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  • Camara-de-Lobos-Madeira-Portugal - Câmara de Lobos on the island of Madeira, Portugal.
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Funchal, Madeira, travel guide: Top things to do & see

our guide

The vibe

The exquisite city of Funchal, on Portugal's island of Madeira, is a place of incredible lights and sights, dreamy sunsets and gorgeous scenery. The wildlife in the surrounding area is remarkable, and the museums are outstanding. Funchal is an architecturally diverse city with many interesting landmarks. Although Funchal is quite developed, the remainder of the island is remote and made up of dense jungle. 

The island itself is located in the Madeira archipelago and belongs to Portugal. Madeira is 530 miles southwest of Portugal and is one of only two inhabited islands in the region. A coastal city, Funchal is by far the most active city on Madeira. You'll like the fine dining facilities, good shopping and active nightlife. There are a number of very nice stores, lively bars and nightclubs. One of the world's highest ocean cliffs is found on Madeira, and there are plenty of places to hike, explore and see all kinds of terrain.

Madeira redefines the word vacation, as there are so many leisure spots laced throughout Funchal. The Golfe de Madeira golf course is outstanding, but the course is actually outdone by the fabulous scenery that encompasses the greens. The hills and coastline of Madeira are extraordinarily beautiful, and the climate on the island is lovely. 

Cruise ships that call on Madeira

Top reasons to go

  • Gather in Praca de Municipo to hang out with locals.
  • Jardim Botanico to see incredible exotic and rare plants.
  • Palheiro Golf is a fun place to play a round and is surrounded by pine and eucalyptus trees.
View of Funchal on the island of Madeira, Portugal.
Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise LineView of Funchal on the island of Madeira, Portugal

Top things to do & see in Funchal

The beautiful Praca do Municipo, also known as Municipal Square, is located in the center of town. This is the place where the locals get together during the afternoons or evenings, and everyone has a calm and comfortable air about them. White and black crescent-moon designs made of lava make up the tile seen all around you, and the buildings are simply charming.

The Jardim Botanico, on Caminho do Meio (291-211-200), is perhaps the best botanical garden in Portugal. The beauty here is unparalleled on the island. There are plants from all over the world — some of which are incredibly exotic and rare — and the birds-of-paradise are the favorites for both tourists and locals. Legend has it that the petrified heather tree in the middle of the gardens is 10 million years old.

The Museu Municipal do Funchal, at Rua Mouraria 31 (291-229-761), is a combination museum and wildlife refuge. All of the animals of the Madeira archipelago can be seen here, including eels, scorpion fish, puffers and turtles. If you are a bird fan, then this is definitely the place for you because the bird displays and open-air habitats are remarkable.

Top dining choices

  • Quinta da Palmeira, at Avenida do Infante 5 (291-221-814), features well-prepared Portuguese fare. The tasty and authentic dishes, including beef filet, shrimp, swordfish and salmon, prepared at this restaurant will leave you very pleased, especially when you eat out on the veranda. For dessert, try the peculiar yet delectable avocado ice cream.
  • Casa dos Reis, at Rua Imperatriz D. Amelia 101 (291/225-182), has the feel of a country club, yet is surprisingly relaxed. The formal dining room may require nice dress, but the mood is cozy and not stuffy. The rack of lamb is incredible, as are the prawns and fish fricassee. 

Golf

Palheiro Golf (São Gonçalo, 291/792-116) is a fun place to play a round and is surrounded by pine and eucalyptus trees that add the perfect touch to the course grounds. The conditions here are always ideal, and the scenery is picturesque.

Funchal, the scenic capital of Madeira, Portugal.
Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise LineFunchal, the scenic capital of Madeira, Portugal

Shopping

Bordados de Madeira is located on Rua do Visconde de Anadia 44 (291/223-341). The embroidered pieces here are excellent, and there is a wide selection of items that would be perfect for your home or to give as a gift. Casa do Turista can be found at Rua do Conselheiro José Silvestre Ribeiro 2 (291/224-907) and features authentic, handmade crafts to purchase.

Nightlife

Macelino Pão y Vinho is located at Travessa da Torre 22A (291/230-834) and is a festive dance club with music that is always playing. It is an exciting and fun place to be, and the party goes on all night. Prince Albert, located on Rua da Imperatriz Dona Amelia (291/235-793), is a wonderful Victorian style pub featuring delicious beer and an even greater atmosphere. 

Fun facts

  • Funchal is named after the fennel (funcha) that once flowered there in profusion.
  • Christopher Columbus gained experience plying the routes of Funchal's sugar trade.

When you arrive

Docking information

Cruise ships dock at the Port of Funchal at Avenida do Mar. From there, you can walk to many of the tourist destinations in the city or opt to take a bus, taxi or rent a car.

Getting around

Many people choose to rent a car while staying in Funchal, and there are several rental car companies available. Avis Rent-a-Car has an office in Funchal at Larguinho Antonio Nobre 164 (291-764-546). Visitors can rent a motorcycle or scooter as well. Contact Joyride at Avenida do Infante 210-211 (291-234-906) for complete rental information.

Need to know

Language: Portuguese, but English is widely spoken

Documents: U.S. and Canadian citizens need a valid passport.

Tipping: Tipping is important in Portugal just as much as in other parts of the world, and it's customary to tip about 10%. 

Safety: The island has very little crime, but it is recommended to be aware of your surroundings.

Currency: Euro 

Your take

Have you been to Funchal or Madeira? Please share a story, tip or discovery. What was the highlight? We'd love to know!

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