Funchal is the capital and main port of the Portuguese island of Madeira. It is an ancient and very beautiful city with ancient palaces and squares, modern hotels and shops, stretching along the coast. The main pedestrian street is crammed with numerous bars and coffee shops.
On the funicular, you can climb to the top of Mount Monte, covered with parks, gardens and vineyards, from where you can enjoy stunning views of the city and the ocean, and then go down on a wooden sleigh.
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There are several botanical gardens in and around the city, including the “Orchid Garden” and the chic “Jardim-Botany” with unique flower carpets. The best hotels are concentrated in the west of Funchal, mostly four- and five-star hotels.
How to get there
The most reliable way to get to Funchal is by plane. As in any other city in Portugal, it will not be possible to fly directly from Russia, and the best option would be to transfer in London. If Funchal is the main holiday destination, but there is a desire to see other cities, then you can use regular flights to Lisbon, Porto and a couple of other major cities in Portugal. The flight to Lisbon takes 1.5 hours.
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Funchal Airport is located near the city, in the town of Santa Cruz. To get to the hotel, you can take a taxi or rent a car – there is a direct road leading to the city. There are also shuttle buses.
The city itself is small, so it is quite possible to move around on foot. If you want to use public transport to move around the city and suburbs, then you should know that this is not very cheap. It is better to buy a card in advance for 2-9 trips for 1.35 EUR. Paying the fare directly to the driver will cost you EUR 1.95 one way. Most of the local bus routes (cars in orange) start from the coastline. Timetables and route descriptions can be bought at kiosks.
Weather in Funchal
Funchal does not boast very high air temperatures in any of the summer months, but at the same time, the water temperature keeps surprisingly on par with the air temperature, and in winter and autumn the water is even warmer. This suggests that people experiencing problems with pressure or heart can safely go to Funchal at almost any time of the year – including for a beach holiday.
Although Funchal is not directly a beach resort, there are all conditions for lovers of this kind of holiday, except that the choice will not be as great as on the mainland.
The largest free public beach in Madeira is Praia Formosa. It is located just to the west of Funchal and consists of 4 mixed sand and pebble beaches. Each of them is awarded the “blue flag” for water quality and has all the necessary infrastructure: parking, beach lifeguards, showers, toilets, changing cabins, sports equipment rental, skateboarding ramp, playground and numerous bars and cafes. From Praia Formosa there is a path that connects it with the Lido, a popular seawater pool complex in Funchal.
Among them is the Ponta Gorda swimming pool complex – it is located in the walking tourist area – you will not miss it. Ponta Gorda has direct access to the sea, two swimming pools and a children’s pool with indoor playground, restaurant and snack bar. This is a standard type pool, tiled.
If you want something exotic, then you should visit Doca do Cavacas. This is a small complex consisting of natural volcanic pools, with direct access to the sea, changing rooms, supervision of lifeguards on the waters, restaurants and bars. Doca do Cavacas is quite small and very popular, and if it gets crowded, you can go to Praia Formosa through the tunnel that links the beaches.
Within the city there are two free pebble beaches – Praia do Gargullo and Praia de Sao Tiago. The amenities there are minimal – only a shower and a toilet, but close and relatively deserted.
Shopping and souvenirs from Funchal
In addition to the wicker, leather and cork souvenirs standard for the whole of Portugal, which are also honored here and also not very cheap, embroidery is mandatory brought from Madeira – this is a traditional local art, absolutely everything is embroidered, from handkerchiefs to tablecloths and bed linen. Usually embroidery is quite expensive, but at least a handkerchief or a needle case can be purchased.
Of course, Madeira wouldn’t be Madeira without Madeira, its signature wine. However, not only Madeira is worth buying in Funchal – here all the wines are good and inexpensive: red, white, and green (Vino Verde). It is also advised to buy inexpensive and high-quality fruits and flowers in Funchal, but not every airline transports them, so it is better to clarify such nuances in advance.
Entertainment and attractions of Funchal
If we talk about cultural attractions, then this is, first of all, the most diverse parks and gardens. The manor in the British colonial style Palheiro is a private property and is not accessible to visitors, but there is a park around it, which anyone can visit for a fee of 10.5 EUR, children under 15-17 years old – free of charge. This park consists of several themed gardens, such as the French Garden, the Sunken Garden, the Lady’s Garden, the Rose Garden, etc. The peculiarity of Palheiro Park is that from afar it seems like an ordinary European park, but when you get closer, you realize that It is based on the tropical flora of Madeira and complemented by plants from all over the world.
The favorable climate of Funchal contributed to the emergence of a huge number of open-air botanical gardens. This is the Madeira Botanical Garden (Jardins Botanicos da Madeira) – the main attraction of the entire island. On its slopes there are not only more than 2,000 different plants – a collection of parrots lives on local trees, which any zoo will envy.
The colorful Mercado Dos Lavradores market in the city center is also worth a visit – here you can find a large selection of tropical vegetables and fruits, fresh fish, exotic flowers, local artisans (the market is closed on Sundays and holidays).
Se Cathedral, the 15th-century monastery of St. Clara, the fortified palace of St. Lorenzo are examples of Mannerist architecture, and they will not leave indifferent lovers of antiquity.