If you’re looking for things to do in Funchal, you have come to the right place. Madeira had never really been a place that was top of my bucketlist but after a recent opportunity to travel there with Traverse Events and Visit Madeira, I fell head over heels for this beautiful island.
I guess sometimes when you go somewhere with no expectations, you come back realising that you overlooked a destination entirely. From the stunning mountains lining the ocean front to the smell of freshly baked bolo do caco bread and garlic butter, I left Madeira knowing that I’d be returning as soon as I possibly could.
I’d love to explore more of the island during my next visit but as Funchal was my main base during my stay, I wanted to share some of my highlights.
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Things To Do In Funchal, Madeira
Enjoy A Drink On The Marina
Although I was only in Madeira for a couple of days, I still found lots of time to enjoy a few drinks on the Marina. With the hustle and bustle of the Old Town behind you and the calm of the sea in front, it’s the perfect spot to enjoy a glass (or two) of sangria.
Take A Stroll Around Santa Catarina Park
Located just off of the marina, Santa Catarina Park has stunning views across Funchal (as well as some incredible flora and fauna). Two of the key features within the park are the lake and Santa Catarina Chapel – the first chapel of Funchal. While it’s not open to the public, it’s a key part of the island’s rich history.
Take The Cable Car Up To Monte Palace
One of, if not the most, popular things to do in Funchal is to take the cable car up to the top of the mountains. With the best views over the city, it really is a must-do for anyone visiting.
The journey takes around 7 minutes in total and takes you to Monte Palace and Gardens (which are also worth exploring if you have the time).
Watch The Sun Rise Above The Clouds At Pico Do Areeiro
One of the highlights of my trip was definitely seeing the sun rise above the clouds. While I wasn’t a fan of the 5:00 am start, it was all worth it for the incredible views. While there are a few places to see the sunrise in Madeira, Pico Do Areeiro is definitely one of the most popular. With the option to drive to a number of different viewpoints, you can experience the epic sunrise without having to hike in the early hours of the morning.
About Pico Do Areeiro: Pico do Areeiro, at 1,818 m, is Madeira Island’s third-highest peak. When it is clear, visitors can look down at the clouds and feel the fresh air and bright sunlight on their skin. On a clear day, the island of Porto Santo, 48 kilometres to the northeast, can also be seen.
We got incredibly lucky during our visit as apparently, it’s not often you’ll see the sunrise as clear as we did. Most of the time, the view is slightly obstructed by the clouds.
Spend The Night At A Poncha Bar
You can’t go to Madeira and not try their signature drink, Poncha. Although just a few of these is enough to have you dancing on the tables, it certainly makes for a good day out. If you’re staying in the Old Town, you’ll find TONNES of Poncha bars dotted around with prices starting at about 4 Euros a drink! I only tried the passionfruit version but can confirm, that stuff is STRONG.
What Is Poncha? Created in Câmara de Lobos, the fishing village, Poncha was previously made with brandy cane sugar, lemon peel and sugar. Now, there is a wide range of flavours (including mandarin and passion fruit).
Go Local Beer Tasting At The Beerhouse
Finding The Beerhouse was a happy little surprise, but I am so glad I did. With a variety of different local beers brewed right there in the brewery, it’s a great place to sit and watch the world go by in the sunshine. We ordered ourselves a flight of beers to try and I can report, both the honey beer and banana beer are definitely the best. If you’ve got some time to kill, you can even order a giraffe of your favourite beer.
Go On A Catamaran Sunset Cruise To See Dolphins And Whales
When looking for things to do in Funchal, a dolphin and whale cruise should be top of your list. You can either do this by booking a cruise during the day or by going on one of their famous sunset cruises along the coast of Madeira.
Before heading on this trip I wasn’t overly excited about seeing dolphins and so I didn’t plan on adding a cruise to my list. By happy accident, however, we were able to see some dolphins and our sunset cruise and it honestly made the trip. You can see how much they loved playing with the boat and showing off for us, which excited everyone even more. It was amazing to see them happy in their natural habitat and it truly did make the cruise that little bit extra special.
When travelling by catamaran to see the dolphins, you will only get ten minutes with them before you move on so as not to disturb them for too long. Of course, the excitement doesn’t stop there as you get to see the sunset on the horizon.
To book either of these activities, I suggest using Get Your Guide!
Try Madeiran Wine At Blandy’s
This was something I added to my list of things to do while I was doing some research but unfortunately, I didn’t have the time. Lots of others in the group, however, had the chance to go during their food and wine tour. For just under 12 Euros, you can find out how Madeiran wine is made and sample 4 of their most popular options.
Why is Madeiran wine unique? Many centuries ago, Madeira casks were used as ballast by sailing ships headed to India. As a result of the intense heat during the voyage, the wine was improved rather than damaged, and this method of ageing became commonplace. As a result, the fortified wine is now world-famous.
Ride The Famous Madeiran Toboggan
If you find yourself looking down at Funchal from Monte, there are two ways to get back down to the Old Town. One, the way you came up (cable car) or two, the famous Madeiran Toboggans.
Take a ride down the toboggan run on a traditional basket sledge dating from the early 19th century which was used by the locals for quick trips between Monte and Funchal.
Toboggan riding from Monte has been a popular tourist attraction for many years, but how do you get down? Well, there are two runners diving the Toboggans, each wearing a straw boater hat and dressed in white. It takes about 10 minutes to descend from Monte to Livramento, which is approximately 2 kilometres.
