Funchal gets its name from the fennel plant Funcho that was growing abundantly in the area when the Portuguese explorer, João Gonçalves Zarco, discovered it back in 1420 and was captivated by its natural beauty. First time visitors are always left speechless by the overwhelming beauty of the island. As you arrive to Funchal from the airport, nothing quite prepares you for the spectacular sight of the city surrounded by mountains, the deep blue sea, the green valleys, the rolling cluster of houses with beautiful gardens and its stunning bay.

Funchal, regarded as one of the most cleanest cities in europe, is interwoven between the modern new buildings and 500 years of history. Besides all the cultural events that take place right through the year there is numerous museums, gardens and places of interest that can keep you occupied right through your holidays. Funchal is divided into three main parts. The Lido area where you will find the majority of 4 and 5 star hotels. The city center where all the shops are to be found. And the Old Town where the restored houses with cobbled streets and large cluster of local restaurants can be found. Before starting out on exploring Funchal you will need a city map as well as an island map, to help you with directions.


Promenade walk from the Lido to Praia Formosa

There is an absolutely lovely walk that starts from the public swimming area of Lido, all the way to Praia (Beach) Formosa. It is about 3km long and you have to follow the paths that are next to the sea. There are plenty of snack bars and restaurants all along the way with amazing scenery.


Walk from the Lido down to Funchal City Center

If you’re staying in the Lido area then we suggest that you walk down to the city center at least once. It is a pleasant flat walk that gradually turns into a slight downhill and should comfortably take about 30 minutes. There is really quite a lot to see in terms of shops, hotels and gardens. Most of the hotels offer a free shuttle service but one can also do this trip by public transport that do this route.


Presidential Palace

On the way down you will pass the famous Reids Hotel and soon after you will cross a road bridge. Once you’ve crossed the bridge the road splits. You can either turn right and go into Funchal along the harbor or carry on straight into the center of Funchal. To visit the Presidential Palace which is found just before Santa Catarina Park you will go straight. The property of the Palace is open to public during working hours and is certainly worth a quick pop in.


Santa Catarina Park

This public park is a must for anyone walking down to Funchal. Besides the fact that its a beautiful park with a huge variety of indigenous plants, an Avery with exotic birds, there is also a small lake with black swans, a Christopher Columbus Statue and a chapel that was ordered to be build by D. Constanca de Almeida, João Gonçalves Zarco’s wife, in 1425. But the most interesting aspect of this park has to be the magic views over Funchal’s harbor.


Rotunda do Infante

Once you’ve finished viewing the park with all its amazing views you go down the stairs, to where the statue dedicated to João Gonçalves Zarco, the founder of Funchal, is and find yourself at the big roundabout of Infante with a beautiful fountain in the middle. At this point you’re at the most western part of the center of Funchal. From here you can either turn right and go down to the Marina and the harbor. area, you can turn left and go up to one of the biggest shopping centers, due to open at the end of 2007, or carry on straight into the center of Funchal and the heart of the city.


Municipal Gardens

If you carry on straight along Avenida Arriaga, you will come to the Municipal Gardens, also known as Dona Amélia Gardens. This garden covers an area of 8300 m2 and was once part of the Convent of São Francisco. The garden has some beautiful specimens from Madeira and the rest of the world, all of which are marked. Located in the center of Funchal city opposite the Municipal Theatre, this park is now a leisure area for locals and visitors alike. A small pond featuring ducks and white swans, a café and an amphitheater where often entertaining and cultural events take place here.


Madeira Wine Company

Between the Municipal Park and the official Information Center,one will find the oldest Madeira Wine cellars which is also known as the Blandy Wine Museum. On a 1 hour tour around the cellars, one can admire letters, documents, books, objects and machinery of the old times. There is also a video on the Madeira Wine History and, obviously an opportunity to taste and buy wines. In the Taste and buy room, you can freely sample different Madeira’s of 5, 10 and 15 years old before deciding which one to buy. The room here is beautifully decorated with wall paintings related to the grape harvest and bottles of wine that date back to the nineteenth century.


