55 of the Best Things to do in Madeira
For such a small island, Madeira is packed full of amazing places to see and things to do. It’s a Portuguese destination with a lot of culture and colour and the scenery here really is out of this world! If you’re planning a visit and want inspiration on the top things to do in Madeira, you’ve come to the right place.
In this guide, we share all of the top Madeira attractions and things to try during your time on the island. Experience the local food and drinks, go on an epic hike or check out the local beaches. Are traditional Portuguese towns your thing? We’ve included many! From adventure activities to relaxing walks, we’ve exhausted all options for things to do in this tropical paradise. Read on for 50 of the best things to do in Madeira.
1. Ride the Funchal cable car
Starting with Madeira’s capital, Funchal, a top thing to do in town is a ride on the Funchal Cable Car. The Teleférico Cable Car connects the city to the mountain-side town of Monte. It stretches from the promenade up to the hills of Monte, providing stunning views of Funchal on the way up and down. It’s a fun thing to do in Madeira for anyone that loves sightseeing.
2. Visit Monte palace tropical gardens
In Monte, at the top of the cable car ascent, you have the beautiful Monte Palace Tropical Gardens. Rich in forest terrain and tropical plants, this gorgeous garden area was designed by José Berardo and opened its doors in 1991. It features a grand palace at its centre, a series of unique red Japanese bridges and architecture and some cool art exhibits. The best thing about the tropical gardens is simply wandering around and getting lost amongst the many plants.
3. Wander around Funchal Botanical Gardens
A short cable car ride from Monte Palace Tropical Gardens is an equally as beautiful botanical gardens. Its collection of terraces have an wide array of tropical plants, flowers, cacti, palm trees and countless other unique flora and fauna. Go for a stroll along the walkways and admire this beautiful corner of Madeira.
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4. Try some tropical fruits at Lavradores Market
As a tropical island, Madeira is home to some amazing fruits that you probably haven’t even heard of. Lavradores Market in the centre of Funchal is a great place to sample some of the best. It’s way overpriced for what you get, but the fruits here are really cool. Custard Apples, Delicious Fruit and Madeiran Passion Fruit are all worth trying. Even if you don’t want to buy anything, the market is a nice place to visit for half an hour or so.
5. Order a glass of Poncha
Poncha is Madeira’s famous alcoholic drink, made from a special sugar-cane alcohol, sugar, honey and fresh fruit. It’s strong but delicious! Poncha comes in various different flavours and you can find it absolutely everywhere in Madeira. Passion fruit Poncha is probably our favourite, but you can also try orange, lemon or strawberry varieties.
6. Try Espetada, a hanging skewer of meat
For all the steak lovers out there, you’re definitely going to want to try Espetada. This traditional Madeiran dish consists of a hanging skewer with soft cuts of beef. Espetada refers to the hanging cooking method, so you can also order it with chicken, chorizo or other meats. It’s rich in flavour and is quite reasonably priced compared to other meat dishes.
7. Try Espada, black scabbard fish with banana
Another must-try dish in Madeira is black scabbard fish, otherwise known as Espada. It’s made of local scabbard fish, lightly fried in batter and covered with passion fruit sauce. It’s commonly served with a fried banana, potato and salad. The ingredients may seem mismatched, but it tastes great.
8. Grab a bite to eat at our favourite snack spot, O.Giro Churros & Paninis
Do you like churros? Be prepared to try the best churro that ever existed on Planet Earth. We’ve been to O Girro many times and just had to include it in our guide. They also do some excellent sandwiches and light lunch bites. You simply can’t leave Madeira without trying one of their churros. The restaurant is currently rated #1 in Funchal on Tripadvisor.
9. Admire the views from Pico Do Arriero
Pico do Arriero is an absolute must-see during your time in Madeira. It’s the third largest peak on the island, sitting at a staggering 1,818m above sea level. Visit on a day of clear skies and you’ll see the impressive mountain scenery in its full glory as you sit just above the clouds.
Many people visit Pico do Arriero as part of a 3-hour hike to Madeira’s highest peak, Pico do Ruivo. However, you can also visit Arriero for a short walk and to take some pictures. You don’t have to do the hike.
10. Rent a car and explore
One thing we love about Madeira is simply hiring a car and explore its roads on a day trip. The winding roads, tunnels and sometimes eye-watering mountain edges make driving on the island a lot of fun. The coastal and mountain scenery is a major attraction in itself and you can’t beat the feeling of exploring the island at your leisure. The great infrastructure means driving is very safe.
