Capital of Madeira – Funchal it’s a very interesting place which sometimes it’s not the main destination when visiting the Island. Madeira attracts visitors with mild climate, breathtaking views and dramatic cliff landscape. Funchal is a perfect base when visiting Madeira, Island is so small there is no need to change accommodation. We think Funchal has its charm and deserves a little bit more attention. Below we present a list of places we have visited.
Old part of the city is our favorite. It used to be fishermen’s district. With a time area started to depopulate, buildings got neglected and generally it became a place you would not want to visit. Some time ago people started to discover it again and it becomes centre of art and night life in Funchal. There is a multitude of bars, pubs and restaurants. It is lively enough during the day but when evening comes fireworks begin, tourist and students flood the streets. If you are into street art this is the place to be with the characteristic art on the door often enough referring to history of Madeira. District is so small and tight it is hard to miss anything. You can stroll down Rua D. Carlos I, go by square with Do Corpo Santo chapel and direct to amazing yellow building of Fort Sao Tiago. Cobbled streets with little cafes are super charming. You can go back along Rua de Santa Maria, both Rua DC and Rua SM has plenty on nice spots for a refreshing drink.
Mercado dos Lavradores
Traditional Maderian market at present mostly tourist orientated. Vendors are highly insisted and it’s hard not to get involved in tasting. We let them trick us as well and left with a bag of fruits worth much less then we paid. At home we discovered some of them taste just ok not like the ones we were given to try which were probably carefully selected. If you find yourself in Funchal during fruit season refrain from buying anything on the market and use local shops around the Island. It is worth to visit but definitely it’s hard to compare to authentic markets we have been before.
Santa Clara Convent
We bumped into this place when we were climbing up the streets to Old Castle Hill and decided to take a look inside. The convent was built 500 years ago and enduringly functions since. Entrance fee is only a couple of Euros but the place is must see. Extremely interesting, you visit with a guide which gives a lot of interesting facts. Real gem!
Sao Jao de Pico Fortress
We haven’t been inside as the fortress remains closed. Nonetheless it is worth a climb to see panoramic views of Funchal. There is small café on site.
There aren’t as impressive as the ones on north side of the Island but live up to expectations. ‘Piscinas naturales’ are located in a hotel zone a bit outside historical centre. Entrance is 2 euros and it’s a good alternative to hotel pools.
If you are assuming city centre should be avoided we say no. Central part of Funchal means a labyrinth of narrow charming streets. On Praça do Município you can see city hall Camara Municipal do Funchal and chuch Igreja de Sao Joao Evagelista. Cathedral – Episcopal Sé Cathedral it’s not the largest ever but it’s worth to have a look!
Botanic Gardens – Jardim Botânico da Madeira
One of the most famous gardens in the world. If someone is into flowers, plants and gardens should definitely visit. We haven’t been overly impressed but we should mention we’ve been there shortly after devastating fires. We got there by city bus from port.
Beautiful views and Monte sledge. There are things so specific to some areas that almost everyone heard about and that’s probably the case with Monte sledge. You can try it yourself and on warn sunny day take a ride on wicker toboggan down the roads driven by carreiros. In the past they were used to transport goods or representatives of wealthy upper class on steep streets of Funchal. Today it’s the most famous tourist attraction of Madeira. You can find another garden there Monte Palace Tropical Garden – smaller, calmer and seems more natural. You feel more like in the forest than garden. There is also a church Nossa Senhora do Monte.
Many places in Funchal do tasting of a local fortified wine Madeira. If you are not going to visit wineries you can buy small bottle in any shop to try while watching sun go down.