. On Cotai, you can find the large hotel developments such as Galaxy, Wynn or Venetian which have hundreds of rooms, huge casino floors, restaurants and shops.
But Cotai is not just for gamblers. The area is filled with over 800 stores selling fashion, accessories, electronics, toys, etc. and is a true paradise for shopaholics, whether they like gambling or not.
Performances, concerts and shows, like the long running Cirque du Soleil-ish House of Dancing Water, are also on offer and there is an eight-shaped ferris wheel, a replica of the Eiffel Tower complete with an observation platform at the top and a 3D Batman simulator to complete the entertainment offer.
Some parts of Cotai feel like a replica of European cities while others are replicas of Hollywood. The area has certainly taken the over-the-top mentality of Las Vegas to a whole new level while maintaining the same confusion you find there.
You can never tell if it is day or night, if it is sunny, rainy or hazy (as it often is in Macau) and the many hotels and shopping areas are interconnected in such a way that you can spend a day without stepping outside. Consumerism has an address in Asia and it is not Hong Kong or Bangkok, it is Macau’s Cotai strip.
Why stay in Cotai?
If you are coming for the shopping or the gambling, you should definitely stay at Cotai and make a day trip to the Old Macau area for some sightseeing. Even if you are coming with your family or with children, Cotai is a very family-friendly destination.
For a trip with the girls or the guys, Cotai has a good dose of shopping, fun and even a couple of bars and clubs, although Macau is not known for the party. Let’s take a look at the best luxury hotels in Cotai.
Where to stay in Cotai
Cotai is filled with luxury, emblematic and extravagant hotels. I personally stayed at the Parisian, the Grand Hyatt and the St. Regis and saw the rooms and spent quite a lot of time at the Venetian. But these are not the only accommodation options on Cotai. As follows my selection of where to stay in Cotai for luxury.
Summary of my recommendations for the best luxury hotels in Cotai:
|Hotel||Luxury level||Price||Service||Location||TripAdvisor rating||See rates/ availability|
|St Regis Macau||High||High||High||High||4.5||Booking.com | HotelsCombined | Agoda | TripAdvisor|
|The Parisian||Medium||Medium||Medium||Medium||4||Booking.com | HotelsCombined | Agoda | TripAdvisor|
|The Venetian||Medium||Medium||Medium||High||4.5||Booking.com | HotelsCombined | Agoda | TripAdvisor|
|Altira Macau||High||High||High||Low||4.5||Booking.com | HotelsCombined | Agoda | TripAdvisor|
|Wynn Palace Cotai||High||High||High||Medium||4.5||Booking.com | HotelsCombined | Agoda | TripAdvisor|
|Banyan Tree Macau||High||High||High||Medium||4.5||Booking.com | HotelsCombined | Agoda | TripAdvisor|
St Regis Cotai
St Regis Cotai is definitively everything the brand stands for and more. From the moment I walked in, the staff were incredible. I walked over from the Parisian to the St. Regis in what I thought was going to be an easy and quick walk but I did not consider the construction taking place.
As soon as I turned the corner and the staff saw me they practically jumped to help me with the carry on suitcase. I got to reception for check-in and was served by a very attentive lady while sipping some tea.
Meanwhile, my butler overheard my conversation with the check in lady and knew everything about me. He walked me to my room and showed me around. I have never had such a thorough check in procedure. He showed me all the amenities and features including a Handy phone which was very useful as it came with a hotspot option to tether while sightseeing.
He even gave me his card and a card of the hotel in case we had trouble getting back in the cab and offered coffee or tea a few times. I declined but made a request to have a latte and a cappuccino every morning at 8am for me and Edwin which was promptly delivered at the exact time.
He also asked if we were celebrating any special occasion and I told him that the trip was a birthday present for Edwin so he arranged a cake to be delivered the next morning with the coffee.
The St. Regis is classier and more elegant than most of the hotels on the Cotai strip and it is a step above the rest. We did not have breakfast there but enjoyed drinks at the bar which had a live pianist and singer.
Entertainment hub it belongs to: Part of the Sands Cotai complex spanning The Venetian, The Parisian, The Four Seasons, The Sheraton, The Holiday Inn, The Hilton and The St. Regis.
