Madeira: Santana and the North Coast

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The striking peaks of Pico Arieiro and Pico Ruivo, towering at over 1800 meters, provide exceptional hiking opportunities with breath-taking alpine views overlooking the island’s coastlines. This area is a haven for those seeking both scenic beauty and memorable walking experiences.

Santana is renowned for its charming triangular-shaped thatched houses known as “Palheiros,” which dot the lush green landscape. These unique structures offer a glimpse into the region’s rich cultural heritage and architectural history.

Parque das Queimadas and Levada do Caldeirão Verde offers yet another opportunity to immerse yourself in the breathtaking waterfalls of Madeira.

Watch the sunrise at Pico do Arieiro

Pico Do Arieiro To Pico Ruivo Hike
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Bjørn Christian Tørrissen

Start the day early and catch the sunrise from Pico do Arieiro. Drive to Parque de Estacionamento Pico do AreeiroIf the weather is clear, consider ignoring the rest of todays tour to hike to Pico Ruivo (6-7 hours return). Either take in the view from Miradouro do Juncal  or Miradouro do Ninho da Manta (with fewer crowds).

Pico do Arieiro, the third-highest peak in Madeira, stands as the most easily accessible mountainous destination from Funchal. Nestled within the striking mountain landscapes of Madeira’s interior, Pico do Arieiro offers a spectacle where jagged peaks emerge from lush, forested valleys, and brisk winds create clouds on their upward journey.

On clear days, the panoramic views from Pico do Arieiro are nothing short of spectacular. In certain cloudy conditions, the peaks rise above a sea of clouds, presenting a surreal and enchanting vista. The Miradouro do Juncal viewpoint, situated to the east of Arieiro, is renowned as the best location on Madeira for observing the sunrise. Meanwhile, the Miradouro do Ninho da Manta provides breath-taking views over intricately carved valleys, adding to the allure of this high-altitude destination.

Top Tip: Have a look at the Pico do Arieiro webcam  and the weather before visiting to make sure it isn’t completely covered in clouds or raining!

Read more about Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo Hike (PR1 and PR1.2)

Ribeiro Frio & Miradouro dos Balcõe

Vereda Dos Balcões PR11
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Ramessos

Ribeiro Frio, situated in the northern part of the island, is a natural park nestled within a deep valley surrounded by mountains. Renowned among both locals and tourists, this picturesque locale is famous for its trout and offers delightful walks along its nature trails.

As you enter the outskirts of Ribeiro Frio you will probably begin to see cars parked on the road, and a the Balcões signed on your left, park where you can to explore the Vereda dos Balcões.

The Vereda dos Balcões is a short 1.5 km long trail (+ 1.5 km return), that takes you to enjoy the views from the Balcões Viewpoint. As you walk along the verada, you’ll encounter various laurel species and endemic plants, contributing to the island’s rich biodiversity. Keep an eye out for rare birds like the pigeon-tocaz, which holds the distinction of being the smallest bird in Madeira, adding to the allure of this natural haven. You soon come to the Balcões viewpoint, which offers wide views over the Ribeira da Metade valley.

Location: Ribeiro Frio, Portugal
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Visit one of the Triangular Houses of Santana

Santana, Madeira
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Holger Uwe Schmitt

Stay on the ER103 until you get to the VE1, google may try and take you on a minor road. When you reach roundabout for Santana you could head right to see the Rocha do Navio viewing point, after you have enjoyed to views head for the free parking opposite the Casas Típicas de Santana.  

The village of Santana, situated along the northern coast of Madeira, is famed for its traditional Casas de Santana—compact, A-frame houses crafted from timber and thatch. These charming dwellings are characterized by their bright colours, frequently featuring scarlet doors and windows adorned with blue frames. Completing the scenic picture, the houses are often accompanied by well-kept vegetable gardens, adding to their picturesque allure. The Casas de Santana stand as an iconic and quintessentially Madeiran sight, showcasing the island’s unique architectural and cultural charm.

Read our Santana (Madeira) Travel Guide

Vereda do Pico Ruivo (PR1.2)

Vereda Do Areeiro At Pico Do Cidrão, Madeira
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Ximonic (Simo Räsänen)

Pico Ruivo stands as the highest peak in Madeira, soaring to an impressive elevation of 1,862 meters (6,109 feet). The most convenient path to reach the summit of Pico Ruivo is by embarking on the PR 1.2 Vereda do Pico Ruivo hiking trail. To initiate your journey, you can drive directly to the mountain until you reach Achada do Teixeira, where you can conveniently park your vehicle. From this starting point, the picturesque trail traverses the mountain’s ridge, leading you to the summit, covering a distance of just 2.8 kilometres (1.74 miles) one way. Along the way, you’ll encounter numerous shelters for brief respites, and there’s even a charming small café nestled along the route for added convenience.

Read more about Vereda do Pico Ruivo (PR1.2)

Caldeirão Verde Levada Walk (PR 9)

Caldeirão Verde Levada Walk
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Froth82

Levada do Caldeirão Verde (PR 9) offers yet another opportunity to immerse yourself in the breath-taking waterfalls of Madeira. Approximately halfway into the hike, you’ll encounter a striking waterfall, and the grand finale awaits at the end with the impressive Caldeirão Verde, one of the most powerful waterfalls to grace our sight. Prepare for an extraordinary trail that commences from one of the island’s most exquisite gardens, Parque das Queimadas, serving as the starting point for both Levada do Caldeirão Verde and Caldeirão Inferno.

The park itself is a captivating destination, offering an hour’s worth of exploration amidst its charming miniature Santana Houses and the elegant presence of peacocks meandering about. However, the real adventure unfolds on the levada trails! For the more daring souls, an optional continuation to hike the additional Caldeirão do Inferno segment is available, presenting a more exhilarating and challenging experience!

Location: PR9 Levada do Caldeirão Verde, Santana, Portugal
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View the Eagle Rock at Faial

Faial, Madeira
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Holger Uwe Schmitt

Drive through Santana on the VR1, stopping at Miradouro do Cortado or Miradouro de Nossa Senhora dos Bons Caminhos for photos. As you descend to  Faial you can turn left to visit the Fortim do Faial, disappointing as a fort but a great place to view the Eagle’s Nest! Continue on towards the Miradouro do Guindaste and step out over the Atlantic ocean!

Faial is a charming, small village situated along the north-eastern coast of the island, named after a local tree called ‘faia’ or ‘myrica faya.’ The area was initially colonized around 1519, with settlers primarily comprising Moorish and Galician communities. During the early settlement period, when sugar plantation thrived, water mills were constructed along the rivers of Ribeira do Faial and Ribeira Seca to process sugar cane. Today, remnants of these mills can still be observed beneath the bridge, providing glimpses into the historical sugar production activities in the region.

As you look out to sea to your right is the Penha d’Águia massif, splitting up Faial and Porto da Cruz. Penha d’Águia or the Eagle Rock looks inaccessible from all sides with vertical seaward cliffs which continue all the way round the landward sides. However hiking to the summit is possible, although challenging and recommended only for hikers with good physical endurance, the walk is also not really suitable in wet weather as the paths can become treacherously slippery. Drive to the start of the Vereda da Penha d’Águia , read more about the Penha d’Águia route in our blog.

Location: Faial, Portugal
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Tours and Activities from Funchal (Madeira)

7-Day Madeira Itinerary: How to See Madeira in One Week

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With a minimum of 7 days to spare in Madeira, you’ll have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the island’s diverse beauty and culture. While it’s impossible to cover everything in a week, you can embark on a fantastic journey exploring various landscapes and engaging in a range of activities.

Here’s a suggested 7-day self-driving itinerary for first-time visitors to Madeira. Please note that this plan assumes you have your own car and is tailored for independent travelers looking for daily adventures, but you can adjust or extend it to include some relaxation days if you prefer.

Madeira’s road network can be challenging at times, but it’s generally manageable. You’ll encounter winding mountain roads and steep local streets, so it’s a good idea to have your most confident driver behind the wheel!

Day 1: Explore Funchal & Monte

Fortress Of Sao Tiago
Pixabay / Andrew

To ensure you get the most out of your day we have created a route that takes in all the sites in the shortest possible time in our 1 Day Self guided Walking Tour of Funchal & Monte (With Maps)! If walking is not your thing, or you plane arrives later in the day I can recommend this Funchal: Old Town Tour by Tuk Tuk with Traditional Toboggan. This guided tour takes you around all the important sites and includes the all important Monte toboggan ride!

Funchal, while predominantly modern, does have a charming historical core. Enjoy leisurely strolls along its cobblestone streets and take in the awe-inspiring sight of the hilltop fortress of St. John. You can easily spend a few hours exploring the historical area, and don’t forget to make a stop at the Mercado dos Lavradores, a market renowned for its numerous fruit vendors where you can sample a wide array of exotic fruits (just be cautious of the tourist prices).

Getting to Monte from the harbour is a breeze: simply hop on the cable car, and you’ll reach Monte in about 5 minutes. Here, you can immerse yourself in several impressive gardens, including the Asian-inspired Monte Palace Tropical Garden and the Botanical Gardens of Madeira. Not only will you be treated to breath-taking views of the city, but the palace gardens offer a delightful exploration experience. With flamingos, koi fish, cascading waterfalls, and an abundance of exotic tropical plants, you may momentarily feel transported out of Europe. On-site, you’ll also find some small museums, including one featuring impressive mineral specimens and a collection of African art. It can take several hours to fully explore these gardens. Close to the palace gardens, you’ll encounter the renowned wicker basket cars, also known as the toboggan ride. Men dressed in traditional attire will pull you down steep roads while you sit in a wicker sled of sorts. It’s a bit pricey (€17.50 per person), and the experience lasts only a few minutes, but it’s a memorable and enjoyable activity.

Collectively, these sights form the quintessential Funchal itinerary. They are especially popular among cruise ship passengers making a day stop in Madeira, so during peak cruise arrival times, these attractions may be busier than usual.

Read more about Free Self guided Walking Tour of Funchal & Monte (With Maps!)

Day 2: Marvel at Madeira’s peaks

Pico Do Arieiro To Pico Ruivo Hike
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Bjørn Christian Tørrissen

First, embark on an unforgettable hike to the highest point in Madeira, known as Pico Ruivo. If you’ve ever marveled at epic drone shots showcasing the island’s majestic mountains, rest assured they were captured either here or at the neighboring Pico do Areeiro. You have two options to reach Pico Ruivo: you can tackle a challenging trail starting from Pico do Areeiro, which offers a parking lot for convenience, or opt for a slightly easier hike starting from Achada do Teixeira.

Whichever path you choose, the journey to Pico Ruivo promises breathtaking vistas, an opportunity to connect with nature, and a chance to witness the island’s volcanic majesty up close. So, gear up, lace up your hiking boots, and prepare to be captivated by the rugged beauty of Madeira’s interior.

Read more about Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo Hike (PR1 and PR1.2)

Day 3: Eastern Madeira road trip

Eastern Madeira Tour
pixabay / Greg Montani

As you embark on your Madeira adventure, set your sights on the easternmost point of the island, Ponta de São Lourenço. Here, you’ll encounter a landscape that seems plucked from another world, resembling a lunar-like expanse with its own unique charm.

This region stands in stark contrast to the lush green interior that defines much of Madeira. Instead, you’ll find open spaces and rugged seaside cliffs, with shrubs, thistles, and sunbathing lizards reigning supreme. To truly immerse yourself in this otherworldly setting, consider hiking at least up to Casa do Sardinha, a charming cafe nestled amidst swaying palm trees. The hike takes roughly an hour one way, and it’s a journey well worth embarking upon.

For the more adventurous souls, there’s the option to continue your hike further to the stunning Miradouro Ponta do Furado. From this vantage point, you’ll enjoy panoramic views that extend to two uninhabited islets, making it a photographer’s paradise.

To make the most of your day, we recommend starting this hike in the morning when temperatures are cooler, and the trail is less crowded. For additional hiking tips and insights, be sure to check out our São Lourenço hike guide.

As the afternoon rolls in, make your way to the nearby town of Machico, Madeira’s second-largest city. Nestled alongside a picturesque marina, Machico boasts one of the island’s few sandy beaches. While this golden stretch of sand has been artificially created, you’ll find it to be the perfect spot for unwinding and soaking up the sun, regardless of its origins.

Whether you’re in search of lunar landscapes, coastal hiking, or simply a relaxing day at the beach, this dynamic duo of Ponta de São Lourenço and Machico promises to offer an array of experiences to enrich your Madeira journey.

Read more about Madeira: Sightseeing Tour of the East Coast!

Day 4: Explore North West Madeira!

Madeiras North East Coast-laurel-forest
pixabay / Andreas

The North West Coast of Madeira showcases some of the island’s most stunning landscapes, blending mountains, forests, cliffs, and the sea to create breath-taking views. From São Vicente to Porto Moniz, this region offers unforgettable coastal vistas. It also boasts intriguing volcanic caves in São Vicente and natural swimming pools, including the famous ones in Porto Moniz. The North Coast’s beauty is further enhanced by the Laurissilva Forest, covering 20% of Madeira’s territory and flourishing in this region thanks to abundant water sources, contributing to its lush and extraordinary landscape.

Read more about Madeira: Sightseeing Tour through the North West Coast!

Day 5: South West Madeira Road Trip

Tour Of Western Madeira
pixabay / Olga Fil

The southwestern corner of Madeira distinguishes itself as a unique island within an island, providing a peaceful respite from the vibrant eastern side and the bustling city of Funchal. This enchanting region seamlessly blends the verdant laurel forests with the boundless expanse of the deep blue Atlantic, creating a haven of serenity. It’s the perfect destination for revitalization, particularly following several days of exploration.

To embark on your adventure in the western part of Madeira, you have multiple routes to choose from. Whether you opt for the coastal road or two interior pathways that traverse the mountains and connect the northern and southern regions, you’ll be greeted by a landscape devoid of bustling cities. Instead, quaint villages dot your path, offering glimpses into the authentic charm of Madeira.

Start the day by hiking the Levada 25 Fontes and Levada do Alecrim, head to Port Moniz and take a di pin their natural pools.

Read more about Madeira: Sightseeing Tour of South West Coast!

Day 6: Santana and the North Coast

Madeira Santana And The North Coast
Pixabay / Frank Nürnberger

Drive over the mountains, catching the early morning sun from one of the many viewing points, such as the Levada dos Balcões. Perched on the untamed northern coast of Madeira, the charming village of Santana stands as a world apart. Here, one can find an assortment of whimsical A-frame houses, untouched coastal splendour, and a tranquil rural atmosphere that defines its unique character. Parque das Queimadas and Levada do Caldeirão Verde (4 hours) provide yet another chance see the captivating waterfalls of Madeira. Climbs up to Madeira’s highest mountain along the Vereda do Pico Ruivo (PR1.2) (2 hours). Finally see the stunning Eagle Rock at Faial.

Read more about Madeira: Santana and the North Coast

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Tours and Activities from Funchal (Madeira)

Free Self guided Walking Tour of Funchal & Monte (With Maps!)

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Step into the picturesque city of Funchal, the vibrant capital of Madeira, and embark on a remarkable journey through history, culture, and natural beauty. Join us as we explore the enchanting streets of Funchal’s Old Town, unveiling its timeless charm and hidden gems. Then, ascend to the peaceful hills of Monte, where lush gardens and breath-taking vistas await. This walking tour promises an immersive experience, allowing you to discover the heart of Funchal and the serene beauty of Monte, all on foot. Lace up your walking shoes, grab your camera, and let’s begin this captivating adventure through Funchal and Monte!

Reid's Palace

Reids Hotel Funchal
CC BY-SA 1.0 / Stefan Bellini

If you are walking from the Hotel Zone in Western Funchal to start this tour, then start at Reid’s Hotel.

