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Funchal travel guide – The top things to see and do

shows an image of a water fountain in front of Funchal town

Welcome to our complete Funchal travel guide! After exploring the Madeiran capital many times, we’ve assembled this guide to give you insights on some of the best things to do in Funchal, where to stay, eat, drink, plus plenty of tips and tricks for visiting. Funchal is a popular cruise port and gets hundreds of visitors every day. It’s also a great place to visit for a long weekend or as part of a holiday exploring the entire island. You simply can’t miss it when visiting Madeira!

Read our Funchal travel guide to find out all the information you need to help plan your upcoming trip.

Why Funchal?

Funchal is the heart of Madeira, offering something for absolutely everyone, with plenty of things to do all in one place. Most tourists stay in Funchal when visiting Madeira, either in the city centre, or just outside in the Lido hotel area. With its ideal south-east location, it benefits from warm weather year round and doesn’t get a lot of rain.

We always recommend Funchal as a base for your time in Madeira as it has plenty of restaurants, hotels, cafes and bars. Like most towns, Funchal is very touristy, but there’s areas that are less so. It’s always good to do your research  beforehand, especially when it comes to looking for restaurant options, as the tourist hot spots are more likely to rip you off. Overall, Funchal is a must-see place during your time in Madeira. It’s full of history, attractions and great places to eat.

a view of Funchal town from the old town
Shows a cruise ship in port

When should you visit Funchal?

One main reasons why Funchal is so popular is the weather. Similar to the likes of the Canary Islands, Madeira, and in particular Funchal, offers warm weather year-round. You can visit Funchal at any time of the year, but if you’re looking to venture out to explore other areas in the island, we suggest visiting from the months of March – November. If you love Christmas, December is also a great time to visit the island. With lots of Christmas markets and festivities happening in Funchal, it’s the place to be to feel that Christmas spirit. Many people also choose to visit Funchal for New Year’s Eve. It has one of the biggest NYE fireworks displays in the world!

Top things to do in Funchal

You can see a lot of Funchal’s top attractions in one day, but if you have the time, we recommend at least 2 or 3 days here. It’ll allow plenty of time for relaxation, having a Poncha or two, and wandering around the colourful streets. Here are some of the top things to do in Funchal for any visit.

Visit the beautiful gardens of Monte via cable car

Can you say that you’ve visited Funchal without heading up to Monte by cable car? It’s the number one thing to do on the island, and pretty much everyone does it. You’ll need to get the cable car up to the top of Monte which will take around 15 minutes. The cable car ride is an attraction in itself, providing incredible panoramic views of the town from below. At the top, you can explore both Monte Palace Tropical Gardens and Funchal Botanical Gardens are the top places to visit once you reach Monte. Seeing both garden areas takes at least half a day and they feature some of the most beautiful scenery on the island. Each garden area is different and worth visiting in themselves.

Be sure to check out our complete guide on visiting the Monte Palace Tropical Gardens.

shows a girl sitting on a bench overlooking Monte palace - Funchal travel guide - The top things to see and do
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The Funchal toboggan ride

Another top-rated activity to do in Funchal is riding down the hill from Monte in a wicker basket, aka the famous toboggan ride. It sounds a bit terrifying, but it’s actually great fun and many tourists opt for this method of transport to return to Funchal after visiting Monte. The toboggans were in fact used as transportation many years ago as a quick way of descending down from the hilltop. Being a popular tourist attraction. It costs 30 euros for two people for less than a 10-minute ride, but it’s worth the fun and thrilling experience!

Explore the old town of Funchal

Funchal’s Old Town centre is an attraction in itself. It’s a mixture of narrow and colourful alleyways, with locals living amongst tourists and a vibrant, upbeat atmosphere. It’s also a place that comes to life in the evenings, with people dining outdoors and enjoying a glass of wine in the streets. We recommend simply wandering around the Old Town area, marvelling at the old churches, colourful houses and Portuguese-style architecture.