Location of the St Regis Macau: The St. Regis is located on the Sands Cotai complex, at the very far end facing the City of Dreams entertainment center.
Why stay at the St Regis Macau: The St Regis is probably one of the top-3 best luxury hotels on the Cotai strip. The rooms are convenient and comfortable but the service is exceptional. As it is located in the middle of the two main roads on Cotai, you are also the most centrally located. As St. Regis is not as massive as other hotels the time it will take you to get from the entrance to your room will be quite short.
Things to consider when booking the St Regis Macau: The hotel has a limited food and beverage selection on site with just one bar and one restaurant, but you are surely in the middle of it all.
The Parisian Macao
Sands opened The Parisian in 2016 so it is one of the newest hotels in Macau, although a lot more are coming up. The integrated resort hotel is connected to The Venetian via a bridge/covered walkway and features a shopping area that resembles Paris’s Avenue des Champs-Élysées with French-style marble top tables and curved chairs and hanging pot plants.
A host of exclusive stores are available at The Parisian as well as the Eiffel Tower replica standing right in front of the hotel’s main entrance.
From outside, The Parisian looks like a 19th century Parisian building with almost 3,000 rooms and huge convention center facilities which were put to the test when I was staying there and attending a 3,500 people conference. The rooms are nice and elegant and fit right in with the fun of the rest of the property.
Expect the common areas to have thick carpets and renaissance inspired paintings and wall paper on the walls and ceiling. The lobby is well worth a visit even if you are not staying there because it is very over the top, with fully painted walls and ceiling and golden framing. It is like entering the Palace de Versailles.
Check out the replica of the Fontaine de Mers at the reception and another lobby area and look out for the staff dressed in 16/17th century attire dancing, parading the corridors or singing. There are also human statues spread across the shopping area ready to scare you or pose for a photo.
The swimming pool is on a rooftop above the main reception area, facing the Eiffel Tower and is made of a series of gardens emulating the gardens of Versailles. You can bring your own padlock and affix it to the replica of the lover’s bridge right at the back of the Eiffel Tower. Everything is grand and on an epic scale.
The Parisian has two towers and you can have a room facing the main Cotai strip where the swimming pool and the Eiffel Tower are or facing the back. Try to get a room facing the front for the added views which are quite stunning at night.
Entertainment hub it belongs to: Part of the Sands Cotai complex spanning The Venetian, The Parisian, The Four Seasons, The Sheraton, The Holiday Inn, The Conrad Macao and The St Regis.
Location of The Parisian Macao: Almost at the other end of the Cotai strip from the St Regis it is a bit farther from the center than the rest but easily connected to The Venetian and the Four Seasons and across the street from Studio Eight.
Why stay at The Parisian Macao: If you are looking for one of the newest hotels with a bit more class than some other flashy ones, The Parisian is a good choice.
Things to consider when booking The Parisian Macao: The hotel is absolutely huge so it will take you a long time to get to your room and the lobby is permanently filled with people, hardly a peaceful retreat. Service was good but with the size, you can hardly expect personalised attention.
The Venetian Macao
The Venetian is grand, huge and extravagant and it is the pride of its owner, American tycoon Sheldon Adelson. With its 3,000 rooms, The Venetian is said to attract twice as many guests as any other property on Macau, although The Parisian may be a contender.
The Venetian was the first hotel to open on the Cotai strip in 2007 and it remains one of the best known and most recognizable brands in the Sands Cotai Central hub. If you have been to Las Vegas, you will know exactly what to expect as it is just like the one there.
The ceilings of the shopping area corridors are just like in Las Vegas, blue skies with the occasional Simpsons’ looking clouds. At the center of the maze of corridors you can find San Marco Square. Although The Venetian is slightly more mass market than The Parisian, the two are not very different.
The rooms at The Venetian follow the Italian style of the same period as The Parisian, the 16th/17th century, but look slightly more dated.
The rooms are as you would expect but are called suites. Some of the them are large, with two levels and a cascading outdoor terrace. There are four swimming pools and plenty of entertainment options for old and young. You could probably spend your entire time in Cotai inside The Venetian/ Parisian area and never have to leave.