Zarco Intersection

On the intersection of Avenida Arriaga and Avenida Zarco one will find another statue dedicated to the founder of Madeira Island and Funchal, João Gonçalves Zarco. On the one corner you will find the Regional Government Palace whose most ancient part was built at the end of the 17th century, as a Hospital and Hospice for the town. Funchal School of Medicine was also once located there. Nowadays it houses the seat of Regional Government, with some of its Regional Departments. On the other corner


Esplanades & Cafés

On the opposite corner one will find the the grand Golden Gate café-restaurant. Opened as a hotel in the early 1800s and still harks back to the colonial era with its wicker chairs, ceiling fans, and a terrace from which to watch the world go by. It’s a classy, yet reasonably priced place to come for lunch. Delicious pastries and sandwiches are also available from the ground-floor bar throughout the day.

Esplanades & Cafés

Se Cathedral

At the center of Funchal you will find one of Funchal’s oldest building, the Sé cathedral. At the end of the 15th century two architects were sent from the Portuguese mainland to organize the construction of Funchal’s cathedral. Work began in 1485 using local basalt stone and was completed 29 years later. Above the main entrance you can see the Portuguese royal coat of arms. Inside is rather dark but it is still possible to appreciate the Moorish style ceiling carved from Madeiran wood and inlaid with ivory.


Heart of Funchal

Madeira’s capital, Funchal has an understated elegance about it. It is really a town by today’s standards but it was declared a city back in the fifteen hundrdes.From the heart of the city you will find a whole lot of interesting streets that have beautifully decorated cobbled pavements, with a variety of different designs. The majority of these small narrow streets are only open to pedestrians and feature a variety of shops, restaurants, bars etc. At the square of the Sé you will find a very european style of life, where locals as well as tourists relax sipping at their drink or having something to eat, at one of the many restaurants or bars that you find there, while they watch the world go by.


Praça do Municipio

Even if you’re not into architectural sightseeing you still have to visit this awe inspiring square that is simply surrounded by history and which set off the architectural quality of the city center. The remarkable building of City hall, is set between the Largo do Município and the Rua do Bispo. This was the old palace of the Count of Carvalhal, built in 1758. It was bought by the local government in August 1883. It is a fine example of the late 18th century architecture. It has an inner courtyard covered in tiles and a fountain. The architecture reveals elements of the baroque and mannerist styles. Nearby is an interesting group of buildings originally used by the military, which is where the Sacred Art Museum, is now situated. Here you will also find, Igreja de Sao João Evangelista, more commonly known as Colegio Church. This beautiful building of the Jesuits has 17th century gilt woodcarving that is considered one of the most valuable pieces of Portuguese carving from this period. There are also ceramic tiles as well as paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries.


Chafariz Plaza

Walking on Avenida Arriaga past the Sé Cathedral the road name changes to Rua do Alube and this is where you will find the plaza of the chafariz, which offers many shops and traditional commerce. To the left we see the pillar of the chafariz, and in front the oldest shopping center of the city, 120 years old. The flower sellers, that are sitting on the opposite side of the chafariz, will greet you in their traditional island costume -a colorful striped skirt, red blouse and black bonnet. The birds of paradise flowers are a symbol of the island and are a popular buy.


Praça do Colombo

This unique square in Funchal is delightful as it is historic. Set among some of the oldest colonial buildings in Funchal this square with its beautiful cobbled streets that are only open to pedestrians, is also the home to some interesting shops, restaurants, bars and tea houses. Recently restored you will also find here the Sugar Museum. Housed in what was originally the 15th century house of a rich sugar merchant (João Esmeraldo, friend to Christopher Columbus) on Madeira, the Sugar Museum is essential viewing exploring the history of sugar plantations and the sugar trade on Madeira. The museum offers a fascinating insight into the sugar trade here with maps, charts and artifacts, recently excavated, related to the Sugar Trade all on display.


