Field of flowers in the Jardim Botanico da Madeira

Funchal sights: The 14 highlights for your first visit

Funchal is by far the largest city on the Atlantic island of Madeira. And although the Portuguese island is better known for its nature, it’s worth taking a closer look at Funchal. In this article, I’ll tell you the 14 best Funchal sights.

45% of all Madeira’s inhabitants live in Funchal, almost half. The houses were built very far into the surrounding mountain slopes, as otherwise there would not have been enough space.

Häuser in Bergen in Funchal
The clouds hang low over the city. But it is usually sunny in Funchal.

That’s what makes this city so special for me. Steep streets lead up to new parts of the city and the further up you climb, the more beautiful the views become. There are many places where the originality of Madeira has been preserved even in this big city.

Funchal also has some very special hideaways to offer in the middle of the city. The interplay of gardens, flower fields and rows of houses is what gives the city its variety and special atmosphere. And no matter what time of year you come to Funchal. Something is always in bloom, even in winter.

Bunte Blumen in den Palheiro Gärten in Funchal.
Funchal is colorful at any time of year.

Just read on to find your favorite place of the Funchal sights presented here.


Monte Palace Botanical Garden

Stroll through one of the most beautiful gardens in the world

The Monte Palace Madeira is a museum and a huge botanical garden. There are 1000-year-old olive trees, Japanese gardens, a row of azulejos depicting the history of Portugal from the 12th to the 20th century, several ponds with koi fish and great views over Funchal.

Quite green: The upper area of the Monte Palace botanical garden has many elements of China and Japan.

I am a fan of botanical gardens. Especially those in Andalusia and Portugal. And I have to say that the Monte Palace Madeira really is one of the most beautiful. The €12.50 entrance fee is definitely worth it. You will definitely need 2-3 hours to explore it. I even spent a whole 4 hours here.

Monte Palace botanischer Garten in Madeira. Mann steht auf Brücke
In addition to nature, there is plenty of art to discover in the Monte Palace botanical garden.

Admission also includes a map of the park and a glass of Madeira wine, which you can enjoy in one of the two cafés overlooking Funchal. You can also take cool pictures of the sledgers from the western wall of the garden.

Korbschlittenfahrt in Funchal auf Madeira
The basket sled drivers push tourists down the mountains of Funchal at full speed.
Blick über Funchal
The view from Monte Palace over Funchal is also not to be sneezed at.

Carreros do Monte

Race down the town on a traditional basket sledge

The rides on the traditional sledges are one of the top attractions in Funchal. However, at around €30 for a 10-minute ride, it’s not exactly cheap. I saved myself the trouble.

Korbschlitten werden auf dem Berg von Monte vorbereitet
The Carreros do Monte are the traditional means of transportation between Monte and the city of Funchal – nowadays mainly for tourists.

But just watching the scenery was an experience in itself. And it’s free of charge.

A convivial murmur emanates from the pub at number 182. Some of the drivers have probably already finished work and prefer to watch soccer. A group is playing cards on the wall opposite. The others are standing in line waiting for new guests. One adjusts his traditional straw hat, another takes a leisurely drag on his cigarette. Business as usual. Suddenly, two colleagues start arguing loudly in the middle of the street. Hands are waved back and forth and wild gestures are exchanged. I don’t understand what they are discussing in Portuguese. Perhaps one of them has taken a guest away from the other. The whole battle of words only lasts a few seconds. Then they both disappear into the pub at number 182. All I can see through the window is them ordering something together at the bar.

from my travel notes
Korbschlittenfahrer Funchal
The basket sledge drivers are waiting for a few guests on a quieter day.

Cable car Teleférico

Discover Funchal from above

The Teleférico is a cable car that takes you from Funchal Marina over the rooftops of the city to Monte, right in front of the entrance to the Monte Palace Botanical Gardens.

Funchal’s cable car takes you from the coast to the mountains.

With a ticket for €18 (return), you can discover Funchal in comfort from above. A single ride costs just €12.50. There is also another cable car that takes you to the Jardim Botânico. If you want to explore both botanical gardens in one day without a car, then the combined ticket for €35 is worthwhile. This includes the return journey and admission to the gardens.


Jardim Botânico Funchal

Enjoy the scent of thousands of exotic plants

The flower field in this botanical garden is one of Funchal’s most famous sights. The park was established in 1960 and a total of 2,500 exotic plants grow here, including many colorful flowers.

Blumenfeld im Jardim Botanico da Madeira
A field of flowers in the Jardim Botanico da Madeira.

It’s impressive what’s still blooming at the end of October, the time of my trip, and how fragrant these flowers are. If I could somehow upload the scent and make it available here, I would. You’ll just have to do it yourself and travel to Madeira.

Exotische Pflanzen Madeira
Exotic plants bloom all year round in Madeira.

You will need around 1-2 hours to sniff your way through all the plants here. The entrance fee is €7.50 (without the cable car). The only thing that bothered me about the park was the noise of the cars passing by on the highway.


Palheiro Gardens

Wander through a landscape park without many tourists

The Palheiro Gardens are less of a botanical garden and more of a large landscaped park. Although there are also exotic plants here, there is also a golf course, a hotel and a villa with a garden.

Palheiro Gärten Funchal
Exotic plants bloom here in forests with trees from Australia and New Zealand. In the background you can see the villa, where the owners’ family still live today.

Especially if you are looking for peace and quiet and want to go somewhere where there are no crowds of tourists, I can recommend these gardens. They are located a little further east, outside the city and can be reached by car or cab.