Entertainment hub it belongs to: Part of the Sands Cotai complex spanning The Venetian, The Parisian, The Four Seasons, The Sheraton, The Holiday Inn, The Hilton and The St Regis.
Location of The Venetian Macao: The Venetian is located halfway through the Cotai strip in the middle of it all. As it spans such a large area, you are basically equidistant to most of the attractions on Cotai.
Why stay at The Venetian Macao: If you are looking for the true spirit of Las Vegas or of Macau, The Venetian is an institution. You also never need to step outside for a fun-filled weekend as you can even cross over to the St Regis part via the bridge.
Things to consider when booking the The Venetian: The hotel is huge, much like The Parisian so getting to your room is a trek. The shopping area, to me, was a bit tacky and service levels can be average at best. You may be one of 6,000 other guests at any given point so you will not feel special.
A sleek, modern and designer hotel that feels more for grown-ups than for the young at heart looking for a fun-filled weekend that might be more at ease at the other ostentatious hotels on Cotai.
Altira’s Chinese name, Xin Hao Feng, means cutting edge and it certainly lives up to its expectations, starting with the 38th floor reception. The water reaching out to the glass edge of an indoor infinity pool with views over the city is just one of the most striking elements of this luxurious hotel in Taipa, perhaps the only one located at the northern tip of Macau’s island in an otherwise nondescript area.
Although not really on Cotai, Altira is only a few kilometers away and can even be reached on foot from the main casino-filled area of Cotai. Its location already says something about its class. Altira is also home to one of the nicest rooftop bars in Macau.
Each of the less than 200 rooms and suites have a circular stone bath from where you can watch TV, with fantastic views over Old Macau and cutting edge elements like the Japanese showers which come with enough buttons to keep you entertained for a while.
The Altira is a step beyond other hotels’ sometimes excessive exuberance and aimed at attracting the VIP Chinese gamblers to its smaller but premium attached casino. To celebrate your winnings, you can opt for the Yi Pavilion private dining area at the top of the hotel or one of the other awarded restaurants.
Entertainment hub it belongs to: The Altira is on its own.
Location of Altira Macau: In Taipa, on the northern end of Macau’s island away from everything although a short ride both into Old Macau, across the bridge, or Cotai.
Why stay at Altira Macau: If you are looking for something with class and a few notches above the rest, Altira seems to take lead in the upper end luxurious hotel range.
Things to consider when booking the Altira: The location of the Altira is perhaps its only shortfall. As it is not in Cotai or in Old Macau taxis will be a necessity and you won’t be able to walk to many places.
Wynn Palace Cotai
Inside, the Wynn Palace Macau is all fun and colour. The corridors are decked with plush hyper thick carpet and wall paper and refined art pieces like a set of Qing Dynasty porcelain vases decorating some of the main corridor crossings. The outer part of the building is lined with stores while the casino and gambling tables are in the middle.
There are restaurants and cafes as well and a large collection of art that belongs to the owner Steve Wynn. Throughout the hotel, expect to see four colours in abundance: sunrise yellow, sunset orange, peacock blue and Wynn gold. These are also the colors used in the rooms. Yes, full-on one-color theme plus white.
Not to be confused with its sister property on the Old Macau side, Wynn Palace opened its 1,700 rooms in 2017 to much fanfare and delight as the most expensive property in Macau costing a total of $4.2 billion.
Similar in style to the original property across the bridge but with a floral theme, the Wynn Palace Cotai is one of the nicest of all the casino resorts in Cotai.
The hotel is no doubt an overdose in gold, with the ever present commodity decorating walls and ceilings and used for appliques and furniture pieces, but its use is done with a degree of elegance and taste.
The resort looks similar to the Old Macau Wynn, with a bronze orange tone glass facade topped with some dashes of red and pinkish concrete but has opted for a floral theme so the lobby areas are decorated with a merry-go-round made of flowers and a hot air balloon flower garden. The overall feel is that of Alice in Wonderland, fantastic and magical.
