It is often called ‘God’s Floating Garden’, reflecting the wonderful flora to be found here. Madeira is also famous for its beautiful and extensive network of levada walks which follow, on gentle gradients, irrigation channels.
Funchal is the island capital and is easily the liveliest and most interesting place on Madeira, home to the best hotels, restaurants and nightlife. Despite its numerous visitor attractions it still maintains a vibrant local life of its own.
Madeira is a spectacularly beautiful island, lush with vineyards and rich farmland, pitted with valleys, topped by spectacular peaks and with a coastline of sheer cliffs.
Funchal enjoys a magnificent setting on the Bay of Funchal, rising up from the sea in a natural amphitheatre, and the perfect way of arriving is by cruise ship. Coaches will whisk you right around the island though there is more than enough to do and see in and around Funchal.
The city centre is gratifyingly small, and its narrow cobbled streets host a splendid market, some intriguing little museums, shops and cafes, a salty old port area, and can easily be covered on foot. There are fine gardens to enjoy, even in the town centre, but a 5-10 minute taxi ride will take you to the island’s finest quintas (estates) and gardens.
• Funchal: The Mercado dos Lavradores, a very colourful market of fresh produce and handicrafts; the 15th-century catedral; Quinta das Cruzes; the Adegas São Francisco wine cellars and museum.
• Glorious Gardens on the outskirts of Funchal include Jardim Botânico, Quinta da Boa Vista, Palheiro (Blandy) Gardens and Monte Palace Tropical Gardens (reached by cable car from Funchal centre).
• Further afield: Camacha (heart of the wickerwork industry), Câmara de Lobos (a picturesque fishing port), Cabo Girão (one of the highest sea cliffs in the world, São Vicente (the prettiest village on the island).
Avenida Arriaga 16, Funchal, Maderia
Tel: +351 291 211 902.
In Funchal there is a wide variety of shops selling everyday goods, as well as many souvenirs. Special purchases include Madeira folk art, such as embroidery, tapestry and wickerwork. Madeira wine is a popular gift. Visit the Mercado dos Lavradores.
Island specialities include sopa de tomate e cebola (tomato and onion soup), espada (fresh black scabbard fish), espetada (grilled beef on laurel wood). The three main Madeira wine styles are Malmsey/Malvasia (very sweet) Bual (medium) and Sercial (medium-dry, like amontillado sherry).
When to go:
Funchal enjoys warm humid dry summers (May to October) with average maximum temperatures between 21ºC (69ºF) and 24 ºC (75ºF). From October to December is quite wet but also sunny and quite warm. Mornings start clear and bright with clouds rolling down the hill in the afternoon.
1km (0.6 miles).