Why travel to Funchal?
Funchal, the picturesque capital of the Madeira Islands, is a true gem in the mid-Atlantic. Situated on the edge of a sparkling bay against a backdrop of lush, towering mountains, this charming town attracts travellers with its winding cobbled streets, elegant colonial-style architecture, and deep-rooted history. The historic centre of Funchal overlooks the bustling harbour, decorated with government buildings and stately 18th-century mansions. The Sé Cathedral, a whitewashed beauty built between 1486 and 1514, boasts a magnificent Madeira cedar wood Mudejar ceiling and a lavish Baroque golden Sacramento chapel. The Quinta das Cruzes, now a museum, was once the residence of João Gonçalves Zarco, the discoverer of the island, and is an intriguing window into the past. Nearby you can find the 16th-century Santa Clara Church which houses his final resting place.
What to see, eat, drink and things to do in Funchal
For those interested in wine, the Old Blandy Wine Lodge, situated within the 17th-century Convent of São Francisco, offers guided tours of its cellars and delightful wine-tasting sessions.
Food lovers must spend at least a morning shopping at the farmers market, Mercado Lavradores. You will find colourful tropical fruit and vegetable stands all around the market. Check out the fresh fish stalls with a variety of locally caught fish like the Espada (Black scabbard fish), tuna, etc… There are some terrace restaurants outside the market to sit and taste fish and seafood like the delicious Grilled Lapas (limpets) in garlic butter!
Nature enthusiasts can explore the Botanical Gardens, home to a wide variety of vegetation from around the world, including desert cacti, rainforest orchids, and South African proteas. The thrilling Madeira Toboggan Ride on Traditional Wicker Basket Sledges from Monte, originally a form of passenger transport in the 19th century, remains a must-try experience.
Funchal is also a gateway to various active adventures, with nearby golf courses, opportunities for paragliding, canoeing from the harbour, and mountain biking trails across the island. Art enthusiasts will admire Funchal´s art galleries, including the Museu de Arte Contemporânea and the Museu de Arte Sacra, both boasting impressive collections.
And don't forget the bathing complexes not far from Funchal, such as Barreirinha Beach Complex with saltwater swimming pools, Ponta Gorda, and resorts in Porto Santo.
If you are seeking natural wonders, from Funchal you can visit Curral das Freiras, a deep valley location known as the "Nuns' Refuge," situated near the centre of the island. You can also take in the breathtaking views from Cabo Girão, the world's second-highest sea cliff, which stands at a height of almost 600 metres. For a more relaxed escape, the pretty fishing village of Câmara de Lobos, to the west of Funchal, offers spectacular views of the surrounding landscape.
Funchal is a city of a wide range of experiences, where history, culture, nature, and adventure come together in perfect harmony. Whether you are exploring its historic architecture, sipping on Madeira wine, taking part in adrenaline-rushed activities, immersing yourself in art and culture, or simply enjoying the beautiful surroundings, Funchal has something to offer every traveller.
Our food experts have chosen the best tour operators offering tours with food, wine, and walking holidays in Funchal. You can check our full list of things to do in Funchal: top food tours to Funchal and top boutique hotels in the sections of the travel to Funchal destination guide.
Population: 111,992 (2023) inhabitants