Opened in 1891 as Reid’s Hotel later it became known as Reid’s Palace. The conception of the hotel can be traced back to William Reid, who embarked on his Madeira journey as a cabin boy in 1836. Accumulating wealth through the wind trade, Reid’s vision came to fruition when the hotel’s doors swung open in 1891. Over the ensuing decades, it beckoned a host of notable celebrities. In 1936, it came under the ownership of the illustrious Blandy family, renowned for their association with Madeira wine. Among its esteemed guests, Winston Churchill was a frequent visitor, dedicating much of his time to capturing the scenic beauty of the fishing village of Cãmara de Lobos through his artistry.

Location: Reid's Palace, A Belmond Hotel, Madeira, Estrada Monumental, Funchal, Portugal
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Jardim de Santa Catarina

Parque De Santa Catarina
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Luke H. Gordon

Walk down to Av. do Infante. You will pass some fine art deco villas on your left. On your right is the Savoy Palace and the Casino Park Hotel. The circular casino, shaped like a crown was designed in the 1970s by Oscar Neimeyer, best know for his work on the Brazilian Capital, Brasilia. You then pass the Centro de Congressos da Madeira and Quinta Vigia. The pink building Quinta Vigia is the official residence of Madeira’s President. You are allowed to walk through the gardens where there are parrots in cages. Just beyond this is the Jardim de Santa Caterina.

To get to the Cristiano Ronaldo Museum walk across the park towards the seafront and descend the steps. If football is not your thing, walk through the park with the sea on your right.

This compact park offers a wonderful introduction to Madeira’s botanical diversity as it features a wide array of blooming trees and shrubs, with some of them even being labelled.

On the park’s right-hand side, you can enjoy picturesque views of the harbour and central Funchal. Look for the Nossa Senhora da Conceição do Ilhéu Fort, an old fortress, originally built on an islet but now forms part of the harbour wall.

Pathways lead down to the Capella de Santa Caterina, believed to have been constructed in 1425 by Constança Rodriguez, the wife of Zarco, the island’s discoverer. Although the structure is regretfully neglected, it remains Madeira’s oldest church.

Right ahead, you’ll come across a traffic roundabout referred to as the Rotunda do Infante. At this location, you’ll find a statue of Henry the Navigator seated beneath a somewhat unattractive stone arch. He gazes across to a fountain adorned with sea horses, which are supporting a globe. It’s worth noting that Henry never personally set foot on Madeira, but he did dispatch Zarco to assert Portugal’s claim over the island in 1420.

Location: Parque de Santa Catarina, Avenida do Infante, Funchal, Portugal
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Cristiano Ronaldo Museum

Museu CR7 Funchal
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Abby M.

Turn to your right and

We begin our tour right here, in front of the CR7 Museum. Cristiano Ronaldo, the island’s pride and joy, hails from this very place. Widely celebrated as one of the greatest footballers ever, and often hailed as the best in the world, his fame and skill are unparalleled. The people of the island hold him in high esteem, and it’s no wonder he’s so beloved here. Ronaldo, a stellar ambassador for Madeira, visits his island home frequently and has a residence just a short distance from here. This museum is a tribute to Cristiano’s remarkable football career, showcasing all the awards and trophies he has garnered over the years.

Location: Museu CR7, Avenida Sá Carneiro, Funchal, Portugal | Hours: Monday to Friday: 10am until 5pm | Price: Adults: €5 | Website
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Baltazar Dias Theatre

Teatro Municipal Baltazar Dias
CC BY-SA 42.0 / PESP/ Wikimedia

Walk along the Av. Do Mar alongside the Marina Shopping centre and turn first left. The Teatro Municipal Baltazar Dias is on your right. Turn right onto Av. Arriaga.

Located on Funchal’s Avenida Arriaga, the Baltazar Dias Municipal Theatre is a historical monument, boasting a century-long legacy since its establishment in 1888. Known for its harmonious balance and architectural finesse, the theatre is a prime example of elegant design.

The decoration of the theatre was entrusted to two renowned artists of their era – Eugénio Cotrim’s Birth and the Italian Luigi Manini. Their work resulted in a stunning interior, with ceilings adorned with romantic-era decorative motifs. The theatre’s auditorium, designed in a horseshoe shape, features elaborately decorated boxes. These boxes are embellished with masks reminiscent of Greek theatre, all intricately carved in gilded wood, adding to the grandeur of the space.

Location: Teatro Municipal Baltazar Dias, Avenida Arriaga, Funchal, Portugal | Hours: Monday and Tuesday: 09:00 - 12:30 | 14:00 - 17:30 | Wednesday and Thursday: 09:00 - 21:30 | Friday: 09:00 - 21:30 | Saturday and Sunday: 13:30 - 21:30 | Website
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Blandy's Wine Lodge

Blandys Winery - Funchal, Madeira
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Richard Gray

The Jardim Municipal do Funchal are on your left, built in 1878, this garden was initially adorned with exotic plants transported to Madeira from Paris and Porto. The garden’s layout was designed by the renowned French landscape architect Édouard François André. This prolific Frenchman left his mark on approximately 100 private and public gardens worldwide, including Sefton Park in Liverpool and the Villa Borghese gardens in Rome. Previously, this area served as a Franciscan convent, and you can still spot a stone coat of arms bearing the Franciscan emblem in the garden, along with various other statues and monuments.

On your righ is the Palácio de São Lourenço and your right Blandy’s Wine Lodge.

Blandy’s Wine Lodge, is a historic winery renowned for its production of Madeira wine since the early 19th century, making it a significant player in the island’s wine industry.

The lodge itself is housed in a charming, old building that is steeped in history. Visitors to Blandy’s Wine Lodge can take guided tours, which offer an insightful look into the history and process of Madeira wine production. These tours typically include a walk through the wine cellars, where vast barrels and vats age the wine, a process crucial to developing its unique flavour and character finishing with an amazing wine tasting experience.

Location: Blandy's Wine Lodge (former Adegas de São Francisco), Avenida Arriaga, Funchal, Portugal | Hours: Monday to Friday: 10:00 - 13:00 | 14:30 -18:30 | Closed: Saturday, Sunday and Public holidays | Price: Tours From €9 | Website
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São Lourenço Palace & Museum

Palácio De São Lourenço, Funchal, Madeira
CC BY-SA 4.0 / PESP/ Wikimedia

Originally constructed as a fortification, the San Lorenzo Palace eventually transformed into the national residence palace. Situated at a critical defense location, it stands as a prominent example of both civil and military architectural prowess. The initial construction of Funchal’s earliest fortress began in 1529 and reached completion by 1540. This construction was initiated in response to an appeal from the people of Funchal following the plundering and looting of a ship anchored near the Funchal coast. However, in 1566, the fortress fell victim to the onslaught of French pirates.

The interiors of the palace are home to an extensive collection of decorative art, showcasing both Portuguese and European pieces. These artworks are sourced from the palace’s own collection or have been relocated from various national palaces, reflecting the artistic styles of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Moreover, those visiting São Lourenço Palace have the opportunity to view a varied array of royal portraits. A highlight of this collection is the portrait of King João VI, a masterpiece by Joaquim Leonardo da Rocha. Born in the 18th century, da Rocha was a prolific artist, particularly renowned for his contributions to the artistic heritage of Madeira.

Location: Palácio de São Lourenço, Avenida Zarco, Funchal, Portugal | Hours: Monday: 12:30 | Tuesday and Wednesday: 10:00 | Thursday: 10:00 and 12:30 | Friday: 15:00
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Statue of João Gonçalves Zarco

Statue Of Joao Goncalves Zarco
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Alberto-g-rovi

Continue along Av. Arriaga to reach the Statue of João Gonçalves Zarco.

The João Gonçalves Zarco Monument is a notable historical statue located in Madeira, Portugal. It serves as a tribute to João Gonçalves Zarco, a key figure in Portuguese maritime history and one of the discoverers of the Madeira Archipelago in the 15th century. The monument typically depicts Zarco in a prominent stance, symbolizing his importance as an explorer and his role in the expansion of the Portuguese Age of Discovery. Positioned in a public space, it not only commemorates Zarco’s contributions to Portuguese exploration but also serves as a point of interest and pride for locals and visitors alike, reminding them of the rich maritime history of the region.

Look out for the pretty Banco de Portugal building on your left, designed by architect Edmundo Tavares and inaugurated in 1940.

Location: Estátua João Gonçalves Zarco, Avenida Zarco, Funchal, Portugal
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Municipal Museum of Funchal

Museu De História Natural, Palácio De São Pedro, Funchal
CC BY-SA 4.0 / PESP/ Wikimedia

Turn left up Av. Zarco. At the crossroads you will cross over to R. das Pretas, although if you are interested the Madeira Photography Museum is on your left, otherwise continue. You come to a junction with the Igreja de São Pedro in front of your, turn left for the Municipal Museum of Funchal. The church is free to enter has an incredible interior. A plaque outside the church describes the history in English and Portuguese.

This building is located within the former São Pedro Palace, a historic residence that served various purposes until 1933. Initially constructed as the residence of the Counts of Carvalhal, it underwent several transformations over the years. In 1882, it was converted into the Hotel Sheffield, and in the subsequent year, it became the headquarters of the Colégio de São Jorge.

In 1897, the International Club took up residence within its walls, and by 1929, the Funchal City Council established various institutions there, including the Funchal Municipal Library, the Museum, and the Madeira Regional Archive. The building is now divided into the Funchal Natural History Museum, the Scientific Library, and the Municipal Aquarium.

It boasts an extensive array of exhibits, including a variety of marine species and geological samples from the region, offering a comprehensive insight into the natural history of Madeira.

Location: Museu de Historia Natural do Funchal, Rua da Mouraria, Funchal, Portugal | Hours: October to March: 09h00-17h30 | April to September: 09h00-19h30 Closed: 25th December | Website
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Casa Museu Frederico de Freitas

Casa Museu Frederico De Freitas, Funchal
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Michael Gaylard

Situated in the heart of Funchal, nestled between São Pedro and the Santa Clara Convent, stands the Museum House Frederico de Freitas. Known for its distinctive red color and also referred to as Casa da Calçada, this building was originally the home of the Counts of Calçada, dating back to the 17th century.

The present grandeur and size of the house are the results of various renovations and expansions over the years, particularly the romantic style alterations in the latter half of the 19th century. The property was once owned by Diogo de Ornelas de França Carvalhal Frazão and Figueiroa, the First Viscount of Calçada, who served as the substitute civil governor of Funchal before being named Count on October 4, 1882. The House remained with his family and their descendants until 1979, after which it was purchased by the Regional Government.

The museum is named after Dr. Frederico de Freitas, a Madeiran lawyer, notary, and collector who began renting the house in 1941. Over his 40 years in the residence, Frederico de Freitas amassed a significant collection of artworks, which he eventually bequeathed to the Autonomous Region of Madeira.

Location: Casa Museu Frederico de Freitas, Calçada de Santa Clara, Funchal, Portugal | Hours: Tuesday to Saturday:10:00 - 17:30 | Closed: Sunday and Public holidays | Price: €3.00 | Website
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Santa Clara Convent

Convento De Santa Clara Funchal, Portugal
CC BY-SA 4.0 / GualdimG

Head back to the church and turn left into Calçada de Santa Clara (the church is on your right.) The Casa Museu Frederico de Freitas is on your left.

Upon the completion of construction works in 1497, the convent began to accept its first Poor Clare nuns, and this continued until the mid-18th century. It was a convent that welcomed a significant number of nuns. However, with the dissolution of Religious Orders, it ceased to admit new members.

As the number of nuns dwindled, the convent persisted until the passing of the last Sister. At that point, all the convent’s assets and the building itself were transferred to the state. Nevertheless, in 1896, a portion of the convent was entrusted to the Congregation of the Missionaries of Mary, which remained there until the establishment of the Republic.

In subsequent years, the Republic’s government handed over the custody and maintenance of the church and some adjacent land of the convent to the Funchal City Council. This was done to expand the streets and allocate certain facilities to the Santa Casa da Misericórdia for the establishment of a hospital and other support services.

Location: Convent of Santa Clara, Calçada de Santa Clara, Funchal, Portugal | Hours: Tuesday to Saturday: 9:00-12:30 | 14:00-17:30. Closed on Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays.
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Quinta das Cruzes Museum

Museu Da Quinta Das Cruzes
CC BY-SA 2.0 / D-Stanley

Continue along Calçada do Pico and Museu da Quinta das Cruzes is on your left.

Quinta das Cruzes holds a prominent place among the renowned estates in the city of Funchal due to its historical connections with the families of the first donatary captains during the late 15th and early 16th centuries. It also had ties to the discoverer of Madeira, João Gonçalves Zarco, who initially established a small structure on the property. This building was later expanded by his son, João Gonçalves da Câmara. The ownership of this estate remained within the da Câmara family until the mid-17th century, after which it changed hands through marriage alliances and eventually passed to the Lomelino Family, where it remained until the late 19th century.

Quinta das Cruzes encompasses the former residence of the Morgados das Cruzes, the Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Piedade, and a stunning garden that includes the Orchid Garden and the Archaeological Park.

Location: Museu da Quinta das Cruzes, Funchal, Portugal | Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 10:00 - 17:30 | Closed: Sunday, Monday and Public holidays | Price: Adults: €3.00 | Website
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Fortress of São João Baptista do Pico

Fortaleza Do Pico
CC BY-SA 2.0 / D-Stanley

Continue up the hill and turn left into R. do Castelo.

Commonly known as “Fortaleza do Pico,” this fortification is situated atop Pico dos Frias and, much like the Santiago Fortress, played a crucial role in safeguarding the city against corsairs and pirates. The precise year of its construction remains uncertain, but historical evidence strongly suggests that it dates back to the 17th century. Many records point to the year 1600 as the likely date of its inception, coinciding with the appointment of Cristóvão Falão de Sousa as the Governor of Madeira. In 1601, Governor Falão de Sousa dispatched Sergeant Major Roque Borges de Sousa to Lisbon with a new fortification plan.

The Elucidário Madeiran records that Francisco de Sousa assumed the role of the first Constable in 1624. Over the subsequent years, the fortress underwent significant renovations, including conversion to stone and lime. It was renamed São Filipe and was completed in 1632, as indicated by an epigraphic inscription on the Gate of Weapons. The cistern within the fortress features the year 1639 on its wall.

In any case, this 17th-century fortification, dating from the era of the Philippine Dynasty, stands as the island’s emblem and occupies a strategically advantageous location. It has been classified as a Property of Public Interest since 1943.

Location: Fortaleza de São João Baptista do Pico, Rua do Castelo, Funchal, Portugal
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D'Oliveiras Madeira Wine Cellar

Adegas Pereira D’Oliveira, Funchal
CC BY-SA 4.0 / PESP/ Wikimedia

Head back down the hill and turn left at Igreja de São Pedro. At the dogleg head straight across to R. dos Netos. Turn right into Rua Dos Ferreiros and Pereira D’Oliveira will be on your right.

The headquarters of D’Oliveiras in Funchal, a building dating back to the 1600s, stands as a testament to the rich history of Madeira wine. Annually producing around 150,000 litres, including the renowned Tinta Negra wines, D’Oliveiras is an essential destination for anyone on a wine discovery tour in Madeira.

Recalling the beginning of our tour, I mentioned that Madeira Island is renowned for three key things, one of which is linked to a significant moment in American history. On July 4, 1776, during the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the signatories, including notable figures like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, celebrated the momentous occasion with a glass of Madeira wine. This historical titbit highlights the global significance and historical reach of Madeira’s celebrated wines.

Location: Pereira D'Oliveira, Rua Dos Ferreiros, Funchal, Portugal | Website
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Praça do Município

Sacred Art Museum Of Funchal
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Holger Uwe Schmitt

Continue down the road to reach Praça do Município.

