Things to do in Funchal: Discovering Madeira's Enchanting Capital
Stunning landscapes, delicious food and outstanding architecture - Funchal has it all
When dreaming of off-the-beaten-track escapes, you cannot get more remote than Madeira -the volcanic archipelago that punctuates the Atlantic Ocean, off the northwest coast of Africa. The four islands are celebrated for their spectacular natural beauty, offering visitors captivating landscapes and a treasure trove of natural wonders to explore. The best place to get to know Madeira? The vibrant capital of Funchal! From its historic charm and inviting cultural experiences, this enchanting city beckons the discerning traveller. Join us on a journey as we unveil the best things to do in Funchal, a destination that epitomises the essence of Madeira.
What is the best time of year to visit the Funchal attractions?
With a steady climate that oscillates around 20ºC throughout the year, Funchal offers plenty of opportunities to explore. It is worth noting that, just like the Canary Islands, the archipelago has a microclimate which causes the weather to vary in different parts of the islands. That being said, each season offers something uniquely fun to enjoy. From flower carpets and parades in the spring, warm beach days in the summer and the bountiful grape harvest in autumn to the more tranquil winter months brought to life with the sparkle of Christmas lights - you will never be short of Funchal things to do.
The impressive landscapes of Funchal
One of the top things to do in Funchal is discovering its historic splendour
Step foot into the picturesque area of the city known as Funchal’s Old Town. Centuries of history are woven together amidst the narrow cobbled streets and colourful buildings adorned with wrought-iron balconies. Marvel at the city's rich architectural heritage. Explore the majestic 15th century, Sé Cathedral, an architectural gem that exudes grandeur and tranquillity. It is often listed as one of the best places to visit in Funchal and its intricate designs and stunning views over the city help make it a landmark that’s not to be missed. Then, hop into one of the old town’s quaint cafés to enjoy a bite to eat before heading off to explore the rest of the city.
A street in Funchal’s city centre
Explore some of the more unusual things to do in Funchal and head into nature
Madeira knows how to embrace nature in all its glory and there are endless things to do in Funchal that allow you to explore captivating landscapes that will leave you spellbound. Catch a cable car and journey to the Monte Palace Tropical Garden, where exotic flora and tranquil ponds create an enchanting oasis. Disconnect from the buzz of city life as you stroll through its meticulously landscaped paths, encountering stunning sculptures and breathtaking views along the way. Then, when it is time to return back, hop onto one of the iconic basket carts and enjoy a much-loved Funchal tradition.
If you need an extra fix of nature, the Madeira Botanical Garden is a haven of serenity
If you need an extra fix of nature while visiting Funchal, the Madeira Botanical Garden is a haven of serenity that showcases a vast collection of plants from around the world. Another option for nature lovers looking for things to see in Funchal is Pico do Arieiro where the clouds dance with the mountains, offering a surreal and awe-inspiring experience. The views from this lookout are breathtaking and well worth the visit.
The botanical garden of Monte Palace
Savouring Madeiran gastronomy is a Funchal must-do
Your taste buds will rejoice as you delve into Funchal's vibrant culinary scene, renowned for its fresh flavours and unique delicacies. Where better to begin your gastronomic adventure than the Mercado dos Lavradores, one of the most celebrated places to visit in Funchal for foodies, located a stone’s throw from the main plaza Praça do Município. This bustling market exhibits colourful displays of fruits, vegetables, and local specialties to entice your senses. The friendly vendors are keen to offer samples of exotic fruits like passion fruit and custard apples. Yet, for a true taste of Madeira, sample the succulent espetada, a skewered meat dish cooked over an open fire, and savour the iconic bolo do caco, a traditional Madeiran bread served warm and slathered with garlic butter. Wine making is a big part of Madeira’s culture and when trying the typical dishes, there is no better way to complement your meal than with a glass of Madeira wine.
The Praça do Município, the central plaza in Funchal
Discover fun things to do in Funchal city
Once you have refuelled with delicious Madeiran cuisine, it is time to explore the city. Funchal is a cultural playground that offers a rich tapestry of experiences. Of course, when Funchal it is hard not to ignore the fact that it is Cristiano Ronaldo’s hometown. Discover his story from local hero to global icon at the CR7 Museum, a tribute to the legendary footballer. Admire the impressive collection of memorabilia, including jerseys, boots, and trophies, that showcase Ronaldo's extraordinary achievements. If football is not your passion, there are plenty of other top things to do in Funchal.
The Madeira Story Centre offers visitors a fantastic way to study the history of the region from its volcanic origins to its vibrant present
The Madeira Story Centre offers visitors a fantastic way to study the history of the region from its volcanic origins to its vibrant present. The interactive exhibits and engaging archival footage ensure a truly immersive experience. Another one of the amazing things to do in Funchal is to discover the art galleries that dot the city, showcasing the works of local artists and providing a glimpse into Madeira's creative spirit. Art lovers will be in paradise when visiting The Frederico de Freitas Museum - a hidden gem, housing an eclectic collection of art and antiques in a charming historic mansion. Beach lovers will also enjoy the number of bathing spots located close to the Estrada Monumental prommenade, such as the Praia Formosa or the Praia Gorgulho.
The Estrada Monumental is a wonderful place for a stroll by the sea
Enjoy activities in Funchal and explore Ocean wildlife on an eco-friendly catamaran tour
Sustainability is more than just a buzzword, it is a way of life. Madeira may seem like a small archipelago but it is leading the way in sustainable tourism after having been recognised as an official sustainable tourism destination and awarded the silver award by Earthcheck. If you are looking for the best day trips from Funchal that won’t harm the environment, check out the variety of eco-friendly whale-watching tours on offer. These tours are designed to protect the Oceans and educate visitors on the importance of marine conservation. With boats specially equipped to cause minimal impact and guides educated in marine biology these tours promote the need to respect and protect the natural habitat of these impressive creatures. Since so much effort is taken to create a stress-free, clean environment for Ocean life, you can expect to see anything from Common Dolphins, Bottlenose Dolphins and Pilot Whales. Yet, it is worth noting that sightings largely depend on the seasons and the weather conditions at the time.
Immerse yourself in the traditional Funchal things to see and do
Connecting with the local community and celebrating their customs is a wonderful way to enjoy your holidays and as a result, discover different things to do in Funchal. The Carnival of Madeira is perhaps the most famous celebration. Around February each year, crowds flock to the streets of Funchal to enjoy the exuberant Carnival, where ornate costumes, lively music, and spirited dancing fill the streets with infectious energy. The Flower Festival which takes place between April and May offers an explosion of colour and fragrance as the city is adorned with intricate floral displays and mesmerising parades. And of course, if you are still on the hunt for fun things to do in Funchal, there are always other smaller festivals such as the Madeiran Rum Festival and the Onion Fest. So, regardless of when you book your trip, you can always join the locals and embrace the island’s culture.