15 Best Things to do in Funchal, Madeira 15 Best Things to do in Funchal, Madeira

15 Best Things to do in Funchal, Madeira

Perched between the sea and sky, climbing up the dramatic mountains of Madeira, lies the dynamic capital city of Funchal. With its vibrant blend of natural beauty, like its botanical gardens, and cultural richness, there’s plenty to explore in the area. Wander through the colorful historic streets downtown, and stop to sip world-renowned Madeira wine. Or, explore the city’s surroundings, from volcanic pools to rocky peaks. Here are all the best things to do in Funchal, Portugal.

Things to do in Funchal, Madeira

With beautiful old buildings featuring Portuguese mosaic tiles, cute cobbled streets, and a tranquil Lisbon-like atmosphere, Funchal is a must-see on your Madeira itinerary. Though there’s a lot going on in the city, you’ll easily find quiet corners with that typical town charm.

church funchal madeira

Most people use Funchal as a base and explore the rest of the island from there by car or bus. This is because it’s very well-connected, with most things to do in Madeira just a 30-40 minute drive away.

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15 Best Things to do in Funchal, Madeira

As you pass through the incredible scenery of lush, rugged mountains, waterfalls, and the swaying ocean, it’s easy to see why they call Madeira ‘the Pearl of the Atlantic’.

whale street art funchal madeira

1. Monte Palace Gardens

One of the most beautiful sights we’ve ever seen and an incredible thing to do in Funchal is the Monte Palace Gardens. With lush, green plants and vibrantly-colored flowers perched around Japanese and Mediterranean structures, this is the perfect place to unwind. 

best things to do funchal madeira monte palace garden

Spend a few hours looking at all the water features and different birds, from beautiful swans to flamingos (!), while you walk across the tiled paths. You’ll also find a couple of nice cafes and restaurants dotted around the property (like Greenhouse Coffee Roaster).

japanese garden monte palace funchal madeira

Opening times & Entry Fee: The gardens are open year-round from 9.30 AM to 6 PM (except Christmas Day). Entrance costs 15 EUR per person, and two hours is enough time to enjoy them.

best things to do funchal madeira monte palace

Take the Cable Car up to Monte

The lush Monte Palace Gardens lie close to the city and are easily accessible by cable car or bus. The cable car costs 18 EUR for a return or 12,50 EUR for a one-way (per person). While you slowly move up the mountain, you’ll have some incredible views over the city!

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Alternatively, you can get to Monte Palace Gardens by car, though parking is limited. Because of this, we recommend taking public transport instead.

cable car funchal madeira

2. Try Poncha

In the vibrant heart of Funchal, unwind on a sun-drenched terrace with a glass of Madeira’s iconic ‘Poncha’. This traditional drink is a spirited blend of aguardente liquor (sugar cane), honey, and citrus fruit and is a refreshing beverage to enjoy no matter the weather. 

poncha funchal madeira

The drink typically contains lemon or orange juice but can be found in various other flavors all across the island. We personally really liked the passion fruit version, too! Our favorite spot in Funchal is Rei da Poncha. 

poncha cafe funchal madeira

3. Funchal Market

One place to witness local life in all its splendor is at the Funchal Market. From piles of fruits and veggies to the prettiest flowers (all displayed without plastics) and a fish market behind, this is where the locals do their weekly shopping. 

fresh market funchal madeira

Visit in the morning (before 10 AM to avoid the tour groups) and soak up the bustling atmosphere inside the traditional Portuguese building. Watch as the ladies in their traditional outfits bundle together beautiful flowers and salesmen sell fish in the back. 

flower lady market funchal madeira

It’s a fairly small market, but you’ll find many cafes on the sides, perfect for breakfast. Our favorites were Juice Shop Jolie and A Confeitaria [no.mercado]. 

vegetable market funchal madeira

4. Afternoon Tea at the Belmond Hotel

Step into the beautiful old Belmond Hotel in Funchal, Madeira, to enjoy a fancy afternoon tea on its open-air terrace. With incredible views over the city and ocean, enjoy a lavish spread of high tea, complete with sandwiches, scones, and sweets.

Although the food doesn’t necessarily live up to the price tag, the views make it the perfect place to celebrate an occasion or treat yourself. 

best things to do funchal madeira belmond hotel afternoon tea

5. Visit the Botanical Gardens

Another must-see garden and one of the best things to do in Funchal is visit the Botanical Gardens. This lovely, lush garden is filled to the brim with flowers, trees, and many cacti. It also has views over the entire port of Funchal!

botanical garden funchal madeira

Hop on the cable car that takes you to the entrance. This is the same one that goes up to Monte Palace Gardens, which then connects and goes here.

best things to do funchal madeira botanical garden

The cable car runs from 9.30 AM to 5.45 PM. However, if it’s too windy, it doesn’t go. You can also visit the gardens by car (there’s a small parking lot) or by local bus. We recommend visiting at 9 AM (opening time) to skip most of the crowds, as after 10 AM, many tour groups come from Monte Palace Gardens.

