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!
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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)
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
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
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
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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