Funchal Old Town streets - The best things to do in Funchal

Santa Maria street art

One unique street that you simply can’t miss in Funchal is Rua da Santa Maria. This busy, touristic street is never short on good atmosphere! Almost every door on the street has a unique ‘street art’ mural, both heartfelt and humorous art. It’s really cool to see, so have your camera at the ready!

shows a painting on a door in Funchal old town

Mercado dos Lavradores

After wandering through the streets of Old town Funchal, you can stop off at the farmers market, also known as Mercado dos Lavradores. It’s a famous market that’s become a very popular tourist spot. The vendors inside sell all sorts of exotic fruits and vegetables, some of which you can sample at the stalls before buying. Most items are way overpriced. However, it’s a great chance you try some fruits you’ve haven’t had before. Even if you don’t buy anything, the bustling market is a great place to wander around.

Shows a selection of tropical fruits at a market

Santa Catarina Park

Santa Catarina Park has to be one of the most beautiful parks on the island. It’s perched on a hill that overlooks town, featuring a plethora of green areas to relax in the sun. Walking trails, fountains, a lake and many varieties of local flowers make up this idyllic park. It also has a famous café in the centre. Visit for a morning coffee and admire the view of the city. It’s one of the best things to do in Funchal when you want a break from all the walking around.

image of a girl standing in front of a water fountain

Have an authentic Madeiran meal

Funchal is a bustling town that attracts many tourists every day, making it difficult to find a great spot for dinner. Many restaurants in the centre of town cater towards tourists, not locals. However, do a little research and you’ll find some amazing places to eat in Funchal. We recommend trying the famous Espetada (grilled hanging meat on the iron) and Espada (scabbard fish with fried banana and passion fruit sauce). We’ve included our favourite restaurant recommendations below for inspiration.

Have a Poncha at Rei da Poncha

If you like to have a drink in the evening, you can’t leave the island without trying the famous ‘Poncha’. Made from distilled alcohol from sugar cane juice, it’s a refreshing drink with a kick, which comes in many different flavours. Choose from passion fruit, lemon, strawberry, kiwi and the traditional, orange. We recommend heading to Rei da Poncha. It’s one of the best places to get a Poncha on the island!

Shows Rei Da Poncha bar

Walk along the marina and see the cruise ships

For that holiday feeling, spend time walking along the stunning promenade that takes you from Funchal town to the ‘Lido’ hotel area. It’s a great place to take a walk either during the day or on an evening before dinner. Large cruise ships arrive almost every day, so you might even be lucky enough to see one come in to dock. This area is currently undergoing development and will soon have a variety of shops and sea-view bars and restaurants to check out.

image of a big cruise ship at night - Funchal travel guide - The top things to see and do

Visit the CR7 Museum

Whether you’re a Ronaldo fan or not, Madeira undoubtedly gained worldwide popularity from one of the world’s most recognised and famous footballers, Cristiano Ronaldo. He was born and raised on the island. CR7 Museum is located next to the marina, along with his iconic bronze statue. If you want to go all out, why not stay at the CR7 hotel for a night?

Cristiano Ronaldo statue outside the CR7 museum
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Wine tasting at Blandy’s Wine Lodge

Another top thing to do in Funchal is to join a wine tasting tour. It’s a fun activity that you can enjoy with family or friends, whilst learning about the history of Madeiran wine. We recommend Blandy’s Wine Lodge, which is located in the heart of town. It’s a seven-generation family-run winery that has a rich history in Madeira. It gets busy so we recommend booking a tour in advance.

