1. Visit Funchal Cathedral – Sé
Located in the city center, The Cathedral of Funchal (Sé) is one of the main historic landmarks of Funchal. Built at the beginning of the 16th century, at the peak of the Portuguese explorers’ era, Funchal Cathedral is a symbol of power and prosperity.
Not to be missed is the Gothic altarpiece, composed of gilt woodwork, oil paintings on wood, and small sculptures. The wooden cedar ceiling with ivory elements is considered one of the most beautiful ceilings in the whole of Portugal.
2. Explore the Old Town of Funchal
Funchal Old Town (Zona Velha) is a nice lively place. Most of the city’s shops and restaurants are located in this area. It might get a bit busy when there are cruise ships in town, but it still has a great local feel.
The main shopping streets are Rua do Aljube, Rua da Carreira, and Rua Dr. Fernao Ornelas.
If you are looking for a place for lunch, don’t settle for the tourist restaurants with pictures on the menu. There are quite some really nice local restaurants that serve great fresh food.
3. Admire the street art of Rua da Santa Maria
Rua da Santa Maria was one of our favorite places in Funchal. It’s a perfect example of how a bit of imagination can bring the city to life. This area that has suffered from the flooding is now completely reborn.
A public art program called ‘Arte de Portas Abertas’ (the art of the open doors) has managed to transform an old shabby area of Funchal’s Old Town into a colorful outdoor art gallery. It now displays over 200 works of art, most painted on the doors of the houses of Rua de Santa Maria.
4. Visit Mercado dos Lavradores – Farmer’s Market
The Mercado dos Lavradores is a flower, fruit, vegetable, and fish market in Funchal. A short visit to this colorful bustling market is a must do in Funchal!
The impressive building dates from 1940 and the inside space is organized in several different areas (‘Plazas’), connected by passages and staircases. The market is open daily (except Sundays and Public Holidays) but is busiest on Fridays when you’ll likely see traditionally dressed ‘flower ladies’ selling the most beautiful exotic flowers.
5. Enjoy the views from Monte Cable Car
Visiting Monte has been probably the most popular Funchal attraction for many decades. In the beginning of the 20th century, tourists could reach the mountain by steam train. Nowadays, you can make the same journey and enjoy the scenery from Monte Cable Car (Teleférico do Funchal).
The ride from Funchal old town to Monte takes 15-20 minutes one way, giving you plenty of time to enjoy beautiful views over the city and its surroundings. It covers a long distance (over 3,2km (2 miles)) and makes an impressive ascent of 580 m (1,902 ft).
Once in Monte, you have several options. If you have at least half a day, you can visit all of the places mentioned here, otherwise, you’ll have to choose. A popular option is to take the second cable car and visit the Botanical Gardens of Madeira. Alternatively, just next to the cable car station, you can visit the Monte Palace Tropical Garden. A bit further down the road, you’ll find the church of Our Lady of Monte. From there you can take a wicker toboggan sled down the mountain.
6. Visit Monte Palace Tropical Garden
Monte Palace Tropical Garden is another amazing garden you can visit in Funchal. Since it’s located just next to the upper station of Monte cable car, it’s probably the most visited garden in Funchal. Featuring over 100,000 plant species with a separate section devoted solely to Madeira’s flora, it’s a garden that is well worth a few hours of your time. If you visit just one garden in Funchal, make it the Monte Palace Tropical Garden.
The Monte Palace Tropical Garden is located at the Quinta Monte Palace – a beautiful mansion that in combination with a pond, a little waterfall, and various little structures makes it look like the gardens of some fairytale castle.
7. Visit Madeira Botanical Garden
Madeira is an island of flowers and Funchal is the city of gardens. Madeira Botanical Garden (Jardim Botânico). This is the biggest garden with the most varied collection of plants from all over the world.
The estate where the Botanical Garden is located dates from 1880 and used to be privately owned. What a garden for one family!
The Botanical Gardens are located high on the hill above Funchal with amazing views as an added bonus. Inside you will find a big variety of different style gardens, including French and Japanese gardens. Kids loved the cute little Madeira houses and also a small natural history museum.