Rua Fernão Ornelas

This must be one of the liveliest roads in Funchal, filled with various kinds of shops to suite everyone’s needs. In 2005 the pedestrian pavements where expanded to accommodate all the passing traffic and all the buildings where freshly painted to give this road a unique feel about it. Most of the shops where also revamped to keep up with the times and this is where you will go if you’re looking for clothing, shoes, furniture, jewelry, leather goods, banks, various accessories, etc. Down the bottom end is where you will find one of the biggest supermarkets of Funchal, as well as a small shopping center with quite a few, good priced restaurants. At the very end of the road you will find the famous workers market.


Mercado dos Lavradores

This is absolutely a must see! Here you will find a huge variety of vegetables, exotic fruits and fish in a very picturesque setting near the Old City of Funchal. At the entrance, you will find the flower sellers dressed in their traditional colourful costumes, which again add to the vibrancy of this magical place, selling their variety of flowers next to their spectacular stalls. Inside, there are two floors and a huge central courtyard, where vendors engage in a direct and personalized sale of day-to-day products. You will even be allowed to do a bit of tasting before you buy. (A popular exotic fruit to taste is a cross between a pineapple and a banana). At the back section of the market, you will find the fish market. Here you will see fish freshly caught (some are brought in still alive)from all over Madeira and brought here to sell. Well known will be the black scabbard fish with its huge eyes, razor sharp teeth and long eel like body. Its a deep sea fish that dies as it is brought up to the surface. Its white flesh is surprisingly tasty and is served all over Madeira grilled of fried with banana – a dish known as ESPADA. Its really tasty – although its best to try it before you see it in the market!


Forte de São Tiago

The beautiful Forte de Sao Tiago that was used to protect the city of Funchal from possible invasions can be found just adjacent to the old town. The fort has nice small watchtowers and sentinel boxes from the 17th century. The fort is open for the public and has some amazing views from its towers and courtyards. It is now a museum, that has undergone some renovation and now houses several museums including the Military Museum of Madeira and the Museum of Contemporary Art, a collection of work acquired and donated by the artists themselves.


Zona Velha

Funchal’s most charming district, The Old Town, as it is called, was the first nucleus to be built after the beginning of colonization during the 15th century. Strolling through the narrow streets one can enjoy some of the old culture that’s left in this particular part of town. A lot of the old constructions still exist, some of which have been transformed into typical restaurants and bars. Most are centered around squares, but in the little cobbled alleyways there are plenty of choices too. There are restaurants located on the first floor of old buildings that have lovely small roof patios with beautiful views on the zona velha and the sea. This is where you will enjoy dinners, lunches or snacks and drinks.


Funchal Palácio de São Lourenço

Funchal’s first fortress was only built in the years 1529 to 1540 on a plea by the population of Funchal after a ship, moored in the harbor of Funchal, had been pillaged. But the construction completed until the second half of the 16th century was not really appropriate for all fortification needs and consequently it succumbed easily to the attacks of the French pirates in 1566. In the following years until up to the 19th century, many improvements, alterations and extensions to the original primitive construction were made so that the Palácio de São Lourenço that has survived until today, belongs to one of the best-preserved examples of Portuguese fortification from the 16th and 17th century. It was classified as a National Monument in August 1943, and now serves as residence for the Prime Minister and the Military Command of Madeira.

Marina & Harbour

The beautiful marina in Funchal is a bustling place with a numerous variety of boats, waiting to take tourists on trips along the coast or on fishing trips. In the adjoining harbour, many cruise ships, of various forms and sizes dock there, sometimes up to five at a time. A favorite pastime seems to watch them enter and leave the harbor, either from the pier or from one of the numerous restaurants that make up the marina.

Marina & Harbour

Things to do & see in Funchal