How to Spend a Day in Funchal, Madeira

*This post is in collaboration with Voyage Prive*

Hey Owlets,

Madeira is a Portuguese archipelago of islands in the Atlantic Ocean, off the North West coast of the African continent. There's a lot to do on Madeira island and it's known for many things, including wine (obviously!), beautiful scenery, incredible weather and stunning little towns. On the main island is the capital city of Funchal. Over the last few years Funchal has become popular with tourists, although it still doesn’t feel overcrowded. It’s a particularly popular destination on cruises, with ships calling at the island all year round. The other thing that Funchal is most well known for is it’s New Year’s Eve fireworks display, which until recently was in the Guinness Book of World Records as being the biggest fireworks display in the world. On New Year’s Eve you’ll be lucky to find a hotel, and even cruise ships race to get into port early to secure a berth! However, Funchal is a beautiful city in its own right and absolutely worth exploring at any time of the year. Here’s just a few things you absolutely must do during your visit.

Ride the Cable Car

The cable car is absolutely one of the best ways to see Funchal and the surrounding areas. It’s around a 10 minute walk from the main high street where most cruise ship shuttle busses drop off, but Uber is now available in Funchal so if you’re not able to walk then you can easily call an Uber (although bare in mind that taxis are quite expensive in Funchal). There’s also a sightseeing bus stop by the entrance to the cable car on the seafront. The ride lasts around 15-20 minutes giving you plenty of time to take in the sights as well as take photos. The tickets are fairly expensive at €16 each for a return ticket, but it’s well worth it. You can also buy tickets combined with a sightseeing bus ticket or entrance to the botanical gardens (which is a short walk from the hill top cable car station) so if you want to do either of these then make sure you book in advance to save money.

Throw Yourself Back Down the Hill

You're going to have to bare with me on this one because it took a lot of convincing to get me to do this too, but whenever I travel with my family Dad is always the one to come up with the most ridiculous idea and he somehow always manages to talk me into it! In Madeira there's a story that says that the rich people used to live at the top above the city below, and they employed servants who would take them to the city in a toboggan - I'm not entirely sure how true that is but today it's one of the most touristy things you could possibly do in Funchal - health and safety goes a little out of the window along with the breaks on this one and it's absolutely terrifying but it's one of those bucket list things that you just have to experience...then swear you'll never do again, which you absolutely will next time you visit. It's a horrifying experience but in a good way - I promise!!

Take a Sightseeing Bus Tour

I feel like sightseeing busses are a little marmite - some people think they’re amazing whereas others are convinced they’re overhyped. In my opinion it depends which city you’re in - if you’re in an area with great public transport links then feel free to use the local transport, but if you’re visiting somewhere that doesn’t have reliable public transport, or you’re not very confident about making your own way around the city then the sightseeing bus is definitely the way to go! I love buying a sightseeing bus ticket if I’m visiting somewhere for the first time to give me an overall feel of the city before I explore alone, but in Funchal the tourist bus really is the best way to get around. The bus takes you along the high street and past the cable car, then up towards the cliff tops for some incredible views across the island and out to sea. The ticket price starts at just over £16 if you buy in advance, but again you can combine this with a cable car or botanical garden ticket to save money.

Explore the Fruit Market

If you’re anything like me then visiting a supermarket when you’re on holiday is somewhat of a guilty pleasure, but Funchal’s famous Mercado dos Lavradores is on a whole other level. The market is housed in a beautiful building with cafes selling traditional cakes around the entrances, and stalls selling anything from souvenirs to canned goods on the ground floor. However, upstairs is where your jaw will really hit the floor. There are multiple rooms and pathways winding around a balcony that looks down onto a courtyard. Every inch of space is crammed with stallholders selling fruits that you’ve most likely never seen before, and knowing that they’re unique to the island they all have some cut open ready to offer you a taste in the hopes you’ll fall in love and buy some fruit. The Delicious Fruit is my absolute favourite - it tastes like a mixture between a banana and a kiwi, and it’s just as delicious as the name suggests! Other unique local fruits to try are the uveira, tabaibos (these are a close second favourite!) and Madeira cherries, which are nothing like the cherries you find in the UK.