The Praça do Município, the main square in the city of Funchal, is encircled by a variety of significant monuments, beginning with the Bishop’s Palace, featuring an arched passageway that extends from the São Luis de Tolosa chapel. The palace has been repurposed to host the Sacred Art Museum, a treasure trove of religious artefacts that date as far back as the 15th century. Continuing in an anti-clockwise direction around the square, the next notable building is the Funchal City Hall, followed by the Jesuit Church or Igreja de São João Evangelista, which is situated directly opposite the Bishop’s Palace which hold the Funchal Sacred Art Museum. In the centre is a fountain dating from 1942 whose obelisk has the design of the City’s coat of arms and elements of a nationalist character.

Location: Sacred Art Museum of Funchal, Rua do Bispo, Funchal, Portugal | Hours: Monday to Friday: 10:00-17:30 | Saturday: 10.00-13.30 | Closed: Sunday and Public Holidays | Guided tours available | Price: Adult: €8
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Capela de São Luís de Tolosa


Walk diagonally across the square and down the steps to reach the Capela de São Luís de Tolosa.

This chapel forms a part of the Bishops Palace. As we round the corner shortly, you’ll get a more comprehensive view of the palace. The chapel’s front is marked by a basalt stone doorway dating back to the 1600s. Positioned above the doorway is the coat of arms belonging to Bishop Luis de Lemos. Further up, there’s an oculus, often called a spyglass, and a bell tower, both exemplifying the late Gothic style. This architectural style, prevalent in Europe from around the 1100s to the 1500s, is often known as “pointed architecture” due to its distinctive features. Inside the Bishops Palace, the interior is home to a collection of artefacts and historical items from the 16th and 17th centuries.

Location: Capela de São Luís de Tolosa, Rua do Bispo, Funchal, Portugal
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Sé Catedral do Funchal

Cathedral, Funchal, Madeira, Portugal
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Diego Delso

Turn right into R. do Bpo and left onto Rua do Bispo. At this junction there is a bust to Baden-Powell (1857-1941), the father of boy-scout movement all over the world, who visited Madeira in the beginning of the 1930s. At the end of Rua do Bispo is the Sé Catedral do Funchal.

Situated in the heart of the city, the Sé, or Funchal Cathedral, stands as a prominent historical monument in Funchal. This cathedral’s architecture is an eclectic fusion of Southern European Gothic, Moorish, Manueline, and local architectural styles.

The European Gothic style is recognized for its grand, cavern-like spaces and walls adorned with intricate tracery. In contrast, the Manueline style, a Portuguese late Gothic form, integrates maritime motifs and elements inspired by the exploratory voyages of Vasco da Gama and other navigators.

Moorish architecture, named for the North African Moors who once ruled over the Iberian Peninsula and various Western Mediterranean islands, brings its unique characteristics to the mix.

Constructed in the early 1500s, during the height of Portuguese exploration, the Sé Cathedral symbolizes the era’s power and wealth. Among its not-to-be-missed features are the Gothic altarpiece with its elaborate gilt woodwork, exquisite oil paintings on wood, and an array of small sculptures. The cedarwood ceiling, adorned with ivory, is acclaimed as one of Portugal’s most stunning ceilings.

Visitors are welcome to enter the cathedral free of charge and admire its magnificent interior. Upon exiting through the same entrance, with the cathedral at your back, turn right and cross the street at the pedestrian crossing. Continue your journey up Rua João Tavira.

Location: Sé Catedral do Funchal, Rua do Aljube, Funchal, Portugal | Hours: Monday to Friday: from 7:15 am to 6:30 pm; Saturday from 8:00 am - 12:00 pm and 4:00 pm to 07:00 pm; Sundays and Holidays: 8:00 am to 1:00 pm and 4:30 pm to 7:00 pm.
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New Customs House

Antiga Alfandega, Funchal, Madeira
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Paulo SP/ Wikimedia

Continue along R. Dr. António José de Almeida until you are back on the Av. Do Mar, turn left and left again.

The initial customs house was situated at Largo do Pelourinho. However, with the city’s redevelopment and the subsequent construction of the Town Hall and the Sé Cathedral, the construction of what was then referred to as the “New Customhouse” commenced. This construction project was completed around the year 1519.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, the building underwent various improvements. In 1715, the head of the customs house initiated the construction of a chapel, which has more recently been refurbished with interior décor reflecting that time period.

Over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, this complex underwent numerous changes and expansions. However, the decision to house the Madeira Legislative Assembly in this building was not made until 1982. The original Manueline core of the structure was meticulously restored and adapted to meet the new requirements.

Location: Alfândega do Funchal, Avenida Do Mar, Funchal, Madeira, Portugal
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Christopher Columbus Square & A Cidade do Açúcar Museum

A Cidade Do Açúcar Museum
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Jane White

Turn left at the Capela de Santo António da Mouraria down R. da Alfândega. The Capela de Santo António da Mouraria is a simple, charming chapel, which has a collection of restored 17th- and 18th-century canvases, and statues carved from wood and made of ceramics inside. At the end of R. da Alfândega you come to Praco do Colombo. The Museu a Cidade do Açúcar is the yellow building on the north side of the square.

The Museu a Cidade do Açúcar in Funchal is dedicated to delving into the history of Madeira, particularly its significant sugarcane industry.

The museum is situated at the former residence of a prosperous Flemish sugar merchant named Jenin Esmenaut (known as João Esmeraldo in Portuguese), who settled in Madeira via Lisbon in the late 15th century. Esmeraldo constructed the house in 1495, and it is believed that Christopher Columbus, who was also involved in the sugar trade on Porto Santo, may have been a guest here at various times, first in 1478 and later in 1498.

In 1989, archaeological excavations were conducted in and around what would become Praça de Colombo, revealing the foundations of João Esmeraldo’s properties, which had been demolished in 1876 and were then serving as warehouses. Many of the artefacts uncovered during these excavations, by a team from mainland Portugal, are now on display at the museum.

The museum opened its doors to the public in 1996, providing valuable insights into Madeira’s rich history, particularly its association with the sugarcane industry.

Location: Museu A Cidade do Açúcar, Praça De Colombo, Funchal, Portugal | Hours: Monday to Friday 9:00 -17:30 | Price: Free entry | Website
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Largo dos Varadouros

Porton Dos Varadouros Funchal Madeira
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez (Lmbuga)

Head for the bottom right of the square where yo come to a smaller square with the old city gate.

This city gate is a faithful reconstruction of the original entranceway from 1690 that once marked the entrance to the walled city. It is worth noting the presence of the original crown and coat of arms situated at the apex of the archway. This gate was one of five entrances that encircled the city.

Location: Largo dos Varadouros, Funchal, Portugal
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Mercado dos Lavradores

Mercado Dos Lavradores
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Funchal

Walk past the Varadouros Old Gate and turn left into R. Da Praia, after the road turns to the left take the first right you can. On your left-hand side, you’ll notice the Praça da Autonomia roundabout, featuring the Autonomy Monument at its center. This monument commemorates Madeira’s attainment of self-governing status following the 1974 Carnation Revolution. It depicts a woman breaking free with great determination from her confinement within a block of bronze. As you cross the river you will see the remains of the old city walls on your right.

Turn left up Rua Do Visconde De Anadia and walk along the river until you can cross over to the Mercado dos Lavradores.

Located in the historic Santa Maria district at the heart of Funchal, the Farmers’ Market stands as one of the iconic attractions that Madeira’s capital proudly offers to its visitors, as well as the local community. Here, a captivating fusion of colors, scents, and time-honoured traditions comes together to captivate and please all those who venture inside.

Constructed during the 1930s based on the design by Edmundo Tavares (1892-1983), the market embodies a graceful blend of ‘art deco’ and modernism. Within its walls, you’ll discover the freshest and finest exotic fruits, vegetables, and flowers that the lush “Garden of the Atlantic” – a moniker often used to describe the beautiful island of Madeira – has to offer.

The market encompasses a covered area with two levels. The ground floor hosts stalls featuring fish and meat, while upstairs, the space is brimming with tropical fruits, vegetables, and a diverse array of spices, infusing the air with new and enticing aromas.

Adorning both the main entrance and the interior are several tile panels, crafted by the once-renowned but now defunct Fábrica de Loiça de Sacavém (cookware factory) in Lisbon.

Adding to the market’s charm is the enduring presence of tradition and folklore. Many of the vendors can be seen dressed in the vibrant and cheerful traditional Madeiran attire, a sight that adds to the market’s unique appeal.

Location: Mercado dos Lavradores, Mercado dos Lavradores, Funchal, Portugal | Hours: Monday to Thursday: 07:00 - 19:00 | Friday: 07:00 - 20:00 | Saturday: 07:00 - 14:00 | Closed: Sunday | Website
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Corpo Santo Chapel

Capela Do Corpo Santo - Funchal - Portugal
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Vitor Oliveira

Leave the market at the same entrance that you entered turning to the left, with the river on your right. Take the second left into Rua de Santa Maria. You are now in the Zona Velha historic area with narrow cobbled streets lined with restaurant & bars, plus old merchant houses. When you come to the end of Rua de Santa Maria turn left and a quick right onto Largo do Corpo Santo.

The original chapel, initially constructed by local fishermen in devotion to their patron saint, São Pedro Gonçalves Telmo, towards the end of the 15th century, retains only its Gothic portal as a remnant. This intricately carved work is believed to date back to the late 16th century and stands as one of the most remarkable examples of this craft on the island. The fundamental Gothic architectural elements of the chapel have been preserved through various renovation projects.

Moreover, this chapel served as the accommodation for the oldest confraternity. This confraternity operated as a mutual support association, providing assistance to families who had lost their loved ones at sea. Additionally, it housed a hospital and a nursery.

Within the vestry, a ‘shrine with the three keys’ used by the friary is still on display. This shrine could only be unlocked in the presence of the chaplain, the head of the confraternity, and the treasurer. The most captivating feature within the interior is the high altar, reconstructed around 1615/1616. It showcases a central panel depicting the patron saint safeguarding a Portuguese caravel from the 15th/16th century. The entire chancel is adorned with ceiling and wall paintings, likely executed by a regional artist. These artworks illustrate the significant events in the patron saint’s life and the miracles attributed to him.

Location: Capela do Corpo Santo, Largo do Corpo Santo, Funchal, Portugal
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Fortress of São Tiago

Forte De São Tiago - Funchal
CC BY-SA 3.0 / H. Zell

Continue along Largo do Corpo Santo until you reach the Fortress of São Tiago.

Dating back to the early 17th century, the Fortress of São Tiago occupies a strategic position overlooking the seafront in the Zona Velha (Old Town), the historic heart of the city. Its construction commenced in the middle of 1614 and was overseen by Reais Jerónimo Jorge, the royal master builder. The project was later completed by his son, Bartolomeu João.

Throughout the centuries, the Fortress of São Tiago has undergone several renovations. This urban fort, designed with military architecture in mind, has served various purposes over time. It has functioned as the headquarters for British troops, housed the Army Police, and even provided shelter for victims of the flood that occurred in 1803. Eventually, the space was repurposed as the Contemporary Art Museum in 1992, although it was later moved to the Casa das Mudas in Calheta in 2015.

Location: Forte de São Tiago, Travessa do Forte, Funchal, Portugal | Hours: Tuesday to Friday from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm. Closed on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. | Price: €2.50
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Funchal-Monte Cable Car

Funchal-Monte Cable Car
Pixabay / Erik Karits

Walk back along the promenade until you reach Teleférico Funchal-Monte. Close to this is the Madeira Story Centre where you can learn about Madeira’s history and economy. You will be taking the cable car up to Monte.

Top Tip: You will need to decide if you’re going only to Monte Palace, with a normal ticket or if you are also going to the Botanical Garden, where you need to get a combination ticket that includes a second cable car. If you are planning on tobogganing you may only want a single, not a return.

From the bygone era of the rack railway to today’s cutting-edge cable car system, Funchal has once again established a connection to the mesmerizing beauty of Monte, nestled in the hills above the city. This offers an exhilarating means to showcase Madeira’s hidden natural wonders while leaving no adverse impact on the environment, as passengers seem to “fly” above some of the island’s stunning landscapes.

The departure station is located at the Almirante Reis Park, situated in the historic part of the city. With convenient parking options available, this station harmoniously integrates with the revitalization plans for the old town. The Monte station, on the other hand, is positioned near the Monte Palace Tropical Garden, along Caminho das Babosas, amidst truly enchanting scenery. The inclined route covers a distance of approximately 3,200 meters (around 10,500 feet) and boasts a vertical ascent of 580 meters (1,902 feet), offering a journey that takes 15 to 25 minutes. The 39 cabins, each accommodating seven passengers, have the capacity to transport 800 passengers per hour. Moreover, the reduced speed at both stations ensures that disabled passengers can comfortably board.

In the early 20th century, it was the steam train’s role to transport tourists up to the Monte hills, providing them with a comfortable and memorable journey. A century later, the modern cable car took on the mission, replacing the long-decommissioned train.

Location: Funchal-Monte Cable Car, Funchal, Portugal | Hours: Daily 9:00 - 17:45 | Price: Adult: One Way €12,50, Round Trip: €18,00 | Website
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Jardim Botanico (Botanical Garden)

Jardim Botânico Da Madeira
CC BY-SA 3.0 / H. Zell

To get to the Jardim Botanico (Botanical Garden) you need to take another cable car, and this return to this point, if that is the case then skip to the next section. To get to the Jardim Botanico (Botanical Garden) from the top of the Teleférico Funchal-Monte, turn right, with the sea to your right. Walk until you see the Chapelle de l’immaculée conception and, the sign for the Teleférico do Jardim Botânico and the cable car ticket office. Buy your ticket and follow the lane behind the ticket office. You can buy your tickets in advance.

Since the 17th century, Madeira Island had harbored the dream of a botanical garden, which finally became a reality in 1960. Situated 3 km from Funchal’s center, at Quinta do Bom Sucesso, this garden enjoys favorable climate conditions for luxuriant vegetation.

Covering approximately 35,000 m2, the Botanical Garden is a vibrant showcase of harmonious forms, striking colors, and over 2,000 exotic plant species. It is owned by the Regional Government of Madeira and serves not only as a picturesque leisure spot but also as a hub for science and culture.

Visitors will find plants labeled with their scientific names, common names, and places of origin throughout the garden. The garden is divided into five main areas:

Indigenous and Endemic Plants: This section exclusively features plants native to Madeira and other Atlantic islands, including the Azores, Canaries, and Cape Verde. It showcases around 100 indigenous plants, from those typically found on exposed slopes to those native to mid-altitude and Madeira’s natural forest, the ‘Laurissilva’ forest.

Tree Garden: Here, you’ll encounter plants from ecologically diverse regions of the world, such as the Himalayas and the Tropics.

Succulents: This area is home to plants known for their water-storing capacity, with many hailing from South America.

Tropical/Cultivated/Aromatic/Medicinal: Explore a variety of tropical and subtropical fruit trees, including mango, papaya, and avocado, as well as coffee trees, sugar cane, and medicinal plants.

Loiro Park: This section houses exotic and rare bird species, including cockatoos, ‘Loricos’ (a parrot species) from Asian tropical islands, Australian parakeets, and dwarf parrots. The park was expanded in 1997 to introduce new species and create a viewpoint and an amphitheater.

In 2009, the garden was named after Eng. Rui Vieira, the agronomist who founded it in 1960, in honor of his dedication to public service and scientific research. In 2017, the Botanical Garden celebrated its anniversary with upgraded lakes, a garden of Portuguese camellias, and smartphone-accessible information. This garden is an unforgettable destination and a must-visit when exploring Madeira.