11. Marvel at the unusual trees at Fanal forest
Fanal Forest is not just any forest. It’s an enchanting labyrinth of Ocotea trees in the centre of Madeira. It appears much like a scene out of Harry Potter or an ominous horror movie. The unique scenery and rows of giant Bonsai-looking trees are unlike anything we’ve ever seen! Arrive on a morning to see the forest with a shroud of mist, or later on in the day for a completely different experience.
12. See the traditional houses at Santana
Madeira is famous for its traditional white houses with pointed red rooves. They’re on postcards, tour adverts and form part of the island’s cultural heritage. There aren’t many of these houses left in modern Madeira, but there is one place you can visit to see a great selection.
Take a tour to the northern town of Santana and you’ll find authentic Madeiran houses across the town. Wander the streets, visit the museums and have a tasty lunch. Santana has some excellent café and restaurant options.
13. Complete the Caldeirão Verde hiking trail
Caldeirão Verde translates as ‘green cauldron’ in English, and green is exactly what it is. Moss-covered mountain scenery and a winding Levada waterway lead all the way to a magnificent waterfall. The nature on this scenic walking trail is really something else! Caldeirão Verde is one of the best things to do in Madeira for all levels of hiking experience.
14. Complete the Moinho Levada trail
Another excellent Levada walk in Madeira is Moinho. This less-frequented trail takes you along the edge of a mountain side with a steep drop to your left. It’s full of flowing streams and beautiful mountain scenery. When you get to the end of the walking trail, you’ll come face-to-face with a unique waterfall that you can walk behind.
15. Get up close to the impressive 25 Fontes waterfall
We’re not done with amazing waterfalls just yet – Madeira is full of them! 25 Fontes is an impressive waterfall that gets its name from seemingly having 25 waterfall streams. The main waterfall in the area splits into many small streams to create a falls that is unlike anything else on the island. 25 Fontes waterfall can be seem on the popular 25 Fontes hiking trail.
16. See an even bigger waterfall, Risco Falls
Whilst venturing to see 25 Fontes waterfall, you can take a side-tour to an even bigger waterfall known as Risco. In our opinion, this towering 100m waterfall is the most beautiful in Madeira. Get up close to the falls and you’ll see how huge the falling water stream is! During the drier months, you can sometimes walk behind the waterfall.
17. Take a scenic walk out to sea at São Lourenço
Completely different to many of the other walking trails we’ve mentioned, São Lourenço is a stretch of land that extends out into the sea on the far north-east coast. Barren land, dramatic cliff drops, secluded beach coves and crashing waves all set the scene for one of Madeira’s most picturesque walks.
18. Complete the easy but beautiful Balcões Levada walk
If you’re looking for an easy walk with lots of nice scenery, head over to Balcões Levada. This one and a half hour return Levada walk takes you on a winding trail amongst nature. It leads all the way to a unique man-made viewing platform. Step out onto the platform and admire the views of the cascading mountains in the valley. It’s one of the most popular things to do in Madeira for all ages.
19. Challenge yourself to the Vereda do Larano Levada walk
One of our favourite Levada walking routes in Madeira is Vereda do Larano. It attracts far less crowds than some of the other Levada walks we’ve mentioned. Therefore, it’ll just be you and nature as you enjoy a peaceful walk with some epic scenery. The walk starts at Machico town and meanders around a cliffside, through a forest and onward to the north of the island. It’s a challenging but rewarding hiking experience.
20. Relax by Praia de Calheta Beach
Madeira isn’t known for its beaches, but the few it does have are very nice. Calheta Beach is one of them! Located on the south coast, it enjoys warmer weather and more sunshine than elsewhere on the island, making it a great place for relaxation. Wander down the promenade, pull up a sun lounger on the golden sands or dine with a view of the marina. Calheta Beach is quaint and picturesque town that the locals love.
21. Drive under Cascata dos Anjos and take a car shower
The next place on our list is completely different to what we’ve recommended so far! If you’re renting a car and are touring Madeira’s south coast, be sure to stop by Cascata dos Anjos, or the ‘waterfall of angels’. The waterfall is unique in the fact in falls directly onto a winding mountain road. Drive under the flowing water to give your car a good wash!