Stop for Lunch at Restaurant Teleferico

This small open-air restaurant is owned and operated by the same company as the cable car, yet unlike most similar places it’s not overpriced. The restaurant is right next to the seafront cable car terminal, has an great view of the sea, the food is incredible and the atmosphere is so relaxing, despite being in a busy area. All of the menu items are local twists on food from around the world. Dad ordered a burger and it came out as a sort of steak toasted sandwich - even though he only wanted something plain after two weeks of cruise food, he wasn’t the slightest bit disappointed with what he received. I wish all burgers were like that! I ordered a tuna salad (again, recovering from cruise ship gluttony) and it came out with kind of translucent asparagus tips that tasted slightly pickled. It’s one of those things that I still crave even now, but I haven’t managed to recreate it at home. If you’re looking for somewhere to stop for lunch I can’t recommend it enough.

Test your Nerves at Cabo Girao

Admittedly if you’re afraid of heights this is probably going to be another item that’s not for you, but if you love photography, walking, or both, then this is absolutely something you need to see. Cabo Girao is a glass-floored viewing platform on the edge of a cliff, 580 metres above sea level. The platform offers you stunning uninterrupted scenery stretching as far as the eye can see. If you enjoy walking then this is a popular starting point for hikers - but if you’re not looking to exercise on holiday then there’s a sightseeing bus as well as regular tours offered up to the platform so you can see the views first hand without all the walking! Of course you can also take a taxi up here if you want a little more flexibility, but the tours are likely to be cheaper - particularly if you book them on Trip Advisor before you go.

Walk through Monte Palace Tropical Gardens

The Botanical Gardens are beautiful and a must see if you have an interest in plants, but if you’re just looking to take a walk around somewhere pretty then skip the Botanical Gardens and head just a little further out to Monte Palace Tropical Gardens where entrance is totally free and you’ll be treated to stunning scenery, both because of the design of the gardens and the fact that they’re high in the mountains above Funchal (about a 5 minute drive from the Botanical Gardens). If you’re looking for somewhere to take the perfect Instagram photo, this should be high on your list!

Simply Take a Walk Along the Sea Front & Main Streets

Avenue Do Infante leading onto Avenue Arriaga, and Avenue Do Mar which runs parallel are all beautiful little streets that are exactly what you would expect of a pretty Portuguese Island. Avenue Do Mar runs along the sea front and is lined with beautiful restaurants and coffee shops that offer a table with a view. Avenue Arriaga runs parallel to Avenue Do Mar and connects to Avenue Do Infante at the Western end of the street, and it’s the perfect picturesque street to walk along. The pavements are wide and lined with beautiful palm trees against the road, and cafes, restaurants and parks on the other side of the pavement. Santa Catalina Park is very well known, free to visit and just off of Avenue Do Infante. Further down on Avenue Arriaga is Funchal Municipal Park which is the perfect place to sit and watch the world go by with a coffee or ice cream. Directly opposite the Municipal Park is the theatre - their cafe (Cafe Do Teatro) sits under the trees with a terrace stretching across the ultra wide pavements, and beautiful architecture inside the building itself. Further down from the park and cafe you will find market stalls in the streets as well as a church, winery and a whole host of independent boutiques side by side with the typical big name brands. If you’re not sure where to start with your time in Funchal, then walking through the main streets is the perfect way to get a feel for this beautiful city by the sea.

Hopefully this helps you plan your time just a little, whether you’re arriving on a cruise or flying (you can book with Voyage Privรจ). I could honestly go on for hours about this beautiful place so it’s been a struggle to whittle this list down to my favourite places. Regardless of whether you love walking, photography or seeing the sights Madeira and Funchal in particular should absolutely be on your bucket list.

Love and Feathers, 
 The Owlet ๐Ÿ’œ 
You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest

1 comment:

  1. I would love to live in Madeira as I'm in love with monuments and countryside in Portugal. I'm happy to keep my part in this place)


Have your say; it's a hoot!