12 Reasons To Visit Funchal | Sightseeing & Things To Do
Share This Article
From the fairy tale castles of Sintra to the colourful rabelo boats of Porto, Portuguese short break destinations are nothing short of charming. Take Madeira and its beautiful capital Funchal, two gems that aren’t even attached to the mainland. Discovered by Henry the Navigator during an expedition in 1419 it quickly flourished over subsequent centuries into a thriving agricultural haven.
Nowadays it attracts thousands of year-round visitors looking to enjoy a unique combination of Portuguese culture, peaceful seclusion, and fresh gastronomy like few other places in the world. So with summer fast approaching I’d like to voice all the things that I love most about Madeira’s capital. Whether it’s sightseeing and cuisine or history and culture, you’re likely to find it in this list.
- Location: (Largo dos Lavradores, 9060-158, Funchal):
Nothing sums up Madeira’s floral diversity and agricultural abundance like the iconic Workers’ Market in central Funchal. It’s where locals pick up fresh produce and tourists go to have their senses mesmerised. Head along to Largo dos Lavradores and the first thing that’ll greet you is an eye-catching Art Deco style building whose exterior plaza is dotted with vibrant floral bouquets and cafe furniture.
The interior ground floor is where the fish and meat stall owners display their goods, while the upstairs corridors feature aromatic rows of fresh produce. For an authentic browsing experience try and mingle amongst the crowds (if possible) and purchase a takeaway quantity of fruit.
Mercado dos Lavradores, Funchal.
- Location: Tours departs from any Funchal hotel.
Green Devil Safari is a long-established adventure tour operator based in Madeira. Their aim is to showcase the epic interior of this captivating Portuguese island, as well as its history and spellbinding culture. Departing from key coastal locations throughout the Atlantic territory their open-top 4x4 Jeeps journey into the mountains for either a full or half-day trip around tiny hidden communities, rolling valleys and towering vantage points.
Have a browse through our Madeira tour page and pick an adventure that suits you. Inspirational sights and activities that await include the 16th century parish of São Pedro, a BBQ lunch in a forest park, and Santo da Serra Sunday Market.
Green Devil's Madeira Jeep Safari guides speak a variety of languages, principally Portuguese and English, and hold a strong passion for telling the stories of their home island.
Madeira Jeep tour heading into the mountains.
- Location: Rua Dos Ferreiros 107, 9000-082, Funchal.
I was curious about this one at first because it was marked down as a wine museum, yet such places are usually newish commercial ventures. Turns out I was half right, Pereira D`Oliveira is more of a producer/exporter of Madeira wine than a museum, but it is one of the oldest of its kind on the island.
First founded in 1850 this family-run business operates three production warehouses throughout Funchal. The main building at Rua dos Ferreiros is the only one open to the public, and is situated within a beautifully renovated schoolhouse dating back to 1619.
Think of this establishment as the company’s bar franchise, small as it may be. Passers-by are welcomed in off the street by a wooden sign proclaiming: ‘Wine Tasting, Visitors Are Welcome’. Inside you’ll find a gorgeous gem of a bar featuring working maturation casks, quirky barrel seating, and walls tastefully embellished with countless wine varieties. Pull up a seat and pick out a few samples you’d like to try, maybe you’ll find yourself walking away with one or two full-sized bottles.
Pereira D’Oliveira Winery, Funchal.
- Location: Calçado de Pico, Funchal.
Located a short distance north of the city centre Fortaleza do Pico is one of my 3 ‘must visit’ vantage points in Funchal. It’s a steep walk up to walls of this imposing 17th century fortress, but well worth the effort as you’ll be able to look out for miles across the city below.
The building itself, while not yet fully accessible to the public, is perhaps the finest example of Madeira’s military heritage and one of it’s most prominent historical assets. Be sure to view this wondrous landmark from each of its four pentagonal bastions and be wowed by the scale of the structure.
Fortaleza do Pico, Funchal.
- Location: Rua da Mouraria 31, 9004-546, Funchal.
Madeira’s oldest museum currently serves as its premier natural history institution, and is housed within the stately São Pedro Palace in the heart of capital. Since the building’s acquirement by the City of Funchal in 1929 a scientific library has opened and some 41,000 animal species have gone on display across its exhibits.
In addition the museum now boasts an extra number of exciting attractions. On the ground floor is an aquarium and connected to the building is an extensive Aromatic and Medicinal Plants Garden. I’d highly recommend this place if you’re interested in Madeira’s startling natural diversity but only have time to explore in and around Funchal.
Funchal Municipal Museum, Native Fauna Displays.
- Location: Rua D. Carlos I 27, 9060-051, Funchal.
