A holiday in Funchal provides guests with cobbled streets, beautiful gardens and a trendy marina, all of which are oozing in the distinct character that is apparent throughout this resort. As the capital city of the island of Madeira, Funchal has been a popular tourist choice for a number of years and its interesting pairing of traditional architecture and surroundings with stylish and modern nightlife is a huge reason for this.
You’ll find all kinds of things to explore in Funchal, from the cobbled Old Town to the flower-scented gardens with views across the bay. The city has an equal amount of man-made sights and natural ones, meaning a trip to this Madeiran capital is one that is sure to please tourists no matter what their preference is.
Most popular hotels in Funchal
Pestana Casino Park
Residencial Vila Lusitania
Pestana Royal Hotel
Enotel Lido Madeira
Pestana Carlton Madeira
Pestana Ocean Bay
At a glance
- Currency: Euro
- Language: Portuguese
- Time Zone: GMT +0
- Average flight time: 3h 50m
When to go
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Those wanting to make the most of the beautiful natural scenery on offer in Funchal need look no further than Pico do Arieiro. Madeira’s third highest mountain is a wonder to behold from the top and gives unparalleled views. But the most enjoyable thing about it is the journey you take to get there. Equally accessible as a walk or cycle, the path to the top of this picturesque peak is one you will never forget.
Alternatively if you’re not feeling particularly active then you can also get a similar experience by taking the Monte Cable Car and seeing the city from a unique birds-eye view. After all that physical exertion, why not escape to the Monte Palace Tropical Garden? This lush garden is an ideal retreat to enjoy a couple of hours away from Funchal. With lots of different areas to explore like an exhibition of African artwork, gemstones and crystals, the variety on offer is certainly very impressive. While there you can also sample some famous Madeiran wine.
Another interesting fact about Funchal is that it is the birthplace of footballing superstar Cristiano Ronaldo and to commemorate that there is a CR7 Museum which you can visit. Showcasing all of his trophies, hat-trick balls and photos from his journey to the top, this museum is a must-see for any visiting football fans.
Wine and Dine
In addition to the sea views, warm breezes and colourful flowers that Funchal is so well known for, there is also some amazing Madeiran food to try. With many restaurants offering fine dining, eateries in Funchal offer a unique blend of Portuguese and European cuisine. Eating here can be great fun as one day you can be sampling a delicious home-cooked Regional/Portuguese meal and the next you can be eating at a restaurant specializing in international foods such as Italian, Mediterranean, Indian, Japanese, Chinese or fast foods. When eating in Funchal you can be fairly certain you’ll never be bored.
Considering it’s usually freshly and locally sourced, why not start with the local favourite of octopus carpaccio? For mains there are a number of options to choose from. The best place to experience the most authentic local dishes is in the colourful and historical old town of Zona Velha, with a range of long-established restaurants offering traditional Madeiran cuisine of fresh meat and fish at its finest. The catch of the day is always a great choice, while the local favourite of duck breast with citrus sauce is ever popular.
Funchal also has many amazing features that will appeal to families looking for their next family holiday destination. For starters the many beaches provide great opportunities to make amazing memories altogether and whether it’s sandcastles or swimming you’re interested in, the facilities around the beaches are more than capable to look after you no matter how long you stay.
Another amazing thing to do as a family is to witness the internationally famous Madeira Carnival. Undoubtedly one of the highlights of the island’s calendar, this spectacular, colourful and vibrant event is sure to amaze the whole family no matter their age. With samba dancing, Mardi Gras and a plethora of captivating costumes, the Madeira Carnival is something not to miss, so check your timing and see if you can catch it during your stay.
Action and Adventure
As previously mentioned, one of the best ways to get out and about in Funchal is by taking a hike up into the mountains and losing yourself among the beauty of the surrounding area. Aside from these amazing routes, there are many more ways to keep active. Diving in the crystal-clear waters is a favourite for both guests and locals and with an abundance of interesting marine life underneath the sea it’s easy to see why. If you prefer to stay on top of the water then you can also try your hand at surfing the waves, taking a boat trip or even spending the day at sea whale-watching. Another unforgettable way to spend your time in the water is to go and swim with dolphins out on the coast just outside of Funchal. Out of the water you can take a day-long excursion along the coast through the eucalyptus smelling woods and settle down for an unforgettable picnic. If paragliding is on your to-do list then you can try your hand on the coast whenever you’re feeling brave enough.
Life's a Beach
Not content with already having an abundance of amazing scenery up in the mountains, Funchal also has a number of beautiful beaches to occupy your time too. Praia Formosa is the largest public beach on Madeira Island and because of that also the most popular. Located to the west of Funchal, it consists of four sandy and pebble beaches, known as Praia Nova, Praia Formosa, Praia dos Namorados and Praia do Arieiro. All offer excellent clear waters, Blue Flag certified sands and great facilities. In addition to the expected loungers and umbrellas, this beach also has a skate board ramp and children’s play area to entertain the little ones.
Those looking for an alternative water experience can find it in Doca do Cavacas. This spot is a small pool complex just a few minutes’ walk from Praia Formosa. It has natural volcanic pools and direct access to the sea with changing rooms, a watching lifeguard as well as restaurants and bars. If that wasn’t enough choice already, there are two more hugely popular sandy beaches at the Barreirinha beach complex and Praia de Sao Tiago.
Funchal has lots of restaurants and bars and late night cafés to while away your evening. Lots of the all inclusive hotels offer evening entertainment with traditional music and dancing. If you head to the old town you will find lots of bars to drink some cocktails or local drinks.
Lots of bars have live music to get your night started as clubs don’t usually open until 1am so if you are young and full of energy then you have somewhere to go. The Kool Klub Kafe is one such club excellent for cocktails and electro music.
The Chameleon Disco-Bar is a big club on different levels with a chill-out terrace. The club plays a diverse selection of music and is popular with the locals. If you want a spectacular night out head to Copacabana, inside the casino and watch shows and dance salsa.
As one of the most picturesque and cleanest cities in Portugal, Funchal is a vibrant mix of traditional and modern that makes it a perfect place to visit as a couple. The Funchal city of today is very different from days of old where it was primarily used for growing fennel. Now Funchal is a modern and cosmopolitan city, well known for its many top class restaurants. These restaurants provide perfect opportunities to dine by candlelight and make unforgettable memories with your loved one.
If you’re an active couple then the many hikes and trails around Funchal will not only meet that need but also provide you with the opportunity to escape any other tourists and find some serene isolation. But if you’re more interested in the life of leisure that comes with a city break, then there are a number of spas, museums and even a bespoke cinematic experience in the Madeira Film Experience which gives you all of the background information you’d need on the island to enjoy your stay.
Madeira is hot on festivals whether they are religious or simply celebrating music and wine there’s usually something festive going on in Funchal. The carnival in February is a huge event in Funchal with processions and costumes to rival Rio. Funchal also holds a festival of culture, celebrating the heritage and history of the area with traditional dress, music and dancing. The Patron Saint of the City – Sao Tiago Menor – is celebrated on the 1st May. The celebration commemorates 1538 when the city was suffering from the plague and prayed for safe health and future to St James. He is honoured by processions and floral tributes winding their way through Funchal.
The flower festival in April is something not to be missed if you are visiting out of tourist times. In the summer months the Atlantic Festival contains pyrotechnical firework displays as well as a programme of events from music in venues throughout the city. The Madeira wine festival, at the end of August celebrates the grape harvest and is a must for wine-lovers. Jazz lovers will enjoy the Funchal Jazz festival as well.