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Travel Talk

Local hosts share their insights

Unique and cool must-dos in Funchal, Madeira

GlobeTrott Travel team visited the magnificent island of Madeira and its vibrant capital. All we have to say is that all of us absolutely fell in love with it. In this blog article, we will share quite a few reasons why.

Our content manager and die-hard traveller Ruta spent 2 weeks in Madeira and decided to share her top favorites of the stunning port city of Funchal. There is no way you can avoid Funchal - this is the place where you land in one of the most impressive airports in the whole world! The airport landing takes place right on the edge of the island rocks where pilots have been known to show off their best performances as they approach the natural wonder called Madeira.

If you want a taste of the island life, start in Madeira's cultural capital. Ruta says she always looks for a few things while traveling: places where locals go, things that locals do, and something unique to the place she is visiting. So here are some recommendations from Ruta's travel itinerary for your journey through this stunning port city.

Old Town streets

Funchal’s old town is quite small, but it doesn’t mean it’s not worth visiting. What I personally loved about it, is that you can find quirky street art, artistically painted doors in between old buildings, white churches, architectural masterpieces, and palm trees. So the combination of quirky art and historical architecture makes the whole place look so unique.

Waterfront and boat docks

Take a walk alongside the waterfront and not only indulge in the views of deep blue waters but also take a look at the variety of boats that you will find parked alongside it. You can find all sorts of water vessels here so graze your eyes. If you are up for the adventure, book a boat ride or even a jet ski to see the shores of the island from a completely different perspective. Also, on the waterfront, you will be able to find a sculpture of Cristiano Ronaldo - the real hero of Madeira island.

Fort of Sao Tiago (Yellow Fort)

There is no way you would not see this building if you were walking around the east side of Funchal’s waterfront. Originally built in the 17th century for protection from pirates, this building still stands as an impressive architectural creation. I personally believe that the yellow colour makes it so picturesque. At the bottom of it, you will find a small rocky beach full of locals refreshing during the hot day. If you like the adrenaline rush, join the locals who climb the rocks in the water and jump in the ocean from it.

Drink passionfruit lemonade at Barreirinha Bar Cafe

When you become thirsty, do not just drink plain water. Stop at the Barreirinha Bar Cafe, hidden from the main touristy bar and restaurant area, full of old locals enjoying their moment with a cup of drink and sit down. If you come from a country where passionfruit doesn’t grow, use your chance to refresh yourself with something that’s the freshest here. I tried my first lemonade here and I ended up drinking them every day I was in Madeira. What’s even better, you get free Madeiran snacks with drinks you order.

Visit Bar o Avô and see the collection of soccer scarves

I hope you already know by now that world-famous and one of the best soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo was born in Madeira. So, little has to be said that Madeira and soccer go hand in hand. So even if you don’t want to sit down for a drink or meal, visit this hidden treasure to check out its impressive and biggest in the world collection of soccer scarves. I am almost certain you will find at least one from your own country there, you’ll just need to take a good look.

Go up with the cable car and go down in handcrafted wicker sleds pulled by “carreros”

This might be one of the weirdest things I have ever done while traveling. I still can’t wrap my head around and understand the way it works. You sit down in these handmade sleds made of everything wooden and you go downhill on the asphalt roads. It feels like an old way to do roller coaster! What is even more unique is that you are being steered by two men, dressed up in white, wearing hats, special shoes, and called “Carreiros do Monte”.

Eat all the fish and seafood you can

Funchal has plenty of restaurants in the city, there is no way you can walk around the city and not be called in by a restaurant host to visit their restaurant for lunch or dinner. Being a huge foodie and ex-chef, I can’t recommend it more to eat as many fish and seafood dishes here as you can. The freshest miracles of the ocean can be found in every restaurant, and I swear, Madeirans know how to cook their fish and octopus. You won’t regret it.

Go outside of Funchal for hikes and levada walks

As I have mentioned before, Funchal is where you will start exploring Madeira island. But you have to go out of Funchal to see the magnificent natural wonders Madeira has to offer. Even if you are not up for hiking or long walks, you can still drive or catch a tour bus up the hill to the car park of the highest peak on the island - Pico Ruivo. Breathtaking views of natural wonders will amaze you here.

That’s it from me today. I hope this list helps you to choose Madeira as your next travel destination! Since we are all unique travellers, when you visit, I hope you find something you personally fall in love with when in Funchal.

Once you are there, do not forget that GlobeTrott Travel app has an audio tour of Funchal, that will help you see the cultural richness of the capital of Madeira and show how history has entangled with the present.

Download the app and listen to the tour here


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