Capital of the Madeira Islands off the northwest coast of Portugal and the largest city on the islands with a population of roughly 140,000, Funchal is the cultural centre of the region, providing a mixture of impressive sights, beautiful scenery and sun.

Founded by Joao Goncalves Zarco in 1421, Funchal quickly expanded during the 15th century courtesy of the many settlers drawn to the site’s natural beauty. Finally given city status by King Manuel I in 1508, Funchal became an important stop-off port between the Indies and the New World, and prospered thanks to the trade in sugar and the famous Madeiran wine. Although today it might lack the same importance, the city continues to produce famous sons, most recently the footballer Cristiano Ronaldo.

Overlooking a harbour, and against a backdrop of green mountains, Funchal remains one of the most picturesque locations in the Madeiras and Portugal full stop. Moreover, with English widely spoken in the city, it’s extremely convenient for tourists to visit one of the pearls of the Atlantic.


The historic centre of Funchal is packed with buildings of architectural worth. First and foremost is Se Cathedral on the Rua do Aljube, completed in 1517 and notable for its hotchpotch of Gothic, Moorish and Portuguese influences. Elsewhere, in Santa Maria, the Santiago Menor Church provides a glimpse into the city’s religious past, being devoted to the patron saint, and 18th century Baroque architecture.

Also within the Se district is the Joao Goncalves Monument, a statue dedicated to the city’s founder, and the impressive Fortalez de Sao Lourenco. Initially built between 1529 and 1540 as a fortification for the city, it was gradually expanded after Funchal succumbed easily to French pirates in 1566. Later a national residence palace, the Fortaleza now provides a permanent exhibition of its history.

A former seminary, the reconstructed mid-18th century Bishop’s Palace in Se is remarkable for its adjacent Sacred Art Museum. As well as a great selection of Flemish painting between the 15th and 16th centuries (courtesy of Madeira’s historic trading links to Antwerp), the museum hosts treasures from the Se Cathedral, including the marvellous processional cross given by king Manuel I.

Other museums are strewn across city, including the Quinta das Cruzes Museum in Sao Pedro (displaying mainly English and Asian decorative arts in Funchal between the 17th and 19th centuries) and the Adegos de San Francisco, a wine-lodge and museum.

Established in the late 19th century, The Municipal Garden is the perfect place for a stroll. Along with over 8,000 square metres filled with flora and fauna, the Garden contains an Amphitheatre for events and concerts, rivalling the Municipal Theatre Baltazar Dias in the city centre. Alternatively, the Monte Palace Tropical Garden is a spectacular and recent development, with over 100,000 plants, waterfalls and statues as well as a fabulous Japanese section.

Funchal hosts a number of festivals throughout the year. The most important occasion is the Carnival in late February with its fabulous parade of floats. Should you miss this, the Flower Festival in late April and the Madeira Wine Festival in early September are just two of the many festive events associated with Funchal.


Funchal specialises in embroidery, flowers and wicker products, with the best shops found down the Avenida Arriaga, the Rua de Joao Tavira and the Avenia Zarco. However, there are plenty of alternative locations for shopping.

The daily market, the Mercado dos Lavradores, takes place in the historic centre.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Funchal enjoys a range of different restaurants. You can try fresh fish at O Tapassol on the Rua Dom Carlos, or pastries at the many Pasteleria, or visit one of the floating restaurants on the seafront like The Vagrant (once owned by The Beatles) or even foreign cuisine at the Café Fora d’Oras on the Rua da Casa Branca. However, for the best gourmet cuisine, the Restaurante Montanha in the Estrada do Conde de Carvalhal is highly recommended.

The city has a number of bars, particularly down the Largo das Fontes.

Tourist Information

Madeira Tourist InformationAvenida Arriaga, 18FunchalTel: +351 291 211


Funchal is served by Funchal Airport, close to the city. Taxis can be used from the airport itself. International and domestic connecting flights are available to limited European destinations.

British Airways, TAP, Thomas Cook Airlines and Thomsonfly are among the airlines that fly from the airport to British locations.

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