Funchal holidays

Welcome to Madeira’s 500-year-old capital, perched on a hill along the Garden Island’s southern coastline. Cobbled streets, stunning gardens, and a cosmopolitan marina are all part and parcel of Funchal holidays. This place flawlessly blends old with new, from the historic Old Town to the smart boutiques and bars. And it’s home to some super-stylish clubs, too, along with rustic restaurants serving up classic local fare. Don’t miss the famously colourful gardens; you can enjoy spectacular views across the bay from some of them. Looking for a beach? There are four of them nearby, just a half-hour walk from town.

Things to do

You could spend hours and hours exploring the cobbled streets of Funchal’s Old Town, dipping in and out of the shops and museums. How about a trip to the Museum of Contemporary Art? It’s housed in the 17th century São Tiago Fort. But there’s so much more to this place, too. Holidays to the Garden Island are a change to explore the great outdoors, so pack your swimsuit and your hiking boots and see where your trip takes you.

Excellent beaches

There are only a few sandy shores in Funchal, as most are pebble beaches, so you’ll find a unique take on a traditional afternoon by the beach. It’s common to find paved promenades with lidos on the edge of the coast with sunbathing facilities and you can still swim in the calming waves as a safe section of the sea is usually marked off. In the Old Town you’ll find Praia da Barreirinha where you can relax on the promenade on sun loungers before taking a dip in the pool. Follow the steps down to the sea and have fun swimming in the stunning setting. If you want to find sand, one of the more popular beaches is the small man-made one in nearby Calheta. The golden sand was imported from Morocco and is ideal for reclining on sun loungers under the glorious warm sunshine.

History and culture

Funchal is Madeira’s largest city and the island’s 500 year old capital. The area became popular with tourists in the 1850s and the main export of the island is the famous Madeira wine, which began trading in the 17th century. You’ll find most of the island’s history and culture in the cobbled streets of the Old Town and 16th century buildings in the centre of Funchal. The general atmosphere when walking around Funchal is upbeat and modern, but tradition oozes through in the shape of traditional food and age-old customs, such as picking grapes in September’s Wine Harvest Festival. Another celebrated tradition is toboggan rides down the steep hill that connects Monte to Funchal. Drivers, also known as Carreiros de Monte, push the wicker cart, which was described by writer Ernest Hemingway as the ‘most exhilarating experience’ of his life.

Nightlife

Madeira follows a typically English way of life, with many of the clubs and bars dormant throughout the week. However, you’ll be able to find evening entertainment throughout the week in Funchal. Enjoy a cocktail or two in outdoor seating and dance to live music if the moment takes you. Madeira has a great selection of traditional food to try too. Dine on hearty meals and sip on the famous Madeira wine transported directly from the vineyards found in the mountains.

Map of Funchal

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6-23 ℃

Expect year-round sunshine in Funchal

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3 hours 40 minutes

Fly to Madeira Airport (FNC)

Funchal is best for...

Walkers: Beyond the manicured gardens, there’s a whole landscape to explore. Madeira’s lush volcanic terrain is laced with hiking trails, so follow the levada routes and see where they take you. Spring is particularly beautiful, when the spring flowers are in full bloom.

Couples: There’s a colourful vibe here when the sun goes down, with plenty of stylish cocktail bars and sophisticated restaurants around the marina. Where better to enjoy a romantic meal?

Culture lovers: Head for a film festival or an art exhibition; or join in with the annual wine harvest. And then there’s a wealth of local dishes just waiting to be sampled, too, so it’s perfect for foodies as well.

Fast facts for Funchal

Language: The language spoken in Funchal is Portuguese.

Currency: The currency used in Funchal is the euro (€).

Local time: Funchal is the same time as GMT/UK time.

Fly to: Madeira Airport. It takes about 1 hour to transfer to Funchal.

Flight time from UK: The Funchal flight time is 4 hours.

Tourist Information: Before your Funchal holidays, find our more at www.visitmadeira.pt.

Visa and health: Check out www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/portugal for visa and health recommendations for holidays to Funchal.

Holiday destinations related to Funchal:

  • Madeira
  • Getting around Funchal

    On foot: It’s the best way to explore the narrow streets Funchal’s Old Town. Why not stop for a break at a charming coffee shop?

    By open-top bus: Hop on and off at all the key spots with the Yellow Bus Sightseeing Tours. Tickets are valid for 24 or 48 hours, and they can be used on public transport.

    By cable car: Head up the hillside to the Monte district to discover breath-taking views. It only takes 15 minutes. Feeling brave? Whizz back down in a man-powered basket car.

    By hire car: Explore Madeira with a hire car, and stop to soak up panoramic views and explore as many quaint villages as you like.

    Events in Funchal

    Carnival: During five jubilant days before Lent, Funchal’s city streets sparkle with lights and spirited parades.

    Spring blooms: After Easter, Funchal’s annual Festa da Flor welcomes in spring. Expect glorious parades and don’t miss the floral Wall of Hope (Muro da Esperança).

    Film festivals: From the famous Madeira Film Festival to the lesser-known Mudas Fest, Madeira has a full calendar of events for movie-lovers.

    Christmas and New Year: What a magical time to be in Funchal. Festivities take place through December until Twelfth Night. Highlights include the Night at the Market just before Christmas and spectacular fireworks on New Year’s Eve.

    Funchal weather

    Temperature: 16-23 (°C)

    The weather in Funchal is pleasant all year round. You can expect average highs of 18°C even in January. If you’re not a fan of the heat, book your Funchal holidays for spring, when the mercury hovers around the mid-teens. Summer temperatures are warm but comfortable, typically hovering in the mid-20s throughout the peak season. The weather stays warm and bright throughout the autumn and winter, with up to 10 hours of sunshine a day. But pack a mac, as there’s more rain at this time of year (it keeps the gardens looking lovely!).

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