Madeira has shaken off its reputation as a holiday destination for the more mature holidaymaker and has reinvented itself as a lively, vibrant holiday hotspot with plenty for everyone. While you’ll still find plenty of tourist shops selling the usual Portuguese-style souvenirs and mementoes, there’s much more for holiday shoppers to discover.
From chic and sleek shopping centres to boutique, independent stores and bargain-packed markets, you can find whatever you want. Whether your tastes are for designer clothing or you want some unique, handmade gifts for the family back home, you’ll find it when you go shopping in Madeira.
Madeira Shopping at its Best
For the ultimate shopping trip in Madeira, head to the city of Funchal, where virtually everything you want is on your doorstep. If you like it big, bold and distinctly modern, there are some excellent shopping centres in which to indulge in some upmarket retail therapy.
Set in the city centre, you’ll find the Anadia Shopping Commercial Centre, which is a multi-storey complex with around 50 stores, where exclusive Portuguese labels stand alongside international brands. It also houses a spectacular hypermarket, which is ideal if you’ve taken a Self Catering holiday to Madeira or if you want to bring some hard-to-find drinks back to the UK. There’s plenty of parking and the centres open from 10am to 11pm, seven days a week.
For those who believe that bigger is better, you’ll find the Forum Madeira Shopping Centre to the west of the city, offering more than 80 shops and parking for almost 1,000 cars. However, it’s not all high-end offerings: head to the cobbled streets of Funchal’s Old Town and you’ll find small, independent businesses selling authentic Portuguese clothing and jewellery, with plenty of bars and cafés for a break between bargains.
Ceramics and Embroidery
If you’d prefer to leave the big brands behind you and look for one-off and handmade goods, there’s a good selection of independent shops in Madeira. Ceramics are extremely popular and you’re never far from a Madeira shop selling hand-crafted tableware. Among the best is Lillie Ceramics, which you’ll find in Funchal, not far from the Mercado dos Lavradores. All the goods in here are cast on their potter’s wheels, kiln-fired and hand-painted, so no two pieces are the same.
Embroidery is another of the island’s arts and crafts and is popular with locals and visitors alike. Look out for Lino and Araújo, also in Funchal, where you’ll find some of the most exquisite examples of Portuguese embroidery on the island. Visit the Bordados de Madeira in Bordal and you can see embroidered goods being created right in front of your eyes. This is one of the island’s most important embroidery manufacturers and you can buy items such as beautiful baby clothes, bed linen and tablecloths, direct from the people who make them.
Off to Market
For those who prefer their shopping in Madeira to be as much about the experience as it is about the goods, be sure to pay a visit to one of the many regular markets that pop-up across the island. Market shopping in Madeira is fun, frantic and full of surprises. If you’d rather dip your toes into the experience gently, then start at one of the smaller markets, such as the one at Santa de Sierra. Set high up in the hills, it offers a spectacular backdrop and is easily accessible by car, taxi or coach. The market operates throughout the year and if you’ve booked a winter holiday to Madeira, be sure to wear something warm. Among the fruit and vegetables and local crafts, you’ll find plenty of hot food and drinks to help you forget the chill.
Head to Santana for one of the best farmers’ markets on the island. You’ll find fresh produce, local brews and some outstanding cheeses at much lower prices than in the supermarkets or in the city. There are also some stunning flower-stalls, if you’re looking to add a little romance to your holiday in Madeira.
For an experience like no other, book your holiday to Madeira in December and make your way to the Noite de Mercado, in Funchal. Madeira’s answer to a traditional Christmas market, this is perfect for last-minute festive shopping. While there are more stalls than you can shake a bastão at, it offers much more than regular shops in Madeira. Expect live music, singing, dancing and plenty of port. The event starts in the evening and continues late into the night.
Cash or Card?
Depending on where you go, you’ll either need a pocketful of Euros or just a card to hand. A typical Madeira shop in a large town or city will accept cards and you’ll find ATMs without much problem. However, for the market shopping in Madeira, cash is always king.
Where possible, try to carry smaller denominations and some change. Haggling is part of the market experience, so don’t be afraid to try your hand and you might find you’ve bagged yourself a bargain or two.