Macau’s Mount Fortress is one of the city’s oldest constructions and part of the Historic Centre of Macao, classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Covering 8,000 square meters, it took the Jesuit missionaries nine years to build it from 1617 to 1626. It was initially constructed for military protection purposes and the whole area was commonly known as Macau’s acropolis.
The construction replaced a previous, more fragile fortress created to prevent the Dutch from taking over the city. At first, it included St. Paul’s school and church. Later, it also served as the quarters to Francisco Mascarenhas (the first Portuguese governor) until 1746. At the time of its appearance, it was far more majestic. In 1695, the buildings were damaged by a small fire and had to be renovated; however, the church’s renovations were only completed in 1602 due to its massive improvements. From then on it was known as “the Vatican of the East.”
Three dozen cannons and more
It was not until 1808 that the fortress really served its main purpose. In September of that same year, the building was occupied by British troops claiming shelter and protection against the French. However, the Chinese army took a stand and the English were long gone by the end of the year. Unfortunately, another fire took place in 1835, destroying most of the original structure. The fire is also the reason for the façade in the place where St. Paul’s Church and the school used to be. Before this incident, everything was integrated within its walls.
To reach the monument, you can either take the escalators located on your left or go for a quick hike through the ramp on the right. Before reaching the top, there are gifts and convenience stores, followed by a small chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The path leads visitors to the highest deck, where 32 cannons are installed. Curiously, none of them are facing China, which means Macau was only concerned about the threats arriving by sea. The fortress is now mainly a garden where exotic plants grow and people can enjoy a moment of solitude. For those interested in history, it is here that the Macao Museum can be found.
Offering the best views around
This monument is majestic from every perspective, but its city views are one of the main attractions. Because of its strategic location, one can see Hotel Lisboa, the old neighborhoods, and the Ruins of St. Paul’s almost simultaneously. One should start this walk before sunset and stay until dusk turns the city lights on. Doing so allows visitors to see the view by day and its changes during nightfall. It is almost like the city never sleeps.
Mount Fortress is not directly reachable by bus, but some stops are quite near. Buses 8A, 17, 18, 18A, 19, and 26 stop at Camões Garden. From there, just walk straight through Rua de S. Paulo until you see the Ruins of St. Paul’s. You can also alight at Almeida Ribeiro Avenue from buses 3, 3A, 4, 6, 8A, 18A, 19, 26A or 33, and walk through Senado Square until you reach the fortress.
Macao Museum: All You Need to Know About the City
Macao Museum is a must-visit place when it comes to learning all about Macau’s history. From the Discoveries period to trading, main professions through the centuries, and much more, it’s one of Macau’s most informative museums. The entrance can be reached by hiking to Mount Fortress, but also through an escalator close to the Ruins of St. Paul’s. The building is modern and it has a beautiful lake, which gets bright and sunny around 4:30pm to 5:00pm.
The same grounds are home to a small gallery telling the story about this fortification’s construction, the reasons for it, the materials that were initially used, amongst other useful and interesting information.