Location: Jardim Botânico D, 9060-135 Funchal, Portugal | Hours: Daily 09:00-17:30
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Monte Palace Tropical Garden

Monte Palace Tropical Garden
Public Domain / Wouter Hagens

Return the way you came and walk past the Teleférico do Funchal and you will see the Monte Palace Madeira.

Open to the public since 1991, this extraordinary masterpiece nestled in Monte was meticulously curated by José Berardo and is home to one of Portugal’s most significant tile collections. Amidst the backdrop of lush tropical vegetation, these exquisite tiles represent various eras, originating from palaces, churches, chapels, and private residences across the former Portuguese empire. Each tile tells a story, depicting social, cultural, and religious events that have shaped history.

Among the remarkable tile displays, a standout is an 18th-century door framed by a chapel’s frontispiece, adorned with two figures flanking the stones of the Ten Commandments and a sword. Additionally, there are 40 tile panels that narrate Portugal’s history, commencing with the reign of Dom Afonso Henriques and culminating in a panel dedicated to the Third Republic.

José Berardo’s fascination with Japan and China, their beauty, culture, and Portuguese influence, led to the creation of two enchanting oriental gardens within the estate. A remarkable attraction is the ‘The Adventure of the Portuguese in Japan,’ an iron structure adorned with 166 ceramic plates that recount the intricate social, commercial, and cultural relationship between Portugal and Japan. Amidst this captivating narrative, you’ll discover Chinese and Japanese elements, two guardian ‘Fó’ dogs in marble commonly placed at temple entrances, numerous Buddhist sculptures, a dragon surrounded by children symbolizing fertility, and stone lanterns traditionally used in Japan to illuminate paths leading to tea houses. Be sure not to miss the mesmerizing ‘Koi’ fish, highly prized and originating from East Asia.

In the realm of fauna, marvel at the grace and majesty of swans gracing the central lake, observe the charming blackbirds, and encounter the regal presence of peacocks.

Location: Monte Palace Tropical Garden, Caminho do Monte, Funchal, Portugal | Hours: Daily: 09:30 -18:00 | Price: Adults: €12,50 | Website
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Church of Nossa Senhora do Monte

Igreja De Nossa Senhora Do Monte
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Luke H. Gordon

Come out of the Monte Palace Madeira and turn left walking up Largo da Fonte. You will soon come to the Monte wicker basket cars (toboggan run) and the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Monte.

The Church of Nossa Senhora do Monte, constructed upon the original 16th-century hermitage foundations, has a rich history. It was initially expanded to accommodate the growing number of worshippers but was tragically destroyed by an earthquake in 1748.

However, the resilient spirit of faith led to its reconstruction, and in 1818, the beautiful Church of Nossa Senhora do Monte emerged from the ruins. Today, it holds the esteemed title of being the most significant pilgrimage site in Madeira, attracting fervent pilgrims, especially on the 15th of August. This date marks the celebration of Nossa Senhora do Monte, the Patroness of the city of Funchal, with lively and spirited pilgrimages.

Location: Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Monte, Rampa da Sacristia, Funchal, Portugal | Hours: Tuesday - Saturday 9 am - 7 pm, Sunday and Monday 9 am - 6 pm. Masses are held on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 6 pm, on Wednesday at 8.30 am and on Saturday at 6 pm. Sunday masses are at 8 am and 11 am.
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Carreiros do Monte

Funchal Carros Do Monte
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Karelj

Carreiros do Monte stands as a prominent tourist attraction in Madeira, offering an exhilarating 10-minute, 2-kilometer steep downhill journey in traditional wicker toboggans from Monte to Livramento in Funchal. These toboggans are guided by two runners clad in white attire, complete with straw boater hats and specialized shoes. This unique mode of transportation traces its origins back to the early 19th century when it served as a swift means to descend to the city of Funchal.

It takes about 30 minutes to get from the bottom back to Funchal, mostly downhill.

Location: Caminho do Monte 4, 9050-288 Funchal, Portugal | Hours: Monday to Saturday: From 09:00 to 18:00 | Price: €27.50 for 1, €30 for 2, €52.50 for 3 | Website
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Tours and Activities from Funchal (Madeira)

Madeira: Sightseeing Tour through the North West Coast!

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The North Coast of Madeira is a showcase of some of the most stunning landscapes the island has to offer. In this region, nature has outdone itself, masterfully blending mountains, forests, cliffs, and the sea to create awe-inspiring views. This natural masterpiece offers unforgettable vistas along the coastlines from Sao Vicente to Porto Moniz.

The coastline here is also dotted with intriguing volcanic caves, like those in São Vicente, and features natural swimming pools, including the famed ones in Porto Moniz, which are the pride of this charming town.

Adding to the North Coast’s splendour is the Laurissilva Forest, a true natural gem. This forest spans about 15,000 hectares, covering 20% of Madeira’s territory. Its presence is particularly striking on the North Coast, enhanced by the region’s abundant water sources, contributing to the area’s lush and extraordinary landscape.

Paúl da Serra

Road In Paul Da Serra
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Mysserli

Paúl da Serra, situated between 1,300 and 1,500 meters above sea level, stands as a notable tourist attraction in the central western part of Madeira. Known as the flattest area on the island, it offers spectacular views of the lush green mountains and valleys. On clear days, visitors can enjoy the unique opportunity to see both the southern and northern seas.

This location serves as a hub for numerous paths and levada walks, connecting to various destinations across the island. From here, you can embark on trails leading to places like Rabaçal, Risco, 25 Fontes, Pico Ruivo, Ribeira do Alecrim, Lombo do Mouro, and Bica da Cana. These paths weave through the enchanting Laurissilva forest, offering a captivating experience of Madeira’s natural beauty.

Location: Paúl da Serra ER209 Ribeira da Janela Portugal
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Discover the Enchanted Fanal Forest

Pixabay / Andreas

Fanal Forest, a stunning natural marvel on Madeira Island in the Atlantic Ocean, stands out as an ancient laurel grove. It is among the few surviving segments of Europe’s primeval rainforests, dating back millennia. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is celebrated for its unique biodiversity and special characteristics, serving as a crucial conservation area.

Attracting nature enthusiasts and hikers, Fanal Forest offers a range of hiking trails set amidst its breath-taking natural scenery. It serves as a serene escape from the fast-paced modern world, providing an opportunity for visitors to immerse themselves in the tranquility and unspoiled beauty of this pristine environment.

Top Tip: A visit to Fanal Forest takes on an enchanting quality when shrouded in its eerie morning fog. The fog’s mystique is most striking in the early hours, dissipating usually by 10:30 am. Nevertheless, Fanal’s beauty remains captivating and is well worth a visit even in the absence of the fog.

Read more about Fanal Forest (Madeira)

Swim in the Natural Rock Pools of Porto Moniz

Porto Moniz
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Bjørn Christian Tørrissen

Exploring the municipality of Porto Moniz offers an immersive experience with the northern sea of the island. This area is characterized by its waterfalls, beaches, and natural pools crafted from volcanic rocks, all showcasing a profound bond with the ocean. The viewpoints here provide stunning views over the sea, highlighting the intimate connection between the land and the water. Porto Moniz, stretching from the sea to the mountains, presents a tapestry of breathtaking scenery.

Read our Porto Moniz (Madeira) Travel Guide

Marvel at the Rock Formations of Ilheus da Ribeira da Janela

Ribeira Da Janela
pixabay / Anita Menger

Ilheus da Ribeira da Janela is a breathtaking coastal location renowned for its extraordinary rock formations, situated just meters off the shore. This spot offers a unique experience for visitors, especially at sunrise. Imagine standing on the beach as the sun emerges over the horizon of the ocean, casting its first light of the day. This moment becomes even more magical with the sight of thousands of swallows gracefully circling in the sky, adding a dynamic and vibrant element to the serene morning. This natural spectacle at Ilheus da Ribeira da Janela not only captivates with its stunning geological features but also provides a rare opportunity to witness the beauty of wildlife in harmony with the awe-inspiring Atlantic Ocean. It’s a perfect destination for nature lovers, photographers, and anyone looking to experience a tranquil yet impressive display of Madeira’s coastal charm.

Location: Ribeira da Janela, Portugal
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Seixal In Porto Moniz, Madeira
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Ximonic (Simo Räsänen)

Nestled between São Vicente and Porto Moniz on Madeira Island’s rugged north-west coast, the quaint village of Seixal offers a setting reminiscent of a fantasy world. Flanked by towering cliffs on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other, this charming town is a magnet for various activities or simply for appreciating the dramatic contrasts and boundless natural beauty of its environment.

The landscape features terraced cultivation on the mountain slopes, intriguing rock formations creating stunning natural pools, and meandering paths through forests and waterfalls. Exploring Seixal unveils a picturesque slice of Madeira, inviting visitors to bask in the lush, vibrant nature of this enchanting island.

Location: Seixal, Portugal
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São Vicente

São Vicente, Madeira Portugal
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Vitor Oliveira

São Vicente is distinguished by the vibrant green hues of its lush vegetation, shaped by volcanic activity and erosion across its picturesque slopes. Across its three parishes, visitors can explore a variety of gardens, numerous watercourses, trails, and viewpoints. The area is also known for its natural caves, significant historical heritage, and an extensive portion of the Laurissilva Forest, adding to its rich and diverse natural landscape.

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Tours and Activities from Funchal (Madeira)

Madeira: Sightseeing Tour of South West Coast!

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The south western region of Madeira stands apart as a distinct island, offering a serene escape from the bustling east side and Funchal. This area, where lush laurel forests transition seamlessly into the vast expanse of the blue Atlantic within a short distance, provides a tranquil retreat. It’s an ideal spot for rejuvenation, especially after spending a few days exploring its surroundings.This part of the island is devoid of cities, featuring instead a scattering of quaint villages along your journey.

We will embark on a hiking adventure, following the trails of Levada 25 Fontes and Levada do Alecrim, and later, we’ll make our way to the enchanting natural pools of Port Moniz. Our journey back will take us along the westernmost part of the island, where we’ll make captivating stops at waterfalls and scenic viewpoints. Before we conclude our day and head back to your hotel, you’ll have the chance to unwind with a refreshing Poncha at Camara de Lobos!

Float over the cliffs at the Cabo Girão Skywalk

Cabo Girão Lookout In Câmara De Lobos, Madeira
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Ximonic (Simo Räsänen)

The Cabo Girao skywalk in Madeira stands as one of the island’s premier viewpoints, offering a thrilling yet potentially nerve-wracking experience for those with a fear of heights. Situated on the island’s southern coast, approximately 25 minutes west of Funchal, this spot is not just a scenic marvel but also holds the title of Europe’s highest sea cliff at an impressive 580 meters.

An interesting tidbit about the Cabo Girao skywalk is its significant elevation. When you’re up there, stepping onto the glass platform, the sheer drop is both awe-inspiring and intimidating, especially for those apprehensive about heights. However, despite the fear factor, the skywalk is completely safe, and the panoramic views it offers of Cabo Girao are absolutely breathtaking and well worth the experience.

Cabo Girao is an essential destination for anyone visiting Madeira, and its unique position makes it one of the most extraordinary viewpoints on the island.

Location: Cabo Girão, Câmara de Lobos, Portugal | Price: € 2
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Hike to the Levada das 25 Fontes (Rabacal)

Levada Das 25 Fontes-Madeira
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Bjørn Christian Tørrissen

Embarking on the Levada walk from Rabacal offers a breath-taking journey through nature’s splendour. This route is a celebration of the natural world, with its lush vegetation, diverse birdlife, vibrant flowers, serene streams, and captivating waterfalls. The walk to the Risco waterfall, followed by a descent to the lower Levada from the 25 Fontes, leads to a magical area perfect for a picnic and an optional swim. The return trip includes the challenge of navigating an 800-meter tunnel, emerging to a spectacular sea view on the island’s south side. The journey concludes with a relaxing break for coffee or a beer.

Read more about Levada das 25 Fontes (PR6 & PR6.1)

Marvel at the Volcanic Pools of Porto Moniz

Porto Moniz Natural Swimming Pools
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Michael Gaylard

Porto Moniz, situated at the north-western extremity of Madeira Island, is a hidden gem brimming with unexpected delights. This charming town, where rural allure meets the majestic union of sea and mountains, offers a diverse array of activities that showcase its distinct natural beauty.

The town is perhaps best known for its iconic natural swimming pools, providing a refreshing escape where visitors can immerse themselves in crystal-clear waters amidst volcanic rock formations. These pools are a testament to the unique geological wonders of the area.

For those seeking breath-taking views, Porto Moniz does not disappoint. The town boasts several spectacular viewpoints perched atop cliffs, offering panoramic vistas of the Atlantic Ocean. These vantage points are perfect for photographers and nature lovers alike, providing a serene space to soak in the beauty of the island.

Location: Porto Moniz, Portugal
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Glide down to the Beach at Achadas da Cruz

Calhau Das Achadas Da Cruz
CC BY-SA 3.0 / anagh

Gliding down the steep incline, the cable car connecting Achadas da Cruz to Fajã da Quebrada Nova transforms into a moving viewpoint, offering an absolutely memorable journey.

Located in the Porto Moniz municipality, this area’s landscape is distinctively shaped by the vivid and clear sea, a hallmark of Madeira’s north coast. It’s further accentuated by the strikingly rugged and green hills that add depth and character to the scenery.

Upon reaching Fajã da Quebrada Nova, visitors are welcomed into a serene environment. This pebbly beach provides a perfect spot for tranquil contemplation of the Atlantic Ocean. Beyond just a beach, the ‘fajã’ is also an area of rich agricultural productivity, with cultivated lands that add to the beauty of the surroundings.

The cable car serves not only as a tourist attraction but also as a vital tool for local farmers, aiding in the transport of their produce – a primary reason for its existence. Seize this unique chance to soak in the views of Madeira’s north coast as you ascend this imposing slope.

Location: Calhau das Achadas da Cruz, Achadas da Cruz, Portugal
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Discover Ponto do Pargo the westernmost point of Madeira

Ponta Do Pargo Lighthouse
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Joly Jumper

Continuing along the coast to the south, you’ll reach Ponta do Pargo, the far westernmost point of Madeira. Perched atop the cliffs at this remarkable cape is a century-old lighthouse, proudly standing since 1890, commanding a height of 312 meters (984 feet) above sea level. The village takes its name from the dolphin fish, commonly caught in the vicinity. Featuring the lighthouse at the island’s utmost edge, park at the Miradouro Farol da Ponta do Pargo for breath-taking views of the coastline and the slender, flat landscapes, all while being surrounded by vineyards and vegetable fields.

You can also walk from Ponta do Pargo to see the Garganta Funda Waterfalls. Park at Miradouro da Garganta Funda and then it is just a short walk of 600m (one way) to see the 140 metres high waterfall, which juts out from a jagged hillside and falls to the sea.

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Explore the Charming Village of Calheta

CC BY-SA 3.0 / Xaviernunes

The next stop in the southwest of Madeira is Calheta, a charming village nestled in a steep valley overlooking the coastline. It serves as the primary town along the sunny and fertile southwestern coast of Madeira. The town’s strategic location was chosen in an inlet near the stream’s mouth, and its constant exposure to sunshine, combined with the addition of a newly created sandy beach and marina, has transformed it into a leisure-focused town. Additionally, Calheta is home to the Madeira Museum of Contemporary Art, housed in a building that stands like a watchtower over the sea. An artificial dyke protects two small beaches here, with sand brought from the Sahara Desert, adding to the town’s appeal.

Read our Calheta (Madeira) Travel Guide

Drive through the waterfall at Cascata dos Anjos

Cascata Dos Anjos
Pixabay / Frank Nürnberger

The Cascata dos Anjos, a breathtaking waterfall cascading over the old ER 101 highway, is situated just outside of Ponta do Sol on the Madeira Island, Portugal.

