The 10 best sights and what to do in Funchal!
For most people, the Port is the starting point of a visit to Funchal. Cruise ships arrive almost every day, after which tourists enter the old town of Funchal along "Avenida do Mar". If you come by car, it is easier to park in the parking tower near the cable car that takes you to the higher tropical gardens of Monte. Make it easy on yourself and program the parking in advance in your GPS.
The place is also the end point of the many buses that circulate in Funchal. Take the time to stroll along the quay and enjoy the bustle. There are kiosks everywhere where you can book excursions. You can eat something on the quay at one of the many food stalls and they have ice creams everywhere in all colors and flavors. But what are the sights in Funchal? Below is my top 10 “Things to do in Funchal”.
What to do on Funchal: Top 10
1. Stroll through the old streets of Funchal
- Are you looking for a nice souvenir for family or for yourself, then there are more than enough souvenir shops in the center of Funchal. You can find them everywhere, but especially in the small picturesque side streets.
- Also note the painted doors in the old part of the city. Artists painted the old doors between shops and restaurants.
2. Go eat in one of the hundreds of cozy restaurants
- Go eat in one of the hundreds of restaurants. It is not expensive there. Count on 10 á 12 euro pp for a hot lunch, including drinks. In the evening it is a few euros more expensive.
- After dinner, look for a nice café, where fado is still being played. Order a fresh and locally brewed beer (Coral beer) or taste the typical Madeira wine, but above all enjoy the atmosphere.
3. Walk to the old part of Funchal
On our first visit to Funchal, we hiked east from the funicular on the quay along the sea. After about 10 minutes walking, you come through the Fort of Santiago and a steep narrow street to an old church, Igreja do Socorro. Right in front of the church you have a panoramic view of the coast. Below it is a swimming pool with access to the sea. You can go there via stairs or with an elevator. Access to the swimming pool complex “Complexo Balnear Barreirinha” is usually open in good weather and costs 1.75 euros per person. When we visited there was only one person in the pool, but there were two lifeguards present. Safety first!
From the church, walk the same way back to the cable car to visit the other part of Funchal.
4. Farmers Market "Mercado dos Lavradoser"
You can easily look up the atmosphere of the market from the parking, because it is not far away. Mercado dos Lavrados is located along "Rua Brigadeiro Oudinot" and at the intersection with "Rue Latino Coelho". From the parking or bus parking, you walk 2 minutes west to the roundabout, then five minutes north (towards the mountains) to the busy market. The entrance to the marketplace, a large Art Deco building, is located on the busy "Rue Brigadeiro Oudinot" lane.
At the rear is the fish mine, which can be reached via the regular vegetables, fruit and spice market, as well as via "Rue da Boa". In front of the entrance, flower sellers, usually in traditional costumes, postpone their merchandise. Further through the entrance, you will find the "normal farmers market".
Fish market "Praça de Peixa"
If you continue on to the other side of the market square and one floor below, you will come to the fish market, locally known as "Praça de Peixa". You will not see a large variety of fish. It is mainly thick tuna and the black-whale fish that are cut and sold there. The epee fish is a long black eel-like fish with long sharp teeth and very large eyes. The fish lives happily at great depths, because you don't want to encounter them while snorkeling. Even though they look frightening, it had something pathetic to see them lying dead in a pile.
We found the prices of the fruit on the market on the high side, but it is definitely worth the visit. Especially on Friday, when farmers from all parts of Madeira come to exhibit their merchandise. The atmospheric market hall is then equipped with all fruit and vegetable scents and colors from Madeira. If you have bought fruit and vegetables, it is not far to the parking lot.
5. Visit the Jesuit church “Igreja do Colégio”
Certainly worth seeing is the Jesuit church “Igreja do Colégio”. Inside you see beautiful large paintings that are reminiscent of Rubens. Everything is finished with gold and tiles. The church is located on a large square with terraces. You can visit the church for free, but climbing the tower is unfortunately only possible for a fee. As the name suggests, there is a church and a part that is used as a college. But nowadays that part is used by the University of Madeira.
6. The Cathedral of Funchal
Funchal is a religious city and its churches and cathedral are frequently visited to pray and attend Sunday masses. Funchal Cathedral was the first cathedral outside Europe in 1517 and is certainly worth a visit. The Sé Cathedral is located on one of the most beautiful shopping streets in Funchal and can be visited free of charge.
7. Palácio de São Lourenço
We went in the courtyard and also inside the Fort of Saint-Laurens “Palácio de São Lourenço” to take a look, because we wanted to know what it looked like inside. At the entrance, two soldiers guard the palace with guns, but you can normally enter the courtyard for free and freely. Nowadays you no longer have to pay for a tour from Monday to Friday and the tour is free. You will find the opening hours right here. Do not expect too much explanation, because we did not get it on the free tour. Other days and by appointment, but you have to book two days in advance.
You are not allowed to take photos of the halls. Why it is not allowed is actually a mystery to me. Do you have enough time and do you pass the palace on one of the days when there is free access? Then go inside to look at the different halls of São Lourenço palace. The fort is now used as the official residence of the Minister of the Autonomous Region of Madeira.
8. Flower garden “Jardim Municipal de Funchal”.
We ate an afternoon lunch on the cozy terrace of a restaurant, located along the flower-lined promenade "Avenida Arriaga". The terrace was right in front of the "Jardim Municipal" flower garden. Along the Avenida Arriaga are Jacaranda trees, which bloom in April and May. With their bright blue flowers, they contrast well with the old white buildings. There were yellow taxis parked along the boulevard, but they were not restarted every time. The drivers pushed the taxis further to make no noise and to limit exhaust emissions.
Stockfish in buffet form
What was a bit unfortunate was that a gardener was cleaning up leaves with a leaf blower. I really hate those noisy machines. Typically, blowing with a machine in these places takes just as long as with a normal rake. After about 15 minutes, the leaf blower was far enough away, so that we no longer had any problems with it.
We ate there Bacalhau (stockfish) in buffet form. It was nicely prepared and even at this tourist attraction it was no more expensive than elsewhere. After lunch, you can take a small walk in the flower garden “Jardim Municipal”. The park was laid out in 1880 and you will find a huge variety of flowers and also some rare tree species such as the kapok tree.
9. Visit the tropical gardens of Monte
Visit the tropical garden and go down the hill with the famous rattan sleds at Monte. You can get up the fastest with the cable car, but you can also go there by bus or car. The ride up (600 meter) starts at the tower parking (bus terminal) and takes about fifteen minutes. It is best to buy a combi-ticket to visit the tropical garden "Jardim Tropical" and the museum "E Museu Do Monte Palace" in Monte.
10. Slide down a hill with a rattan sledge
Fun to do is to slide down the road at high speed in a basket. You have to leave the control of the rattan sledge to two men dressed in white wearing straw hats. The starting point is at the church “Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Monte” and the trail goes down two kilometers via “Carreiros do Monte” and “Caminho do Ferro” to “Livramento”. Count on 30 euros for two people. Tip:: If there is a cruise ship in the harbor, it is better to go to Monte another day. It will then be less crowded.