Madeira is part of the territory of one of the best countries to visit in Europe – Portugal!
Madeira name, refers to both a wonderful island and an archipelago that comprises seven islands – Madeira and Porto Santo being the only inhabited by around 250.000 people. It is situated in the Atlantic Ocean on the same latitude as North Africa. The weather is, most of the time, spring-like, making it the perfect destination in winter. With awe-inspiring sceneries and many incredible attractions, Madeira is one of the best travel destinations.
As a Tourist Guide born and raised here, I felt I could help you organize the best holidays in Madeira and made this short list of things to do. As we expected, I recommend going on guided tours, but if you wish to be independent and hire a car in Madeira, then follow the same suggestions.
- Go on a half-day guided tour to Curral das Freiras (Nun’s Valley)
My favourite tour from Funchal is the journey to Eira do Serrado to look down onto Curral das Freiras, also known as the Nun’s valley. The views from the top of the viewpoint are worth it.
- Walk along a Levada
Going for a hike along one of the levadas (ancient irrigation systems built by men) is one of the most popular things to do in Madeira. The scenery is beautiful. My advice to you is to join an organized group and bring the proper equipment.
- Laurissilva (Laurel woods)
Madeira has a 20-million-year-old forest with unique species, classified as a World Natural Heritage by UNESCO. Stay attentive when you move around the island, on the north coast and when you walk along the Levadas.
- Watch the sunset
Watch the sun going down from the highest mountains or near the sea. Even better during dinner or while enjoying a drink. My favourite spots are: Pico do Arieiro (1818 mt.), in the Promenade do Lido, near Doca do Cavacas, the Pier of Ponta do Sol, Paul do Mar seafront…
- Visit a Wine Lodge and taste Madeira wine
Visit a wine lodge and sample Madeira Wine. My favourite is the sweet wine, and it’s worth having a taste of a 10-15-year-old Verdelho. Don’t forget to take some bottles to toast with your family and friends.
- Eat both Espetada (meat) and Espada (fish)
Espetada is beef on a skewer with sides of salad, french fries and fried cornmeal cubes. Espada is a boneless fish fillet, cooked in many ways, but my favourites are with banana or passion fruit sauce.
- Go on a guided tour of the East of Madeira
The landscapes of Ponta de São Lourenço and Pico do Arieiro are awe-inspiring, and the sugar cane factory in Porto da Cruz is worth a visit.
- Go on a guided tour of the West of Madeira
Câmara de Lobos is full of colourful fishing boats, and Winston Churchill did some paintings here. Porto Moniz has lava pools, and Paul da Serra with incredible scenery is the highest plateau in Madeira. Be brave and walk on the glass floor skywalk of Cabo Girão, one of the highest sea-cliffs in the world.
- Go to the beach in Seixal
Seixal beach has black sand and offers some very dramatic landscapes. Next to it, there are lava pools that fill with seawater.
- Cable car
Funchal’s cable car will take you up to Monte, over the lovely views of Funchal’s amphitheatre and bay, where you can visit the Monte Palace Gardens and later experience a ride down the steep streets on the unique Monte wicker sledges.
Don’t miss out on the cable cars of Cristo Rei in Garajau and Fajã dos Padres.
- Visit Porto Santo Island
It’s worth visiting the neighbouring island of Porto Santo and enjoy the 9 km of the beautiful golden yellow beach.
THINGS TO DO IN FUNCHAL (CAPITAL-CITY)
Here are my favourite things to do in Funchal, Madeira.
- Stroll along the Rua de Santa Maria in the old town
Don’t miss out on the lovely collection of painted doors in one of the oldest streets on Funchal old town. This is one of the liveliest areas at night with many restaurants and bars with music.
- Visit the Mercado dos Lavradores (Farmers Market)
You will find the colourful stalls filled with fruits, flowers and the fish market in the same building. It has a great atmosphere on Friday and Saturday mornings, with the locals doing their shopping there. If they offer you some fruits to sample, it’s nice if you buy something from them.
- Have afternoon tea at Belmond Reid’s Palace
This is the best afternoon tea you will ever have. It costs around €30, but it’s all served on an elegant balcony overlooking the sea, and the city and the portions are good sized.
- Visit the Gardens
The Botanical Garden Rui Vieira has a superb view over Funchal, patterns made from plants and a lovely cactus garden with a Madeira’s traditional thatched house.
Monte Palace is an oriental style garden with red bridges and koi ponds. Cycads, tree ferns and Laurel trees surround the beautiful tiles. The mineral museum is worth a visit.
The Palheiro Ferreiro’s garden is a Victorian-style small palace with a sunken garden, chapel and impressive trees.
Santa Catarina Park has a great viewing point overlooking the city and the harbour.
Quinta da Boavista is impressive for its hundreds of rare orchids from around the world. The different shapes, the colours and the perfumes will passionate you.
- Go on a guided tour to the monuments and museums
There are monuments worth visiting, such as the Cathedral of Funchal and the Church of the Jesuits. Among the many museums, the Sacred Art Museum and the Casa-Museu Frederico de Freitas are my favourites.
- Take lots of pictures.
The landscapes in Madeira are breathtaking.
- Try our Poncha
What better way to finish this list than with a drink? A strong one. Poncha is Madeira’s cocktail, and it comes in several flavours including tangerine, passion fruit, orange… but the original is with lemon juice, syrup and sugar cane rum.
See you soon,