To reach it, head west from Ribeira Brava to Madalena do Mar on the VE3 road and exit at the roundabout towards Ponta do Sol. While many opt to park before the old tunnel, it’s possible and permissible to drive a bit further. Continue on the old road for slightly over a kilometer until you encounter a sign in Portuguese saying “exceto moradores” (except residents). We found a parking spot here (GPS coordinates 32.687640, -17.115570) and walked the remaining two hundred meters.

The pathway along the sea to Cascata dos Anjos is popular, particularly for those seeking a natural shower under the fall. On my visit, I observed children playing in the waterfall, hopefully with dry clothes waiting for them courtesy of their parents. The atmosphere was lively and enjoyable, especially with the warm October 2023 weather hitting 30°C under clear blue skies. I captured some footage on my mobile of cars driving beneath the waterfall, noting that they seemed to take a while before returning, possibly due to needing to turn around further down.

The name Cascata dos Anjos translates to “waterfall of the Angels”. This waterfall, with its heavenly descent from the surrounding cliffs, produces a mesmerizing mist that enhances its beauty. The surrounding lush greenery only adds to the picturesque setting, making it an ideal location for nature lovers and photographers.

There’s a legend that gives Cascata dos Anjos its name, rooted in local lore. The tale speaks of angels coming from the heavens to bathe in the waterfall’s refreshing waters, imbuing the place with a mystical aura that can still be felt. Whether one believes in such stories or not, the enchanting and magical ambiance of the site is undeniable.

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Relax in the Charming Village of Ribeira Brava

Madeira - Ribeira Brava
CC BY-SA 2.0 / muffinn

Ribeira Brava is home to a variety of shops, cafes, and restaurants, particularly close to the beach area. Take in the scenic views from an esplanade or stroll along the promenade. For those interested in learning more about the archipelago, the Ethnographic Museum of Madeira is a must-visit, showcasing a collection of ethnographic items that reflect the region’s diverse economic, social, and cultural elements. Other notable attractions include the Lighthouse, providing stunning vistas of Ribeira Brava, Campanário, and Ponta do Sol, as well as the Fort of São Bento, which houses the tourism office.

Read our Ribeira Brava (Madeira) Travel Guide

Enjoy a Poncha at Camara de Lobos

Camara De Lobos View
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Norbert Reimer

Explore the enchanting coastal town of Câmara de Lobos in Madeira, a place dearly loved by Winston Churchill.

Câmara de Lobos beckons with its quintessential seaside charm, featuring a traditional village ambiance. Here, you’ll find vibrant fishing boats, quaint cobbled streets, a lovely seafront promenade, and a welcoming beach, all waiting to be discovered in this guide. The town is uniquely designed around an extended natural harbour, shaped by the striking black basalt rock that sharply contrasts with the azure blue waters. This scenic setting makes Câmara de Lobos a truly picturesque and captivating destination.

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Tours and Activities from Funchal (Madeira)

Madeira: Sightseeing Tour of the East Coast!

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The eastern part of Madeira is the most developed but it also has historic towns, untamed landscape and dramatic seascapes, making it a haven for nature enthusiasts and hikers.

The towns in the eastern region of Madeira, include Machico, the island’s inaugural capital and Caniçal, the entry point to Ponta de São Lourenço. Caniçal holds historical significance as a former hub for the whaling industry, with its Whale Museum delving into the island’s whaling history, showcasing artefacts and insights into this once-thriving trade.

Ponta de São Lourenço, a craggy headland, stands out for its dramatic cliffs, unique geological formations, and breath-taking coastal vistas. Exploring this rugged terrain offers an immersive experience in the natural beauty of Madeira’s easternmost point. Prainha, nestled within Ponta de São Lourenço, serves as the island’s sole naturally sandy beach, surrounded by picturesque cliffs, providing a serene escape.

Hike along the Verada da Ponta de São Lourenço

Ponta De São Lourenço, Madeira, Portugal
CC-BY-SA / Vereda da Ponta de Sao Lourenco

Ponta de São Lourenço is a stunning and rugged peninsula located on the eastern tip of Madeira, Portugal. Known for its dramatic landscapes and unique flora, it stands out as a distinct geological formation on the island.

Visitors to Ponta de São Lourenço can expect a stark and captivating landscape that contrasts with the verdant scenery found elsewhere on the island of Madeira. The area’s natural beauty and geological significance make it a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts and hikers.

Location: Ponta de São Lourenço, Estr. de São Lourenço, Caniçal, Portugal | From Funchal: Ponta de São Lourenço/Caniçal Full-Day Hike
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Take a Dip at Porto da Cruz

Porto Da Cruz Swiming Complex
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Alberto-g-rovi

Drive to the free parking Parque de estacionamento on the edge of the Porto da Cruz village.

Porto da Cruz is a small village well known for producing wine. The town is just a few hundred metres across so it is easy to explore. By the pebble beach, there is a cluster of cafes and restaurant together with s swimming complex with two pools. An ideal place to cool off. Walk out to the headland to the Miradouro do Pico do Fortim at the old fort which was built in 1708. With fascinating views from Ponta de S. Lourenço to Penha d’Águia.
The town has an old sugar cane factory which is a remarkable testament to history, operating today much in the same manner as it did when it commenced sugar production in 1927. This enduring facility features a towering structure standing at an impressive height of 26 meters. When the factory is in operation, there is a captivating visual element as steam emerges, creating an atmospheric and nostalgic scene that harks back to the era of traditional sugar production. The preservation of this operational process provides visitors with a unique opportunity to witness the historical methods and machinery that have been in use for nearly a century.

Location: Porto da Cruz, Santana, Portugal
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Discover Machico the first capital of Madeira

Machico And The Nearby Airport On Madeira
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Donar Reiskoffer

Machico, Madeira’s second-largest town, offers a delightful blend of attractions, from a beautiful swimming beach to a charming old quarter and a network of scenic walks. Nestled in a graceful crescent-shaped bay, Machico is surrounded by lush terraced slopes, creating a picturesque setting.

Park in the Parking Forum Machico and head along the beach past the Forte de Nossa Senhora do Amparo, which dates back to 1706. Cross over the small river to Praia de Machico, one of Madeira’s popular beaches. Whether you choose to swim, arrange a diving excursion to the marine reserve, or simply relax on the warm sands, the beach provides a serene escape.

Head along the river to see the Capela dos Milagres (Chapel of the Miracles), originally founded in the 15th century on the purported site of the lovers’ graves. Though the original church succumbed to a flood, the current structure, built in 1815, features a captivating rose window on its façade and a nave adorned with frescoes. Cross back over the river to see the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Conceição an impressive Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição, constructed in 1499 during Machico’s tenure as Madeira’s capital.

Explore the Capela de São Roque, a small 16th-century chapel dedicated to St. Roch, credited with saving Machico from a plague. The chapel’s interior is adorned with beautiful blue-and-white tiling.

To soak in scenic vistas, visit Pico do Facho, a renowned viewpoint named after the historic beacon (facho) that once warned the city of approaching pirates. The viewpoint offers panoramic views of the surrounding landscape, making it a must-visit for nature enthusiasts.

Read our Machico (Madeira) Travel Guide

Explore the seaside town of Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz-Madeira
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Vitor Oliveira

Situated adjacent to Cristiano Ronaldo Airport, the seaside resort of Santa Cruz beckons with its charming streets adorned with brightly colored buildings. A delightful exploration awaits as you stroll along the promenade of Praia das Palmeiras beach, where sunbathers bask under parasols and others take refreshing dips from jetties, creating a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere.

Green spaces, playgrounds, and squares are interspersed with inviting cafes and restaurants, contributing to the town’s leisurely ambiance. The centrally located Mercado de Santa Cruz adds to the charm, providing a delightful market experience.

In the heart of the town, a picturesque municipal garden, nestled beside the São Salvador Church, offers a serene retreat. The seventeenth-century church boasts a captivating interior, featuring a painted wooden ceiling and a stunning altar, adding a touch of historical and aesthetic allure to this coastal gem.

Read our Santa Cruz (Madiera) Travel Guide

See the statue of Christ at the Cristo Rei viewpoint

Cristo Rei Viewpoint (Madeira)
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Holger Uwe Schmitt

Heading towards the east on our Madeira tour, our initial destination is the Cristo Rei viewpoint, situated approximately 15 minutes away from Funchal. Positioned within the Garajau Partial Natural Reserve, this elevated viewpoint boasts a 1927-built statue of Christ. Standing at a height of 14 meters, the statue portrays Christ with outstretched arms, gazing towards the vast ocean. Adjacent to the clifftop parking area, a cable car descends to a well-liked pebble beach below. The rich biodiversity of the surroundings attracts scuba diving enthusiasts, drawn by the clear waters and diverse fish species inhabiting the area.

Read more about Ponta do Garajau & Cristo Rei Viewpoint (Madeira)

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Tours and Activities from Funchal (Madeira)

Best Levada Hikes in Madeira

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Madeira Island, situated off the coast of West Africa and part of Portugal, boasts extraordinary mountains that beg to be explored on foot. In this article, I will share insights into the best hikes in Madeira, drawing from the unforgettable memories of my journey on this remarkable island.

Madeira offers a well-established network of hiking trails, prominently featuring waymarked ‘PR’ routes, which include captivating levada walks. Levadas are remnants of an ancient stone irrigation system designed to capture and redirect water, fostering thriving crops. With over 1,350 miles (1,170 km) of levadas, these trails are a hiker’s delight, showcasing the island’s diverse landscapes.

Distributed throughout Madeira, levada walks lead adventurers to various scenic destinations, including waterfalls, city viewpoints, coastal panoramas, and mountainous terrains. They also traverse the lush Laurissilva forests, designated as a UNESCO-protected site and home to primary laurel forest. The inherent cultural touch adds to the allure of Madeira’s hiking network.

Given the historical paths, tunnels, and potential challenges like rock falls or adverse weather, levada routes may periodically open and close throughout the year. Prior to embarking on any of these trails, it is essential to ensure you have the right equipment, navigational tools, and supplies. Additionally, double-checking the current status of the specific levada walk you plan to explore is crucial to ensure a safe and enjoyable hiking experience.

Levadas, Veredas & PR routes

In Madeira, you’ll encounter various styles of hiking trails, with notable distinctions among levadas, veredas, and PR routes. Here’s a quick guide to understanding each:

Levada: Levadas are paths that run alongside man-made aqueducts originally constructed for irrigation purposes. These routes typically wind through lush green landscapes and may traverse diverse terrains, offering hikers scenic views and a connection to the island’s agricultural history.

Vereda: The term ‘vereda’ is a general reference to a path, encompassing a wide range of hiking routes. A trail labeled as a vereda can lead you through mountainous terrain, classic coastal paths, or forested routes. The diversity in vereda trails makes them suitable for various preferences and hiking experiences.

PR route: Madeira boasts over 20 ‘pequena rutas’ or ‘short routes,’ commonly referred to as PR routes. These are official trails meticulously maintained and marked by the Regional Government of Madeira. Each PR route is assigned a unique PR number. For example, PR1 guides you to Vereda do Pico do Areeiro, while PR21 takes you on the Caminho do Norther, from Encumeada to Riberia Grande. The Visit Madeira website serves as a valuable resource for accessing information on all PR routes, including route details and status updates, ensuring a well-informed hiking experience.

Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo (PR1)

Pico Do Arieiro To Pico Ruivo Hike
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Bjørn Christian Tørrissen

Embarking on the hike from Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo in Madeira is a truly extraordinary experience and stands out as our favourite among the island’s incredible trails. This trail offers a thrilling adventure with rugged cliffs, awe-inspiring staircases, mountain tunnels, and an unparalleled 360-degree view of the entire island. It’s an impressive journey that demands proper preparation and enthusiasm for an unforgettable day.

Our foremost piece of advice for this challenging hike is to wear sturdy hiking shoes, carry an ample water supply, and brace yourself for a day of exhilarating exploration. The trek to Pico Ruivo is not for the faint of heart, but the rewards are immeasurable.

Setting off from Pico Arieiro, you’ll initially descend about 500 meters, revealing some of the most scenic vistas along the way. This descent unfolds through steps strategically placed along rugged ridge lines and steep cliffs, offering breath-taking views of the sunrise. The dramatic landscape captivates as you navigate this section of the trail.

Following this, the trail levels off for a few kilometres along the side of Pico das Torres. This narrow pathway is built into the side of a steep rock wall, providing a unique and thrilling hiking experience. Numerous tunnels along this stretch guide you safely around and through the mountain, ultimately bringing you to the base of Pico Ruivo.

Continuing the journey, you’ll encounter a series of ladders and navigate through a set of switchbacks, all leading you to the summit of Pico Ruivo. This final stretch involves an estimated elevation gain of about 600 meters over the last few kilometres. The ascent is challenging, yet each step brings you closer to the rewarding panoramic views that await you at the pinnacle.

Upon reaching the top of Pico Ruivo, a breath-taking spectacle unfolds – unobstructed views of the entire island in every direction. The sense of accomplishment combined with the expansive vistas makes the effort expended during the climb well worth it. The summit of Pico Ruivo provides a vantage point that encapsulates the diverse landscapes and beauty of Madeira, offering a truly memorable experience for those who dare to conquer its heights.

Undoubtedly, the hike to Pico Ruivo is an invigorating challenge, but every step is rewarded with spectacular scenery and a sense of accomplishment. Be prepared for an awe-inspiring adventure that showcases the rugged beauty of Madeira’s landscape.

Read more about Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo Hike (PR1 and PR1.2)

Levada das 25 Fontes (PR6)

Levada Das 25 Fontes-Madeira
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Bjørn Christian Tørrissen

The ‘Levada das 25 Fontes’ trail is a delightful journey that leads you to 25 fountains, springs, and water sources, making it one of Madeira’s most popular and accessible hikes with rewarding sights.

Commencing from ER 105 in Rabaçal, this trail guides you through a landscape adorned with vibrant greenery, offering expansive views of the Ribeira da Janela valley, and immersing you once again in the renowned Laurissilva forest. While the entire route is captivating, the true highlight awaits a bit further.

A half-hour detour, well-marked on the PR6.1 trail, leads you to Risco, the largest waterfall on Madeira. The journey continues along the main route, tracing the levada, until you arrive at the enchanting 25 Fontes Waterfall, gracefully cascading into a dreamy basin. This picturesque spot makes for an ideal lunch break before retracing your steps back to the starting point.

The Levada das 25 Fontes trail is celebrated for its relatively easy hike, making it accessible to a wide range of hikers, while still providing the remarkable rewards of breath-taking landscapes and impressive water features.

Read more about Levada das 25 Fontes (PR6 & PR6.1)

Levada do Caldeirão Verde (PR9)

Caldeirão Verde Levada Walk
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Froth82

Ranked among the best levada hikes in Madeira, the trek to Caldeirão Verde is one of the longer but undeniably most rewarding walks on this list. As you embark on this journey, near the initial stretch of the route stands the Casa de Abrigo das Queimadas, a triangular and charming traditional house now nestled within the Queimadas Forest Park. This historical site sets the tone for the adventure that follows.

Continuing along the trail, you’ll encounter a terrace that unfolds into a beautiful lookout point, providing scenic views of the surrounding landscape. Your journey through the Laurissilva forest, known for its lush greenery, leads you to the stunning Caldeirão Verde lake. Further along, you’ll discover Caldeirão do Inferno, where a waterfall gracefully spills into a pool beneath an imposing cliff, creating a captivating natural spectacle.

While this hike may be longer, the rewards lie not just in the physical journey but in the breathtaking sights that unfold along the way. From historical landmarks to picturesque terraces and natural wonders, the Caldeirão Verde trail is an immersive experience into the beauty of Madeira’s landscapes and its rich natural heritage.

