Funchal is the capital of the Autonomous region of Madeira, located on the southern coast between the cities of Santa Cruz and Camara de Lobos.
The name of the city comes from the abundance of fennel plantations (funcho in Portuguese), on the island. Funchal played an important role as port and commercial base between the 15th and the 17th century.
The city is located along the southern coast and has a natural amphitheater-shape along the bay. The center is characterized by a series of narrow streets filled with coffe bars, shops, museums, and beautiful palaces.
Funchal is a lively destination filled with tourist attractions, and it definitely deserves a visit during your holidays to Madeira.
Besides being a beach destination, Funchal has several monuments and tourist attractions that you should not miss.
The Zona Velha is the oldest district of Funchal where there are some historical buildings. An innovative urban regeneration process was undertaken in Rua Santa Maria and its surrounding streets, and some artists have joined the Arte Portas Abertas project, which involved the decoration of some of the most beautiful doors around. This project turned the area into a real open air art gallery. Feel free to move around and explore it!
The gardens of Quinta do Palheiro Ferreiro are a typical example of land ownership conquered by British colonisers.
The main area of the park consists of a series of gardens, including the French Garden, the Lady’s Garden, and the Rose Garden. Opposite to the main entrance there is the Tea House. The park is located 500 meters above sea level and it is connected to the center of Funchal by bus number 36.
This two-floor building with an open patio offers a series of fresh ingredients from all over Madeira. It is the perfect place where to purchase local handcrafts and food delicacies. The fish market is located on the lower floor, however the fruit section deserves a special mention; bananas, mangos, maracujas, and so much more.
Be aware of sellers trying to force you into buying fruit; it is usually surplus or fruit sold at higher prices!
About four kilometers north-east from the center of Funchal there is the Botanical Garden where you will find several subtropical plants as well as threes and exotic flowers. The garden is located below the residence of Quinta do Bom Sucesso, which is home to the Museum of Natural History.
From the garden it is possible to enjoy a beautiful view over the Bay of Funchal. The garden can be reached by taking the scenographic Teleférico do Funchal cable car.
Founded in 1476 the Santa Clara Convent was occupied until 1890 by a religious order of nuns. Today visitors can visit the choir, the cluster, the oratory, and the chapel. The bell tower is famous for its dome in Moorish style.
Near the convent there is the Church of Santa Clara which dates back to the 15th century and which was built in Moorish style.
The Funchal cable car is one of the main attractions of the city. It connects Velha to the Monte Palace Tropical Garden. It is possible to go on a 15 minutes ride to enjoy a magnificent view from above, reaching the hills that surround Funchal. The contrast between the blue of the sea and the green of the mountains is really scenographic.
Ernest Hemingway described the Carros de cesto do Monte as an hilarious experience. The ride is about being pushed down from a steep hill while being comfortable seating in a wicker basket.
During the 19th century it was used as a rudimental public transport; the tradition is still alive today and the baskets are pushed by two carreiros, that is to say men wearing white clothes, straw hats, using their robber boots as brakes to maneuver the ride. The way is about 4 kilometers long and it takes to the center of Funchal.
Just like the rest of Madeira, also in Funchal there are some natural beaches. The volcanic origin of the island has favored a rocky coast. In order to deal with the lack of beaches, there are a series of facilities that facilitate the access to the sea through natural or sea water pools facing the ocean.
Generally speaking there are several places where to enjoy some relax. The first is Barreirinha8, located east from Funchal, near Zona Velha. It features a direct access to the sea and a sea water pool.
Near the Fort of São Tiago9 there is the Sao Tiago beach; also this beach is located near the old city and it is a great choice if you are looking for a relaxing place with few tourists. This beach reminds of Praia do Gorulho, which is located towards Lido.
Lastly, there are other two beach areas in Fuchal, that is to say Doca do Cavacas10 and Ponta Gorda11. These are also two natural pools facing the ocean. About Doca do Cavacas: pools have been made from lakes formed by volcanic rocks.
The Lido pool complex is located in the center of Lido. It is the most popular area of the city overlooking the sea. The complex is made of two pools with sea water – which are cleaned and filtered on a daily basis. One pool is designed for adults, while the other is for kids only.
The structure features restaurants and playgrounds where a series of entertaining activities are organised everyday. A long walk will take you from the complex to the beach of Formosa, which is the biggest public free beach of Madeira. It is located west to Funchal and it is made of four smaller islands, which are both sandy and rocky and whose waters have been recognised with the blue flag recognition.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
Funchal offers a series of great restaurants at a various price range. Most of restaurants serve Madeira traditional food or Portuguese food. One of the typical dishes of the area – which is served almost everywhere – is espada com banana, that is to say swordfish with bananas. It is usually served with salad and potatoes.
Another option – which is a little bit more pricey – is the bacalhau (codfish), which can be cooked in various ways. One of the most traditional recipes is the bacalhau com natas, that is to say codfish with cream.
Funchal offers numerous hotels, ranging from cheap to luxury accommodations. We recommend to stay somewhere between the Lido area and the old city; this way you can walk to the beach during the day and walk to the city center at night, where you will find most of restaurants.
The advantage of staying at a seafront accommodation is that public transports are more frequent. If you are planning to move by bus, then staying around this area is the best solution.
Funchal is home to the only airport of the island, which connects Madeira to international destinations. In order to reach the city by car it is necessary to drive on ER101 highway, taking the exit number 11. If you are not renting a car you can still take the Aerobus, a shuttle service that makes various stops in the center of Funchal.
The center of Funchal is quite small, so it is easy to walk around. There is a bus service offering all day tickets. The bus stops along the coast and connects all the main tourists destinations around the area.
If you are planning to move from Lido to the old town or viceversa, then renting a car could be the best option. Alternatively you can take a taxi – please note that taxi rates are quite expensive compared to the cost of living of the island.
What's the weather at Funchal? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Funchal for the next few days.