Festival of Wine, Embroidery & Handicrafts of Madeira
The Festival of Wine, Embroidery & Handicrafts of Madeira is an annual full-house event hosted by the Madeira Wine Institute and unites three of Madeira's cultural emblems. Packed with things to see, do and taste, the festival enjoys a series of activities such as Madeira wine auctions; wine and chocolate tasting; showcooking which blends regional flavours with Madeiran wines; embroidery, tapestry and ceramic tile painting; and a live show and exhibition of traditional embroidery. Ideal for all ages, there are also various attention-grabbing craft and culinary workshops for children. Taking place at the IVBAM in Funchal, you can participate in this enjoyable festival during three days in the month of February.
The Madeira Carnival period is celebrated during February/March before Lent when locals indulge in sweets and traditional pastries like the delicious malassada topped with Madeira sugar-cane. It is a time comprised of a stream of entertaining shows and parades which involve plenty of creativity, fooling around, dressing up and dancing. The highlight of this upbeat Carnival event is held on the Saturday along Funchal's beachfront, Avenida do Mar, and sees an enormous parade complete with elaborately-decorated floats filled with bright lights and hundreds of glittering dancers shaking all they've got to loud carnival music! The following Tuesday holds the Cortejo Trapalhão, a caricature parade where locals make fun of politicians and generally dress-up in ridiculous outfits. Having fun and being in a festive mood is key to the Carnival so don't forget your own costume so you can join in on all the fun too!
If you want to discover why Madeira is designated the Ilha das Flores or "Island of Flowers" then don't miss its annual Flower Festival that takes place in its capital, Funchal. Known as one of the most colourful times to visit the island, the Madeira Flower Festival is a magnificent celebration of springtime and the island's exotic flowering season. Attracting thousands of tourists, locals and Continental Portuguese each year, you can catch it too during either April or May. This week-long festival sees the streets of the capital displaying long carpets of flowers whilst houses, shop windows and lamp posts are decorated and brought to life with all kinds of enchanting floral species. Performances of traditional Madeiran dance and song by folklore groups entertain passers-by along the famous Avenida Arriaga as do night time classical music concerts. There are also flower exhibits and food stalls to delight visitors during an afternoon stroll through the city centre. The festival culminates with two special events on the last two days. Saturday enjoys the "Wall of Hope" where children decorate a wall with flowers as a symbol of hope and peace in the world, whilst Sunday offers the biggest highlight of the week - a large and energetic procession along the Avenida do Mar beachfront. This procession includes a themed parade filled with stunning floats decorated top to bottom with flowers followed by hundreds of dancers, mainly children, dressed in brilliant costumes. The event gets pretty jam-packed so make sure you arrive early and don't forget your camera!
Reid's Palace Classic Auto Show
Held each May over two days (dates vary), the Reid's Palace Classic Auto Show is one of Madeira's most glamorous annual events showcasing the island's stunning collection of vintage automobiles, motorbikes, scooters and modern classics all manufactured prior to 1980. Promoting the island's outstanding automobile heritage, hundreds of sophisticated cars, sometimes up to 500, are lined up on the Estrada Monumental between the Reid's Palace Hotel and Largo da Paz; one of the most touristic areas in Funchal. During the event, some cars are even showcased in central Funchal along the Avenida Arriaga. Attracting all those who are passionate about vintage cars, this brilliant auto show also includes an automobile fair, car restoration demonstrations and prize giving ceremonies where awards are presented to the most original, elegant and best restored vehicle. Even if you're not passionate about vintage cars, this charming event will undoubtedly spark your interest in them as well as offering families or couples a great day out with plenty of picture taking.
Atlantic Fireworks Festival
Brightening up each Saturday night's sky during the month of June is the Atlantic Fireworks Festival. Making up this vibrant and unique event are three cultural components: The Madeira Music Festival, The International Firework Contest (the highlight of the event) and entertaining street performances by philharmonic bands. The fireworks contest sees a colourful firework display where four different countries compete for the Pearl of the Atlantic trophy. Each evening display, which is held at Funchal's harbour, is beautifully synchronised with music and lasts around 20 minutes. This is a great event to top off a day of touring the capital of the island or a romantic way to end a night out for two.
Madeira Jazz Festival
For jazz lovers, the Madeira Jazz Festival held within the enchanting gardens of Santa Catarina Park in central Funchal, will treat you to a series of jazz tunes performed by both well-known national and international musicians. Filling the area with vibrating jazz sounds during three days in the first week of July, this entertaining festival welcomes large crowds of locals and jazz fans alike to come and experience a tranquil evening with loved ones, friends or family in one of the best settings in Funchal with views towards mountain tops and the deep blue Atlantic ocean that brushes against Funchal's marina.
Our Lady of Monte
The festival of Our Lady of Monte, held during the 14th and 15th of August, is a highly anticipated event that celebrates Madeira's patron saint. Whilst at the festival, step inside the prominent and beautiful church of Our Lady of Monte set atop a steep flight of stairs before taking a wonder around the nearby gardens and winding pathways. After the festival's mass, you can also take part in a procession that will take you through the fully decorated parish with carpets of flowers and colourful streamers and banners. One of the largest festivals of its kind on the island, this popular gathering at Monte attracts hundreds of devout followers who come to pray to Our Lady of Monte. Apart from devotees, great numbers of locals and tourists also attend the festival simply to enjoy the traditional features found at most Madeiran events - traditional food and drink as well as plenty of song and dance to traditional folklore music. This festival is most popular during evening hours and literally goes on all night long!
Every year, on the night of the 23rd of December, thousands of islanders filled with festive cheer gather in Funchal at the well-known Farmers Market or Mercado dos Lavradores in the centre of the capital. Come sundown, shops and roads are closed and market stalls are put up both inside and around the outside of the market and piled with fresh fruit and vegetables to be sold to the general public which quickly flood the area. Apart from the buying and selling of fresh produce from all corners of the island, Market Night proposes a jam-packed evening of carol singing (the majority in Portuguese and English) and plenty of traditional song and dance performances by folklore groups. During the event, it is traditional to eat Carne de Vinho e Alhos (cubes of pork marinated in wine and garlic) and drink Poncha (sugarcane rum mixed with lemon and honey) which are both sold in booths and bars all around the area. It is a great event to welcome both Christmas and the New Year.
New Year's in Madeira is the most anticipated time of the year on the island because of its extravagant midnight firework display. Having held the Guinness World Record for the world's largest firework display in 2006, Madeira welcomes thousands of tourists from across the globe to marvel at what can only be described as Europe's greatest firework spectacle. Held in the island's capital of Funchal, this dramatic and very colourful display illuminates the city's entire night sky from its famous habour to its picturesque mountain tops left, right and centre. The evening also counts on the presence of several prestigious cruise ships, sometimes up to a dozen at a time, which reserve a spot along Funchal's marina in order to get a front row seat to this sparkly event before continuing on their voyage across the Atlantic. Finish the night off by wandering through Funchal's winding streets which will still be fully decorated with beautiful Christmas lights. Reserve your own spot at this memorable event and make sure your New Year goes off with a proper "bang"!