Turismo no Funchal, Madeira

Discover Funchal, the capital and touristic and commercial centre of the Island of Madeira, in Portugal.

Funchal, Madeira
Funchal, Madeira 
© Francisco Correia, Turismo da Madeira

Funchal, Madeira’s capital, has a town centre crowded with activity, with more than 100,000 inhabitants, one third of the island’s population. The Portugueses tenderly nicknamed it the “Little Lisbon” because of its architecture, boutiques and lively cafés.

Cathedral of Funchal
Cathedral of Funchal
© Turismo da Madeira
São Tiago Fortress
São Tiago  Fortress
© FC Turismo da Madeira
Marina of Funchal
Marina of Funchal 
© FC Turismo da Madeira

As it happens in Lisbon, its streets go up and down winding through the steep main avenues and squares paved with mosaics and decorated with heraldic and arabesque flowers. Here the flowered trees offer a welcoming shadow, while the jasmine smell coats the hidden courtyards and gardens.

The name Funchal means Fennel. It is said to be named in this way because of the amount of fennel plants that Zarco, discoverer of the island, found when he arrived in 1420. Zarco himself chose this place to establish the capital of the isle because of the excellent natural port formed by the bay. Nowadays, all type of boats dock in the port, from freighters to luxury cruise ships.

On the Western side of the city there is a hotel area resembling city itself, with shops, supermarkets, swimming pools and restaurants. It becomes the perfect place for staying.

The city is divided between three sectors by the three rivers that have been canalised to avoid the risk of flooding.

In the Eastern sector is located the Historical Centre, which is full of restaurants. In the main streets you will find many embroidery factories and shops that sell salty cod and dried herbs.

The majority of the monuments of the city are located in the labyrinthine streets of the Zona Velha. The reference point of the area is the  (Cathedral) and the Alfândega Velha (old custom house), which currently hosts the regional Parliament building. Although this part of the city also have other fascinating places such as the Mercado dos Lavradores Market.

To begin the visit to the city, you can take as starting point the Praça do Município Square, flanked by different interesting buildings. In the Eastern side stands out the Paços do Concelho Palace (18th century). In the Southern part you will find the Arte Sacra Museum, located in the former Archbishop’s Palace (16th-18th centuries), which houses a valuable collection of Flemish paintings of the 15th and 16th centuries.

Besides the museum, stands the Igreja do Colégio São João Evangelista Church (17th century), attached to the Jesuits college, founded by the Order on their arrival to the island, after an attack by French privateers.

On the back of the College, in the rua Mouraria street, is located the Natural History Municipal Museum, in the Palácio de São Pedro Palace, containing collections of the endemic fauna and an interesting maritime aquarium. Next to the museum, you can visit the Igreja São Pedro Church (16-17th c.), and higher up, through the Caçada Santa Clara, the Santa Clara Convent (17 c.). The convent used to be inhabited by a community of Clarisses nuns who, in 1566, ran away to the Curral das Ferias Pen.

Nearby, is located the Museu da Quinta das Cruzes Museum, dedicated to the decorative arts between the 16th and 19th centuries. Above the quinta, it is found the Fortaleza do Pico Fortress, a monumental fortress built in 17th century.

Back in the Praça do Município Square, you can go down the Rua Aljube Street, which, to the right, leads to the Avenida Arriaga Avenue and the Sé de Funchal (Cathedral), with Manueline Gothic style and a fascinating inside.

In front of the cathedral, the Avenida Arriaga Avenue enlarges and makes a clear square, leading to one of the most lively streets in Funchal. On its roads you will find many bars, cafes, craft shops, theatres, and Madeiran wine tasting places. Among them, the headquarter of the Madeira Wine Company stands out. The tourism office and the Zarco Monument can be found here as well. Further up, the Jardim de São Francisco Garden is found. It is a botanic garden, planted in 17th century, with a great variety of indigenous species and many other brought from East India by Portuguese sailors.

The cosmopolitan environment of the avenue is interrupted by the antique São Loureço Fortress (16th c.), which still today has police functions and is the headquarter of the General Military Quarter. Inside, there is a palace related to the Marine of Funchal, the commercial and sports port, full of yachts and catamarans from all over the world.

If you move back through the promenade to the Avenida das Comunidades Madeirenses Avenue you will arrive to the Alfândega, which communicates with the cathedral through a pedestrian street with beautiful outdoors terraces.

Above the city, in the height of a promontory, stands the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Monte Church, which is currently a great meeting point.

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