22. Visit the colourful town of Ponta Do Sol
Ponta do Sol is a small, colourful and sleepy south-coast town with a long pebble beach. Rows of colourful buildings occupy the seaside promenade and there are some nice cafes and restaurants to check out. The town is worth visiting for an afternoon of relaxation on the beach or to enjoy a drink with a view.
23. Stop by Camara de Lobos fishing village
Camara de Lobos is a small fishing village that’s a 15-minute drive from Funchal. It boasts a picturesque marina full of boats, a promenade with many restaurants, bars and cafes, and a historic street full of artwork. Camara de Lobos is both a great place to stay and visit.
The village was once a favourite destination for Winston Churchill and you can see his statue outside of a café he used to enjoy.
24. Explore Nuns Valley and enjoy the breath-taking views
Nun’s Valley is a popular day-trip just outside of Funchal. It’s a small village that’s nestled amongst some towering mountain ranges, creating some dramatic scenery at any time of the day.
A visit to the valley involves driving up to Eira do Serrado viewpoint for a pleasant view of the town. You can then drive into town itself. Nun’s valley was once home to a convent of nuns who made the area their home after fleeing from pirates. Today, it’s home to some quaint cafes, shops and a museum that tells the nuns’ story.
25. Take a stroll along Lido promenade
Lido is the popular resort area in Funchal. It’s a top place to stay for most visitors to Madeira and there are endless hotels, restaurants and bar options. If you’re staying in Lido or just fancy a morning stroll, be sure to walk the full length of its scenic promenade area. The promenade stretches for miles, featuring beautiful coastal scenery, natural sea pools, sunset bars and lots of nice tropical plants.
26. Visit Funchal old town
We’ve already included some of the top things to do in the Funchal area. Any visit to this vibrant city is best combined with a stop in its old town. The cobbled streets of the old town centre are full of small cafes, bars, shops and historic buildings. Simply wandering around this area is an attraction in itself. Top things to see here include the weekend market, Se Cathedral, Palácio de São Lourenço and a number of museums.
27. Admire the views from Cristo Rei statue
Cristo Rei is Madeira’s answer to the Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil. The statue looks out at the sea from its cliffside location in Garajau. After seeing the statue, you can walk out to the cliffside viewpoint or descend to the beaches below on a cable car.
28. Plane spot from the viewing deck at Funchal airport
Madeira has one major airport, and it’s one that has somewhat of a famous reputation. It’s perched onto the edge of a cliff and has a man-made runway support that juts out to sea. It’s also surrounded by dramatic mountains and hillside houses. Any landing or take off at Madeira is always fun to experience!
To get a good view of planes as they make a thrilling landing, head up to the viewing deck at the airport. It’s a great way to pass some time as you wait for your flight. Alternatively, drive up to Pico do Facho viewpoint for a nice view from above the runway.
29. Admire the view from one of Madeira’s many viewpoints
With all the impressive scenery of Madeira, you’re going to want to know the best viewing spots. There are countless great viewpoints all over the island, but we’re only going to mention our favourites. Miradouro da Beira da Quinta is a great spot for stunning views of the northern coast. There’s also Miradouro da Eira da Achada for more amazing coastal views.
Miradouro do Pico do Facho is where you’ll find the best beach view. It looks directly on the beach town of Machico, and also Funchal Airport. Finally, Paúl da Serra is the place to go for some far-reaching mountain views.
30. See the sun set at Ponta do Pargo Lighthouse
Ponta do Pargo is a cliffside lighthouse that sits at Madeira’s most western point. Not many people visit due to its remote location, but we highly recommend stopping by if you have time. It has the best sunset on the entire island! Arrive one hour before the sun goes down and stand on the cliffside to witness something special.
31. Visit the black sand beaches in Seixal
Famous for its jet-black sand, Seixal is a surfer’s paradise on Madeira’s north coast. This popular beach town has a small waterfall on the beach, some excellent waves for surfing and a cheap and tasty promenade restaurant called Lounge Bar Clube Naval. It’s one of the best places in Madeira for some beach relaxation.
32. Go swimming in a natural pool
Madeira’s coastline is full of small water pools that have formed naturally over the course of time. They’re great places to cool down in the hot sun and the salt water is great for the skin. The natural pools at Porto Moniz are the some of the largest and most impressive natural pools, but you’ll find them all over the island. The Lido area of Funchal has many natural pools that are free to enter.