To enter the hotel you can take the regular entrance or you can jump into a complimentary cable car by the name of SkyCab that goes around above the main lake and takes you to the hotel and is held by fierce golden dragons. The lake has light and music performances every twenty minutes to half an hour until midnight and if you can, you should try to catch the show from the cable car.
Entertainment hub it belongs to: The Wynn Palace is on its own.
Location of The Wynn Palace Cotai: The Wynn Palace is located a bit off the main Cotai strip about 15min from the main area. Because of its location facing the road that leads to the strip, the views from the main fountain rooms must be stunning. Also, the hotel is just 10min from both the Taipa ferry terminal and the airport.
Why stay at The Wynn Palace Cotai: Something fun, something light, something opulent. The Wynn Palace is just a fun option that is more luxurious than The Parisian or The Venetian but still holds an interesting concept. The Bang & Olufsen sound system and the marble used liberally give it a more elegant and premium touch.
Things to consider when booking the The Wynn Palace Cotai: The rooms are truly colourful in one of the four tones so they can truly be too much for many. So have a look at the many photos to make sure it is for you. I found the common area’s vivacious color scheme to be bright and optimistic, with enough natural light streaming through, as opposed to the silly all-indoor approach of other casinos in the Cotai strip.
Banyan Tree Macau
The Banyan Tree is the right place to stay in Macau if you are also looking for absolute pampering and for a more relaxed feel while staying in the shopping area.
All of the hotel’s rooms come with their own indoor 4 meter pool, silk cushions, Asian accents that are pervasive across all of its properties and a Southeast Asian feel that contrasts with Macau’s frenzy. The suites have balconies, a luxury in Macau’s office-feel skyscrapers.
The hotel’s renowned spa is well-reputed across Asia, I know because I have stayed at the Banyan Tree Bintan (check out my fantastic video) and at the Banyan Tree Lang Co in Central Vietnam where I spent 4 fantastic days exploring Hoi An, Hue and My Son. Even if you don’t peruse the spa (which you should) its touch reaches far and you can even request the scent and essential oils for your room upon check-in, a nice touch across all Banyan Tree properties.
For the ultimate retreat, you can book one of their all-you-can-spa Sanctuary Suites and have all your meals and spa treatments included. That is perfect if you are visiting Macau for shopping and entertainment or coming with someone who is all about gambling while you are not. The swimming pool of the resort is surrounded by peaceful cabanas while the Galaxy’s many pools and entertainment areas are accessible too.
This is also one of the few resorts where couples can feel as if they retreated somewhere romantic, leaving the large fountains, loud performances and bright neon lights behind closed doors. The Banyan Tree can organise private dinners on pool decks or allow you to indulge in their oyster bar.
Last but not least, Banyan Tree Macau received triple five star ratings from Forbes in their 2017 reveal of the best hotels in the world awarding the hotel, the spa and the restaurants.
Entertainment hub it belongs to: The Galaxy.
Location of the Banyan Tree Macau: As part of the Galaxy complex, the Banyan Tree Macau is at the farther end of the Cotai strip, closest to Taipa which lies a mere 15min stroll away.
Why stay at the Banyan Tree Macau: This awarded property preserves its Thai feel and relaxed atmosphere with the unique indoor pool concept providing something that is more than a sanctuary away from the craziness that Macau can be. If you can afford it, the Banyan Tree Macau may well be my choice in Cotai. When you want some action, the Galaxy’s many options will surely keep you amused.
Things to consider when booking the Banyan Tree: The price is certainly not for everyone but you usually get what you pay for. While the location of the Banyan Tree Macau is not perfect, it is not so far that you ought to always take a cab to head to the Cotai strip.
Other hotels in Cotai worth a mention
The Grand Hyatt has nice rooms some of which come with panoramic standalone bathtubs with views but I had the most horrific service experience that kept giving throughout our stay. From malicious pricing to cancelled House of Dancing Water shows (which were bought together with the room booking) which I had to go refund myself, breakfast being offered in the room only that was not stated anywhere in my booking, rude staff throughout and several arguments which completely tarnished my stay and made me want to leave as soon as possible.