Visit Funchal Sé cathedral

Funchal is home to many beautiful churches, but the star of the show is Sé Cathedral. This beautiful Portuguese-style church has a grand white-stone exterior and tall pointed turrets. The inside of the church is just as beautiful, showcasing tall stained-glass windows, wooden pillars and detailed sculptures. The cathedral is open daily for services, but anyone can take a walk inside when mass isn’t on. There’s no need to pre-book to visit.

image of se cathedral in Funchal town - Funchal travel guide - The top things to see and do

Take a stroll along Lido promenade          

If you’re staying in the Lido area or just fancy venturing a little out of town on a scenic walk, be sure to check out the Lido promenade. This long coastal promenade stretches for miles! You’ll walk past rocky beaches, natural swimming pools, shops, cafes, sunset bars and lots of nice tropical scenery. On a weekend, it comes alive with locals meeting up and kids playing in the sunshine.

Shows Lido promenade in Funchal

The best hotels in Funchal

As we’ve already mentioned, Funchal is a top place to stay in Madeira. There are two areas of Funchal that we recommend; Funchal town itself and the Lido area further to the south. Each location has countless hotels for every budget and lots of nearby amenities. See an overview on each below:

Lido

The Lido area of Funchal is where you’ll find the larger resorts with swimming pools, sea view hotels and a plethora of half board and all-inclusive options. Lido has a real ‘holiday feel’ to it and is where most tourists stay. Here you’ll find resorts that are budget friendly, all the way to resorts that cost over 500 euros per night. We’ve stayed in the Lido area a few times and can really appreciate the laid-back atmosphere. You’re only a short walk away from Funchal town and the area is well connected by bus.

Shows the Lido promenade area - Funchal travel guide

Funchal old town

If you like being in the centre of town with museums, cafés, restaurants, bars and shops within walking distance, staying in the heart of Funchal might be the best choice for you. The main town area of Funchal is definitely busier than the likes of Lido. Whilst it won’t give you that ‘holiday beach vibe,’ it has plenty to see and do. In our opinion, staying in the centre of Funchal feels a lot like a city break.

We’ve included some of our top Funchal hotel recommendations below.

Shows the quaint streets of Funchal old town - The top things to do in Funchal

Lido

AFFORDABLE: Hotel Baia Azul

VIEW ON BOOKING.COM | TRIPADVISOR RATING 4.5/5

If you’re looking for an affordable getaway that’s well within budget, but also has many of the facilities you often look for in a hotel, Hotel Baia Azul may well tick all your boxes. This hotel is located further away from the main hotel area. It’s closer to the edge of the Lido cliffside, next to the popular shopping mall, The Forum. Hotel Baia Azul has 2 outdoor swimming pools, an indoor pool, two bars, two restaurants, wonderful spa facilities and modern rooms. We recommend requesting a sea view room if possible.

MODERATEly priced: HOTEL VIDA MAR

VIEW ON BOOKING.COM | TRIPADVISOR RATING 4.5/5

Hotel Vida Mar is large, 5-star resort located in the heart of the Lido area on the way to Funchal town. It’s slightly more expensive than the likes of Baia Azul, but for good reason. The facilities are second to none and the infinity pool overlooking the sea is idyllic. This hotel will suit people from all different age groups, but we found that most people here were generally an older demographic. The hotel is in a great location, with many bars and restaurants only a 2-minute walk away.

LUXURY: CLIFF BAY RESORT

VIEW ON BOOKING.COM | TRIPADVISOR RATING 5/5

If you’re looking to splash out on holiday, why not treat yourself and a loved one to a very exclusive stay at the Cliff Bay Resort? This luxurious hotel oozes in elegance, making it the perfect place for a romantic getaway. The hotel is located on the outskirts of the main area of Lido, closer to Funchal town. It’s a top-tier 5-star hotel, offering some of the most incredible views of the ocean from room balconies. At the Cliff Bay, you have direct access to the sea-front, a choice of three swimming pools, a spa, tennis courts and a 2 Michelin star restaurant right on your doorstep.

