Funchal is a city with more than 500 years of history. Founded in 1510, the capital of the island offers a very charming and historical context, lying within a powerful landscape between the sea and the majestic mountains. Its history can be witnessed bit by bit throughout the city which has brought a cosmopolitan character to the city over the centuries. The many tall-ships, steamships and modern ships docking at the busy port of Funchal have brought new customs to the city.
Nowadays Funchal has 110.000 inhabitants and became a city with an urban and sophisticated character. Its natural beauty and the easy access to the rest of the island are the main reasons why most of the hotels are found here… It’s the perfect starting point to explore the most remote and natural secrets of Madeira Island.
Some say that the city is named "Funchal" due to the abundance of a plant called “Funcho” (fennel) encountered by the early colonizers.
There is so much to offer to our visitors. Just wandering through the streets of Funchal, mostly covered by “Calçada Portuguesa” (traditional and beautiful Portuguese stone sidewalk) is itself highly recommended. But there's more...
Start by wandering through the narrow streets and discovering several museums and gardens. Be sure to go swim in the crystal clear sea, visit the traditional Madeira wine cellars, the parish of “Monte” and try out the local cuisine in the many restaurants that the city offers.
The historic scenery that “Zona Velha” (Old Town) has to offer, the “Mercado dos Lavradores” (Farmers Market) where there are all kinds of products from the island, the splendor of the “Igreja do Colégio” (Church of St. John the Evangelist ) and “Sé Catedral” (the Cathedral) of Funchal, are more than enough reasons to visit this beautiful city.
Museums in Funchal
Our suggestion is to begin with the museums because they show the islands’ historical background. From the small to larger museums, all of them reveal a little of our history. We’d like to suggest some of the most iconic museums: The “Museu A Cidade do Açucar” (City of Sugar Museum), the “Área Museológica do Palácio de São Lourenço”, (São Lourenço Palace Museum Area), The “Museu de Arte Sacra” (Sacred Art Museum), the Photographia - Museum "Vicentes", the Quinta das Cruzes Museum, Casa-Museu Frederico Freitas, Museum of Contemporary Art, Madeira Story Centre, Blandy's Wine Lodge, Madeira Embroidery Museum Center and the recently opened Cristiano Ronaldo Museum.
Churches in Funchal
In 2014, the Diocese of Funchal celebrated its 500th anniversary, which represents the importance that the Church has in the history of our city. The rising number of churches over the centuries has led to a beautiful documentation of our history. The most emblematic are: the “Sé Catedral” (Funchal Cathedral), Carmo Church, the “Igreja do Colégio” (Church of St. John the Evangelist); Church of São Pedro; Church of Santa Clara (expanded later in the century to become integrated into the Convent of Santa Clara); the English Church (Anglican Church in Funchal), the Soccorso's Church and the Chapel of the Holy Body.
You will also sense moments of our history viewing the fountains, heraldry, personalities (the statues) and monuments which lie along the city.
If you come to Funchal, you must visit the parish of Monte. Located 550 meters above sea level this is probably the most romantic of the parishes in Madeira's capital.
160 years ago someone decided to develop a faster way to get from Monte to Funchal.A wicker basket was placed over two wooden skis and “voilá”, within ten minutes the famous basket sledge brought you to the center of Funchal. And the brakes? Two men grab strings attached to the cart use lots of arm strength and super sturdy rubber soled boots! Nowadays, this remains one of the most genuine attractions of Funchal. If you visit us and don’t make the trip Monte-Funchal in a basket sledge, it’s the same as having been to Venice and not riding a gondola!
For the trip up to the parish we recommended that you use a more recent technology: the cable car. A modern cable car departs from downtown in Funchal and allows you to enjoy an amazing view over the city and the sea.
The municipal garden in Monte is extremely rich and is one of the most important places to visit in this parish. Be sure to visit the “Igreja da Nossa Senhora do Monte” (Church of Our Lady of Monte) at which thousands of pilgrims gather every August to celebrate Our Lady of Monte in one of the main festivities in Madeira. There are also many manor houses and gardens to be visited such as the “Monte Municipal Park” or the “Parque Leite Monteiro”, the “Quinta do Imperador”, which is nowadays one of the most emblematic Manor Houses in Madeira (the Emperor Karl of Austria once lived here). The Monte Palace garden is the most famous because of its rich art and cultural collections and large variety of exotic plants.