I was glad to only spend a night there and would be hard pressed to recommend the hotel to anyone, there are fantastic options in Cotai that provided great service standards.
There are a lot of other hotels in Cotai that are not included in my shortlist above but deserve a mention. Studio City hotel is a large structured fantasy themed property like a Hollywood studio and easily recognizable by its ferris wheel in the shape of Chinese lucky number eight.
The hotel has its fair share of entertainment options, besides the ferris wheel. There is a 3D Batman simulator that is quite fun, plenty of pop-up entertainment options like Samsung virtual reality options or movies. It is located next to The Parisian slightly farther away from the main part of the Cotai strip but easily connected.
New hotels opening in Cotai
The Cotai strip is an ever expanding entertainment hub in Macau and several hotels and casinos have already been announced. An MGM Cotai resort and casino, to join its sister property on the mainland, is being built across from the Wynn Palace. The MGM design, which is already discernible at the end of 2017, resembles a set of Chinese jewelry boxes. The hotel will have an MGM mansion like the one in Las Vegas.
The futuristic Morpheus Hotel, an exoskeleton of steel structure designed by the renowned Zaha Hadid Architects studio (the same that designed the fantastic museum in Baku) is being built in the City of Dreams, the other entertainment hub on Cotai aside from Galaxy, Sands and Wynn which also links to The Grand Hyatt and The Crown Hotel.
Developed by Melco Crown, the same developer of Studio City, the Morpheus hotel is said to redefine the word luxury in Macau with a design that the lead architect defined as “the future of our generation, the future of inhabited buildings” (source).
Even before opening, the structure looks like something from another world and the hotel’s name referring to the Roman god of sleep and dreams. Its design principles mean that there will be minimal need for internal structures. This is one to watch and one which very much departs from Macau’s standard flash.
The Grand Lisboa Palace is expected to bring a designer touch to Cotai with room towers designed by Donatella Versace and Karl Lagerfeld, a suitable pair to Macau’s opulence and passion for dragons, gold and velvet. Lagerfeld’s imprint will go beyond the hotel’s design. His pet statue will grace the entrance and his silhouette the keys.
Last but not least, The 13 was said to open its doors in 2016 but at the end of 2017 it has yet to do so and there are doubts that its opening will ever materialise. The 13 claimed to be the most luxurious hotel and casino resort in the world and ordered a large amount of gold and diamond sprinkled custom made Rolls Royce Phantom to carry customers around.
The Versailles inspired hotel was being built by Hong Kong property tycoon Stephen Hung, who made billions in real estate deals. The hotel’s website is still up but reports warn that the hotel’s delays in opening, which are in bridge of the loan conditions, may mean this fabulously expensive and over the top project may never see the light of day.
Staying at Old Macau
In the peninsula part of Macau, referred to as Old Macau, there are also some of the oldest casinos, like the Grand Lisboa, home to the two 3 Michelin starred restaurants Robuchon au Dome and The Eight, but you will also find a few regular hotels not attached to a casino and within walking distance from the heritage parts of Macau.
In my opinion, both sides of Macau deserve some time as it is fun to visit Cotai but if I had to choose and was to only stay on one side, I would definitively choose Old Macau.
Why do I prefer to stay in Old Macau instead of Cotai?
Because if I have to choose between shopping, entertainment and gambling or heritage and food, I prefer the latter, so Old Macau is better suited for me.
Old Macau is relatively compact but there are not a lot of high end hotels to stay at, fewer even if you are not interested in one of the casino resorts that also exist closer to the bridge that connects Old Macau with the island. So let’s take a look at the best luxury hotels to stay in old Macau.
Where to stay in Old Macau
Luxury hotels in Macau are either part of the casino resort area or are on their own, like the Sofitel. There is not a lot of choice with regards to accommodation options but there are some beautiful hotels that are sure to make your stay in Macau unforgettable.