Funchal

AFFORDABLE: Travellers Pearl by Storytellers

VIEW ON BOOKING.COM | TRIPADVISOR RATING 4.5/5

Staying in the heart of Funchal town comes with its disadvantages. It can be quite expensive, and you may not always be getting good value for money. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option, which still allows you have to privacy and space to relax after a day of sightseeing, the Travellers Pearl by Storytellers is a good option. Its travel theme alone is a unique selling point and makes this hotel stand out from the rest. The apartments are spacious and have cooking facilities if you fancy a night in to cook your own meals. The Travellers Pearl may not have the facilities of some other hotels in the city. However, for the price you pay, we think it’s a steal!

MODERATE: HOTEL MADEIRA

VIEW ON BOOKING.COM | TRIPADVISOR RATING 4.5/5

Funchal old town is a great place to base yourself as you’re located a short walk from some amazing attractions and restaurants. If you’re looking for a hotel that’s handy and affordable, we recommend Hotel Madeira. It’s a bright and welcoming hotel, offering a selection of suites as well as standard rooms. One big positive about this hotel is its rooftop swimming pool, which is a great place to relax after a day of sightseeing. It’s a cosy and intimate hotel, but it also has a family appeal to it.

luxury: Hotel Porto Santa Maria

view on booking.com | tripadvisor rating 4.5/5

If you’re looking for a luxury hotel right in the centre of Funchal, Hotel Porto Santa Maria might be the one for you. Located next to São Tiago Fortress and just a 20 second walk away from the centre of town, this hotel is great for those who want to be in amongst the action. Even though Porto Santo Maria is in a central location, it’s right at the end of Funchal promenade, away from all the crowds and tourists. You’ll get to relax in the sun as you watch the cruise ships coming in.

The rooms here really have one of the best rooms in the city! The food served here is spectacular, with lots of variety. You can even treat yourself to a champagne breakfast one morning. We recommend requesting a room with a balcony view.

For more inspiration on where to stay in Funchal, check out our accommodation guide.

The best Funchal restaurants

The below Funchal restaurants are all in the centre of town.

O.Giro Churros & Paninis

View on map | Tripadvisor rating 5/5

After a morning of sightseeing in Funchal, you’ll want to freshen up and re-charge your batteries. Head past Jardim Municipial do Funchal  to a quaint corner restaurant, O.Giro Churros & Paninis. It doesn’t look like much from the outside and perhaps the thought of a panini won’t make your tastebuds water. However, let us assure you that the sandwiches here are freshly made with fresh ingredients and meats, with the tastiest hand cut fries you’ll ever taste.

The star of the show is the churros. ‘The best churros you’ll ever eat,’ – a quote from the staff members here. The food is really well priced considering the quality and quantity you get. We visit this place every time we’re in Funchal – it’s the perfect lunch spot.

shows an image of a round churro with nutella in a jar - Funchal travel guide - The top things to see and do

Regional Flavours

View on map | Tripadvisor rating 4.5/5

If you want a memorable, traditional meal with outdoor dining, check out Regional Flavours. Located down a quieter and less touristic street in Funchal’s old town, Regional Flavours is a family-run restaurant that serves authentic Madeiran cuisine, along with many Mediterranean dishes for those that fancy more familiar foods. The waiters have a unique sense of humour and will enjoy making you laugh.

We recommend trying either the Espetada or the Espada. Both dishes were phenomenal! If you have room for dessert, opt for the berry cheesecake or the famous passionfruit panna cotta – you won’t regret it. Prices here are reasonable, but we suggest checking out ‘The Fork’ app as they often provide discounts on certain days.

Shows a traditional Espetada dish - Things to do in Funchal

NoitEscuro

View on map | Tripadvisor rating 4.5/5

Our final Funchal town restaurant recommendation is NoitEscuro. Located just a few minutes’ walk away from the sea-front promenade, this popular restaurant serves delicious Portuguese food. With an extensive menu serving traditional Madeiran and Portugal-mainland dishes, indoor and outdoor seating, and a relaxing, yet upbeat ambiance, it’s a great place to visit for your evening meal. The TripAdvisor reviews speak for themselves! Prices are reasonable and you get a lot of food for your money. They’re known for their Franesinha, a monster of a sandwich that was invented in Porto.

