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A dream destination for the world traveler

Madeira in Portugal is an archipelago comprising 4 islands off the northwest coast of Africa. This beautiful destination is a volcanic island with a subtropical climate and offers spectacular views over the deep blue sea. Funchal is the capital of Madeira Island and it is definitely worth it to explore.  Do take the time to stay for a while and enjoy all the city has to offer.  It is rich in history and a really nice city that you can easily explore by bus, taxi or by booking a day tour.

Madeira funchal port

If you’re looking for exciting things to do or great adventures for your next trip to Funchal, look no further.  There are lots of outdoor adventures:

  • Dolphin and Whale watching

  • Madeira has fabulous hiking trails

  • Go on a Catamaran Tour (maybe @ sunset)

  • Join a Levada Walking Tour

  • Enjoy the magnificent views

Madeira Holidays

Planning your trip

The reason for this article is not to give you a travel guide, but to share with you what we loved about our trip to Funchal and Madeira Island.

Frequently asked questions:

How many days do you need in Funchal?

It all depends on how much sightseeing you want to do and how much leisure time you want to incorporate into your trip.  We love to explore those quiet coastal spots, visiting farmers’ markets, have late breakfasts with beautiful views, enjoying a fabulous island sunset from a catamaran, and just enjoying a lazy day on a beach.  So if you love these activities too, make time to really enjoy it.  Therefore I would say anything from 3 to 4 days, is a good idea.

The best time to visit Funchal

In my opinion, May to August would be the best time as this is the time of year with the least rain, but you will find that Madeira has awesome weather throughout the year. Keeping this in mind you would definitely want to visit during the annual flower festival, which usually takes place in springtime (April/May) – however, the dates might change so it is best to always check the news for updates on the festival dates.  In my opinion, the flower festival is simply spectacular. As Madeira has a mild climate and rich soil, the island is covered with lush vegetation all year round, so exploring the island is fabulous, but the city really also offers fabulous things to do.

Madeira
Photo: visitportugal.com

Is Madeira Portugal worth a visit?

The beautiful Madeira is one of those places you must definitely visit at least once in your lifetime, and you will not regret it.

Is Portugal expensive

What is the nearest international airport?

The famous Funchal Airport

Cristiano Ronaldo Madeira International Airport (FNC), commonly known as Madeira Airport or Funchal Airport, or Saint Catherine Airport, is an international airport in Santa Cruz, Madeira.

You might be aware that Madeira’s airport is known for its tricky landings when the wind is strong, but the pilots are all well trained to handle it.  So; Enjoy the view.

Exploring Funchal

Places to visit in Funchal, Madeira

Let’s start with the fantastic Madeira gardens

Due to the wonderful subtropical climate, the gardens of Madeira are beautiful.  I believe, while visiting the island, you simply have to visit the following gardens:

The Gardens of Funchal

A list of the best gardens to visit in Funchal.

Madeira is the ideal destination for garden lovers, but these gardens is also fabulous family outings.

  • Monte Palace

    A 70.000 square meter tropical garden with exotic plants. Address: Caminho do Monte 174, 9050-288 Funchal, Portugal

  • Palheiro Gardens (Jardines Palheiro)

    A beautiful garden has camellias in bloom from October to April. The Palheiro Estate is located just 15 minutes from Funchal. Address: Caminho da Quinta do Palheiro , 32 São Gonçalo, 9060-255 Funchal, Portugal

  • Madeira Botanical Garden (Jardim Botânico da Madeira)

    Situated on the steep hillside and overlooking the harbor, this beautiful garden is dedicated in part to preserving the island’s indigenous and endemic plants. Address: 9060-345 Funchal, Portugal

  • Funchal Municipal Garden

    A visit to the Funchal Municipal gardens is also a great stop for the day. Situated in the heart of Funchal, you'll find a beautiful garden with little restaurants where you can relax for a while. Address: R. Ivens 11, 9000-050 Funchal, Portugal

  • Santa Catarina Park

    With a total area of ​​36,000 m², Santa Catarina Park offers stunning views of Funchal Bay and has several beautiful walking paths. This is one of the largest parks in Madeira. Address: Av. Sá Carneiro 3, 9000-015 Funchal, Portugal

  • Monte Municipal Park (Parque Leite Monteiro)

    Monte Municipal Park (Leite Monteiro Park), covers an area of 26,000 m2 and lies at the highest altitude of all the municipal parks - between 543 and 586 meters above sea level. Address: 288, Caminho do Monte 192, Funchal, Portuga

Things to do in Funchal Madeira

Your visit to the Botanical garden can include a cable car ride – to enjoy the views.

Madeira / Funchal on a budget

Many of the parks in Madeira has free entrance, so if you’re looking for ways to explore while saving money, the gardens of Madeira are an excellent idea.  Although Funchal is a big city, you can explore quite a large part of it easily on foot which will save you on travel costs.

Madeira flower garden
Madeira Botanical garden

Exploring more of the city

Exploring the historic city centre / the old part of the city dating back more than 600 years.

Rua de Santa Maria (a street known for its great artwork on doors, art galleries, and street cafes.)

