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Attractions and things to do in Funchal

Boat tours and dolphin watching in Madeira

Funchal's Cable Car

Although walking through Funchal's streets and serpentine cobbled alleys is the best way to get to know this buzzing city, there is nothing quite like admiring Madeira's capital from up above. The Teleférico do Funchal or Funchal Cable Car will offer you a unique birds-eye view of the entire city as you travel overhead past thousands of traditional orange roof-tops, blossoming trees, busy roads and express ways; until you reach magnificent heights deep into the cool green mountaintops of Monte where you'll make you're stop at the upper station. Once you've reached the top, visit Monte Palace Gardens or the church of Monte which are popular attractions of the capital. Head back to downtown Funchal but this time sitting in the opposite direction and enjoy the panoramic views from a different perspective. If you don't want to head back to the city centre, you can catch a different cable car from this point to the Botanical Gardens through the impressive mountainside.

 

Mercado dos Lavradores

The Mercado dos Lavradores is one of Madeira's most well-known and historic attractions inaugurated in 1940. Located in downtown Funchal in the busiest part of the capital, this famous market is best known for selling fresh fruit and vegetables produced all across the island. This must-visit market is a great opportunity to buy or try all kinds of tropical sweet fruits like the Madeiran banana, maracujas (passion fruit), and mangos, among dozens of other brightly-coloured and refreshing fruits. The market's lower level has one of the most animated sections of the attraction, a large fish market where you can find the island's most famous fishes that comprise popular Madeiran delicacies such as the Espada fish (black-scabbard fish) and Blue Marlin tuna. The second level of the market offers an open patio decorated with traditional Madeiran tiling, azulejo, and the Portuguese Calçada (pavement). Here you will find venders selling fruit and vegetables, popular souvenirs and traditional flowers sold by women dressed top to toe in folklore clothing. Take the stairs or the elevator to the third floor where you'll find even more colourful stalls selling fruit and vegetables as well as the traditional Madeiran Bordado, a beautiful cloth with hand-sewn patterns. This is a great place also to stop for a coffee and cake or a quick bite to eat during your Funchal tour. (Open every day except Sundays and bank holidays).

 

Santa Maria de Colombo - the "Pirate Ship"

The Santa Maria de Colombo, locally nicknamed the "Pirate Ship" has boomed in recent years as a major must-do when visiting Madeira's capital city of Funchal. This incredible ship is a real size replica of the original flagship sailed by Christopher Columbus on his journey to America in 1492 as well as during his exploration of Madeira and Porto Santo islands. Get on board this 22 metre-long mahogany ship and feel what it was like to set sail across the deep blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean during the 15th century; and if the wind is in your favour, watch as the Santa Maria's 3 tall sails (the tallest being 16 metres high) are hoisted during your voyage adding even more to the "wow" factor of such an extraordinary experience! As you sail along Madeira's southern coastline, accompanied by the ship's loyal pet dog, two parrots and pigeons, soak in impressive views of different geographical zones whilst being served traditional Madeiran delights like Madeira Wine and honey cake! Nothing less than divine! During sailing time, there are chances of you feasting your eyes on magnificent marine life such as Dolphins and turtles. Some have even been so lucky as to catch glimpses of whales! Summer tours will allow you to cool off by taking a dip in the ocean when the boat stops midway during the excursion. This is definitely one for the entire family!

 

A Toboggan Ride Down Monte

Take yourself to Monte or Terreiro da Luta for a fun fast downhill toboggan ride in a wicker basket or carro as it is called locally. In existence since 1850, toboggan rides were once a traditional form of transport for locals wishing to get down into the city of Funchal. Nowadays, however, rides will only take you half way down, approximately 2 km, so you'll have to catch a taxi to get the rest of the way down or opt for a long walk if you fancy stretching your legs. As you glide down on route towards Funchal through winding roads and narrow streets, the wicker baskets are solely controlled by two runners using their rubber-soled boots for brakes and ropes to turn and guide the basket in the right direction. These runners can be easily identified by their traditional white cotton uniforms and straw hats. This old school means of transport down Monte has been a tourist magnet for decades now and is a fantastic contrast to the modern cable car that takes you from downtown Funchal up to this high mountain top. It will certainly get the adrenaline rushing too!

 

Santa Maria Maior and Funchal's "Old Town"

Santa Maria Maior, a parish established in 1577, is located at the heart of Madeira's capital and is most recognised for its quaint "Old Town" otherwise known as Zona Velha. As the birthplace of Funchal city it is one of the most visited areas of Funchal and thrives in Madeiran emblems and traditions. It offers everything from food and drink in an array of restaurants to historic buildings such as the Fort of São Tiago or the "Worker's Market"; and museums like the Madeira Story Centre or the Electricity Museum. The area even has a small non-free coastal area called Barreirinha Beach which is great for taking a dip on a humid day in the city centre. Santa Maria Maior's "Old Town" is one of the most popular parts of the district where you'll find plenty to occupy your eyes, ears and taste buds as you make your way through cobbled narrow alleys. One highlight of this old quarter is Madeira Island's oldest street called Rua de Santa Maria which has been revitalized in recent years by the brilliant "Painted Doors" Project allowing artists to decorate over 200 doors along the street with imaginative designs, vibrant paintings and peculiar but attention-grabbing sculptures. Additionally, the area's long line of top rated restaurants in Madeira attracts hundreds of hungry tourists day and night in search of sampling delicious regional delicacies. The Almirante Reis/Cable Car Garden located by the beachfront also offers a calm green setting within this upbeat district to sit and relax or take a stroll. Here there is also a high-tech cable car station that will take you from downtown Funchal to the high mountains of Monte in around 15 minutes.

