25 interesting facts about Macau

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From the ‘Las Vegas of the East’ to the world’s most densely populated region, these are the most interesting facts about Macau.

Interesting facts about Macau include its casinos
Interesting facts about Macau include its casinos (Shutterstock)

Fast facts

Official name: Macau Special Administrative Region (SAR)
Population: 0.6 million
Area: 28 sq km
Capital city: Macau
Major languages: Cantonese, Mandarin, Tagalog, English
Major religions: Folk, Buddhism, Christianity
Time zone: UTC+8 (Macau Standard Time)
– Source: CIA World Factbook

Interesting facts about Macau

1. Macau (also spelt Macao) is a Special Administrative Region of China and a city-state located on the south coast of China in Eastern Asia.
– Source: BBC News

2. Macau is located on a narrow peninsula of mainland China as well as the islands of Taipa and Coloane which are joined by a stretch of reclaimed land known as Cotai.
– Source: Britannica

3. Macau is governed by the “one country, two systems” model where China allows Macau to have its own government and local currency and control its own legal and financial affairs – legal gambling.
– Source: BBC News

A map of Macau shoing the islands and reclaimed land
Macau, Taipa, Coloane and Cotai (Britannica)

4. Due to its enormous gambling and casino industry, Macau has been called ‘Asia’s Monte Carlo’, the ‘Las Vegas of the East’ and the ‘Vegas of China’.
– Source: The Guardian, Lonely Planet

5. Macau is the only place where casino gambling is legal in China.
– Source: Financial Times

6. For years, Macau has dwarfed Las Vegas in gambling revenues but these nose-dived during the pandemic and the ‘gambling crown’ was returned to Las Vegas in 2020.
– Source: Financial Times

The Grand Lisboa Casino lit up at night
The Grand Lisboa Casino in Macau (Shutterstock)

7. With 20,556 people per sq km of land area, Macau is the world’s most densely populated region.
– Source: World Bank

8. Macau was the first and last European colony on mainland Asia. It was first leased to Portugal in 1557 – and became a full colony in 1887 – and was returned to China in 1999.
– Source: Fodor’s Travel, BBC News

9. Macau’s flag is made up of a green background with a lotus flower above a white bridge and water. Above is an arc of five gold, five-pointed stars. The lotus is the emblem of Macau with the three petals representing Macau’s peninsula and two islands. The five stars reflect those on China’s flag.
– Source: CIA World Factbook

Macau's flag flying against a blue sky
Macau’s flag (Shutterstock)

10. At 84.1 years at birth, Macau has the world’s third-highest life expectancy.
– Source: World Bank

11. Macau has the world’s fifth-lowest fertility rate at just 1.2 births per woman.
– Source: World Bank

12. Macau is connected to Hong Kong via the world’s longest sea bridge. The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge spans 55km and includes 6.7km of undersea tunnel to allow ships to pass.
– Source: The Guardian

The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge stretching over open ocean
The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (Shutterstock)

13. Macau is the world’s fourth most visited city receiving 20,637,100 visitors in 2019 (the latest available data).
– Source: Euromonitor

14. The Historic Centre of Macau is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The old city centre is recognised for its historic streets and blend of eastern and western architecture.
– Source: UNESCO

15. The ruins of the Church of St Paul is one of the most famous sites in Macau. The church was built between 1602 and 1640 but today, only its facade and stairway remain.
– Source: Lonely Planet

The facade of the Church of St Paul
The facade of the Church of St Paul (Shutterstock)

16. Beginning with the Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC), Macau was ruled by successive Chinese dynasties until the Portuguese arrived in the 16th century AD.
– Source: James Minahan (2014) Ethnic Groups of North, East, and Central Asia: An Encyclopedia. ABC-Clio: Santa Barbara

17. The first Portuguese ship arrived in the Pearl River estuary near Macau in 1513.
– Source: Britannica

18. The oldest lighthouse in China is in Macau. The Guia Lighthouse was built around 1865.
– Source: Lonely Planet, UNESCO

The Guia Lighthouse in Macau
The Guia Lighthouse (Shutterstock)

19. The 338m (1,109ft) Macau Tower is home to the world’s highest commercial bungee jump facility at 232m (763ft).
– Source: Guinness World Records

20. The highest bungee jump from a building of 199m (652ft) was made at the Macau Tower. It was completed by AJ Hackett (from New Zealand) who jumped off a platform at 233m (764ft) in 2006.
– Source: Guinness World Records

21. Macau’s name is believed to derive from the A-Ma Temple which was known locally as “Maa Gok” which became “Macau” in Portuguese.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

Looking up the steps towards the A-Ma Temple
The A-Ma Temple (Shutterstock)

22. The Venetian Macao is the world’s second-largest casino, Asia’s largest single-structure hotel and the world’s seventh-largest building by floor area.
– Source: Casino.org

23. Archaeological finds suggest that Macau has been inhabited for around 3,000 to 4,000 years.
– Source: Chinese University of Hong Kong (translated)

24. On 20 December 1999, Macau was officially returned to China marking the end of 442 years of Portuguese rule.
– Source: New York Times (archive)

25. Patuá, a Macanese patois, is a Portuguese-based creole language which is in endanger of disappearing if it hasn’t already. In 2000, UNESCO’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger placed the number of speakers at just 50.
– Source: The Guardian

Every effort has been made to verify these facts about Macau using primary sources. However, if you find an error or have any questions, please contact us.