Madeira, a semi tropical, volcanic Portuguese island with a year round agreeable climate might just be your next holiday destination. And here’s why; though there are two things this part of the world is particularly famous for (its wine and being the birthplace of Cristiano Ronaldo), there is so much more to sink your teeth into. Funchal is the capital city and your first port of call, and as such, we’ve drawn up this itinerary to help you get the most out of your stay. Here are 5 IDEAL things to do in Funchal, Madeira.
VISIT A WINE CELLAR
Since Madeira is famous for its fortified secular wines and Funchal itself for Madeira wine cellars, visiting them (and tasting, of course!) is a must. Indeed, the island is pretty much devoted to producing this particular type of wine and you’ll find it everywhere. Not that we’re complaining. A must visit is the Madeira Wine Museum, home to the oldest wine cellars of the region, dating as far back as the 17th century. Also essential on a fortified wine tasting tour are The São Francisco Cellars and The Old Blandy Wine Lodges.
Still sober and thirsty? Consider a day trip to explore the vineyards of Porto Moniz, and São Vicente. There are many companies offering full-day wine tasting tours, or you could rent a car and stay overnight. For more information check enjoycarhire.com for good deals and accessible service.
Don’t forget to take a bottle home as a souvenir; you can buy one in special stores and in local markets. Many tourists, however, prefer to shop at the elite store located in the Wine Museum (Madeiras Vin Museum) which is located on popular Av. Arriga. An unopened bottle of Madeira can last opened for many years, unlike sherry and port, making a vintage bottle a superb investment.
Madeira, and Funchal particularly, is also famous for its spectacular and intricate embroidery, and this also makes a perfect gift for those seeking something more wholesome. What’s more, and particular to Portugal, is the locally produced soap, terramiga, which is 100% natural and just lovely. Decisions, decisions.
Being an archipelago which is actually closer to mainland Africa than Portugal, the four islands of Madeira boast some gorgeous beaches which see sun all year round, as well as unique flora, fauna and wildlife blossoming in their parks. Funchal is certainly no exception. Jardim Botânico (Botanical Garden) is perhaps the star attraction in a twinkling sky; beautiful and diverse sub-tropical flora sees thousands of indigenous plants sit alongside exotic species from all over the world, including the world-renowned bird park containing over 300 species of exotic birds.
Funchal Municipal Park is another highlight. Conveniently located in the city’s centre, and free and open to the public, the park hosts fairs, festivals and other events regularly, making it a focal point for socialising.
Praia Formosa is Funchal’s most popular and visited beach, and easily walkable (only around half an hour) from the centre. It attracts a hip and trendy crowd, as the Praia Formosa area itself is a happening spot. The beach connects to the crowd-pleasing Lido Promenade via an attractive coastal path; that’s your day out sorted, then. If the walk or popularity of Praia Formosa put you off, then the pebbled Gorgulho Beach is attached to that aforementioned Lido, and has access to the sea.
In late February (this year starting on Wednesday 19th and lasting a week) things get busy all over Madeira for Carnaval. And in an area so famed for wine and good cheer, it certainly gets boisterous during this time. In the best possible way, of course.
As the capital, Funchal hosts the best of the action, with live bands, processions and parades taking over the streets for the seven days of festivities. Don’t miss the penultimate day of proceedings, known as the Cortejo Trapalhão (Slapstick Parade), which sees satire and comedy take over town. This is the biggest day, the actual ‘Carnaval’ in name, and occurs on Shrove Tuesday before forty months of fasting. Come with a sense of humour and you’ll be richly rewarded.
Keen on seeing more of the country and trying all the delicious food on offer? Then check out our 5 IDEAL places to eat seafood in Lisbon, Portugal.