Shopping in the beautiful City Center:  Remember everything closes on a Saturday afternoon at 13H00 and it is also closed on Sundays.  So do your shopping in the week.

Going to the farmers market on a Friday or a Saturday is a great idea – as these are the two days the locals sell their fresh produce to the public, or you can buy fresh fruit from the street vendors.  As the fruit of Madeira is kind of special, you should also try the chocolate with local fruit in it.  Wow.

Things to do in Madeira

While you’re in Madeira, include the following in your itinerary:  (In and around Funchal.)
  • Foremost I would recommend attending the Madeira flower show (Festa da Flor).
  • Thereafter you should do a toboggan wicker sled ride.  (Quite an adrenaline rush, but also great fun.)
  • I think a visit to Palheiro gardens is a must.  (See the list of our favorite gardens above.) – A 13 min car ride (9,3 km) via the VR1.
  • Taking the cable car to the Monte Palace Tropical garden.  (11 min drive by car (5,2 km) via Estr. Cmte. Camacho de Freitas)
Things to do in Madeira
  • Cape Girão (Cabo Girão)(also seen as the highest sea cliff in Europe) will present you with breathtaking panoramic views. This skywalk/viewing platform (580 m above the sea) is a popular tourist attraction on the southern coast of Madeira.  It is only a 20-minute drive from Funchal – (14,6 km) via VR1.
Photo:  highestbridges.com (Cabo Girao Platform)
Photo: highestbridges.com (Cabo Girao Platform)
Camara De Lobos Portugal

Best Beaches in Madeira

  • Calheta Beach – Sandy Beach (you can rent sunbeds and umbrellas and there are beach bars where you can have something to eat.)
  • Praia Formosa Funchal – One of Europe’s most visited summer locations.  One of the longest beaches in Madeira, but not a white sandy beach. You also have beach bars for hungry lunchtimes.

From Praia Formosa, you can follow the promenade and take a fabulous scenic walk to Câmara de Lobos.  (A pretty little bay with boats and restaurants.)  It is an easy walk with really beautiful views.

Having said that – if you love hiking you are in ‘hiking paradise’.  The island has some of the best hiking trails in the world.

  • Do visit Câmara de Lobos (one of Madeira’s earliest settlements) with its Grape and banana terraces.  Câmara de Lobos is also the home of Poncha, a mixture of lemon juice, honey, and sugarcane spirit, available at the many local taverns. (A 12-minute car ride via the VR1)

Travel Tip for visiting Madeira

Madeira is, amongst other things, famous for its Levadas.  Therefore a Levada walking tour is definitely a must. The Levadas are irrigation channels specific to the Portuguese Atlantic region of Madeira. There are beautiful scenic nature walks, but it can be very dangerous to attempt on your own. With this in mind, rather take a guided tour just to be safe. 

Holiday in Madeira

Santana:

  • Finally, should you have some extra time on hand and you get the opportunity to explore more of the island, you also have to go to Santana on the north coast of Madeira. (A 40-minute car ride (42.5 km) via VE1 and VR1.)
    It’s known for its Casas Típicas de Santana, traditional stone houses with steep, triangular-shaped (A-Frame) thatched roofs. It is kind of a popular Instagram photo spot and summertime is the best time to get awesome photos.  It is also a popular stop for families with children.
See below for more fabulous things to do in Madeira with easy-to-book links.

Recipes from Funchal and Foodie Tours: 

Not only for the foodies:  While in Funchal, do try the local bread called Bolo Do Caco, Madeira Honey Cake, and the local cheese.  A stop to sample some Poncha, (a favorite drink as mentioned above) is also a good idea.  BUT – a great idea on how to explore the city is to pre-book a food and wine walking tour.  Not only will you have the opportunity to taste the fabulous food and wine of the island, but you will also get fabulous info on the island as part of your tour.  It is great fun and you will maybe get to know places that you would otherwise not have known to visit.

Bring Madeira home with some recipes we loved from our trip to Funchal:  Make your own Bolo Do Caco or Pastel de Nata (custard tarts).  

Book a multi-day holiday tour packages

From Funchal, you can easily explore the surrounding areas.  If it is your first time on the island we recommend booking a ready-made holiday tour or two.  Combine them to create your own perfect holiday.  This way you know you’ll be in safe hands with trusted tour operators.  Or book a car rental and do a self-drive holiday.

Where to stay

Check it out! The LATEST PRICES AND GETAWAY DEALS, or go to BOOKING.COM for more of the best places to stay.

The Belmond Reid’s Palace, which dates back to 1891 (not sponsored) would be my first choice.  If you watch the video, you will know why.

Accommodation in Madeira

Where to stay in Funchal

There are beautiful B&B’s, apartments, Self-Catering places, etc. all over Madeira.  However, if you’re looking for fabulous places with awesome views to stay, follow our link to Madeira Portugal – Beautiful Places to Stay.

10 Great Hotels in the city center of Funchal

All over Madeira, you’ll find fabulous hotels and excellent accommodation options.

Transport options

Public transport is good to use and in some places, it is better to go with public transport as the areas might be quite steep. 

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