Location: PR9 Levada do Caldeirão Verde, Santana, Portugal
Read more about Caldeirão Verde Levada Walk (PR 9)

Ponta de Sao Lourenco (PR8)

Ponta De São Lourenço, Madeira, Portugal
CC-BY-SA / Vereda da Ponta de Sao Lourenco

Ponta de Sao Lourenco in Madeira is a haven for hikers, offering a unique experience distinct from the rest of the island. This trail guides you along cliffs, providing panoramic views of the endless ocean on both sides. The terrain is characterized by lava rock formations, creating a desert-like environment that stands out amidst Madeira’s diverse landscapes.

The path itself is relatively easy, featuring some undulating sections, so sturdy footwear is advisable. The final 500 meters present a sandy, slippery, and notably steep path, providing a challenging option for those seeking an adventurous conclusion to their hike. Before this last stretch, a café awaits, offering a perfect spot to pause, catch your breath, and savor the breathtaking views.

The hike typically takes around 3 hours for a round trip, but the duration may vary based on your pace. Additionally, there’s an optional path leading down to a rocky beach at the trail’s end, adding an extra 30 minutes or more to your hiking time. Ponta de Sao Lourenco promises not just a physical journey but a visual feast, with its unique landscape and stunning ocean vistas.

Location: Ponta de São Lourenço, Estr. de São Lourenço, Caniçal, Portugal | From Funchal: Ponta de São Lourenço/Caniçal Full-Day Hike
Read more about Vereda da Ponta de Sao Lourenco (PR8)

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Tours and Activities from Funchal (Madeira)

Best Day Trips From Bologna

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The often overlooked city of Bologna, located in the northern Italian region of Emilia Romagna, is currently experiencing a surge in popularity. Historically, it has lived in the shadow of its more famous neighbouring cities like Florence, Rome, Venice, and Milan.

Bologna, the capital of the region, serves as an ideal starting point for exploring Emilia Romagna and beyond (just an hour away from Florence!). This carefully curated guide to the best day trips from Bologna enables you to discover the finest aspects of Italy with ease and a strong desire for exploration.

Bologna itself stands out as one of Italy’s most distinctive, stunning, and underappreciated cities. However, it is the treasures beyond the city limits that make this region truly exceptional. Scattered along the historic Via Emilia, established by the Romans in 187 BC, lie some of Emilia Romagna’s most captivating cities and attractions. These places boast some of Italy’s most splendid and unique architecture, featuring gems like Parma, Modena, Ravenna, Rimini, Ferrara, and Reggio Emilia. Each location is steeped in beauty, history, and charm, offering distinct culinary delights. Modena and Parma, in particular, stand out as the birthplaces of balsamico and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, respectively.

Emilia Romagna boasts an extensive array of charming destinations suitable for day trips, but here are my personal favourites.


Piazza Grande A Modena
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Albypino

In stark contrast to the bustling streets of Bologna, Modena may be a smaller and more tranquil town, but its significance in the realm of Italian industrial progress is undeniable.

Let’s begin with the serene and unhurried city center, characterized by its narrow streets graced with elegant shops and bars. At the heart of it all lies the main square, Piazza Grande, home to the Modena Duomo and the renowned Ghirlandina, an 86-meter-tall bell tower that has earned its place on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.

For those with a passion for high-speed automobiles and motorsports, a visit to the Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari is an absolute must. This exhibition is dedicated to Enzo Ferrari, the visionary behind the globally renowned automotive company, and it is partially housed within his former residence.

Read our Modena Travel Guide


Complete Guide To Ravenna
Pixabay / anto-dc

Regarded as one of the most exquisite cities in Emilia-Romagna, Ravenna once served as the capital of the Western Roman Empire and later as a prominent European center during the Byzantine Empire. Consequently, the city is a treasure trove of art and culture, with a particular emphasis on its breathtaking mosaics.

The Galla Placida Mausoleum is home to some of Ravenna’s most cherished and ancient mosaics, presenting a captivating portrayal of the starry night. Another exceptional mosaic showcase awaits at the Battistero degli Ariani, where you can marvel at a depiction of the baptism of Christ, encircled by his twelve disciples.

For enthusiasts of literature and history, a visit to Dante Alighieri’s tomb is a compelling option. This renowned poet, originally from Florence, found exile from his birthplace and spent his final days in Ravenna, where he now rests.

Ravenna’s culinary offerings are also a point of pride, known for its pasta-based main courses and the piadina, a type of flatbread that stands as one of the distinctive symbols of the Emilia-Romagna region.

Read our Ravenna Travel Guide


Pixabay / Mario Ierardi

Rimini, a city situated along the picturesque Adriatic Sea, gained global recognition during the 1970s and 1980s, when it emerged as an emblem of the “Italian summer” lifestyle, replete with beach clubs, bars, and restaurants.

Strolling along the promenade, you’ll encounter vintage hotels that have retained their distinctive 1970s design. Even today, Rimini remains a sought-after summer destination, appealing to both young people and families alike. While the Adriatic Sea in this region may not be considered the finest in Italy, Rimini’s promenade offers an abundance of entertainment, excellent seafood, and a well-equipped beach, making it the ideal destination for those seeking a blend of fun and relaxation. Plus, it’s remarkably accessible, making it one of the most convenient day trips from Bologna to the beach.

Beyond its reputation as a summer haven, Rimini boasts a charming historical city center. This includes the old fishing village known as Borgo San Giuliano, where the facades of the houses are adorned with captivating wall paintings. These houses are still inhabited by some of the city’s older residents and, interestingly, young students and workers as well. The village is teeming with tourists and features a variety of restaurants, with Borghetto being a recommended choice to savor a delectable seafood Carbonara.

In the city center, you can also explore remnants of the Roman era, and don’t miss the magnificent Tempio Malatestiano church, which boasts exquisite bas-reliefs and a painting by the renowned artist Piero della Francesca.

Read our Rimini Travel Guide


Pixabay / 12019

Parma is a city of considerable wealth, characterized by an abundance of art and a charming city center. It differs from the alternative and somewhat disorderly appeal of cities like Bologna or Ferrara, as Parma’s architecture and lifestyle bear a closer resemblance to Modena.

Nevertheless, Parma has established a prominent reputation, thanks to its meticulously preserved museums, theaters, and monuments, which receive continuous attention through renovation efforts. Among these cultural gems, the Monastero of San Giovanni Evangelista is a must-visit, particularly for its stunning dome adorned with a perspective painting depicting Jesus Christ and his disciples, a masterpiece by Correggio.

For those with an affinity for paintings and masterpieces, a visit to the Galleria Nazionale di Parma is a real treat. This remarkable museum showcases the works of both Italian and foreign painters, including luminaries such as Carracci, Guercino, El Greco, Van Dyck, Correggio, and Beato Angelico.

Parma is celebrated for its production of Parmesan cheese and delectable cold cuts, including the renowned Parma ham and culatello, considered one of the finest hams globally. To savor these culinary delights, you can secure a reservation at establishments like Osteria dello Zingaro or the Antica Osteria della Ghiaia, where you can relish some of the finest cold cuts in town.

Read our Parma Travel Guide

San Marino

Visiting San Marino
Pixabay / Nikkita Lewen

San Marino, the diminutive micro-state, perches atop a peak and is enveloped by the picturesque Italian countryside’s rolling hills. Often hailed as one of the world’s most ancient republics, and recognized as one of Europe’s tiniest nations, it is also officially known as the ‘Most Serene Republic of San Marino.’

With a population of a mere 33,000 residents, this miniature nation is easily explorable within the span of a day, making it a convenient day trip from Bologna. Key highlights in San Marino encompass taking in the breath-taking views from the summit of the Guaita, the city’s oldest fortress, and exploring the Neo-Classical Basilica di San Marino.

Read our San Marino Travel Guide


Pixabay / darrenquigley32

Florence, often regarded as the Cradle of the Renaissance, is conveniently located just a little over an hour away from Bologna by train. While this enchanting city undoubtedly deserves at least two or three days to explore thoroughly, it’s still possible to make the most of a one-day visit to Florence if you plan your itinerary wisely.

For a fulfilling day in Florence, some of the top activities to consider include immersing yourself in the Uffizi Galleries. This historic museum is one of the oldest in the world and showcases masterpieces by renowned artists such as Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, and many other artistic luminaries. In addition to its iconic art galleries and museums, a visit to the awe-inspiring Santa Maria del Fiore Basilica is an absolute must. This architectural marvel stands as a testament to the brilliance of the Renaissance era.

Read our Florence Travel Guide

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Tours and Activities from Bologna

One Day in Parma - A Complete Walking Tour (Maps & Tips)

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This small city in Emilia Romagna has an incredible mix of culture and history. Exploring Parma offers a richly rewarding experience, particularly for food enthusiasts who can savour the delights of parmesan cheese and Parma ham, both topping the list of culinary must-tries. Additionally, those with an appreciation for art and culture will find themselves captivated by the Romanesque cathedral, ancient Roman remnants, Renaissance artworks, and the renowned opera house.

Getting to Parma

Parma By Train: Parma is linked with many regional and high speed trains to Bologna and Milan. The train station is conveniently located near both to the historic centre and the pick up place for the Parmigiano Production and Parma Ham Tour & Tasting.

Parma By Bus: Again well connected, the central bus station is located behind the Museums & the Pilotta Palace.

Parma By Car: Warning! The historical centre of Parma is a Limited Traffic Zone (ZTL) controlled by cameras working every day, included festivities. All around the Limited Traffic Zone there are many covered car parks. I would suggest Viale Riccardo Barilla Parking

Start off with a Parmesan, Parma Ham & Balsamic Vinegar Tour

You have come to the home of Parmigiano-Reggiano, balsamic vinegar, and Prosciutto di Parma, which means you will want to start the day off with an organised tour. I suggest you check availability of the tour below, which takes about 7.5 hours.

If that is fully booked you can try this shorter Parmigiano Production and Parma Ham Tour & Tasting Tour (5 hours).

Historic Walking Tour of Parma

Both tours should drop you off behind the train station where you can continue with the tour of historic Parma. Again you have to option of joining an organised Parma city walking tour.

Camera di San Paolo e Cella di Santa Caterina

Parma San Paolo Camera Del Correggio Soffitto
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Zairon

From the train station walk down Via Giuseppe Verdi, at the end of which continue through the arches. You enter a large square, walk past the Monumento a Giuseppe Verdi and turn left. Walk south along Str. Giuseppe Garibald and turn first left onto Strada Macedonio Melloni. The Camera di San Paolo e Cella di Santa Caterina is on your left, next to the Castle Puppets Museum Giordano Ferrari.

The Chamber of Saint Paul was originally a part of the abbess’ quarters within the Benedictine Convent of Saint Paul. It underwent decorative enhancements starting in 1514 under the guidance of Abbess Giovanna da Piacenza, who presided over a period marked by vibrant cultural activities.

The frescoes painted by Correggio in 1519 are considered true masterpieces of Italian High Renaissance art. The room features an umbrella vault divided into 16 segments by late Gothic ribs. Correggio, influenced by the works of Mantegna, Raphael, and Leonardo in Milan, skillfully created the illusion of a pergola adorned with festoons of fruit suspended by ribbons. At the center of the dome, one can observe the coat of arms of Abbess Giovanna. Each of the 16 segments houses an oval trompe-l’oeil opening, displaying finely executed putti in playful poses, with elements such as dogs, bows and arrows, hunting equipment, and trophies.

Beneath the vault, faux-marble lunettes showcase monochrome mythological figures in a classical style, while the hood over the massive stone fireplace depicts Diana on a chariot, preparing for the hunt.

These frescoes transcend being mere allegories of the goddess of hunting. The cycle is widely recognized as a visual record of the abbess’s spirited struggle against civil and religious authorities who sought to diminish the political influence of convents and stifle their thriving intellectual and social life.

The adjacent room, adorned in 1514 by Alessandro Araldi, was also part of the abbess’ living quarters. It features a composition of grotesque elements with putti, fantastical creatures, and gilded stucco rosettes set against a dark blue background. Tondi (circular paintings) and panels depict scenes from the Old and New Testaments, while on the ceiling, musical angels in trompe-l’oeil style gaze over a balustrade.

Alessandro Araldi also decorated a small chapel located on the opposite side of the monastery garden, known as Saint Catherine’s Cell, with two scenes from the life of the saint.

Location: Camera di San Paolo e Cella di Santa Caterina, Strada Macedonio Melloni, Parma, Province of Parma, Italy | Hours: Opening hours: Monday, Thursday and Friday from 9.30am to 5.30pm (last entry at 5pm); Saturday, Sunday and holidays from 9.30am to 6.30pm (last entry at 6.00pm); closed Tuesday and Wednesday. Opening during public holidays for Easter and Easter Monday, 25 April, 1 May, 2 June 2023. Open on Tuesday 15 August and 31 October 2023. | Price: €8.00
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Diocesan Museum of Parma

Parma, Museo Diocesano
CC BY-SA 3.0 / sailko

Continue along Strada Macedonio Melloni bearing left as it turns into Borgo del Parmigianino. You will see Pinacoteca Stuard on your left, an art museum housed inside a wing of the 10th century Benedictine monastery of St. Paolo. Turn right into Borgo Montassù and right again. At the T-junction turn left to reach the Diocesan Museum.

The Diocesan Museum of Parma officially opened its doors in March 2003, marking the culmination of an extensive restoration effort that also encompassed the Bishop’s Palace. The museum’s exhibition space is situated in the basement of the palace, and it houses a remarkable collection of archaeological discoveries and artworks sourced from the Cathedral, the Baptistery, and various locations within the diocesan territory.

Throughout the restoration process undertaken to create the Bishopric and the Museum, significant historical remains were uncovered. These included the foundations of a medieval building and a segment of the Roman walls dating back to the late 3rd century AD. These archaeological findings added a rich layer of historical context to the museum and its surroundings.

Location: Museo Diocesano, Parma, Vicolo Vescovado, Parma, Province of Parma, Italy | Hours: Open every day from 10am to 6pm* (* last admission 5.30pm) | Price: € 12,00 Diocesan Museum and the Baptistery | Website
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Monastery and church of San Giovanni Evangelista

Sain Giovanni Evangelista
GNU Free Documentation License / personnel

Walk to the left of the Cathedral along Str. del Consorzio to reach Chiesa di San Giovanni Evangelista.

The monastery complex comprises three main elements: the Church, the Monastery, and the San Giovanni Old Pharmacy.

The Church, constructed for the Benedictine order between 1498 and 1510, presents a striking architectural contrast. Its elaborate white marble Baroque facade stands in stark contrast to the Renaissance design of the cloisters and convent.

Inside the church, designed in a Latin-cross layout, a frieze along the nave was painted in 1522-23 by Correggio. He also adorned the nave columns with grotesque designs and embellished the entrance to the 5th north chapel. The most famous fresco cycle in the church’s dome, traditionally known as the “Vision of St. John at Patmos,” features an unusual subject in Christian iconography. In this artwork, the evangelist is depicted as an elderly man gazing upward at the sky, while the central figure of Christ moves toward him. The use of light, colors, and the portrayal of clouds upon which the apostles are seated creates an illusion of remarkable depth, freedom, and dynamism. Behind the 17th-century polychrome marble altar is a large canvas of the “Transfiguration” painted by Girolamo Mazzola-Bedoli, who also created the “Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine” in the 4th north chapel in 1536. A wooden choir by Marcantonio Zucchi, featuring intricate inlays of floral motifs, town views, hills, and musical instruments, encircles the apse.

Notably, a putto located under the tower between the north pendentives has been recently attributed to Parmigianino. Parmigianino’s frescoes in the north aisle also depict figures of saints.

Adjacent to the church entrance is the Benedictine monastery, a sprawling complex that includes a chapter-house, a refectory, and elegant Renaissance cloisters. These cloisters include the St. John Cloister (1537), the Chapter Cloister (1500) with a marble portal, and the Large St. Benedict Cloister. Correggio’s frescoes in the chapter-house portray the Christian Sacrifice.