Summary of my recommendations for the best luxury hotels in Old Macau:
|Hotel||Luxury level||Price||Service||Location||TripAdvisor rating||See rates/ availability|
|Sofitel Macau||Medium||Affordable||High||High||4.5||Booking.com | HotelsCombined | Agoda | TripAdvisor|
|Mandarin Oriental||High||High||High||Medium||4.5||Booking.com | HotelsCombined | Agoda | TripAdvisor|
|Wynn Macau||High||High||High||Medium||4.5||Booking.com | HotelsCombined | Agoda | TripAdvisor|
|The Grand Lisboa||Medium||High||Medium||High||4||HotelsCombined | Agoda | TripAdvisor|
|Pousada de Sao Tiago||Medium||Affordable||High||Medium||4||Booking.com | HotelsCombined | Agoda | TripAdvisor|
Sofitel Macau at Ponte 16
The Sofitel Macau opened well before Macau became the casino behemoth that it is today. Although the hotel has its one casino complex, it is a great option if you are looking to locate yourself in the old part of town, close to the heritage trails and sights.
I spent two nights at the Sofitel which were complementary because I won them in a raffle. The prize also included an upgrade to a Club room, which gave us access to the lounge, and breakfast for two. I was positively surprised by the hotel. While the exterior facade is slightly worn off and affected by the incessant pollution that impacts Macau, once inside, Sofitel’s French hospitality and service shined through.
The rooms are spacious and have everything you need. You can either face the river or the main part of Old Macau with views all the way to the Grand Lisboa Hotel. The bathtub has views over the room and windows and there are lots of signs throughout that show thoughtfulness and attention to detail. The bathtub comes with its own neck pillow, the plugs are multi-adapter, the beds are extra comfy.
We tried breakfast both at the lounge and at the main breakfast room and it was always spot on with lots to choose from and great quality. In the evening, the lounge ran snacks and drinks from 5,30-7,30pm which we took advantage of on a couple of occasions and which could well have meant we could skip dinner.
Afternoon tea was served until 4,30pm. The service was impeccable with lovely staff tending the Club level reception and were ready to help with everything like booking ferry tickets or making reservations.
If you fancy a game of Baccarat, The Sofitel Macau at Ponte 16 also has an Art Nouveau casino where you can feel like you are in the Paris of the turn of the 20th century.
The Sofitel also has 14 mansions which are accessed via a separate entrance and which are decorated following themes. We checked the Michael Jackson mansion and it was quite cool, if a bit over the top. These mansions are set in a part of the hotel that comes with its own pool above the river and are booked by rich Chinese guests.
Location of the Sofitel Macau at Ponte 16: The Sofitel is located by the river at one end of the old town and about a 15min walk from Largo do Senado so it is perfectly located to explore the city on foot without having to take too many taxis, something which I particularly appreciated and loved.
Why stay at the Sofitel Macau at Ponte 16: Location, location, location. If you want to explore Old Macau, this is definitively the best place to stay. And of course, the hotel is pretty good value with room rates always below the $250 mark with breakfast, it pays to upgrade to a Club room. Service was great and when we needed a cab, it was provided quite quickly.
Things to consider when booking the Sofitel Macau at Ponte 16: The Sofitel is not flashy like many other hotels in Macau and it is priced accordingly. If you are looking for an over the top hotel, there are other options in Macau for this, the Sofitel is best if you wan to explore Macau and its rich heritage.
Mandarin Oriental Macau
The Mandarin oriental brand never disappoints and it is one of the highest rated chains in my books. I had the privilege of enjoying stays at both of its properties in Hong Kong and we have our Catalan Boxing Day family meal at the 2 Michelin star restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental in barcelona every year, it also boasts one of the best rooftop bars in Barcelona.
In Macau, you can expect the Mandarin Oriental to oblige with subtle elegance, no over-the-top design or pretentiousness and just the best service and an Asian-inspired look and feel that is so beautiful and sophisticated it deserves being defined as one of the most tasteful in Macau. It has also been awarded triple five stars for its hotel, restaurant and spa by Forbes much like the Banyan Tree.
Access to the reception is from the back, in an almost nondescript driveway that is devoid of all the fanfare of other Macau hotels. This is a secluded and relaxed hotel where there are none of the extravagant and loud characteristics of other hotels in Macau. The hotel is also known for its family-friendly options like in room Play Stations or adjoining rooms.