While I didn’t do this myself, my partner did and he said it was super fun! Not as fast as he was thinking, but a great way to get down the hill. Tickets are roughly 15 Euros per person and can be bought in advance on Get Your Guide.
Visit The CR7 Museum and Enjoy A Cocktail (Or Two) On The Rooftop Bar
Funchal is the birthplace of Cristiano Ronaldo, so of course, there are lots of places where he is celebrated. As you walk along the marina, for example, you will come across a statue of him outside of the CR7 Museum. For fans, this is definitely a must-see!
Afterwards, you can head to the rooftop bar of the CR7 Hotel above to enjoy a couple of cocktails as the sun sets along the bay. The lights dotted across the mountains look absolutely stunning as it starts to get darker, and this is one of the best places to witness that.
Go On An Afternoon Trip To Porto Moniz Natural Pools and Seixal Beach
Located on the northwest side of the island, Porto Moniz is an adorable little town that’s definitely worth a visit. The main attraction, however, is the Porto Moniz Natural Pools. Formed by volcanic rock and volcanic lava, these stunning natural pools are open to the public to enjoy. For just 3 Euros entry, you can spend the afternoon swimming in the sea or if you prefer, sunbathing. There are some shops, a cafe and other bits around if swimming isn’t for you.
Top Tip: although the name suggests the pools are warm, they’re filled with water from the Atlantic, so be prepared for a bit of a chill when you first get in.
Just 15 minutes from the natural pools is Seixal Beach, a black sand beach with stunning mountain-lined views that look like they’re straight out of Jurassic Park. Although we didn’t spend too much time here, it was well worth it for the view alone. If you fancy a little bit of exploring you can also go for a walk along the coastline where you’ll find lots of rocks, crabs and… dinosaurs.
Alternatively, you can jump off the pier into the crystal clear waters for a swim.
Feel The Adrenaline On A Madeira Jeep Tour
While I didn’t go on a jeep tour, lots of the people I was travelling with did and they said it was the highlight of the trip for them! Whether you follow a set route or let your drivers know exactly where it is you want to go, you can have a real-life jeep adventure right here on the island. If you love an adrenaline rush, this is for you!
Try A Prego Especial Sandwich
When I tell you this is the NICEST sandwich I have eaten, I am not lying. Before my trip, I was reading up on the food I needed to try in Madeira and came across Teresa’s blog, here. The prego sandwich stood out to me the most (bread, steak and garlic butter – what more could I want?) so I added it to the top of my Maderia must-try list.
While there, I discovered that there’s also a prego especial so of course, it was the first thing I ordered. The sandwich consists of a thin steak slice, cheese, ham, lettuce, tomato and often a fried egg all on delicious garlic buttered bolo do caco (Madeiran bread). The combination is SO perfect that I ended up having at least one of these a day and honestly, I’d eat them every day at home if I could.
If you’re not into meat but want to try something Madeiran, order bolo do caco bread with garlic butter. You won’t regret it!
Take A Photo With The Madeira Sign
Completely touristy, but a must! The Madeira sign, located on the marina, is just as colourful as you’d expect.
Top tip: to get the whole sign-in from a straight-on angle, use the 0.5px setting on your phone.
Wander The Colourful Old Town (Zona Velha)
Both of my hotels were located in the Old Town, so I spent a lot of time in this area. As a lover of Old Towns no matter where I go, Funchal’s Old Town was definitely my favourite part of the island (that I was able to explore). With cobbled streets, adorable little cafes and colourful buildings everywhere you look, it was easy to spend hours just wandering around and looking at your surroundings. The next few suggestions are things that are specifically in the Old Town, so chances are if you’re in the area, you’ll come across them.
Go On A Mini Photo Walk Of Funchals ‘Doors’
One of the most famous streets in Funchal is Rua De Santa Maria, home to the Painted Doors Project. The purpose of this public art project is to promote one of the most emblematic areas of downtown Funchal as an attractive cultural centre and permanent art gallery. Several (very talented) guest artists have painted decorative prints on doors of houses, shops and other premises so if you’re looking for something a little different, it’s well worth a walk.
Visit The Mercado Dos Lavradores
Built in 1940, the farmer’s market is a popular place for both locals and tourists. If you’re in the old town and want to experience some of Funchal’s history, it’s definitely worth stopping by.
Discover Sé Cathedral
The cathedral is located in the city centre and was built during the reign of Dom Manuel. Whether you admire the beauty from the outside or spend some time enjoying the interiors, make sure you add this to your Old Town list of things to do.
Witness The Atlantic Festival
While this one is very time-specific, the Atlantic Festival is something not to be missed if you’re visiting Madeira in June. As a celebration of the start of the summer season, this festival combines all of your senses for one big party. The main events, taking place every Saturday in June, include live music and fireworks shows. Qe were lucky enough to watch the fireworks from a private catamaran on the ocean and honestly, it was so magical.
Seeing the fireworks with the lights of Funchal behind is something I know I won’t be forgetting for a long time.
Five days was absolutely not enough time in Madeira and I feel like I didn’t even touch the surface, but I hope this list of things to do in Funchal has given you some inspiration for your trip! I know I’ll definitely be back, so I’ll be adding to this list when I do!