33. Peer through the rocks at Ribeira de Janela
Ribeira da Janela is a unique viewpoint on Madeira’s north coast. It’s so unique, it was recently the filming location for a new Star Wars movie! Walk up the small set of wooden stairs and you’ll see through a cut-out in the rock face, peering out to the ocean. A towering sea stack and a small pebble beach can be seen on the other side of the window arch.
34. Relax on Funchal’s main beach, Praia Formosa
Praia Formosa is Funchal’s very own beach, located just a short bus ride from the centre of town. This long pebble beach is a hotspot for locals on weekends and it’s large enough that you’ll always find a place to relax. Go for a long walk along the promenade, take a dip in the sea or enjoy a drink with a view in a beach-side cafes.
35. Have a sunset drink in Lido
One of our favourite things to do in Madeira is to head out an hour before sunset and enjoy a drink in a bar with a view. The island’s coastline has some excellent sunset bars, some of which are less known by tourists. A sunset beverage makes a great start to the evening! The south and south-east are where you’ll find the best views of the sun setting.
36. Visit the picturesque town of Sao Vicente and climb to its stunning church viewpoint
The Chapel of Our Lady of Fatima is a hilltop church that overlooks the many rows of terracotta rooved houses in the northern town of Sao Vicente. On one side you have rolling hills of mountains. The other is a panoramic view of the sea. It really is something special! Stop by to check out the viewpoint and have a wander through town.
37. Be amazed by the coastal scenery in Boaventura
One of the most scenic things to do in Madeira is the north coast town of Boaventura. It’s a less visited region, but in our opinion, it has some of the most beautiful coastlines. Crashing ocean waves and towering cliffs dominate the edge of the land. You then have a quaint town of terracotta houses perched on the mountain-side. The viewpoints in Boaventura are well worth the visit.
38. Walk across the glass-bottom platform at Cabo Girao
A list of the top things to do in Madeira wouldn’t be complete without Cabo Girao. This spectacular viewing deck sits on the south coast of Madeira on one of Europe’s highest cliffs. It’s a whopping 580m above the beaches below! Are you brave enough to walk across the glass-bottom viewing deck?
39. Go shopping at The Forum madeira
The Forum Madeira is one of the island’s top shopping destinations. Funchal city centre has a good selection of shops, but the many stores all under one roof makes The Forum the ideal place for those that want a few wardrobe additions. It has a Zara, Bershka, Pull and Bear, Calzedonia and a variety of other European high street stores. It also has a food court and supermarket.
40. Sample delicious pastries from one of the many bakeries
The Portugal mainland is famous for its bakeries, especially the Portuguese Custard tart, or Pastel de Nata. Madeira is no different! The island has bakeries on every corner, serving up fresh bread, cakes pasties and espresso. Be sure to plan in plenty of bakery rest stops and enjoy some of the local baking specialities. We personally loved the Madeiran rice cake.
41. Pay homage to Madeira’s football hero, Cristiano Ronaldo
If you’re a football fan, you’ll know that the legendary Cristiano Ronaldo was born and raised in Madeira. He’s somewhat of a local legend and you’ll find tributes to him across Madeira. He actually has quite a few different development projects, hotels and businesses here.
Pay homage to the Portuguese superstar at the CR7 Museum, which is just outside the Funchal cruise port. There’s a statue of him outside that you can’t miss.
42. Go on a boat trip
We’ve listed plenty of things to do on the Madeira mainland, but it’s also worth exploring the island away from the shores. Hop onboard a whale watching boat tour for a chance to see some of the amazing marine life that makes Madeira’s shores their home. Alternatively, join a catamaran boat tour for a more leisurely cruise around the coast. Both options are best enjoyed in the warmer months of the year when the seas aren’t as rough.
43. Stumble upon Madeira’s unique street art
Many cities around the globe are full of colour and street art and Madeira’s murals are up there with the best. When walking around Funchal, be sure to stop by Santa Maria Street. The entire length of the street is full of unique paintings, from heartfelt pieces to hilarious murals. Another great place to sample street art is Camara de Lobos. São João de Deus street has wall art crafted from bottle caps, cans and other recycled items.
44. Be amazed at the many tropical plants and flowers
For an island in Europe, we were shocked at the vast array of tropical flowers, plants and fruits in Madeira. Everywhere you go you’ll find neatly manicured gardens and lush, tropical scenery. Take time to appreciate the beauty of Madeira’s nature in one of the many green spaces and walking trails.