  • Entrance fee: 7,50 EUR
  • Visit time: 1-2 hours
  • Food: There’s a small cafe for coffee or tea
botanical garden funchal

6. Funchal Cathedral

In the heart of town lies the Funchal Cathedral, a revered landmark with roots stretching back to the 15th century. This Gothic-style building is incredible to look at with its arches and intricate wooden ceiling, meticulously crafted from local cedar wood. As you explore downtown, you won’t miss this architectural gem in the middle.

7. Madeira Wine Tasting

Who knew that this island was known for its wine? The fortified wine on Madeira ranges from sweet to dry and is renowned for its distinctive flavor profile. The drier ones are usually served as a starter to a meal, whereas the sweet ones are more like a dessert wine. 

best things to do funchal madeira winery

Did you know? Madeiran wine undergoes a special aging process called ‘estufagem’, where it’s heated and oxidized. This method was accidentally discovered during long sea voyages, during which the heat and movement transformed the wine – wow!

winery funchal madeira

Pop into a cozy bar or unwind at a bustling terrace and try some of the local delicacies. Some great spots for wine tasting in Funchal are Pereira D’Oliveira or Blandy’s Wine Lodge. 

funchal madeira winery

8. São Tiago Fort

Right along the shores, with views of the seemingly neverending Atlantic Ocean, stands the Sao Tiago Fortress. This eye-catching structure can hardly be missed with its beautiful yellow color, perfectly contrasted by the water’s blue. 

best things to do funchal madeira sao tiago fort

The pier and concrete pathways around the fort make it a popular spot for sunbathing. Occasionally, you’ll also see people hopping in the water at Santiago Beach. Do as the locals do and spend some time in the sun as you watch the sailboats and cruisers come into the harbor.
Tip: There’s also a nice Portuguese restaurant inside the fort.

fort funchal madeira vintage cars

9. Monte Toboggan Wicker Sledges

The Carreiros are the men who lead the most interesting means of transportation on Madeira. With speeds up to 30 km/h, they zoom you down the mountain on a traditional wicker toboggan, expertly handcrafted, just like the originals back in the 1800s. 

best things to do funchal madeira monte toboggan wicker sledges

Back then, this sleigh was part of the island’s public transport, allowing workers to bring fresh fruit and vegetables down the mountain. And although you can take the cable car, bus, or car back down from Monte, it’s well worth the historical experience to hop in the traditional toboggan and slide down the streets. 

A ride costs 35 EUR, and a basket has room for 2-3 adults. However, the less weight, the faster you make your way down! Zigzag along Funchal’s streets while the two Carreiros dressed in white sing Portuguese songs and control your ride – this Madeira tradition is one of the best things to do in Funchal.

10. Funchal City Hall

This impressive structure lies nestled in the city center and is known as a symbol of Funchal, Madeira. Its elegant colonial architecture and quaint little courtyard make it a popular stop when walking around the city.

funchal city hall madeira

The historic gem serves as Funchal’s administrative hub but its courtyard is open to the public, featuring a large fountain and stunning blue Portuguese tiles – perfect for a bit of quietness in the heart of town. Entrance: Free!

city hall square funchal madeira

11. Cristo Rei

Just outside of Funchal, Portugal, lies one of the best things to do: Cristo Rei. This panoramic spot offers some of the most spectacular views, making it a great place to visit during sunrise or sunset. 

The location’s most iconic feature, however, is the 49-foot-tall statue of Christ. As you walk past this giant depiction, you’ll find a stairway leading towards the ocean, completely surrounded by cacti and other greenery. From here, you have magnificent ocean views of Funchal Bay. 

best things to do funchal madeira cristo rei

12. Rua de Santa Maria

Rua de Santa Maria, nestled in the heart of Funchal’s Old Town, is one of the city’s oldest and most vibrant streets. This charming cobbled land is famed for its ‘Art of Open Doors’ project, where over 200 doors serve as canvases for local artists, transforming the street into a lively public art gallery. 

