Ahh, Funchal is the capital of Madeira Island and the most populous out of the Portuguese mainland. Funchal is magnificent, with its crooked streets that go down the mountain side, and in front of the blue sea. This breathtaking landscape has captivated visitors from around the world. And while a week or more is ideal, we’ve folded Funchal up into a compact little packet for those of you who only have the weekend to spare. Here’s Funchal in 48 hours.
For your first day, in the morning we’re going to focus in the Funchal Old Town – Your first stop is on the Farmers Market is two steps from the historic area. The main door opens onto a patio, animated daily by sales of fruits and vegetables. All exposed in elegant stands and ready to be seen, smelled and tasted. Counter tops made of flowers are a colour world apart: loaded with camellias, proteas, strelitzias and orchids. Florists are presented with colourful costumes.
Make a visit to the Toy Museum close to the famous local Farmers Market for 5€. The Toy Museum is located in a building from the XVIII century restored to maintain its original façade. You will find thousands of other toys like a tin soldiers collection, steam boats, planes and wooden games, dating from the late nineteenth century to the present day. This atmosphere made with you in mind, shares a nostalgic charm that will appeal to children and adults. You can buy tickets for the Toy Museum here.
Walking throw the old town streets you will find the ArT of opEN doors, a public art program that aims in transforming Funchal´s Old town into a permanent outdoor art gallery by displaying over 200 works of art, by guest artists, painted on the doors of Rua de Santa Maria. This colourful project is an attempt to revitalize this part of town and make it more culturally significant for both locals and tourists.
Walking around the old town streets you will find many buildings with hundreds of years and still have the respective built-in ovens on the exterior walls. During recent years this zone has been completely recovered. They opened good typical restaurants and people of all ages are now able to enjoy the freshness of a large garden and can take a cable car ride. Jutting out of the single-storey houses it must be the volume of St. James Fort, built in the first half of the seventeenth century, during the Spanish occupation (1580-1640), currently houses the Contemporary Art Museum.
After visiting the museum take lunch in the Do Forte Restaurant, located at the Historical Fortress of São Tiago and is distinguished by its gastronomical diversity and for its service of excellence!!! A unique place that combines international cousine with typical Madeira Island ingredients providing a genuine gastronomic experience.
After lunch one of the day highlights will be the ascent up to Monte via Cable car ride, it costs 10€ per person but it surely worth it! From the cable car, hovering over the city, where buildings rise alongside gardens and kitchen-gardens, you can enjoy Funchal’s amphitheatre and bay in a scenario of blues, greens and oranges.
As we rise higher, the environment transforms and the city gives way to green hillsides, mountains and valleys, on a journey with the city and the sea as the backdrop. The journey ends at Monte, with its romantic landscape and surroundings, where you can visit the Monte Palace Tropical Gardens (the entrance costs 10€), Lady of Monte Church – It is in this church that was buried the former emperor of Austria, Charles I, in exile in Madeira, Monte Municipal Gardens.
After enjoying Monte views and gardens take a ride on the famous traditional “wicker toboggans”, which people have used for over a century to ride back down to Funchal – a simple and thrilling experience – and as ever, totally ecological and environment-friendly! The descent is an adventure not to be missed. Ernest Hemingway described it as “One of the most exhilarating experiences of my life.” It will cost you around 30€.
Back to the Funchal Old Town take dinner at the lovely Taberna Madeira Restaurant in a cozy and intimately welcoming ambience, experience unique and memorable flavours mixed with great wines, right in Funchal’s down town historical center.
End the day enjoying night-life in a beautiful atmosphere with bars in the old town. Taste the traditional “Poncha” in the surrounding bars, a local drink made of rum, lemon and honey that you will find nowhere else that in Madeira.
On day two, we’re taking you to the heart of the city, which beats next to the cathedral. Almost all of the public buildings that surround it have kept the original design. Take a visit the Funchal’s Cathedral, of an undeniable historical, architectural and artistic value, one of the interior highlights of the Cathedral is the chancel’s altarpiece ordered by King D. Manuel I in 1510-1515. The main entrance displays Gothic lines and the gilded woodwork pieces of the 17th Century point to some features of the Manueline period.
If we use the cathedral as a starting point, there are dozens of streets and squares to visit around, all lined with traditional Portuguese side walk. You may choose to visit some of the points of interest on this streets such as the Sacred Art Museum that is housed in the former Bishop’s Palace. The museum has a rich collection of Flemish paintings, evocative splendor of the sugar trade: many of the paintings were purchased by the merchants of the sixteenth century. One of the museum’s façade is facing the Town Hall Square. At the center is a fountain designed by architect Raul Lino in 1942. Shot of the tops of the square are the Town Hall, and the block to the north occupied by the St. John the Evangelist School Church which belonged to the Jesuits. Certainly several options to choose from!
Take lunch at the Café Funchal Restaurant just in front of the Funchal’s Cathedral, it has a large, friendly space with a nice covered terrace. A nice place for eating out with your family! Or if your are a fish lover choose to take lunch at the Casal da Penha Restaurant, known for daily variety of fresh fish and seafood of high quality, always purchased in the local market. Casal da Penha Restaurant is located just 300m from the center of Funchal offering an informal atmosphere where tradition tries to achieve modernity while maintaining simplicity.
Back to the Arriaga Avenue we can visit the San Francisco cellars, also known as Old Blandy Wine Lodges. The wine stores hundreds of vintage bottles with over a hundred years, ready to sell to the public. Between wineries and and aging facilities here will be stored 800,000 liters of wine. You can buy tickets for wine tasting tours here.
Across the street you will find the St. Lawrence Fortress, beautiful example of seventeenth-century military architecture and residence of the island’s governors between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, being classified as a national monument. Soon after we find the splendid Baltazar Dias Municipal Theatre, built between 1884 and 1887 and inspired by the famous “La Scala” in Milan.
Explore the Santa Catarina Park, a place where you can rest and enjoy fantastic views over Funchal, from the bay to Ponta do Garajau, this park has a huge lawn surrounded by flowerbeds full of trees, shrubs and plant species from all over the world. If you’ve got around 20 euros to spare, take a Tuk Tuk tour to get to the restaurant where you will get dinner. You can book Funchal city tours here .
After the tour, stop in the Estrada Monumental street and finally, top off your weekend with dinner on the Atlantic Restaurant. An outstanding location for dinner, with an esplanade offering a truly unique view across the ocean, the Atlantic Restaurant offers delicacies inspired by Mediterranean cuisine where you can sample Portuguese cuisine and the typical flavours of traditional Madeiran dishes.
If you are a Sushi lover we suggest you to take dinner at the 100 % Sushi Restaurant, a Madeiran company that spreads in Madeira eccentric flavours of Japanese cuisine.
Then, start planning to come back, because you will need a lot more than 48 hours to visit Funchal and the rest of the island!