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Ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral

The Ruins of St. Paul’s, also known as “大三巴牌坊” in Chinese and “Ruínas de São Paulo” in Portuguese, are the remnants of a 17th-century Catholic complex in Macau, China. This historical site includes the impressive façade and crypt, once part of the Church of St. Paul, the largest church in Asia and a significant component of the Jesuit College of St. Paul. The church was built by Japanese Christian exiles and local craftsmen under the supervision of Italian Jesuit Carlo Spinola.

Tragically, a fire caused by a typhoon in 1835 ravaged the church, leaving behind solely the stone façade majestically positioned on a small hill, reachable by ascending 68 steps. This intricately adorned façade serves as a splendid testament to the harmonious blend of Eastern and Western cultures, featuring carvings and statues depicting symbolic elements such as the Virgin Mary standing upon a dragon, a Chinese inscription, a Portuguese ship, and emblems associated with the Jesuit Order. Revered as one of Macau’s most renowned landmarks and included in the Seven Wonders of Portuguese Origin in the World, these ruins were inscribed as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Historic Centre of Macau, in 2005.

  • Location: In the St. Paul’s Road (Rua de Sao Paulo, Macau, China), Macau, China
  • Opening time: All day long for the façade; 09:00 to 18:00 for the Museum of Sacred Art and Crypt
  • Ticket price: Free
  • Time Needed: About one hour
  • Best time to visit: All year round
  • Suited to: History and culture lovers, photographers, and religious people.
Macau The Ruins of the St Paul Cathedral
The Ruins of the St Paul Cathedral

What to See and Do at Ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral

Marvel at the ornate façade adorned with intricate carvings depicting religious and cultural symbols, including the Virgin Mary, Jesuit saints, the Chinese dragon, and the Japanese chrysanthemum. Climb the 68 stone steps for a closer look at the details and to savor a panoramic view of the city.

Explore the Museum of Sacred Art and Crypt located behind the façade, which showcases captivating paintings, sculptures, and relics associated with the church and its martyrs. Take a moment to visit the crypt, the resting place of Japanese and Vietnamese martyrs.

Immerse yourself in the Historic Centre of Macau, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where the fusion of Chinese and Portuguese cultures is vividly displayed. Take a leisurely stroll along Senado Square, a charming paved public square that leads to the ruins and offers a variety of colonial buildings, shops, and restaurants. Don’t miss nearby attractions such as the Na Tcha Temple, a small Taoist temple standing in contrast to the Catholic architecture, and the Fortress of Mount, a historic military fort boasting a panoramic view of Macau.

Indulge in local delicacies offered by numerous vendors surrounding the ruins, including delectable egg tarts, pork chop buns, almond cookies, and milk tea. For a taste of Portuguese or Macanese cuisine, venture to nearby restaurants such as Mariazinha, MacauSoul, or Antonio.

 

Best Time to Visit Ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral

The optimal time to explore the Ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral and other Macau attractions is during the period from October to December, characterized by cool, clear, and sunny weather, as well as reduced rainfall. This season also coincides with the peak of tourism in Macau, offering the opportunity to partake in vibrant festivals and events, including the Macau Food Festival, the Macau International Music Festival, and the Macau Light Festival. It’s important to note that prices may be higher and crowds more prevalent during this time.

Another favorable period to visit Macau is in spring, specifically from March to April when the climate is mild and pleasant, and the blooming flowers enhance the scenic charm. Spring is considered a low season for tourism in Macau, allowing you to avoid large crowds and potentially save on travel expenses. However, occasional foggy days may affect sightseeing experiences.

Macau Ruins of St. Paul's
Marvel at the ornate façade

How to Get to Ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral

By bus: You can board buses such as 8A, 18A, 18B, 18, 19, or 26, which will take you to Camoes Square, a short walking distance from the ruins. The bus fare for each ride is approximately 6 MOP (0.75 USD). Additionally, some casinos or hotels offer free shuttle buses to Senado Square, which is also in proximity to the ruins.

By taxi: Taxis are readily available throughout Macau, allowing you to travel directly to the ruins from any location. The taxi fare is calculated based on the meter, with an initial charge of 19 MOP (2.4 USD) and an additional fee of 2 MOP (0.25 USD) for every 240 meters (787 feet) traveled. Moreover, there is a surcharge of 3 MOP (0.38 USD) per piece of luggage.

By ferry: If you are arriving from Hong Kong, you can take a ferry to either Macau Outer Harbour Ferry Terminal or Taipa Ferry Terminal. The ferry journey typically takes around an hour and costs approximately 170-200 HKD (22-26 USD) for an economy-class ticket. From the ferry terminals, you can continue your journey to the ruins by either bus or taxi.

By plane: If you are flying to Macau, your destination will be Macau International Airport, situated on Taipa Island. Upon arrival, you can opt to take a bus or taxi from the airport to reach the ruins.

 

Attractions nearby Ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral

  • London Mithraeum, a restored Roman temple with ancient ruins and artifacts;
  • Winchester Palace, a 12th-century residence showcasing remnants like the rose window and great hall;
  • Museum of Sacred Art and Crypt, housing paintings, sculptures, and relics of the church and its martyrs;
  • Monte Forte, a historical military fort offering panoramic views of Macau;
  • Na Tcha Temple, a colorful Taoist temple honoring the child god of war and plague;
  • Senado Square, a vibrant public square with colonial buildings, shops, and restaurants.

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