One of Madeira’s main attractions is the year round mild subtropical climate. The combination of this spectacular climate and the island’s fertile soils provide perfect conditions for a wide variety of tropical and subtropical plants that can be found in parks and gardens throughout the city. Santa Catarina Park is the largest in Funchal, but the smaller ones also have their own charms featuring exotic plants which usually have an identification card containing their common and scientific name, its family and origin next to them.
The Botanical Garden (“Jardim Botânico da Madeira”) is also a top priority on this island of flowers! It invites you to discover the fascinating world of plants throughout several gardens organized in specific collections and to admire the way life manifests itself in nature. The Garden has an area of approximately 5 hectares and has gathered a large amount and diversity of plant species (about 3000) from all around the world.
You can also find many other gardens: the Quinta das Cruzes Garden, the Palheiro Garden, Garden Quinta Magnolia, Quinta Palmeira Garden, the Garden of Quinta Vigia, the Quinta Jardim da Vila Passos, the Garden of Santa Luzia, the Garden of Amparo, the Dragon Trees Garden, Orchid Garden, Monte Palace Tropical Garden, Quinta Jardins do Emperor (formerly Fifth or Cossart Gordon) and others that you may find in our Madeira Gardens page.
The Funchal Sea
Funchal is a city with a deep relationship with the sea and that’s why most of the city buildings are facing south.
Throughout the year you can make use of Funchal’s coastal beaches . Despite the fact that we haven´t any natural golden sandy beaches, there are several bathing complexes in Funchal with excellent access to the sea and natural beaches of black sand and volcanic rocks. The main beaches in Funchal are the “Complexo Balnear da Barreirinha” (Bathing Complex Barreirinha), the “Complexo Balnear da Ponta Gorda/Poças do Governador” (Ponta Gorda Bathing Complex / The Governor’s swimming holes), Complexo Balnear da Poça do Gomes/Doca do Cavacas (Bathing Complex of Gomes / Dock Cavacas), the “São Tiago” beach, the “Gorgulho Beach”, the “Formosa beach”, the “Clube Naval” and the Tourism Club.
For the adventurous there are other choices such as diving in the Natural Reserve of Garajau, known for its crystal waters that allow observations to more than 20 meters deep. The Reserve of Garajau is rich in its biodiversity and has a significant ichthyology. Due to its location and mainly for its biological richness and transparent waters, it is used for educational and scientific purposes.
In Funchal bay there are many companies where you can book your trip to go dolphin and whale watching. Watersports such as windsurfing, sailing and more are also available at various clubs and hotels in Funchal.
For those who like to feel close to the sea, the Public Promenade is recommended. From Funchal to Câmara de Lobos you can walk side by side with species of the local flora and, gardens, and use the benches to sit and relax and enjoy the view of the mighty Atlantic Ocean.
Gastronomy is one of the highlights in Madeira. If for any reason you are unable to visit the traditional restaurants scattered around the Island, Funchal will not disappoint with its many restaurants that you can find in the historic part of the city (“Zona Velha”) as well as the tourist area. Local ingredients and simple recipes are the secret of Madeiran cuisine: the “Espetada em Pau de Louro” (meat skewered on Laurel stick), fried corn, the meat in wine-and-garlic, the “Bolo do Caco” (a traditional madeiran bread), the “Lapas” (limpets) with fresh butter, garlic and lemon, the swordfish with Passion Fruit sauce or banana, the Tuna Steak, the Sugar-Cane Honey Cake... and above all, our wine! The Madeira Wine!
"A wine with the name of an island, and an island with a name of a wine" - The Madeira Wine became internationally recognized as the "most expensive and appreciated wine in the World" in the 18th century and early 19th century. Being an extremely complex and energetic wine, probably due to the energy of the island itself, it travelled around the world for centuries. In 1776, it was used to toast in the celebration of Independence of the United States by its founding fathers Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.
Come and discover the city of Funchal! The perfect place for your holidays! Surrounded by nature and the Atlantic Ocean, cosmopolitan and urban, and forgive our modesty, a city of warm and friendly people that are proud on living in one of the most beautiful places in the World!