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Funchal, the beautiful capital of Madeira

Beautiful located in a bay on the southside on the island you will find the capital of Madeira: Funchal. Funchal is the largest and most urbane area of Madeira. In fact, this is considered as the capital of the island for more than 500 years. Since Madeira was initially mapped and placed on official records, Funchal has always been regarded as its main city. It is also in terms of area and population (approximately 100,000) the largest city of the archipel. Funchal is a lively authentic city on the sunny south side of the island. You will find historic buildings, a promenade, a harbor (where the cruise ships dock), modern shops, botanical gardens and numerous restaurants and hotels. Funchal is a good place as a base to explore Madeira.

Funchal is a name that was given by the people who first settled in Madeira. During the earlier times, there was a lot of growing fennel in this place. In Portuguese, fennel was called funcho. Then, it was combined with the suffix –al so that the name would mean fennel plantation.  

It can be said that the main reason why early settlers chose to stay in this area is because the climate and temperature is friendlier compared to other parts of the island. Aside from that, this also has a more strategic location, making it conducive not just for living but also for trade.

funchal botanical gardens funchal

Funchal Harbour

The Funchal Harbour plays a very significant role in the progress of this city. This is the primary venue for business and tourism. For cruise ships, they utilize this port as their primary docking station. For merchants and other businessmen from other locations, importation and exportation occurs in this port. For tourists, they can also take sea vessels to be able to reach Madeira. Their port of arrival would be in the Funchal Harbour.

Interestingly, even if this spot is primarily used for business, it is still recognized as one of the cleanest harbors, not just within the country, but all over the world.  

Holiday in Funchal

Tourists would definitely have a blast when they opt to stay in Funchal because there are a whole lot of fun things to do here. During the day, there are water activities such as diving, surfing, boat riding, fishing, watching whales or even swimming with the dolphins. After enjoying the crystal clear water, a walk in the trekking areas or playing golf would be a wonderful idea.

Of course the trip would not be complete without trying out the Funchal restaurants. There are several cafes, fine dining restaurants, casual diners and other food places which can be found lining up by the harbor and along the main roads.  

Funchal Madeira may be boisterous on weekend nights because of the bars and clubs which operate until the break of dawn, but the real fun is experienced during festivities. New Year’s Eve never goes by without the annual fireworks display. The Christmas season in this island is so calming too with all the twinkling decorations all over the city. Since this island is known for their sumptuous wine, their wine festival certainly is a must-see.

Funchal Madeira
Funchal Madeira by Night

Travelling to Funchal

People who would like to visit Funchal can travel by sea. Their port of entry would be in the Funchal Harbour. There are many touring agencies which can arrange for water crafts that accommodate tourists. If the allotted time is limited, air travel would be a better option. The arrival would be right at the Funchal Airport (FNC) which is close to Sta. Cruz municipality. Right at the heart of Funchal, there are numerous accommodations where visitors can stay. From pocket-friendly inns to luxurious hotel rooms, there are plenty of options to choose from. Even transportation within the city is easy because of the availability of efficient public transit lines.    

Highlights of Funchal:

The botanical and tropical gardens.

The promenade along the harbor

The Palace of São Lourenço

The magnificent 16th century cathedral Sé do Funchal

Mercado dos Lavradores - The covered market in Funchal: many stalls selling flowers and plants, meat and fish, fruit and all kinds of local delicacies.

The arial tramway to Monte and the ride down in the "Tobogan". After your trip with the arial tramway you can (partly) descend the slope into a "Tobogan", a kind of wicker carriage. Expensive (about 25 euros), but funny.

Museum Casa Museu Frederico de Freitas: paintings, furniture and tiles

Museum de Arte Sacra: housed in the palace of the bishop you can find here a beautiful collection of Flemish paintings

Museum Quinta das Cruzes: furniture, silver, ceramics and engravings

The 17th century fort with stunning views: Fortaleza de Pico

The nightlife in the Zona Velha ("Old Town")

Public saltwater pool "Lido": Funchal does not have any sandy beaches. You can go to the saltwater pools "Lido", which is directly connected with the sea. Besides the pools you will find a a sunbathing area with loungers.

The Santa Catarina park located next to the harbor is an oasis of tranquility

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