45. Try an exhilarating adventure activity
Looking for some of the more adventurous things to do in Madeira? Hire a surf board and surf the waves of Seixal. Alternatively, head inland for a canyoning adventure down ravines and waterfalls. You’ll also find rock climbing tours, paragliding spots and a number of other adrenaline fuelled activities.
46. Ride a toboggan down the hill from Monte
A completely unique thing to do in Madeira is a toboggan ride down the hill from Monte. Day-after-day, tourists fly down the hill at up to 30kpm, as men known as ‘Carreiros’ guide the way. This age-old tradition is completely unique to the island and it’s great fun to try once.
47. Take the ferry to Porto Santo
Porto Santo is Madeira’s neighbouring island sister. It’s a much smaller island that’s known for its long sandy beach and adjacent town, and the beach itself is a major reason to visit. It really is beautiful! You can visit Porto Santo on a two and a half hour ferry ride from Madeira, making it an ideal day-trip destination.
48. Sample local wines
Are you a wine lover? Portuguese mainland wine is known to be excellent, but so is Madeiran wine. The island has a handful of wineries that specialise in both classic wine and traditional Madeiran sweet wine. A great place to sample all varieties is Blandy’s Wine Lodge in Funchal city centre. The winery is family run and has existed for seven generations.
49. Admire the cruise ships docking in Funchal every day
What’s unique about Madeira’s capital, Funchal, is the endless cruise traffic that arrives and departs every day. Year-round you’ll see a ship in port; and sometimes three or four! The cruise ships dominate the horizon in the city’s harbour area and it’s fascinating to watch them dock. Take a walk by the cruise port and get up close to these giant ships.
50. Get a glimpse into Madeira’s rich history
The origins of Madeira date back over 5 million years. Since the early 1400’s, it has been a key trading stop for the Portuguese and has countless homegrown foods, drinks and products. Madeira is rich in history and the remnants of its past are all over the island.
Wander around a museum, climb to the top of a fortress, admire an old church or learn one of the local crafts. There are plenty of things to do in Madeira for history enthusiasts.
51. Enjoy a game of tennis, one of Madeira’s favourite sports
Feeling a little sluggish after all the Portuguese custard tarts? Why not hire a tennis court and play a game for an hour or so. Tennis is hugely popular with the locals and you’ll find tennis courts everywhere. It’s one of the best things to do in Madeira to stay fit.
52. Visit the most beautiful parks
Madeira has endless raw, untouched nature, but it also has man-made parks that are great places to escape the crowds of tourists. Funchal is the best places for parks and it’s worth checking out all of the following: Santa Catarina Park, Municipal Garden of Funchal and Parque Infantil da Quinta Magnólia.
Water fountains, cafes, lakes, live shows, sports courts and relaxing green spaces can all be experienced in these parks.
53. Descend to Fajã dos Padres Beach on an eye-wateringly steep cable car
You may have seen videos of tourists screaming as they sharply descend to Fajã dos Padres, a beach on the south coast. The ride down and back up is thrilling and you get some amazing views of the coast. The beach is a secluded spot to relax in the sun or enjoy a drink in the beachside bar.
54. Visit the hidden waterfall of Agua D’Alto Waterfall
Waterfalls are some of the best things to do in Madeira. The more you visit, the more impressive they seem to get! As we’ve already listed some of the most popular waterfalls, we’d also like to share a less visited spot. Agua D’Alto Waterfall is a hidden gem of a water feature near the town of Santana. Not many tourists know about this place, so you’ll likely get to experience its beauty for yourself!
55. Take a break on Caniçal Beach
The final recommendations we have for you is another beach. Prainha do Caniçal is a secluded beach cove at the far north-east of Madeira. It’s surrounded by rugged, barren cliffs, providing some unique scenery as you bathe in the sun. We recommend stopping here after visiting the popular São Lourenço walking route. Swimming here after walking for 3+ hours will help you relax.
Thanks for reading our list of 55 things to do in Madeira. We think we’ve exhausted all options for places to visit and things to try during your trip, but let us know in the comment section if you have any of your own recommendations. Madeira is a destination we love and we’ll certainly be back!
Be sure to check out our other Madeira travel guides:
By RickyAuthor bio:
An adventurer at heart that loves anything outdoors. Beaches, mountains and amazing scenery is everything I love about travel! I also enjoy home comforts and need a nice place to relax and re-charge after every trip.