The best restaurants in Lido

The below Funchal restaurants are all located in the Lido hotel area to the south of Funchal town.

La Vaca Negra

View on map | Tripadvisor rating 4.5/5

Calling all meat-eaters, this one’s for you! Madeira is never short of steak houses, and La Vaca Negra is one of the best places to get a steak on the island. BBQ meat is the speciality at this restaurant, and they do it very well! It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but as soon as you step inside, you’ll smell the aroma of the delicious meat and will realise you’ve made the right choice. They serve various cuts of steak, ribs, chops and fish dishes. Just be sure to leave some room for dessert!

Window to Asia

View on map | Tripadvisor rating 4.5/5

Whilst we always try to eat as many local dishes as possible, you can sometimes miss other cuisines. This is especially true if you’re on holiday for a while. One restaurant that sits up high on our list of the best Funchal restaurants is Window to Asia. This new and modern restaurant is located a few minutes-walk away from the centre of the Lido area.

They serve authentic Asian dishes that are cooked by a Thai chef. The setting is beautiful, and the décor makes you feel like you’re in South-East Asia. Prices here a little expensive for the type of food, but it’s worth it if you fancy spending a little more on your last night in Funchal. The atmosphere is sublime.

pad thai in a grey bowl

Our top tips for visiting Funchal

shows a garden in Funchal next to yellow taxis
  • As with many popular tourist destinations, Funchal can get very busy, especially during the peak times of the year (June – August). However, with Madeira being an all-year-round destination, it’s even quite busy during months that you’d expect to be quiet. Keep this in mind when sightseeing in town and aim to arrive at attractions first thing on a morning.
  • Head out of the tourist spots and explore hidden backstreets of Funchal. The narrow alleys away from town have authentic restaurants and bars with much cheaper prices.
  • When looking for somewhere to have lunch or dinner in Funchal, check the reviews on TripAdvisor. There are many tourist hot spots which are generally over-priced and the food isn’t the best. Refer back to our above Funchal restaurant recommendations if you need some inspiration.
  • Consider booking restaurants in advance as places can get busy. Some restaurants book up days in advance.
  • If you want a break from walking around, relax in one of the many parks: Santa Catarina, Funchal Panoramic Gardens and Jardim Municipal do Funchal are all excellent.
  • Everything in Funchal is within walking distance, so there isn’t really any need for using the tour bus. Save money by exploring this vibrant place by foot.
  • Madeira is very hilly and has many inclining paths that could cause issues for those with mobility issues. We recommend staying in the centre of town if this is a concern.
  • If you want to be in the heart of Funchal with everything at your doorstep, stay in Funchal town. For a relaxing holiday atmosphere, find a hotel in the Lido area. Check out our where to stay in Funchal here for plenty of accommodation ideas.
  • Try to avoid driving in Funchal. Streets are extremely narrow, it’s tough to find parking and there are many one-way systems. We recommend catching a bus or taxi to town instead.
  • When visiting Monte by cable car, we recommend spending at least 4/5 hours here. You’ll want to spend enough time walking around the gardens, stopping for a coffee or lunch. There’s a lot to see up there!
  • On a similar note, be sure to arrive before 10am for the cable car. The queues quickly grow later into the morning.
  • Make sure to pack a light jacket or cardigan when heading up to Monte. The weather can be hit or miss due to it being up a mountain. This goes for any time of the year you visit.

We’ve reached the end of our Funchal travel guide. We hope we inspired you with plenty of attraction, eating out and hotel recommendations and you can now explore for yourself. If you have any of your own Funchal travel tips, be sure to post a comment below. We’d love to hear them!

Check out our other Madeira travel guides here.

BY sUSIE

Author bio:

I’m a passionate traveller that loves a sunny beach holiday, but also appreciate the cultural side to a trip and checking out undiscovered destinations. I’m the go-to Toucan Traveller for great holiday stories, cool photos and foodie recommendations.

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