Within the monastery is a 16th-century library featuring frescoed walls and housing a collection of over 20,000 books and rare codices.

Location: San Giovanni Evangelista, Piazzale San Giovanni, Parma, Province of Parma, Italy
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Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta

Cattedrale Di Parma, Italy
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Palickap

Walk around back to the front of the Cattedrale di Parma and the Baptistery of Parma.

The Cathedral, devoted to the Virgin Mary, stands as an exceptional representation of Romanesque architecture in Italy. It was initially constructed by Bishop Cadalus, who later became the antipope Honorius II due to his heretical beliefs. In 1117, a devastating earthquake laid the cathedral to ruins, but it was subsequently rebuilt and completed during the 12th century. The addition of the towering bell tower, crowned with a gilt copper angel, took place in the following century, while the side chapels were incorporated during the 14th and 15th centuries.

The cathedral’s facade is crafted from sandstone blocks and adorned with a row of loggias as well as two tiers of galleries. The porch at the main entrance is supported by lions, a creation dating back to 1281 by master stone-cutter Giambono da Bissone. The presence of an octagonal dome, situated atop a crossing tower, is somewhat unconventional for a medieval church.

Internally, the Cathedral follows a Latin cross layout. The ceiling and walls are embellished with frescoes executed in the Mannerist style. An impressive 16th-century red Verona marble staircase leads to the transepts. On the right side, a renowned relief known as the “Deposition” by Benedetto Antelami can be found, representing one of the finest examples of Romanesque sculpture with evident Provencal influences.

The cathedral’s dome presents a striking feature, frescoed by Correggio in 1526 with the “Assumption of the Virgin.” This artwork features concentric circles of clouds and heavenly hosts, which served as an inspiration for much of the subsequent Baroque art due to its pioneering illusionistic style. Correggio’s bold use of foreshortening in this fresco makes the figures within the clouds appear to protrude realistically into the viewer’s space.

The vaults above the choir were adorned by Girolamo Mazzola Bedoli in 1538. He also undertook the frescoing of the “Last Judgment” in the semidome of the apse.

Location: Cattedrale di Parma, Piazza Duomo, Parma, Province of Parma, Italy | Hours: Baptistery and Diocesan Museum open every day from 10 am to 6 pm | Price: Free | Website
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Baptistery, Parma

Battistero Parma
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Stemerlo77

Constructed between 1196 and 1307, the Baptistery of Parma, crafted from pink Verona marble, stands as a prime example of the architectural and artistic transition from Romanesque to Gothic styles in Italy.

This octagonal baptistery boasts four levels of open loggias adorned with a series of blind arches and majestic pinnacles crowning its structure. It is unquestionably one of the most remarkable illustrations of Italy’s shift from Romanesque to Gothic artistry.

The construction of this baptistery commenced in 1196, carried out by the same Lombard artisans who were concurrently working on the cathedral. Its final completion occurred between 1302 and 1307, under the supervision of Benedetto Antelami, who was responsible for executing the majority of the ornate sculptures, which are characteristic of medieval iconography.

The lower portion of the baptistery is encircled by a zoophorus, adorned with bas-relief sculptures featuring an array of creatures. These include animals, mythical beasts, infernal beings, sea monsters, centaurs, mermaids, unicorns, and Zodiac signs.

The north entrance, known as the Portale della Vergine, is embellished with depictions of the Adoration of the Magi and the Annunciation, the twelve prophets, the Tree of Jacob on the right side, the Tree of Jesse on the left, and the Tree of Life on the interior. The west entrance, or Portale del Giudizio, features a representation of the Redeemer in the lunette above.

The southern entrance, referred to as the Portale della Vita or Door of Life, showcases a scene in its lunette where a man is seen eating honey in a tree, accompanied by two rodents and a dragon at the base. Flanking this scene are depictions of the chariots of the Sun and Moon.

Within the interior, which features a sixteen-sided polygonal design, are the remarkable sculptures created by Benedetto Antelami portraying the Months, the Seasons, and the Signs of the Zodiac. Above the altar, in the semi-dome, a Christ in Glory is encircled by the symbols of the four evangelists and accompanied by two angels.

Location: Baptistery of Parma, Piazza Duomo, Parma, Province of Parma, Italy | Hours: Open every day from 10am to 6pm* (* last admission 5.30pm) | Price: € 12,00 Diocesan museum & Baptistery | Website
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Piazza Garibaldi

Palazzo Comune Parma
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Alice90

Walk along Str. Duomo and turn left into Strada Cavour and its shops. Piazza Garibaldi is at the end.

Piazza Garibaldi, situated on the historic site of the ancient Roman forum, serves as Parma’s bustling cobbled center. The square is divided by the city’s primary east-to-west thoroughfare, Via Mazzini, which continues as Strada della Repubblica.

On the northern side of the square stands the façade of the 17th-century Palazzo del Governatore, which now houses municipal offices. This building features a notable addition in the form of a giant sundial, installed in 1829, adding an intriguing and functional element to the architectural landscape of the square.

Location: Piazza Garibaldi, Parma, Province of Parma, Italy
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Basilica of St Mary of Steccata

Santa Maria Della Steccata (Parma) - Dome
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Livioandronico2013

Leave along Piazza della Steccata to the right of the road you entered the square on, follow the brown sign for Pilotta. The Piazza della Steccata hold a Monumento al Parmigianino an Italian Mannerist painter native to Parma.

Consecrated in 1539, the church boasts an elegant Bramante-style architectural design. It takes the form of a Greek cross, featuring semi-circular apses and square corner chapels. The façade is adorned with pilasters, windows, and mullions, crowned by a marble dome equipped with a loggia and lantern. Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, who arrived in Parma in 1526 on the request of Pope Clement VII to fortify the city’s defences, likely played a role in the construction of this dome.

Inside the church, to the left of the entrance, is the tomb of Count Adam Neipperg, the morganatic spouse of Marie Louise of Austria. This tomb was crafted between 1829 and 1831 by the sculptor Lorenzo Bartolini.

The church’s most elaborate artistic work is the fresco cycle positioned above the presbytery, which was meticulously painted by Parmigianino between 1530 and 1539. This cycle illustrates the parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins and is adorned with a profusion of animal and plant motifs against a red background. On the intrados, which features gold decorations on a blue background, are four monochrome figures: Eve and Aaron on the right and Adam and Moses on the left, although Parmigianino left this work unfinished.

The altar, adorned with 18th-century statues, houses the fresco of the Madonna Suckling the Child. This painting, originating from the original oratory, is attributed to an anonymous late 14th-century artist. Behind the presbytery is the Knight’s Choir, and above it, there is a small bronze statue of Christ Risen created by Andrea Spinelli.

A door on the left side leads to the sacristy and the burial chapel constructed in 1823 by Marie Louise. This chapel serves as the final resting place for the dukes of Parma from the Farnese and Bourbon families.

Adjacent to the church is the Costantinian Museum, which houses a treasure trove of art and historical artefacts for visitors to explore.

Location: Basilica di Santa Maria della Steccata, Strada Giuseppe Garibaldi, Parma, Province of Parma, Italy | Hours: Daily from 7.30 to 12.00 and from 15.00 to 18.30. Functions from Monday to Friday at 8.00, 9.00, 10.00, 16.30 (except July and August); Saturday at 8.00, 9.00, 10.00, 16.30; Sunday at 8.00, 9.30, 11.00, 16.30. | Price: Free | Website
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Regio Theatre

Parma - Teatro Regio
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Cartonimorti

As you come out of Basilica di Santa Maria della Steccata turn right. Teatro Regio is on your left.

The Regio Theatre, commissioned by Maria Luigia and designed by architect Nicola Bettoli, stands as a testament to architectural and cultural grandeur. It was constructed between 1821 and 1829 on the grounds of the former Benedictine convent of St. Alessandro.

The neoclassical facade of the theater is an impressive sight, featuring a portico supported by ten Ionic columns. A double row of windows and ornate decorations by Tommaso Bandini adorn both sides of the tympanum, portraying allegorical representations of Fame and the Lyre.

Upon entering the theater’s neoclassical hall, visitors find themselves in the elliptical stalls. These were adorned in white and gold by Girolamo Magnani in 1853 and are surrounded by four tiers of boxes and a gallery. The theater is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, intricate stage designs, elegant halls, a beautifully decorated ceiling, and a curtain adorned by Borghese in 1824. A grand chandelier, manufactured in Paris and weighing a staggering one ton, illuminates the space. All of these elements combine to make the theater a veritable shrine dedicated to the opera of Verdi and renowned for its discerning and critical audience.

The Regio Theatre officially opened on May 16, 1829, with the premiere of the opera “Zaira,” which was specially composed by Vincenzo Bellini for the occasion. Since then, it has continued to uphold its status as one of the most esteemed opera houses in the world, hosting performances that celebrate the rich heritage of Italian and international opera.

Location: Teatro Regio, Strada Giuseppe Garibaldi, Parma, Province of Parma, Italy | Hours: from Tuesday to Saturday 9.30am – 12.30pm / 2.30pm – 5.30pm; Sunday 10am – 4pm. Starting of the tours every 60 minutes. Duration 30 minutes. | Price: € 7,00 | Website
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Palazzo della Pilotta

Palazzo Della Pilotta Parma
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Alice90

Head across the Piazza della Pace to reach the Palazzo della Pilotta.

The Pilotta, originally conceived as a building to complement the Ducal Palace and serve the needs of the Court, is a vast and complex architectural ensemble that saw the contributions of various architects during different periods.

Construction is believed to have commenced before 1583, starting with the “Corridore,” an east-to-west extension (now occupied by the Petitot Gallery of the Palatine Library). This covered walkway connected the ancient Viscontea Fortress to a cluster of houses occupied by the Farnese family upon their arrival in Parma.

Construction activities were interrupted with the death of Duke Ottavio in 1586 but resumed in the early months of 1602 under Duke Ranuccio I. Ranuccio I was fond of grand and imposing buildings that underscored his power, and the works on the Pilotta were completed in 1611. However, the project left the site unfinished, notably lacking the imposing facade facing the “Ghiaia.”

After the death of Ranuccio I in 1622, Cardinal Ottavio Farnese called upon Girolamo Rainaldi from Rome to assist the architect Battistelli, but little progress was made on the construction.

On the northeast side, new buildings were added adjacent to the Dominican monastery and the existing Gothic church of Saint Peter the Martyr. The Farnese family unsuccessfully attempted to demolish this church, resulting in the construction of the voluminous Palace that enclosed three large courtyards known as Pilotta, Saint Peter the Martyr, Guazzatoio, and Della Rocchetta.

The monumental scissor staircase, covered by an octagonal cupola, leads to the Museum of Antiquities and the first floor, providing access to the Farnese Theater, the National Gallery, and the Palatine Library. It is considered the first example in Italy of an “Imperial” staircase.

Significant interventions, including restoration and internal restructuring, were carried out on Palazzo Pilotta between 1822 and 1824 under the guidance of Nicola Bettoli, with assistance from Paolo Toschi.

On May 13, 1944, a devastating bombing raid severely damaged a large portion of the west and south wings, including the Teatro Farnese. These sections were subsequently rebuilt in the years immediately following the end of World War II.

Location: Piazza della Pilotta, Parma, Province of Parma, Italy | Hours: Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10.30am to 7pm (last entrance at 6pm). | Price: € 16.00 | Website
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Parco Ducale

Parco Ducale Di Parma
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Goethe100

Walk through the arches of the Pilotta Palace and cross over the Ponte Verdi. The Parco Ducale is in front of you.

The intricate and lush green landscape of the Ducal Park was initially designed in 1560 and expanded during the 18th century. Adorned with sculptures by J.B. Boudard, it later underwent modifications in the French style.

Within the park’s grounds stand the Ducal Palace and the Palazzetto Eucherio Sanvitale, constructed in Renaissance style in 1520 by Giorgio Da Erba. The small palace boasts frescoes by Parmigianino, featuring a Madonna and child, which have been recently restored. Additionally, there is an oil painting on one of the walls depicting scenes from the Life of the Virgin, in the late Mannerist style, attributed to the clergyman Cosimo Piazza. The wall also features grotesque elements and landscapes from the late 16th century.

Noteworthy within the park are the Arcadia woods, which contain the ruins of the Temple of Arcadia, created by Petitot. In the 18th century, these woods were a gathering place for Parmesan Arcadians.

The Fountain of Parma River, situated in the middle of the park’s lake, was originally located in the Ducal Palace in Colorno. Under the rule of Marie Louise, who opened the Park to the citizens, significant changes were made to its botanical features to align it more with the English style of landscaping.

The park offers a range of amenities, including a playground for children, fountains, sports tracks, a dedicated area for dogs, and a café with outdoor seating where visitors can relax and enjoy the scenic surroundings.

Exit the park the same gate you entered and cross back over the river and turning immediately left. to walk alongside it.

Location: Parco Ducale, Largo Luca Ganzi, Parma, Province of Parma, Italy | Hours: November to March every day from 7am to 8pm. From April to October every day from 6am to 12am. | Website
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Tours and Activities from Parma

Emilia Romagna, Italy: 7-Days Itinerary

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Emilia Romagna is a region of unparalleled beauty, boasting a rich tapestry of history, art, and architecture. Its allure extends to its pristine beaches, vibrant local towns, picturesque landscapes, and the finest culinary delights Italy has to offer. This central Italian region is characterized by two distinct cultures, as it was born from the fusion of two different provinces, Emilia and Romagna.

Emilia-Romagna is a region that offers an astonishing variety of landscapes, from the majestic Appenine Mountains to lush forests, rolling hills, and the pristine beaches of the Adriatic Coast.

What makes this region even more captivating is its rich historical tapestry. Emilia-Romagna proudly bears the marks of its Etruscan and Ancient Roman origins, which laid the foundation for its cultural development. The Middle Ages and Renaissance periods further enriched its heritage, with many of its cities serving as pivotal political and cultural hubs in Italy’s history.

Emilia-Romagna is also home to Europe’s oldest university and boasts a robust manufacturing industry, including iconic luxury car brands like Ferrari and Lamborghini. However, the region’s true claim to fame lies in its culinary heritage, with world-renowned delicacies such as Tortellini, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma, and Balsamic Vinegar originating here.

With such a captivating blend of natural beauty, historical significance, and culinary excellence, the reasons to explore Emilia-Romagna are truly boundless.

Please note that our itineraries not only provide travel inspiration but also offer practical tips and guidance. You’ll find comprehensive information to assist you in planning your own Emilia Romagna adventure. To help you navigate the region, we’ve included a map highlighting all the places featured in this itinerary, often this will be combined with a specific walking tour of that town!

Emilia Romagna Itinerary

Day 1: Parma - Find classic Emilia Romagna gastronomy

Pixabay / 12019

Parma indeed boasts two internationally renowned food products that have become favourites all over the world.

The first is the unmistakable Parmigiano Reggiano, a high-quality Parmesan cheese. Parmigiano Reggiano is incredibly versatile and finds its way into a wide range of dishes. It’s particularly popular when grated over pasta, adding a rich and nutty flavor to the dish. It’s also a common topping for soups, salads, and various Italian dishes.

The second is Parma Ham, known as “Prosciutto di Parma.” This is a delicious cured ham that has gained immense popularity and is used in a multitude of dishes. One classic pairing is “Prosciutto e Melone,” where thin slices of Parma Ham are paired with sweet, ripe melon. When ordering prosciutto from a deli counter in Italy, you may be asked whether you’d prefer “crudo o cotto,” which translates to “raw or cooked.” Parma Ham is the “crudo” option, while the “cotto” variety is a pinker, cooked ham.

