Madeira’s capital is nestled in a deep valley, with the lush green hills behind it and sparkling blue ocean in front. The city is a great mix of old and new, where an old town with traditional markets and winding streets mingle with a spacious cruise harbour and stylish shopping malls.
Funchal isn’t a beach destination, but once you have arrived, you will find that you are now in a fantastic base for your holiday in Madeira. The city is nestled on the island’s southern coast, with it being fairly easy to reach any other spot on Madeira from here.
A mild subtropical climate gives Funchal even temperatures all year round, with the warmer season starting around April and levelling out around September. That is not to say that the rest of the year isn’t a great time to visit, with average temperatures still relatively high when compared to back home.
Funchal may not have its own beach, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to do for water babies! Madeira is a spectacular location for snorkelling and scuba diving, and it’s a popular place to see dolphins and whales so there are plenty of tours available. If you do fancy cooling off with a refreshing swim, visit the Lido swimming complex or take the boat to Porto Santo island for a day at the beach.
Funchal is particularly well-known for its gardens, the most famous being the hilltop Monte Palace Tropical Garden in Monte. Monte can be reached on a cable car that offers panoramic views of Funchal below, and you can travel back down via the Monte Toboggan Run, a hair-raising ride in a wicker sledge steered by two experienced drivers.
If you fancy getting out into Madeira’s countryside, head to the beautiful Funchal Ecological Park or Laurisilva forest, which is actually a UNESCO Natural Site.
There is plenty for sightseers, including the Funchal Passenger Ropeway. From one of its gondolas, you will be lifted across the city, making it the perfect way to take in the view.
If you’re not on an all inclusive holiday, Funchal has a huge choice of restaurants to suit your taste and budget. All cuisines will be on the menu, but if you want to sample local dishes you should look for espada con banana (scabbard fish with banana) or espetada (marinated meat skewers) and finish with honey cake and some Madeiran dessert wine.
The hungry are well catered for in Funchal, from eateries such as the Golden Gate Grand Café to seafood restaurants perched right by the water, including the Doca do Cavacas Ponta da Cruz. For anyone who misses home, there are also plenty of establishments serving more traditional British fare.
While in the daytime they are mostly used as a welcome respite when the sun is at its highest, as well as for cool refreshments, at night Funchal’s bars come alive. With a number offering live music, including the Irish bar Moynihan’s, there is plenty of atmosphere for those tourists on cheap Funchal holidays looking for a wild night.
Anyone seeking a more relaxing time will also have a number of options open to them, with places such as the Café do Teatro having outside terraces for the punters to enjoy a pleasant drink with friends. Funchal’s nightlife starts late – don’t expect clubs to open until midnight!