With year-round warm temperatures Madeira is known for being a lush and green island, and a good option for both summer and winter breaks. What really struck me on my first visit was the range of activities available; it wasn’t just the café culture that is usually the big appeal for me on a city break. The capital of Madeira, Funchal has a range of unique sights and activities including the famous cable car and Monte taboggan, which of course are a must! There are also so many interesting and varied sights and activities around the island, including nature walks and organised tours. We found two weeks was just not enough.
Madeira is perfect if:
· You want the best of both a city break and an opportunity to relax around the pool
· You like a range of activities including walks, nature, sights, and a café culture with laidback nightlife
· You like the convenience of a tourist focused destination with a range of hotels, restaurants and organised tours available. There are few ‘off the beaten track’ places here but you will find culture and character and some carefully organised opportunities for adventure.
· You love good food and wine!
· You like a warm and hospitable welcome!
My top recommendations for Funchal, Madeira
Cable Car, Monte Palace & Taboggan
Here are three recommendations that we did one day on our trip, that can fill most of the day; Take the Cable Car from the Old Town in Funchal up to Monte. The journey takes around 15 minutes and provides panoramic views of Funchal, and is well worth the trip in itself.
Near the cable car station at the top, you will find the Monte Palace & Tropical Garden. The gardens are really extensive and one the nicest and most varied that I’ve ever visited. You could really spend a whole day here if you wanted to, and there is a coffee shop that serves light meals and cakes.
Lastly, how could I not include the Monte Taboggan, known as the Carreiros do Monte . These are wicker sledges, pushed and ‘guided’ by two runners, and are the way that the residents of Funchal used to travel down from Monte to the old town of Funchal. It is truly a unique experience and I would definitely recommend it. The taboggan route does not go all the way down to the town, but is a 15-20 steep walk down into the main area of town from the end of the route. It is possible to get a taxi back down but beware of overcharging.
Promenade Walk from Funchal to Camara de Lobos
Starting from the Lido area of Funchal it is possible to walk (mostly) along the promenade to Camara de Lobos, which is a quaint fishing village set in a beautiful cove. The walk can take between 1-1.5 hours, and is fairly flat throughout. Being a fishing village, Camara de Lobos is full of character and delicious and inexpensive fish restaurants. Buses back to Funchal are fairly regular from the main road.
Coffee shops, bars and restaurants
We didn’t have a bad meal during our two weeks in Funchal so I would really recommend it if you are a big foodie (or like a coffee or glass of wine!). These were my favourite places that we visited in each category:
Loja do Chá This is a tea room in Funchal which serves brunch and afternoon tea (and coffee of course). It has a large outside seating area in a pretty and very quiet square, and is beautifully decorated inside.
Bananas Pub I LOVED this bar set in a gorgeous square with an extensive drinks menu including delicious cocktails and the local drink Poncha. During our visit they had live music playing every night from about 7pm, and there was one musician in particular who was excellent.
Cocktail and music at Bananas Pub
Restaurante O Portão– a few doors down from Bananas Pub, this restaurant serves traditional Portuguese food, including the traditional dish Espetada, which is a hanging beef skewer. The food was delicious here, and the service also felt very warm and personal.
Natural Swimming Pools
The real downside of Madeira is the absence of any picturesque beaches. However, there are a few natural pools on the island which are a nice way to enjoy swimming in the sea. The biggest and most famous is Porto Moniz on the North West of the island. It is pretty spectacular here, however to get there you will need to hire a car or book onto an organised tour.
We also visited Doca do Cavacas which is within walking distance of Funchal along the promenade. The water was really beautiful to swim in and it is possible to hire sunbeds if you want to spend a full day here.
Last but not least:
If you’re feeling hedonistic – Try out a glass of the national Madeiran drink Poncha, in one of the many bars in Funchal!
If you want a sense of accomplishment – there are so many walks on the Island that you can truly take your pick!
Reasons to be optimistic – known as the ‘Island of Eternal Springtime’, Madeira has a fairly consistent temperature all year round. This means that you can visit whenever you want to.
Please note our destination guides contain personal recommendations and not professional advice