What particularly struck me here was the buzzing of the bees and bumblebees. Apart from that, you don’t hear much. No car noise, no chatter. I was here on a Sunday lunchtime in October and was only the third guest.

Eidechse in exotischer Pflanze
The lizards also appreciate the tranquillity of the Palheiro Gardens.

For €16, you get a piece of cake, a coffee or tea and a glass of Madeira wine in addition to admission. The normal entrance fee is €11

The park was once created by the British Blandy family as a private retreat. Over the years, the owners brought in rare plants and trees from all over the world. But the British roots are also evident. Just walking along the path from the entrance, I felt a bit like I was strolling through a British county.

Der Hauptbereich der Palheiro Gärten
The main area of the Palheiro Gardens is in the English style.

The family still lives on the estate today. However, access to the villa is not permitted. Incidentally, the family name is the same family that still produces the famous Madeira wine itself and offers it in its Wine Lodge. The family also has further influence with the ownership of hotels, media companies and real estate. 2-3 hours are enough to see the whole park.


Nossa Senhora do Monte church

Visit the holy patron saint of Funchal

The church in Monte is the most important pilgrimage church in Madeira. It was named after the patron saint of Funchal: The “Church of Our Lady of Monte”.

Die Treppe zur Monte Kirche.
The stairs to the Monte church.

You can also visit the church from the inside. There are some gold and silver pieces to admire here, as well as the tomb of Emperor Charles I, who went into exile in Madeira after the First World War.


Mercado dos Lavradores

Buy great souvenirs

The Mercado dos Lavradores is the “farmers’ market” in the middle of the historic Santa Maria district. It takes place here every day, except Sundays, in a building built in 1940 and decorated with many beautiful azulejos.

Funchal Mercado dos Lavradores
You won’t find the Mercado dos Lavradores this quiet and empty. The photo was taken on a Sunday.

Traders sell all kinds of fruit, vegetables, flowers and potted plants at their stalls. You are sure to find a souvenir or two here.


Rua de Santa Maria

Take a look at Funchal’s street art

Rua de Santa Maria leads from the market hall to the old Forte de São Tiago and is one of the oldest and most famous streets in Funchal.

Rua de Santa Maria
The Rua de Santa Maria.

There are plenty of restaurants and bars here. But the street is particularly popular because of the many painted doors on the street itself and in its side streets. These have been painted partly by artists and partly by ordinary residents. Even abandoned and dilapidated buildings have been refurbished for tourism.

Türen entlang der Rua de Santa Maria
There are over 200 of these painted doors to admire along the Rua de Santa Maria.

Fábrica Santo António

Taste local delicacies

Fábrica Santo António was founded in 1893, making it one of the oldest still in operation. The store in Funchal is dedicated to the local delicacies of Madeira, especially the sweets. So it’s no wonder that the store is also very popular with tourists.

Fábrica Santo António Funchal
Sample local delicacies at the Fábrica Santo António.

There are typical Madeiran pastries such as honey cake, queijadas or bolo de mel, a spice cake with sugar cane syrup. The cool thing is that you can really try a lot here before you buy it.


Belmondo Reid’s Palace Hotel

Celebrate afternoon tea time

The Hotel Belmonds Reid’s Palace is the top address for hotels in Madeira. It is over 100 years old and many famous personalities have been guests here. An overnight stay is correspondingly expensive.

But even if you are not a guest of the hotel, you can at least try to sign up for afternoon tea time. Here you can enjoy scones, sandwiches and homemade pastries from the hotel terrace with a wonderful view. You can book a table here from 15:00.


Fishing village Camara de Lobos

Explore the oldest town in Madeira

Camara de Lobos, just west of Funchal, is considered to be Madeira’s first settlement. The Portuguese explorer João Gonçalves Zarco is said to have landed here in 1418. A visit to this historic village is worthwhile for this reason alone.

bunte Bote im Hafen von Camara dos Lobos
The colorful boats anchor in the port of Camara dos Lobos.

There is a miradouro here where Winston Churchill once set up his easel during a visit to Madeira and painted the coast. Since then, the locals have aptly named the viewpoint Miradouro Winston Churchill. And when the local fishermen are not fishing in the sea on their boats, they are probably standing in this spot playing cards.


Blandy’s Wine Lodge

Drink original Madeira wine

Blandy’s wine is the only one in Madeira that is still produced by the original founders. The Blandy family has been producing Madeira wine in Madeira since 1811. It is already the seventh generation of the family.

Their history is preserved at Blandy’s Wine Lodge. You can book a tour here to learn about the history of the family and Madeira wine. You can also just do a tasting and buy Madeira wine.


Funchals coastine

Stroll along the marina

I found the pedestrian zone around the Marina do Funchal and Praça do Povo to be one of the most beautiful places in bustling Funchal. Take an exploratory walk from Santa Catarina Park past the CR7 Museum to the Forte de São Tiago.

Funchal’s marina is particularly beautiful at sunset.

Garajau beach

Relax in the sun

Garajau beach is located a little further east of Funchal in Caniço, directly below the Christo Rei statue.

garajau Strand bei Funchal von oben
Welcome to paradise.

Getting to the beach by car is a little difficult as there is only one narrow road on which two cars cannot fit side by side. Once you reach the bottom, however, a well-maintained pebble beach with only a few tourists, clean sanitary facilities and a restaurant awaits you.

Other sights in Madeira

Some of the Funchal sights in this article are located just outside the city. But there is much more to discover on Madeira. You can find the best sights on the island and lots of vacation tips here:

20 Madeira sights for your unforgettable Madeira vacation

The most helpful Madeira tips: To make your vacation unforgettable

Which Funchal attraction is your favorite? I look forward to a comment from you.

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