Want to learn about the founding of Madeira but can’t be bothered with stuffy (and often neglected) traditional museums? Madeira Story Centre is your place to be. This impressively furnished attraction tells the story of the island in an engaging narrative format, with full-scale dioramas, original artefacts and historical photographs all bringing the experience to life.
The tale starts right from the birth of the archipelago itself 14 million years ago, to the coming of human civilisation under Henry the Navigator, political autonomy and modern times. While discovering the Story Centre wander onto its open-air terrace and have a peer down one of the telescopes facing Old Town Funchal.
- Location: Rua da Casa da Luz, 9050-029, Funchal.
Like the Story Centre this was another Funchal Museum whose modernity impressed me. Its exhibitions focus on recounting the history of electrical technology as it developed from (1897-1997), as well as the electrification of Funchal and future advances in sustainable energy production. During your visit you’ll come face-to-face with everything from some of the world’s oldest light bulbs to full-sized diesel generators and transformers. Nikola Tesla himself would give it a thumbs up.
In addition to static displays (pun fully intended) areas such as the ‘Century of Electricity’ exhibition have stacks of interactive activities that are fun for most age groups. Stick on a VR headset, toy around with plasma balls, climb into a Faraday Cage and more.
Funchal Electricity Museum.
- Location: Av. Sá Carneiro 27, Funchal.
Cristiano Ronaldo is arguably Funchal's most famous son, and now the ace Real Madrid forward and captain of the Portuguese national team has his own statue. Located close the foreshore of his hometown this monument to his legacy and achievements stands at a 'larger than life' 3.4m. It was erected just outside the CR7 Museum, another feature established in his honour around the same time the previous year. Together the two attractions now comprise an essential pilgrimage spot for any follower of Portuguese football.
Our recommendation for visiting the statue and CR7 Museum if you're taking the City Sightseeing Funchal tour would be to hop-off at stop 3 and take a short walk down Avenida Sá Carneiro. The road provides an excellent scenic view out across Funchal harbour and leads directly to both attractions. Take a snap with the giant bronze likeness then dive into the museum's exciting exhibits.
The displays centre around his life and career, the latter of which is currently marked by more than 125 awards. The Museum even has extra space reserved for future trophies. Be sure to look out for his two greatest accolades, the coveted Ballon D'Ors, awarded to him as the world's best player in 2008 and 2013.
Cristiano Ronaldo Statue on Avenida Sá Carneiro.
- Location: Caminho das Babosas 8, 9050-541, Funchal.
There’s plenty more to explore in central Funchal besides the attractions mentioned so far, such as the Museum of Sacred Art, but at some point you’ll defiantly have to grab a cable car up to Monte Parish. This lush mountainside suburb is the site of various major attractions, namely the Jardim Botanico, and a few of Madeira’s most exquisite vantage points.
As the Teleférico is the only direct route up to Monte head along to its lower station near Jardim do Almirante Reis and take a trip that’s both scenic and easy. Once at the top have a wander around the tropical gardens before strolling along to my next recommendation.
Teleférico Cable Car in Funchal.
- Location: Caminho Do Pico, 9050, Funchal.
There’s three main reasons I love the Jardins do Imperador: it’s a stunning place to chill out once you’ve explored most of Monte, it has bags of history, and its overlooks are the best in the area. The garden’s history goes back to the 18th century when resident James Gordon had a manor house and garden constructed on Monte’s fertile hillsides.
He also had a tower erected which is today known as the ‘Quinta do Monte’. The site changed hands come the turn of the 20th century after being purchased by banker Rocha Machado, who would in 1921 offer residence to exiled Emperor Charles I of Austria and his family. During your visit grab a refreshing drink in the tower café, seek out the rose garden and look out across the Atlantic Ocean below.
Funchal Botanical Garden.
11) Monte Toboggan Ride:
- Location: Caminho de Ferro, Monte.
Once you’re satisfied with having explored Monte there’s only one way back down to Funchal- a classic toboggan ride! Keep an eye out for the carreiros (drivers) in their traditional Madeiran costume. You might even catch a glimpse of them whizzing down Caminho de Ferro during your initial ascent to Monte on the cable cars.
Monte Toboggan Ride, Funchal.
- Location: Urbanização do Pico dos Barcelos.
Perched 355 meters atop a hill north-west of Funchal many regard Pico dos Barcelos as the Madeiran capital’s definitive viewpoint. It’s also easy to reach as stop 13 on the City Sightseeing Funchal bus tour stops right outside it. Recent years have seen it develop from a simple sightseeing platform to a fully developed leisure area, with everything from local craft shops to scenic restaurants.
At the summit of Pico dos Barcelos.
And of course, there is the City Sightseeing Funchal hop-on hop-off bus tour to take. It’s an ideal way to see this little gem. With 18 bus stops – many close and within walking distance of the main tourist attractions - the hop on hop off 48-hour bus tour ticket allow you to explore at your own relaxed place.