This is the perfect place to visit in the morning as most doors will still be shut, allowing you to marvel at all the different paintings. Around midday and in the evening, the streets transform into a cozy restaurant scene instead.

door art funchal madeira

The contrast between the old buildings and colorful artwork gives the area lots of character, making this one of the best things to do in Funchal, Madeira.

best things to do funchal madeira rua de santa maria

13. Doca do Cavacas Natural Pools

The Doca do Cavacas, one of Madeira’s stunning volcanic natural pools, is another must-see location. What’s more, they’re conveniently located just 10 minutes outside Funchal, making them super easy to visit by car or local bus. 

things to do funchal madeira natural pools

This is the perfect spot for a relaxing activity, and you could easily lounge here for the entire day. Relax on a sunbed, swim in the rock pools, and enjoy the stunning views of a distant pebbly bay. 

On-site, you’ll also find a small cafe for drinks and snacks, changing rooms, and toilets.

Tip: Make sure to check the wind direction before you visit. If the wind’s straight on Funchal, you might want to visit the Porto Moniz natural pools on the opposite side of the island instead.

best things to do funchal madeira Doca do Cavacas Natural Pools

Opening times and entry fee: A day ticket costs 5.50 EUR. The pools are open from 10 AM to 8 PM, but always check ahead of your visit as they can be closed when the sea is too rough.

funchal madeira natural pools from above

14. Day Trips from Funchal

As the capital of the island, Funchal also serves as a perfect starting point for exploring the rest of Madeira. Whether you’re looking to immerse yourself in nature or explore historic sites, day trips from Funchal can offer both. 

day trip funchal madeira fanal forest

Take a drive along the island’s most popular spots or venture into the rugged mountains for breathtaking hikes. Each journey gives a glimpse of the island’s diverse landscapes and incredible charm.

Jeep Tour around Madeira

Go on a thrilling adventure to discover rugged beauty and the island’s most iconic sites. On a jeep tour, you’ll get to see Madeira’s lush landscapes and diverse ecosystems up close, all with panoramic views along the way. 

Tours & Tickets 🥾View all
day trip funchal madeira seixal beach

Go Dolphin or Whale Watching

Madeira is one of the most incredible places to glimpse the majestic whale! The biodiverse waters are teeming with life year-round, and you’ll nearly always be able to see some. However, the very best time is April to November, when the Blue Whale also appears, the largest mammal on the planet!

day trip funchal madeira whale watching

As Madeira values its environment and has strict rules not to disturb the animals, there are numerous sustainable whale and dolphin-watching tours on the island. This way, you’ll always keep a good distance from wildlife.

Tip: Whenever you book a trip, always read the most recent reviews to get a feel for the company.

day trip funchal madeira dolphin watching

Embark on a Hike

With its reputation as ‘The Hawaii of Europe’, it’s no surprise that Madeira has some of the best hiking trails in the world! The landscapes are heaven for walkers, with scaling mountain ridges one moment and descending panoramic cliffs the next. Although there are plenty of hiking trails to choose from, some of our favorites are: 

PR1: Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo
day trip funchal madeira hike pico do arieiro

This hike is the best one on Madeira! (Read more about Pico do Ariero hike here) The trail takes you to the peak of Ruivo, the island’s highest point, leading along narrow paths on sheer ridges, down mountain staircases, and through rocky tunnels. Duration: 4-5 hours, with the most spectacular views as you summit above the clouds.

day trip funchal madeira pico do ariero to pico ruivo
PR9: Levada do Caldeirão Verde

Although this hike is long, around 4 hours, the trail is relatively flat, making it one of the easier hikes in Madeira. You’ll follow the irrigation channels through lush forest and fern-covered grounds before reaching the most spectacular sight: the mammoth waterfall of Caldeirão Verde, falling from a height of approximately 100 meters.

day trip funchal madeira hike pr9 levada do caldeirao verde

Canyoning Tour

For something thrilling on your Madeira itinerary, try your hand at canyoning! The rugged and dramatic landscapes of the island make it perfect for this adrenaline-pumping activity. On a canyoning tour, you’ll abseil down incredible waterfalls, tackle deep mountain gorges, and have the opportunity to see an untouched slice of Madeira with expert locals guiding the way. 

madeira canyoning tour

Join a Wine Tour

Delve into the rich history and unique production techniques of the island’s famed fortified wine. Discover various Quintas (wine estates) where you can savor different styles of Madeira wine, from dry and crisp Sercial to the richly sweet Malmsey. Plus, that with some of the most picturesque vineyard views! 

15. Fine Dining in Funchal

Funchal has many incredible restaurants and some of them offer amazing culinary experiences. Whether it’s a more casual bar, a luxurious patio with fine dining, or a Michelin-rated restaurant, this is a great way to treat yourself while exploring Madeira.