Even if you do not stay at the Mandarin Oriental, come for an afternoon tea and cake, they have the most beautiful and perfect individual cakes, so pretty they look unreal.
Location of the Mandarin Oriental Macau: The Mandarin Oriental is located at the far end of the formed casino area in the peninsula and it faces the sea and the Macau Tower for some amazing views. It is very near the rest of the casinos in Old Macau and connected to the upscale shopping mall but a tad far on foot from the downtown heritage trails.
Why stay at the Mandarin Oriental Macau: This is the most elegant and understated of the luxury hotels in Macau and it comes with Mandarin Oriental signature service.
Things to consider when booking the Mandarin Oriental: The Mandarin Oriental is usually priced at the top end of Macau’s luxury hotels so it is the most popular with the complete price insensitive guests for whom price is not a decision factor.
The Wynn Macau
Macau’s most awarded casino resort is the favourite child of casino tycoon Wynn. Forbes gave it six five-star ratings for the hotel, the spa and four of its restaurants, a rating only comparable to Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong.
Like its sister and newer property Wynn Palace on Cotai, the Wynn Macau is designed in red and gold tones and a whimsical almost childlike atmosphere that makes you feel like anything is possible. Despite its complete over-the-top design and decor with an overload of gold, the resort managed to win me over and was impossibly tasteful.
There is something about the warmth and inviting color palette and the many artworks on display the hotel is known for that gives it an air of grown up fun that would otherwise be out of place in a hotel where oversized chandeliers and golden appliques can be found at every turn. It is this honest and unapologetically colorful kitsch status that makes it work out nonetheless.
If the common areas of the hotel were not enough to wow you, enjoy a meal at the signature 2 Michelin starred Wing Lei restaurant where a flying dragon made of 90,000 Swarovski crystals will be sure to make you let out a “wow”. Out at the front, the Performance Lake runs music, light, water and fire performances every 15min with popular and classical songs on a roster.
The rooms are all hi-tech with electronic controls for curtains and lights. The facilities include a heated outdoor pool that can be enjoyed all year round, if you can brave the pollution that hits Macau frequently.
The shopping area at the Wynn Macau, like at its sister property Wynn Palace, follows the same orange, yellow, red, golden theme and features some of the highest end stores from all the world renowned designers.
Location of The Wynn Macau: On the main casino strip in the peninsula, the Wynn Macau is a tad far from the heritage trails, like the Mandarin Oriental.
Why stay at The Wynn Macau: This is possibly the most awarded hotel in Old Macau but one that may not be for everyone, just because of its golden overload. Certainly one of the emblematic casino resorts.
Things to consider when booking the The Wynn Macau: The hotel is permanently filled with people and with its huge size, it may not be the most convenient or fast to access your room at. That being said, it is almost an institution, after the Grand Lisboa, so worth the merit. Beware, the hotel’s reputation and name means it is often booked well ahead and its priciest rooms can be booked out a year ahead. The swimming pool at the hotel is not large so in the summer months, when it is steaming hot in Macau, it may well be full.
The Grand Lisboa is Macau’s most recognizable structure. Its flower bouquet silhouette in the silver and yellow gold palette of the casinos in Macau and its oversized structure in the Macau peninsula make it a visible building from anywhere. It is impossible to visit Macau and not notice the Grand Lisboa.
The hotel is one of the oldest and most expensive hotels permanently displaying exclusive artwork such as the 18th century Qing Dynasty horse head from the Beijing summer palace which cost $9 million, a Mammoth tusk intricately carved, precious stones and other rare items.
The famous Star of Stanley Ho, the largest cushion-cut diamond in the world belonging to the Grand Lisboa owner, is on display at the lobby. This is the hotel which best embodies the concept of Chinese new money with flashing lights, huge hanging crystal chandeliers and two three-Michelin starred restaurants.
The entire hotel feels slightly dated, as if its glory belonged to an area long gone, but it still manages to command very high prices. The Grand Lisboa feels like the 1950s Las Vegas ratpack – it was at the top a few decades ago and still feels like the carpets could be holding alcohol spills from decades ago, even if they obviously don’t.
