Madeira is one of Europe’s most beautiful locations and is an enduringly popular choice of holiday destination for discerning travellers. With its charming island culture and several spectacular attractions, there are plenty of top travel experiences in Madeira to whet your appetite. Also Madeira has just been chosen for the fifth time as Europe’s ‘best island destination’ at the World Travel Awards 2018, the tourism “Oscars”.
From where to stay, where to eat and where to experience the hottest attractions, don’t miss our ultimate travel guide to Madeira.
Take in some of the island’s finest countryside and walk along the ‘Levadas’; a prime walking territory that was used to distribute water from the mountains to the fields in the 16th century. The scenery is picture perfect and Madeira’s Laurisilva forest – the world’s largest laurel forest – is a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site.
Stroll along the beautiful countryside filled with laurel forests and gaze up at the mountain peaks – or climb up to be rewarded with spectacular views of the coast.
An experienced and certified guide will help you safely explore the island’s natural heritage through a series of relaxing strolls or more adventurous hikes – and provide you with a fun and educational experience.
Situated near the gorgeous harbour, Madeira Aquarium is an absolute asset to the entertainment and cultural programme of Porto Moniz.
Madeira attracts a wide range of different underwater species, and this fascinating aquarium represents the various habitats of its marine world. Explore a total of 12 tanks and discover all sorts of beautiful creatures, from whales, sharks and dolphins to turtles, fish and rays.
The most impressive experience in Madeira Aquarium is being able to join the aquatic animals rather than just spotting them through the glass. Plunge into 500,000 litres of salt water and swim alongside sharks, rays, morays and hundreds of other fish. An experienced instructor will teach you how to use the equipment and breath underwater in an external natural pool, prior to your dive. Let your friends or family watch from the other side of the glass and take some exclusive snaps of you and your underwater buddies.
Funchal Municipal Museum
Created in 1929, Funchal Municipal Museum is the oldest museum in the Madeira Islands and sits in São Pedro Palace.
All kinds of animals fill the museum cabinets, including fish, birds, sea and land mammals, marine reptiles and insects, along with a collection of rocks and minerals from the archipelago and marine fossils from Porto Santo.
Check out the Municipal Aquarium located on the bottom floor of the museum, where you can explore the colourful wildlife across 15 tanks.
Madeira’s Flower Festival
The iconic Flower Festival takes place in Madeira every spring when the flowers begin to blossom. Funchal’s shops, streets and houses are covered with brightly-coloured blooms, while dancers parade through the streets dressed in flower-bedecked costumes. This enchanting festival spreads a fairy tale ambiance all over the city centre, with magic to appeal to flower lovers of all ages.
This is certainly the highlight of the island’s events calendar, so why not join the carnival to spice up your spring?
Visit the island’s wonderful beaches
If you’re looking for coconuts and white sandy beaches, then Madeira probably isn’t the place for you with its black volcanic sands. However, the island’s beaches are renowned for their crystal-clear waters and ideal temperatures.
It’s well-worth hopping over to Porto Santo beach for a delicious beach experience, located on Madeira’s sister island, Porto Santo Island, which boasts a blissful and undeveloped stretch with warm golden sands. Admire the volcanic peaks ahead and watch the waves foam against the cliffs and coves. Lay across the 10-kilometre stretch and bask in the island sunshine.
Alternatively, Ponta do Sol is renowned for being the perfect beach to watch the sun set, where you can admire the picturesque colours on the sea’s horizon.
Praia Formosa is without question the major tourist hot spot, being the largest public beach in Madeira. This entertainment hub has a children’s playground, a football pitch, restaurants and bars – all overlooking delicious crystalline waters.
Indulge in the finest food on the island
Eating out in Madeira is a mouth-watering culinary experience, where you can savour some of the finest local delights and international cuisine.
For passionate foodies, heading to Il Gallo D’Oro Restaurant is a must, given that it’s the only two Michelin star restaurant on the island. Offering Iberian and Mediterranean inspired cuisine and a wine cellar filled with exclusive Portuguese wines, this is the ultimate place to visit for an authentic and luxurious wine and dine experience.
Located on Avenida Arriaga in central Funchal, The Ritz Madeira is one of the oldest cafes and restaurants on the island, delivering friendly hospitality every day of the week, all year round. With a large open-air esplanade and first floor terrace that overlook the majestic colourful gardens, and a backdrop of the Madeira mountains, this hot spot is the perfect place to soak up the sunshine and savour some of their culinary delights. Renowned for its freshly baked cakes, homemade gelatos and desserts, and luxurious afternoon tea, The Ritz Madeira also serves the finest local fresh fish and gourmet steaks. For a spot of dinner alongside some evening entertainment, head to this hot spot on a Saturday evening, where the restaurant upstairs hosts dinner at 7:00pm followed by a spectacular show where you can dance the night away.
If you’re keen to indulge in the best local food in Madeira, head to O Tasco, a laid-back restaurant that specialises in Madeiran cuisine. Enjoy the tapas-style appetisers before savouring your main dish, where you can count on exceptionally fresh fish.
Stay in the Allegro Madeira
The brand new Allegro Madeira is a stunning adults-only hotel that launched 1 June 2018 and is already booking up fast for summer 2018. Located just two kilometres from the island’s capital Funchal, and 500 metres from the famous Promenade de Lado, this 124 room, adults-only hotel is ideal for couples and friends looking for some R&R and year-round sunshine. With a modern exterior that also reflects a sense of place with the use of traditional Portuguese tiles, this emblematic building commands panoramic views of the Atlantic sea. The hotel’s rooftop bar, Tiles 360, is the pièce de résistance – the perfect setting to enjoy a cocktail with a view.
When it comes to food, you can dine at Restaurant Lido, which serves local and international cuisine using homegrown produce, where possible, to ensure it is of the freshest quality. In addition to the restaurant and Rooftop Bar, you can indulge in some snacks and refreshments at the Pool Bar, and the Lounge Bar offers an alternative space to relax with a book and enjoy a coffee or cocktail.
If you’re feeling active and you’re ready to get the juices flowing, the hotel has an onsite gym and outdoor pool, as well as the possibility to rent a bike to explore the island. Alternatively, those in need of some R&R can enjoy a relaxing massage in one of two massage rooms.