Some of these special restaurants are:

  • Akua
  • Kampo
  • Il Vivaldi
  • Armazém do Sal
  • Desarma
  • William
  • Avista
  • IL Gallo D’Oro
  • Horta
Find all locations in our Google MapsFind in our Google Maps
fine dining funchal madeira

Where to Stay in Funchal

Funchal makes the perfect location to stay on a Madeira itinerary, as you can easily explore the entire island from the city. The best place to stay in Funchal is in the Old Town, close to the cathedral or the Farmer’s Market. 

You’ll mainly find apartments and hotels here, surrounded by many lovely restaurants, shops, and good vibes. We stayed at Hotel Cajú and Viola Market Studios

For bigger hotels, choose accommodation in the new part of town, which lies between the Belmond Hotel and the Doca Do Cavacas Natural Pools.

Tip: Unless you’re up for quite the hike, try to stay somewhere more downhill in Funchal.

best hotel funchal madeira

Our Favorite Restaurants & Cafes

Apart from fine dining, there’s lots of incredible food to try in Funchal, Madeira! Delve into the island’s local cuisine full of fresh fish, breads like bolo de caco (flatbread), and, of course, poncha.

Our favorite restaurants in Funchal are:

  • Restaurante Informal
  • Akua
  • Ciao Pizzeria
  • ComTradicões
  • Basmati
  • A Confeitaria [no.mercado]
  • Loja do Chá
  • A Bica
  • Fala Fala Vege Food
  • Brunch Club Madeira
Find all locations in our Google MapsFind in our Google Maps

Tip: Make sure to pack your reusable water bottle; You can drink the tap water all over the island! (a great way of traveling plastic-free!)

best restaurants funchal madeira

How to Vist Funchal, Madeira

There are frequent international flights to Funchal from major European cities. The city itself lies a 20-minute drive away from Funchal Airport, making it easy to get to once you land on the island. 

Find flights to Funchal ✈️

From Lisbon, the journey only takes 90 minutes. In any case, allow yourself an extra day in Funchal as sometimes the airplane can’t land (it’s a tricky airport).

airport madeira

Getting Around

To get around Funchal itself, it’s best to go on foot. It’s an amazing city to wander around, full of beautiful streets and a nice boulevard along the coast. You’ll undoubtedly notice beautiful black and white mosaic tiles almost everywhere you go.

funchal madeira street with cable car

By Bus

You can also hop on the city’s cable cars or local buses. Madeira in general, is well-connected with public buses, with most of them departing from Funchal. Use Google Maps to easily find your route.

Tip: If you’re taking the local buses, try getting your tickets at a Giro machine instead of on the bus to save costs. You’ll find this machine on the first floor of the Anadia shopping center. Another option is Horarios Do Funchal – GNR in the city center.

bus funchal madeira

By Car

You can also rent a car to get around the city and the rest of Madeira. However, do keep in mind that there’s a limited supply of rental cars, so book in advance.

rent a car in funchal madeira

Budget for Funchal 

Compared to popular Mediterranean islands like Ibiza or Santorini, Madeira is reasonably affordable. There are many different accommodation options for every budget, and getting around is fairly cheap. Note: At most places, you can pay with a credit card, but always have some cash on hand, too (e.x. parking only accepts cash).

Costs of Traveling in Funchal

Travel on a budget in Funchal, from $550 − $1170 USD weekly per person, mid-range $1300 − $1980 USD, and high-end from $2000 − $2930 USD. However, costs depend on factors like accommodation, transportation, and activities. We did not include flights. Check flight prices here

* Average daily costs
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Best Time to Visit

It rarely gets cold in Madeira, with an average temperature of 20 – 25 degrees Celsius year-round. However, weather conditions do change rapidly on the island; you can see sunny blue skies, high winds, and tropical showers all in one day. 

Best
Good
Mixed
Poor
🌦️
18°C
Jan
🌤
19°C
Feb
🌤
19°C
Mar
🌤
19°C
Apr
☀️
21°C
May
☀️
22°C
Jun
☀️
24°C
Jul
☀️
25°C
Aug
🌤
25°C
Sep
🌤
24°C
Oct
21°C
Nov
🌦️
20°C
Dec

Tip: Don’t plan your Madeira itinerary too tight; have a few days to play around in case of unpredictable weather. (You can also check live webcams all around Madeira to see what the weather is like).

blue street art funchal madeira

Remember that temperatures are much lower in the mountains due to their higher elevation. During our visit in April, it was 20 degrees in Funchal and 5 degrees in mountainous locations like Pico do Arieiro.

13/06/2024 https://www.saltinourhair.com/madeira/funchal/
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