The bustling capital of Funchal is famed for its beautiful old town and rich history. Located on the sunny south coast and the largest city on the island, it’s a fantastic place to explore. There is a plethora of delicious restaurants to dine at across the city, with some incredible chefs showcasing local and international cuisine. The waterfront runs right along the city and is the perfect place to wander, home to contrasting sights such as the Cristiano Ronaldo Museum and the 16th century Sao Laurenco Palace. Take the cable car up to Monte Palace and once you’ve admired the scintillating gardens take an exhilarating toboggan ride down.
Mercado dos Lavradores (Farmer’s Market) has sat in the same beautiful building since 1940. Selling exotic fruits, vegetables, and flowers, it’s a mesmerising eruption of colour wherever you look. There is also a large fish hall, selling freshly caught fish from the Atlantic Ocean. With a plethora of shops around Funchal, it has everything you could need, from clothes to food. For some traditional Madeira molasses cake or biscuits then head to Fabrica Santo Antonio, a wonderful shop presenting their products in early 20th century display cabinets. You’ll find several large supermarkets across the city all with ample parking.
Funchal has delicious restaurants and eateries in abundance. The Old Town is wonderful for an atmospheric, al fresco meal. Be sure to try the exciting cuisine of La Ao Fundo, just a short walk from the Sao Tiago Fort. In the centre of the city, close to the cathedral are two delectable restaurants by the exciting chef, Julio Pereira. The menu at Kampo centres around some delicious meat dishes, whilst Akua’s menu takes inspiration from the sea. In the hotel district you’ll find a wonderful selection of restaurants and bars, whilst those looking to continue the party later into the night should head for the marina, where you’ll find bars and nightclubs open until the early hours.
In Funchal itself there are only pebble beaches to be found. The long stretch of coastline at Formosa beach is around 10 minutes’ drive to the east from the centre of Funchal and has a few cafes to enjoy during the day. Whilst not beaches, there are a number of lidos, with salt water pools, built across the city that offer a great place to sunbathe and access the sea. Heading out of Funchal there are two sandy beaches within an hour’s drive. To the west of Funchal is the sandy Machico Beach, just a 30 minute drive away, in the second largest city of Madeira. In the east you have the 2 sandy beaches of Calheta, a 40 minute drive from Funchal.
Funchal is a wonderful place for families, with various parks and playgrounds to enjoy. In the harbour you’ll find a selection of exciting boat trips which explore the Atlantic Ocean in search of the dolphins and whales that live off the coast. The Santa Maria de Colombo, a replica of Christopher Columbus’ flagship, departs twice daily from Funchal and is a fantastic way to learn about the history of his 15th century voyage to the ‘new world’ in an interactive and engaging way. Back on land, take a traditional toboggan ride from Monte, this exhilarating experience is fun for all the family as you glide down the road on an old-fashioned wicker sledge, steered by your skilled drivers.
At the top of the cable car, originating in the Old Town of the city, is the beautiful Monte Palace gardens. Housing an exotic plant collection from around the world, it’s a little tropical haven with mighty views of the city. If that left you wanting more, from Monte Palace there is another cable car that will take you down to the botanical gardens. Amongst other things, there is an area focused solely on indigenous and endemic plants from Madeira and nearby islands in the Atlantic such as the Azores and the Canaries. In the heart of the city are some of the oldest buildings in Madeira, one of which is home to Blandy’s Wine Lodge. Blandy’s have been producing Madeira wine for well over 200 years, making this a perfect place to visit to learn about the history of wine production on the island and taste some of the delicious, fortified wines that they produce today.