Senado Square: A UNESCO Heritage Site With a European Vibe
by: The Beat Asia
April 12, 2023
Macau may be known as the “Las Vegas of Asia” because of its many casinos, but its neighbourhoods are more than that. Being a previous Portuguese colony, it’s home to many neoclassical buildings that give the city a European vibe. If you’re looking for a popular tourist spot, one place that should be on your must-visit list is Senado Square.
Getting to Know the Square
Senado Square, also known as Senate Square or Largo do Senado in Portuguese, is a public square located in the central area of the Macau Peninsula that connects Largo do São Domingos and Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro. On July 15, 2005, it became part of the UNESCO World Heritage List as it’s home to some historic buildings under the Historic Centre of Macau.
Its land area is about 3,700 square metres, making it one of the largest squares in Macau along with Praça do Lago Sai Van (near Macau Tower), Praça do Centro Cultural, and Praça do Tap Seac (where you can find Macau Central Library).
The square is now a bustling urban centre filled with tourists, but prior to 1999, the then colonised Macau treated this area as a governmental centre. It was named after the Leal Senado (Loyal Senate), which was the meeting place of Portuguese and Chinese officials from the 16th to 18th centuries.
It also used to allow cars and had parking lots, but with the increasing number of tourists, it became a pedestrian-only zone. It was designed with a wave-patterned Portuguese pavement (calçada portuguesa) in the early 1990s.
Things to Do at Senado Square
Senado Square is a historical destination where you can take pictures of its unique architecture, traditional-style pavement, and iconic fountain. Some of the popular spots you can see here are the Macau General Post Office, the Hotel Central, and the following UNESCO-listed buildings:
Leal Senado – Located in front of the fountain, this old Senate building was built in 1784 and currently houses the Municipal Affairs Bureau of Macau. It has a gallery where guests can visit if there’s an ongoing exhibition.
Holy House of Mercy – This social welfare structure is known as the first western-style medical clinic in Macau, which was modelled after one of the oldest charitable organizations in Portugal. It also has a museum open for guests.
St. Dominic's Church – A late 16th century Baroque-style church founded by three Spanish Dominican priests in 1587. It also houses the Treasure of Sacred Art Museum inside its bell tower, which has hundreds of religious artworks and artifacts.
The square is also where many cultural and annual events take place, so consider yourself lucky if your timing is right! During special occasions, such as Christmas and Lunar New Year, you’ll also see grand decorations that make the area feel more alive.
If you would like to take a break, the square offers traditional Chinese and Western (like Starbucks and McDonalds) restaurants and fast-food joints where you can recharge and go on a culinary adventure. But if you prefer a light snack, many stalls offer some quick bites, such as kebabs, pepper cakes, skewers, waffles, and fruit juices.
How to Get There
If you’re riding the ferry from Hong Kong, there’s a small bus stop outside the Macau Ferry Terminal at the right side of the main exit. Ride the public buses with numbers 3, 3A, 10, and 10A to take you to Senado Square.
Major hotels near the square, like the Grand Lisboa at Avenida De Lisboa, also offer free shuttle services from the Macau Ferry Terminal. From there, you can walk straight to Senado Square along Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro for about 10 to 12 minutes.
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