A stopover at its lobby must be a fixture in all of the Chinese visitors’ hop-on hop-off bus tours because it was always hyper crowded giving the entire hotel the feeling of being a zoo – hordes of visitors just coming to look at it as if from behind a glass enclosure. The Grand Lisboa is well worth a visit.
The rooms at the Grand Lisboa are, as expected, tacky with lots of gold, velvet and strange marble colors. The common areas are almost not worth mentioning. The pool is small and has virtually no sun, you can probably hear the traffic below. As the hotel caters mostly to Chinese guests, English is not widely spoken and Western guests have reported issues with getting across to the staff.
Location of the Grand Lisboa Macau: Bang in the middle, walking distance from most of the heritage parts and all the rest of the sightseeing hubs in Old Macau.
Why stay at the Grand Lisboa Macau: Because it once probably was the most emblematic and important hotel in Macau. If you want to experience what real Chinese high-rolling casino goers enjoy, this is the only place.
Things to consider when booking the Grand Lisboa Macau: I am not sure I could stay there for more than one night as it might be overloaded by the not so tasteful amounts of golden, marble and crystal chandeliers, but it could be fun for a night.
Pousada de Sao Tiago
Pousada de Sao Tiago is the only boutique hotel and Relais & Chateaux in Macau located in a Portuguese fort from the 15th century with as much charm as history. The hotel is undergoing renovation 2017, so rooms (and its website) are not available for booking at the moment.
The fort where Pousada de Sao Tiago is housed was built by Portuguese fishermen who wanted to defend themselves from piracy so it is located on top of a hill for better vistas.
This is a gem of a hotel and the only heritage accommodation option in Macau. As it only has 12 rooms, they are permanently booked by repeat guests and long time visitors who prefer to avoid the craziness that Macau can be.
The rooms at Pousada de Sao Tiago are modern with amenities such as Bang & Olufsen TVs coupled with plush colonial accents in thick velvet and balconies with views over the sea. Even if you are not staying here, you can visit for a meal at the main restaurant, La Paloma, serving Spanish food (Google reports La Paloma as permanently closed in December 2017, but this may be due to renovations, we will keep you updated).
Why stay at Pousada de Sao Tiago: The only boutique hotel with a soul that is available in Macau certainly provides a very unique experience.
Things to consider when booking the Pousada de Sao Tiago: If you do not book well ahead, the hotel is usually full. I am looking forward to seeing it open after the renovations.
Getting to Macau
You can reach Macau easily by plane through its international airport or you can take the ferry from Hong Kong. Pre-order a Sim Card with Hong Kong pick up if you choose to take the ferry.
Both companies stop at Hong Kong’s international airport as well as the city’s downtown area. In Macau, they stop at either Taipa Ferry Terminal or at Macau Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal on the peninsula.
Some ferries run throughout the night so you can even pop over for the night if you’re on a business trip in Hong Kong. Tickets prices are quite cheap running for as little as $25 each way.
The ferry schedules are below, but note that these schedules may change, so reconfirm when you buy your tickets. Also note that the departures from Hong Kong airport to Macau are considered transit by the Hong Kong government so you would not need a visa to Hong Kong. That also means that, unless you are landing in Hong Kong, you cannot take the ferry from the airport as the departures are inside the terminal.
TurboJet’s ferry schedule from Hong Kong international airport are as follows:
TurboJet’s ferry schedule from Hong Kong city center are as follows:
The ferry schedules of CotaiWaterJet from Hong Kong international airport below:
And the ferry schedules of CotaiWaterJet from Hong Kong city center below:
The convenience of the ferry frequency, its price and the 24h coverage means that it is quite easy to simply hop on a ferry and cross the Pearl River from Hong Kong to Macau and spend as little or as long as you want there. This is why Hong Kong to Macau day trips are so popular among the residents and visitors to Hong Kong.
As the route is frequented by lots of visitors, businessmen and commuters, I would recommend that you buy your ferry tickets in advance to avoid queueing and overbooking as some of the popular times are often full, especially if you need to ensure a specific ferry on your way back to Hong Kong airport.