 

Wine Cellars & Wine Tasting

The wine cellars at Adegas de São Francisco, also known as "The Old Blandy Wine Lodge", are an obligatory stop off point when in Madeira as the attraction unveils everything about the history and production of one of the world's greatest fine wines as well as one of Madeira's greatest emblems - Madeira Wine or Vinho Madeira. Located along the Avenida Arriaga in the centre of Funchal within a baroque-style building, these famous wine cellars are the oldest of the island dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. From Monday to Saturday, these famous adegas offer visitors wine tasting rooms where rare and exquisite wines can be sampled in their different varieties such as the Sercial, Malvasia, Verdelho and Boal types. There are also warehouses, a shop, an exhibition area with artefacts and letters from famous personalities such as Winston Churchill, and, to top it all off, all of the traditional features of any typical adega such as beautiful barrels and casks made out of white mahogany and American and French oak. There are two types of tours to choose from both at affordable prices with each one offering an enchanting experience into this still functioning adega. Tours are also given in different languages at different times.

 

The Botanical Gardens

The Madeira Botanical Gardens, or Jardim Botânico, is one of the island's prime examples for being known as the "Island of flowers". Set among a high mountain in Funchal within an old estate called Quinta do Bom Sucesso, the Botanical Gardens is a major attraction offering a huge and vibrant collection of tropical flowers and plants. Apart from stunning flora which you'll see lining well-kept long pathways, you can also feast your eyes on exotic parrots and chirpy parakeets along with elegant peacocks which you'll actually find roaming free through the gardens and in treetops. Besides the blossoming gardens, enjoy spectacular views from several terraces and viewpoints towards downtown Funchal, the marina, the mountainous surroundings and the blue Atlantic Ocean.

 

Monte Palace Gardens

The Monte Palace Tropical Gardens, situated in the mountains of Monte and founded by José Berardo in 1987, is another classic example of why Madeira is so highly respected for its natural features and flora. Containing a great collection of plant species, a total of 100,000, these tropical gardens are enriched with splendid varieties of flowers, trees and ferns from all across the world. In addition to plants, the Monte Palace Tropical Gardens is decorated with exquisite sculptures; the world's tallest ceramic vase; African carvings; Japanese-style bridges and décor; the traditional Portuguese azulejo or blue tiles; large ponds with swans; cascades; stepping stones; and gentle pathways that guide you through the gardens. This is all complemented by extraordinary vistas towards the surrounding mountains. Within this attraction, you'll find a café where you can stop midway through your visit to enjoy a coffee or snack whilst relaxing and absorbing the peace and tranquillity of the gardens around you.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo Museum

Inaugurated in 2013, the CR7 Museum is a unique attraction devoted to the world's most famous Madeiran as well as one of its most distinguished football players, Cristiano Ronaldo. Opened by the footballer himself, the CR7 museum, which is approx. 400 square metres can be found on the street of Rua Princesa Dona Amelia. It showcases over 125 of Cristiano Ronaldo's awards and trophies from the beginning of his career up to the present date including his most coveted awards - the prestigious Golden Ball of '08 and the Golden Boots of '07/'08, '10/'11 and '14/'15. A popular highlight of the museum, offering a unique photo moment, is the lifelike wax statue of Cristiano Ronaldo himself which has already been displayed in elite cities like Paris, London and even New York. If you haven't yet seen the world famous star in the flesh, then this is the next best thing for sure! You can also catch a virtual and interactive wall allowing visitors to play against a virtual Cristiano Ronaldo as well as a gift shop where you can buy branded souvenirs to take back home with you.

 

Pico do Arieiro Mountain

Pico do Arieiro is the third highest mountain peak of the island and the highest in Funchal. Easily accessed by car, this stunning mountain stands at 1818 metres high and is a place that is nothing less than inspiring. The mere journey up to Pico do Arieiro is highly memorable with plenty of stop points where you can get out of your car, take photos of the landscape and admire the timeless vistas across giant mountainous rock formations. Once you reach the top of this colossal mountain, check out the souvenir shop, the café and its greatest feature of all, the wonderful viewpoints found across several spots on the mountain that will many times treat you with views towards other parts of the island like Ponta de São Lourenço or Curral das Freiras and even the nearby gold-sanded island of Porto Santo should the weather conditions be in your favour. Because of the high altitude, Pico do Arieiro will take you up and above the fluffiest cotton-like clouds you only wish you could bounce on but be aware that temperatures do drop dramatically here, even on the clearest of sunny days, so dress appropriately! During winter periods, many Madeirans head towards this impressive natural attraction just to feast their eyes on the area's snow-covered mountains, a rare vision for islanders who are used to warm and humid conditions almost all year round.

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