It can sometimes be a challenge to find the “old Macau” under the ever-growing shadow of the casinos and hotels that have come to define modern Macau. The traditional shops that once served whole neighborhoods are fast disappearing. However, there are some spots that maintain a real connection to the past. One example is Rua dos Ervanários. It has certainly changed over the years, but one can still experience a different feeling in the air as if after crossing Rua dos Mercadores, we are crossing over to a different time period. The feeling only grows stronger as we start walking down this traffic-free narrow street.
Together with Rua dos Mercadores and Rua das Estalagens, this is one of the city’s oldest streets when it comes to commerce and trading. It was informally considered the “border” between the local and Western communities and where they met to trade goods. According to Father Manuel Teixeira, writing in his Toponímia de Macau (1997), it’s believed to have been an iron door there with the Chinese characters engraved that read Ou Mun (Macau). The aim? To prevent criminals from accessing the city center.
According to the Official Gazette, Rua dos Ervanários, Rua das Estalagens and Rua da Porta de Pedra (the latter doesn’t exist anymore) gave the name to Sam Kai Seong Ip–the Three Streets’ Association, one of Macau’s oldest Chinese associations. Luís Gonzaga Gomes talks about this association’s history in is Curiosidades de Macau Antiga book (1952). The headquarters of the association is located at Sam Kai Vui Kun Temple–also known as Kuan Tai Temple–near S. Domingos Market.
In addition to a “tit ta” (the Chinese name for a traditional physiotherapist), there are some ground-level shops selling incense and Chinese New Year paraphernalia, a tailor shop and some places selling Chinese knick-knacks—the huge selection is surprising, from jade and gold jewelry to religious pieces and even home utensils. Most of these shops are open to the street with no door blocking the way in as if they are really meant to be seen and visited.
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What to do
Rua dos Ervanários has also been pinpointed as one of Macau’s best streets to invest in new businesses, such as cafés. Opening new businesses here not only gives the area a fresh look but also fosters people’s interest, further driving up visitor numbers. The contrast between old and new in Macau never seems more immediate than when we stroll down Rua Dos Ervanários, one of the first streets built in the city, as we eat our frozen yogurt from one of the new shops in the area.
Besides Hung Heng Cocos–a traditional shop in Macau selling homemade coconut ice-cream, very popular amongst both residents and tourists–is just a five-minute walk from this street, while Food Truck Company serves wholesome steak sandwiches and real espresso coffee, along with some Portuguese dishes like alheira.
Pace Coffee offers artisan coffee made with local brand beans in a spacious little coffee shop featuring modern decor. It’s worth the visit, so bring some friends and chill at this local area. There are also some interesting shops to check out: from artists’ jewelry to crafted clothing, there’re a bunch of antique shops along the way as well.
There’s plenty to do in this area, especially when it comes to eating food and sipping coffee! Rua dos Ervanários and all its adjacent alleys and streets have stories to tell, so might as well just roam around and find them for yourself. Is there anything cooler than imagining what a place used to be? The people responsible for Rua dos Ervanários refurbishment were kind enough to shoot the now new stores back in the day and have them there, for all to see what it used to be like.
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One of the other great things about this area is all the street art that has been popping like mushrooms. Who doesn’t like to see older parts of a city regain life through art and modernity? Although there are still a bunch of traditional shops around–selling incense, antiques, and religious motifs–some places were abandoned for years and are now being modernized and refurbished.
Besides cute little coffee shops, light meals eateries, and creative design jewelry ateliers, this area has lots of street art to enjoy! Check out these monkeys, or the creative wall someone had painted and used a pre-existing grid to make its art mix with the surroundings.
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Rua dos Ervanários Macau