Penha Peninsula

Start: Leal Senado, across from Senado Square.

Finish: A-Ma Temple.

Time: Allow approximately 2 hours.

Best Times: You can do this walk any day of the week.

Worst Times: Tuesday, when the Maritime Museum is closed; Wednesday and Thursday, when the Mandarin House is closed.

In contrast to the commercial neighborhoods around Senado Square and St. Paul's with their many shops and restaurants, Penha Peninsula is more residential, sprinkled with many fine churches, squares, and other architectural treasures that are part of the World Heritage Site's Historic Centre of Macao (the highlight is the Mandarin House). Still, it's off the beaten path for most tourists, despite the fact that Penha Peninsula boasts Macau's grandest examples of Portuguese colonial architecture.

1. Leal Senado

This neoclassical masterpiece, Macau's most striking example of Portuguese colonial architecture, was built in 1784 and renovated following a typhoon in 1875. Since its founding, this building has housed Macau's municipal chamber. Its name means "Loyal Senate," derived from a title Portuguese King Dom John IV bestowed in 1654: "City of Our Name of God Macao, There is None More Loyal." Inside the foyer to the right is a small gallery with changing exhibitions, often mounted without much advance notice but interesting since they relate to Macau and are free (Tues-Sun 9am-9pm). Up the stairs is a pretty inner courtyard, lined with blue and white tiles typical of Macau's Portuguese buildings and with a bust of poet Camoes.

In front of Leal Senado is busy:

2. Avenida Almeida Ribeiro

Called San Ma Lo by the Chinese, this has long been Macau's main thoroughfare. Many old buildings from the early 20th century, with decorated facades on the upper floors and shops below, remain, though modern architecture is slowly encroaching. There are many shops selling jewelry here, with prices dependent on the daily market price for gold.

Cross to the other side of Avenida Almeida Ribeiro at the crosswalk and turn left toward the Inner Harbour, looking for a sign on the right that reads CLUBE CULTURAL, at no. 396. It's home of the small:

3. Tak Seng On Pawnshop Museum

This museum provides an interesting insight into the Chinese pawnshop business, which operates under different principles than pawnshops in the West. Be sure, too, to take a spin through the adjoining shop selling antiques and souvenirs.

Take a Break -- On the third floor of the pawnshop museum is a traditional teahouse, the Water Teahouse, offering various types of tea and tea ware for purchase. Or, you can choose to drink it here in a private booth where the waitress will prepare the tea at your table. It's open daily 10:30am to 8pm.

Cross Avenida Almeida Ribeiro at the crosswalk to the right and continue walking dead ahead on Travessa Do Mastro 2 short blocks to a lively street with open-fronted shops selling sheets of barbecued beef jerky, pastries, and other foodstuffs. This is the beginning of picturesque:

4. Rua da Felicidade

It's aptly named, since the Street of Happiness once served as the nightlife district. Most of it was renovated some years back so that the traditional buildings all have the same whitewashed walls and red shutters and doors. Today they house a few shops, restaurants, and other businesses.

Walk all the way up Rua da Felicidade to where it ends, turning right onto Rua da Alfandaga, where you'll pass Pac Cheong Tong, a traditional Chinese medicinal shop at no. 114. Turn left at the next street, Calçada Do Gamboa and walk uphill, at the top of which is Largo de Santo Agostinho (St. Augustine's Square). This is one of Macau's loveliest squares, so architecturally intact that it's one of the World Heritage Site's eight protected squares. Immediately in front of you is:

5. St. Augustine's Church (Igreja de Santo Agostinho)

This pretty yellow church with green shutters was first established by Spanish Augustinians in 1591 and remains one of the city's most popular, with Sunday Mass celebrated in Tagalog at 10:30am for Macau's large Filipino population and in English at 4:30pm. It also holds a very popular Easter Procession, with thousands of devotees.

Also on St. Augustine's Square, behind the yellow gate, is the:

6. Sir Robert Ho Tung Library

Built in 1894 as a residence, this building has since been donated to the city and now serves as a public library. There's a small open courtyard out back, good for a short break.

The other important building here, across the street, is the light green:

7. Dom Pedro V Theatre

China's first Western-style theater was built in 1860 and attracted many international touring companies, making it a cultural centerpiece for the Macanese community. It's still used for concerts and public events, but otherwise isn't open to the public.

Take Calçada Do Teatro, the downhill slope curving to the right around Dom Pedro V Theater, and continue straight on to Rua Central, which in succession becomes de S. Lorenço and then Rua Do Padre Antonio. After about 10 minutes, to your left will be:

8. Lilau Square (Largo do Lilau)

Shaded by a large banyan tree and bordered by colorful old houses, this little square is probably my favorite in Macau. Because of a natural spring found here, this was the center of one of Macau's first residential areas. A local saying promises anyone who drinks from Lilau's spring will never forget Macau. The fountain became a popular drinking spot for visitors, who hoped that drinking the spring water would ensure their return. Nowadays, due to health reasons, the fountain is dry, but you can whet your thirst with a drink purchased at the square's kiosk. As you relax on a bench, you can almost picture how lively this part of Macau used to be, with housewives coming to fetch water and children playing in the square.

The interwoven quality of the lives of the Chinese, Macanese, and Portuguese in old Macau is reflected by the imposing building across from Lilau Square, the:

9. Mandarin's House

This magnificent traditional Chinese mansion, first built in 1860 and expanded in the 1880s, is the highlight of this stroll. The former home of Zheng Guangying, a forward thinker who wrote Words of Warning in Times of Prosperity, it had fallen on hard times, with more than 300 tenants packed inside the 60-room complex, before 8 years of renovation restored it as a masterpiece of the World Heritage Site's Historic Centre of Macao.

Turn right onto Rua da Barra and continue on Calçada da Barra, where soon to your left you'll see the handsome:

10. Moorish Barracks (Quartel dos Mouros)

This brick and stone neoclassical structure, with distinct Mughal embellishments, was built in 1874 to house an Indian regiment brought in from Goa (which was also under Portuguese rule). Today it serves as headquarters of the Maritime Administration and is not open to the public.

Continue on Calçada da Barra to its end, which brings you to Macau's namesake:

11. A-Ma Temple

Already here when the Portuguese arrived, A-Ma Temple has grown over the years, with various pavilions and halls built along a steep slope. The fact that so many deities are worshipped in a single complex is testimony to how much Chinese culture has been influenced by Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism.

Across the square from A-Ma Temple is the:

12. Maritime Museum

Macau's long relationship with the sea is the focus of this small museum, with displays that cover both Portuguese and Chinese seafaring vessels.

Winding Down -- Across from the Moorish Barracks is Pizzeria Toscana, 2A Calçada da Barra (tel. 853/2872 6637), offering inexpensive pizzas and pastas daily 11:30am to 3:30pm and 6:30 to 11:30pm. Not far from A-Ma Temple is a succession of restaurants on Rua do Almirante Sergio: A Lorcha (tel. 853/2831 3193), serving Portuguese fare; Restaurante Litoral (tel. 853/2896 7878), specializing in Macanese cuisine; and O Porto Interior (tel. 853/2896 7770), which serves both.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.