Madeira’s cosmopolitan capital and the most popular resort on the island, the charming town of Funchal is ideal whether you’re looking for a relaxing holiday in the sun, activities for visitors of all ages or the opportunity to explore the culture and history of this fascinating area of Madeira. From whitewashed buildings and narrow winding streets, to breath-taking views across the glistening ocean and up into the mountains, the beauty of this region is palatable.
The largest city on the island of Madeira, Funchal’s roots stem from fennel growing and pirates, a history even the most reluctant of the younger guests can enjoy. Now a modern resort with chic bars, top-class restaurants and cozy local pubs and tavernas; authenticity, tradition and contemporary grace all work hand in hand here. And with its mild climate, Funchal is the perfect destination to make the most of the great outdoors with everything from walking trails, colourful gardens and scenic boat trips on offer.
Time difference from GMT: 0 hours
Hottest months of the year: Warm throughout the summer months of June - September, with temperatures peaking during July and August
Best for: Families, couples, relaxation, history and culture
Couples will find plenty to keep them occupied on a holiday in Funchal, with its cosmopolitan feel mixed with a fascinating history stretching back hundreds of years. Head to one of the many tavernas or cafés where you can chat with the locals or enjoy a glass of the delicious local wine or two. For a proper coffee head to Sessanta Caffe, where you’ll also find a selection of breakfast and brunch dishes and the best coffee on the island. Couples in Funchal will enjoy the incredible restaurants here, with everything from local dishes with fish caught straight from the sea to cheese boards and cured meat selections. Armazem do Sal offers al fresco dining, with a great menu of local wines, stews and even octopus aesthetically presented and at fantastic value prices.
For sights and a taste of history Funchal is the place to be, with the historic area of Monte offering ancient churches and convents dotted around. For romantic activities there are incredible gardens which beg to be explored, including the Santa Catarina Park, the Presidential Palace Garden and the Monte Palace Tropical Garden.
Guests of all ages will enjoy the great selection of activities on offer in Funchal. Visit the Museum of Natural History for fantastic displays and exhibits, or head outdoors for horse riding trips up into the woods or along the beaches. Kids will love the views over the rugged mountains which surround the city as well as the sparkling Atlantic Ocean and the whitewashed walls and terracotta roofs of the buildings from the Monte Cable Car. Or enjoy a more relaxing day out with a trip to one of the many black sandy beaches in the surrounding areas. There’s also a great range of water sports on offer including windsurfing and sailing, cool waters for little ones to paddle in, and the ideal spot for a picnic in the sunshine. For something a little bit different take the family to the Santa Maria, a complete replica of Columbus’ ship that will take you on a journey through the waters where you might even spot some dolphins.
There are plenty of things for groups to do in Funchal, with a bustling nightlife and a huge range of activities on offer. Take a mountain expedition and bundle the whole group into a 4x4 which will take you up to the top of the local mountain range, where you can enjoy views over the town, sea and surrounding countryside. The Harmony in Nature Tour offers abseiling and rock climbing as well as canyoning, ideal for groups looking for adrenaline filled activities. The CR7 Museum is a tribute to football in the region, with a huge display of Cristiano Renaldo’s achievements as well as cups, trophies and medals. For some evening entertainment the Hole in One Pub is in the Lido area, serving great pub food and playing good music. And the Dubai Club is the place to visit if you’re looking for a late night, with a disco, shisha pipes and a terrace to while away the hours.
A trip to Funchal would not be complete without sampling some of the delicious local cuisine. Visitors can eat on a budget, spending anything from €8-€15 on a budget meal out, or for a treat there are plenty of indulgent restaurants including a number that have been famously awarded a Michelin Star. O Tasco is a friendly diner that serves a range of sandwiches, local Madeiran cuisine and tapas at budget friendly prices. Leeno’s is a slightly higher priced café located on the seafront and with Portuguese and European dishes on offer, their aim is to serve ‘food with integrity’. Part of a small chain across the island, with 3 other restaurants as well, Restaurante Goya is a holiday treat with international and French dishes served. The service is excellent and it’s worth trying the concept menu, with special dishes selected by the chef at €39. For a taste of India during your stay in Funchal head to Bombay Spice, where you’ll find friendly and helpful staff serving authentic food at good value prices, with everything from korma to dal.
Praia Formosa is just 10 minutes’ drive from the city centre of Funchal and is the largest free public beach in Portugal. It offers visitors the option of three small sandy beaches and a large pebbled beach.
The beach at Praia Formosa is a great way to combine sea and sunshine for beach lovers. Not only is the water quality certified by the ‘Blue Flag’, there is a team of lifeguards watching over the safety of the bathers making it a great place for a swim and suitable for families too. There are also other sports activities on offer as well as contests and nightlife in the area.
Praia Formosa also offers a kindergarten for children between 2 and 12 years old, changing rooms, snack bars, medical centre, several areas for sports practice and a car park.