The best way to discover where the world-famous Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and Prosciutto are made, followed by a mouth-watering tasting accompanied by a glass of Malvasia wine is to go on this Parmigiano Production and Parma Ham Tour & Tasting.

I would spend the remainder of the day exploring the very best of Parma on foot.  A good starting point is Piazzale San Giovanni. Here, you’ll encounter the Chiesa di San Giovanni Evangelista, one of the city’s most impressive churches.

Continuing a few steps from the pharmacy will lead you to the city’s most famous landmark: Parma Cathedral. This beautiful 11th-century cathedral is accompanied by the 12th-century Parma Baptistery on Piazza del Duomo. Across the square, in the corner, you’ll find the Museo Diocesano.

A five-minute walk (450 meters) west from Piazza del Duomo will bring you to the Palazzo della Pilotta complex. Facing the gardens of Piazza della Pace, this vast palace houses various museums, including the National Archaeological Museum of Parma, the National Gallery of Parma, and the Biblioteca Palatina library.

Parma is divided by the River Parma, which flows through its centre. From the Palazzo della Pilotta, you can cross the bridge over the River Parma and reach another expansive area, Parco Ducale. The park’s gardens are open to the public for free, and you can also visit the Palazzo Ducale for a small fee to admire its Baroque interior and frescoes. Returning across the river, you can head toward the city centre. Along the way, you’ll pass the Teatro Regio, where you can enjoy opera performances. Just across the road from the theatre is another of Parma’s famous churches: the Basilica Santa Maria della Steccata.

From the piazza outside the basilica, you can access a walkway that leads to what many consider the heart of Parma: Piazza Garibaldi. Here, you can explore a network of narrow streets and start discovering Parma’s delectable gastronomic offerings in its bars and restaurants. This area is also a great place for shopping, with a wide range of stores and boutiques to satisfy your shopping needs!

You can explore all these places on my Walking Tour of Parma.

Read our Parma Travel Guide

Day 2: Modena - A city of great food, fast cars, and historic sites

Piazza Grande A Modena
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Albypino

Modena is an exceptional city that offers a harmonious blend of cultural heritage, culinary delights, and a captivating fusion of tradition and innovation. Its UNESCO World Heritage-listed architectural treasures are a testament to its rich history. Visitors to Modena are treated to an exquisite culinary experience, featuring traditional balsamic vinegar paired with local delicacies. They can also wander through the charming narrow streets of the city centre.

The city boasts the mystical beauty of its Cathedral, a remarkable masterpiece of European Romanesque architecture, designed by the renowned architect Lanfranco and master sculptor Wiligelmo. Piazza Grande, the heart of Modena, is home to iconic monuments, including the Palazzo Comunale, which has evolved over centuries and now serves as the Town Hall and the Torre della Ghirlandina a Unesco world heritage.

Strolling further, along the historic Via Emilia, visitors arrive at Piazza Sant’Agostino, where the Church of Sant’Agostino showcases the remarkable “Lament for Christ Crucified” by Begarelli, a renowned 16th-century Modenese sculptor. Nearby stands Palazzo dei Musei, housing various cultural institutions and art collections, including the Civic Museum of Art, the Archaeological Ethnological Museum, and the Estense Gallery, which reflects the Este family’s appreciation for diverse forms of art. The Estense Library, within the same complex, safeguards the precious Modena Codex from the 14th to 16th centuries, adorned with miniature illustrations.

Modena’s cityscape is further enhanced by the awe-inspiring MEF-Enzo Ferrari Museum, inaugurated in March 2012. This museum pays tribute to Enzo Ferrari in the very house of his birth, featuring exhibitions that chronicle the extraordinary life of this iconic figure through modern multimedia presentations. Additionally, the museum showcases an art gallery with temporary exhibitions that delve into Ferrari’s illustrious career, his legendary cars, and the prominent races and competitions associated with this renowned Modena-based racing car brand.

Read our Modena Travel Guide

Day 3: Bologna - Explore the Emilia Romagna capital

Pixabay / manasmanohar

This beautiful regional capital boasts medieval porticoes, lively piazzas, and a gastronomic culture renowned worldwide. Bologna’s nicknames reflect its key attributes: La Grassa (the fat one) celebrates the city’s culinary abundance, La Dotta (the learned) acknowledges its status as home to the world’s oldest university, and La Rossa (the red) partly references the colour of its buildings and its socialist political heritage.

If you plan your holiday around gastronomy you are in for a treat! The city’s culinary treasures are among the most celebrated in the world, giving rise to famous dishes like Lasagne. Moreover, Bologna is renowned for its extensive production of Parmigiano (Parmesan cheese), Mortadella (a type of pork sausage), and Prosciutto Parmigiano (Parma Ham).

Surprisingly, “Spaghetti Bolognese” is not commonly found in the city. Instead of spaghetti, the preferred pasta to accompany the meat sauce Ragù is typically Tagliatelle. Another Bolognese favourite is Tortellini, which is often served in a broth.

Despite its medieval architecture and historical roots, Bologna exudes a youthful energy, partially owing to its University, established in 1088 and considered the longest continuously operating university in the world. This juxtaposition of old and new adds to the city’s unique charm.

Throughout the summer, Bologna hosts festivals in the city center, and all year round, rock bands perform at various venues in and around the city. Bologna has a historical association with left-wing politics, likely influenced in part by its status as home to the world’s oldest university.

One of Bologna’s most distinctive features is its network of porticoed streets. The first covered walkways were introduced in the 13th century, and some wooden examples still stand today. A century later, due to widespread acclaim, an edict mandated that all new streets in the city must have porticoes, constructed from brick or stone and tall enough to accommodate horseback riders.

In 2021, Bologna was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List under the category “The Porticoes of Bologna.” This recognition highlights the porticoes’ significance in the city’s trade and architecture. The seemingly endless archways of these walkways, adorned with autumnal-colored plasterwork in shades of red, amber, and orange, are a defining characteristic of Bologna and the broader Emilia Romagna region.

Find out more with my  Walking Tour of Bologna.

Read our Bologna Travel Guide

Day 4: Ferrara - Discover the “City of the Renaissance”

Pixabay / alex1965

Ferrara, a city enclosed within a 6-mile-long defensive wall, offers a delightful opportunity for cycling or strolling, with green parks just outside the walls. Not all parts of the city within the walls share the same historical significance. If you enter through Viale Cavour, you may initially wonder where the historic buildings are. However, taking a side street leads you into Ferrara’s network of medieval and Renaissance streets. It’s advisable to explore with a map from the tourist information office in the courtyard of Castello Estense, as these picturesque streets extend for quite a distance. While only a few lanes are pedestrianized, many locals navigate the city on old bicycles, even over the cobblestones.

Castello Estense, a red-brick fortress constructed in 1385, stands as the heart of Ferrara, surrounded by moats. Initially built as a robust fortress, it also served as a residence and a venue for entertainment for the Este family. Visitors can explore its state apartments, dungeons, and enjoy panoramic views from the Torre dei Leoni. Some of the castle rooms provide insights into Ferrara’s history and the Este dynasty. Don’t miss the atmospheric prison cells with their historic graffiti. Notable prisoners held here have inspired poetry and opera. Upstairs, visitors can admire frescoed ceilings with classical scenes and a charming marble ducal chapel. A cafeteria is available, as well as restrooms along the tour route.

Ferrara Cathedral, or Cattedrale di San Giorgio, is conveniently located near Castello Estense. The church, consecrated in the 12th century, features a facade blending Romanesque and Gothic elements. Inside, an imposing and dimly lit interior houses artistic treasures, including Bastianino’s depiction of the Last Judgment above the apse. While entry is free, note that the cathedral closes during lunch hours. Adjacent to the cathedral is the Museo della Cattedrale, an admission-charging museum housing art and exhibits related to the cathedral.

In addition to their central residences, the Este family constructed a network of villas, palaces, and retreats in and around Ferrara, collectively known as the ‘delights of the Estes.’ One such villa is Palazzo Schifanoia, a short walk from Castello Estense. Although its façade appears plain today, it once served as a splendid palace. The palace houses various museum rooms displaying porcelain, frescoes, and objects of historical interest. The highlight is the upstairs cycle of frescoes depicting the months of the year, created around 1469-1470. These frescoes, attributed to various artists, offer captivating glimpses into Renaissance courtly life. The museum ticket is often combined with entry to the Museo della Cattedrale, Palazzina Marfisa d’Este, and the nearby Civico Lapidario, which features a small collection of Roman marbles.

Included in the combined ticket is Palazzina Marfisa d’Este, a single-story building associated with Francesco d’Este and his daughter Marfisa, a patron of the arts. Frescoes adorn the rooms, complemented by antique furniture and portraits.

Ferrara boasts several other palaces and churches worth exploring, such as the Santa Maria in Vado, known for a twelfth-century miracle. The city’s archaeological museum, Museo Archeologico Nazionale, displays Etruscan and Greek artefacts from the Po Delta’s Spina site. The Palazzo dei Diamanti, named for its shaped stonework, houses the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Ferrara’s art gallery featuring works by local and renowned artists. Palazzo Massari hosts the Museo Boldini, showcasing more artworks. Casa di Ludovico Ariosto, where the poet lived and died, has been turned into a small museum. Visitors can view his tomb at Palazzo Paradiso, once a university building and now a library of rare manuscripts. Casa Romei, a Renaissance residence adorned with frescoes, is another architectural gem.

After exploring the city’s palaces and museums, take time to stroll through Ferrara’s central streets. Various Este family members oversaw the city’s expansion, with the most famous being the Addizione Erculea, a fifteenth-century town-planning project by Duke Ercole I d’Este.

Read our Ferrara Travel Guide

Day 5: Ravenna - Stand in awe of the Ravenna Mosaics

Complete Guide To Ravenna
Pixabay / anto-dc

Ravenna is a charming, lesser-known town located in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy. It’s surprising that many travelers, including us, had never heard of Ravenna before, considering its proximity to Italy’s most popular tourist destinations. However, Ravenna is indeed a hidden gem that offers a deep dive into centuries-old history, providing a fresh perspective on the country’s past. In the 5th century, Ravenna thrived as the capital of the Western Roman Empire, and today, it boasts a wealth of landmarks and monuments from that era, many of which are over 1500 years old.

Don’t be fooled by the unassuming exteriors of Ravenna’s ancient buildings; within, you’ll discover breath-taking treasures and astonishing mosaics that will leave you in awe. If you plan to spend a day in Ravenna, you’ll find below a list of the best things to do, which should cover all the must-see places. If you have more time and are visiting in the summer, be sure to explore the nearby beaches as well. Let’s explore Ravenna!

The primary attraction drawing visitors to Ravenna is its renowned mosaics, and two places you absolutely must not miss are the Basilica di San Vitale and the Mausoleo di Galla Placidia. The mosaics in these locations are truly breath-taking and are unlike anything you’ve likely seen before. Right next to the Basilica di San Vitale, you’ll discover the National Museum of Ravenna, which is also well worth a visit. Additionally, somewhat less famous but equally deserving of your attention is the nearby Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo. These sites showcase some of the most exquisite mosaic artistry you’ll encounter. Piazza del Popolo, the central town square, is another essential stop on your visit to Ravenna. It’s an incredibly picturesque and vibrant area. Don’t forget to wander through the charming narrow streets that encircle it.  Dante Alighieri, one of Italy’s most renowned poets, was exiled from Florence and passed away in Ravenna in 1321. Dante’s Tomb is often included in lists of places to visit in Ravenna.

Ravenna’s Old Town is compact but brimming with delightful spots waiting to be explored. Read my Self Guided Walking Tour of Ravenna’s Old Town, which includes a map and suggested route.

Read our Ravenna Travel Guide

Day 6: Rimini - Italy’s iconic beach city

Pixabay / Mario Ierardi

Rimini, primarily known as a beach resort with a vibrant nightlife scene, also boasts a contrasting historic center. Founded in 268 BC by the Romans under the name Ariminum, the city still bears traces of that ancient period. One prominent symbol of Rimini’s Roman heritage is the Arco di Augusto, a 17-meter high triumphal arch constructed in 27 BC by Emperor Augustus, which remarkably stands almost entirely intact today.

The Arch of Augustus (Rimini) marks the southern entrance to the city’s old town, the centro storico. At the opposite end of this historic centre, we find another Roman relic, the Ponte di Tiberio. Built in 27 AD and named after Emperor Tiberius, this bridge marked the start of the ancient Via Emilia road connecting Rimini to Piacenza.

Rimini’s centro storico is characterized by wide boulevards and picturesque squares, with Piazza Tre Martiri and Piazza Cavour, Rimini being the most notable. Piazza Tre Martiri hosts the Torre dell’Orologio (Clock Tower) and the Chiesa dei Paolotti, as well as a variety of shops in porticoed arcades around its perimeter.

A brief 2-minute walk from Piazza Tre Martiri takes you to one of Rimini’s renowned landmarks: the Tempio Malatestiano. Originally constructed in the 13th century in the Gothic style, it was later transformed in 1450 by Sigismond Malatesta, the city’s ruler at the time. The conversion was commissioned as a shrine to his deceased mistress, Isotta degli Atti, leading to controversy and excommunication by Pope Pius II.

Returning towards Piazza Tre Martiri via Corso d’Augusto, a 5-minute walk leads to Piazza Cavour, which features Gothic buildings, the Palazzo del Podestà, Palazzo dell’Arengo, and the Teatro Amintore. It’s also home to the Peschiera Antica, an 18th-century fish market that now specializes in antiques.

Continuing along Corso d’Augusto for a couple of hundred meters from the cinema, you’ll arrive at the Ponte di Tiberio, spanning the Ariminus River and leading to the main marina at the northern end of the beach, about two kilometers away. However, crossing the bridge at this point takes you to another captivating area of Rimini known as Borgo San Giuliano. This residential neighbourhood is known for its multicolored houses, some adorned with murals on their exteriors.

Leaving Borgo San Giuliano, it takes around 20 minutes to reach the beach, passing numerous boats of various sizes along the way. Walking to the end of the River Ariminus, you’ll eventually reach Rimini’s Ferris Wheel – La Ruota Panoramica, marking the northern end of the city’s main beach. From here, you have a plethora of private beaches to choose from, stretching all the way to Gabbicce Mare in the neighbouring Marche region, approximately 21 kilometers away.

The two main areas of Rimini, the centro storico and the beach, are approximately two kilometers apart, requiring about a 25-minute walk. Part of this distance can be shortened by taking bus number 11 to the train station, followed by an 8-minute walk covering 700 meters to Piazza Tre Martiri.

Find out more at my  Walking Tour of Rimini.

Read our Rimini Travel Guide

Day 7: San Marino - The Oldest Republic in the World

Visiting San Marino
Pixabay / Nikkita Lewen

San Marino offers a captivating experience for those enchanted by fairytale castle fortresses perched atop mountaintops. It also serves as a living testament to the success of unique societies and long-standing republics.

You enter San Marino through Porta San Francesco, the city’s former guarding post, you’ll be greeted a maze of streets winding up the hill. Stop by at the State Museum to learn the history of the country. You will pass the Piazza della libertà, with the historic seat of government the Palazzo Pubblico.

You wont be able to miss the encounter formidable defence towers that beckon you to climb and explore. Your journey begins at the Guaita Fortress, First Tower San Marino, a former military fortress, offering breath-taking views of the countryside below. Continue your ascent by climbing the steps to the Cesta, Second Tower & Museum of Ancient Arms once a garrison for crossbowmen. To reach Cesta, you’ll traverse the “Passo delle Streghe” (Passage of the Witches), a route that leads to one of the most coveted viewpoints. Finally you will arrive at the Montale Tower, Third Tower.

Have a look at our Self Guided Walking Tour of San Marino (With Maps!).

Read our San Marino Travel Guide

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Tours and Activities from Bologna