You’ll see them long before you approach the front door. Towering overhead, Macau’s casinos and hotels make up the skyline of this peninsula just off the coast of Hong Kong. Known as the Vegas of the East, Macau has built a reputation for its excesses and larger-than-life design.
The most notable difference between this gambling town and its Nevada counterpart? With China just an hour-long ferry ride away, and a whopping 80 percent of their clientele Chinese, these Macanese hotels are catering to both Western and Chinese guests. Though gambling aficionados will recognize a few notable details from Sin City—the Venetian’s gondola-dotted canals, the copper-colored sway of the Wynn’s exterior—this crop of casinos is no Vegas strip.
Steve Wynn’s Macanese propertyoffers two distinct options: the main Wynn building and the anniversary Encore tower. The Wynn rooms are crisp and clean, with a modern white design that is hard to find in Macau, while the Encore experience offers guests a blend of Asian and European design. Deep crimson walls are accompanied by koi fish and butterfly panels with sweeping views of the waterfront.
Regardless of where you stay, details like the moon jellyfish aquarium at check-in, the Oscar de La Renta custom tangerine-colored wallpaper, and the jewelry box–shaped Bar Cristal—with its scene-stealing 19th century Belgian Swarovski chandelier—provide captivating design elements throughout the property.
Housing the largest casino in Macau—and, in fact, the entire world—the Venetian’s Chinese outpost pays homage to its original design concept in Las Vegas while creating its own separate identity. The usual suspects are there; from the musical gondoliers to the football field–length shopping district, but the atmosphere is decidedly calmer. The floor of the large casino is taken up largely by card tables, favored by the majority of Chinese gamblers, with the noisy slot machines a downsized buzz in the corner.
Las Vegas style nightlife is extremely rare in Macau, but one of the few places to experience a lively atmosphere is at the Venetian’s Bellini Bar.
The Lisboa Palace Hotel
Comprised of three separate hotel towers, this complex aims to become a major hotel presence on Cotai, one of three Macanese islands. Both Donatella Versace and Karl Lagerfeld have signed on to design individual towers, adding their brands’ signature styles to the Macau casino landscape. Lagerfeld’s hotel features an enormous Choupette at the entrance, while his own silhouette graces the room keys. In comparison, Versace’s design is relatively toned down but still makes a statement with gorgeous mosaic tiles that create a mélange of color in the pool and a lobby decked out in gold trim and white marble.
Both designers feature Chinese elements in their designs, with Lagerfeld weaving in Phoenix and Peony emblems, and Versace focusing on dragon and chrysanthemum details.
The Grand Lisboa
In addition to owner Stanley Ho's private collection of art, the Grand Lisboa is also home to the “Star of Stanley Ho,” the biggest cushion-cut diamond in the world. (The almost cartoonishly large gem is on display in the hotel’s lobby.)
Other cultural highlights on display include the 18th century Qing Dynasty horse head from the Beijing summer palace (bought on auction for roughly $9 million), and a Mammoth tusk intricately carved to depict the story of the Monkey King. The display is so renowned that it is considered a cultural showcase for Chinese art, and draws visitors beyond the hotel’s guests.
Sofitel Macau at Ponte 16
The Sofitel Macau at Ponte 16 brings its traditional French ambiance to the city. Unlike most of the other hotels in the region, which are located on Cotai Island, the Sofitel is set in the center of Macau’s historic district within walking distance to Macau’s oft-overlooked sights beyond the casino walls.
Perched on the waterfront, the Sofitel is just two blocks away from the ferry loading dock, where early risers can watch the flower venders unloading their fragrant wares from China. The scene is a chaotic and colorful one, as the merchants scurry off to the markets, brown paper–wrapped blooms swung over their shoulders.
The newest hotel to join the ranks of Macau’s heavy hitters, the Harbourview is a nod to 18th century Prague. From the ornate, chandeliered lobby and the high-ceilinged pool ringed by imposing pillars to the panoramic views of the harbor, dramatic flair mixed with modern sensibilities are built into the hotel’s DNA.
Pousada de Sao Tiago
For those looking to inject a bit of escapism into their Macau stay, Pousada de Sao Tiago offers a hilltop hideaway in the form of a restored Portuguese 17th century fortress with sweeping water vistas. From the stone-layered stronghold walls, originally used to keep watch for looming pirates, to the brilliant sunset views, a night’s stay at the Pousada offers a brilliant blend of past and present.