Funchal: seven places you must visit in the capital of Madeira

Praia Formosa

In this article you’ll discover the 7 places you can’t miss when you visit Funchal, city where 37% of the island’s population live (around 100 526) .

You’ll discover one of the most wonderful gardens in the world, the beautiful streets in the historic centre, monuments with so much to tell, a colourful market and you’ll even have the chance to try a surprising and original means of transportation.

This article is the fourth in the series I wrote about Madeira. In the first one I talk about my visit to Porto Moniz and Levada das 25 Fontes; in the second one you can read about Pico do Arieiro, Curral das Freiras and Ponta de São Lourenço; the third article is about the wonders in Câmara de Lobos and Cabo Girão.

The places you’ll find throughout this article are the ones I visited during my fourth day in Madeira. You should visit these places in this order so that you won’t lose too much time between them.

Throughout the article you’ll also find tips about each place that will help you better prepare your visit to the beautiful Madeira island.

Funchal : Monte Palace Tropical Garden

In 1987, José Berardo bought an abandoned property (70 hectares) in Monte, not far from Funchal, and converted it into a marvelous garden, Monte Palace Tropical Garden.

During your visit (you’ll need at least 2 hours) you’ll have the opportunity to discover flora and fauna from all over the world, works of art, glazed tiles, two magnificent oriental gardens, a museum and an old luxury hotel (Monte Palace Hotel), built by the previous owner in the beginning of the 20th century (1900).

I could say that this garden is one of the most beautiful places in Madeira…

It’s more: Monte Palace Tropical Garden is the most beautiful garden I have ever seen in all my life!

You don’t believe me? Than look at these photos!

  • Location: Monte Palace Tropical Garden: Caminho das Babosas, 4, Funchal
  • Opening hours: everyday from 9h30 to 18h
  • Tickets: 10 euros

How to go to Monte Palace Tropical Garden?

My suggestion is that you go to Monte Palace Tropical Garden by car or simply take the cable car in Funchal.

If you’re driving there, know that there’s a parking lot next to the entrance; the cable car trip ends there as well.

  • Parking lot location: Caminho do Desterro 62, Funchal

Information: If you put the coordinates of the parking lot in the GPS, it’ll make you come from the bottom of the street. The problem is that it’s a very narrow  two-way street and, worst of all, with an important road gradient.

My suggestion is that you try to get there through the top of the road, by putting the following coordinates in the GPS: Caminho da Lombada 58, Funchal. When you get to this location, you’ll just have to turn left and a few metres ahead you’ll be next to the parking lot and the entrance of the garden.

Check below the best itinerary from the centre of Funchal to Monte Palace Tropical Garden:

The other option is take the cable car in Funchal (Rua Dom Carlos I, 36). The round trip ticket costs 15 euros per person.

Church of Nossa Senhora do Monte

After you visit the garden you should go to the Church of Nossa Senhora do Monte (18th century), just left of Monte Palace Tropical Garden.

  • GPS: 32°40’32.1″N 16°54’08.7″W

Before leaving the uptown of Funchal (Monte), know that there’s a second garden you can visit, Madeira Botanical Garden. To get to this garden you have to take another cable car located in “Largo das Babosas”, 200 metres to the right from the entrance of Monte Palace Tropical Garden.

Monte Toboggan Ride

Right beside the church of Nossa Senhora do Monte you’ll find Monte Toboggans that were used by the inhabitants many years ago as a means of transportation to the centre (downtown) of Funchal.

Nowadays, these toboggans are used only for tourism purposes. If you want to try a different and thrilling means of transportation, than get inside a toboggan and go straight down the streets of Monte at a speed of 40 km/h until you get to the crossroads, the intersection with Livramento road (1,5 kms).

How to go to the historic centre of Funchal after a toboggan ride?

If you parked your car next to the Monte Palace Tropical Garden, the only way up (if you don’t want to get tired) is by taking a taxi..

If you took the cable car, than you can take a taxi or walk to the historic centre. It’s a 2 km hike (45 minutes).

You won’t have any problems walking towards the historic centre because it’s straight down and there’s no way you’ll get lost. Most of the route is made in a street and when you have to choose between two streets, choose the one going down – inevitably you’ll get to the marina and to the historic centre.

If you decide to take a taxi, then ask the driver how much will it be to take you the historic centre. As it happens in other places, some taxi drivers may take advantage of the fact that you’re a tourist to charge you more.

Some may think that, if you’re able to pay 30€ for a toboggan ride, than you can pay 20€ for the same distance in a taxi ride.

  • Tickets Toboggans: 1 passenger: 25€, 2 passengers: 30€, 3 passengers: 45€

Centre of Funchal

If you’re driving to the centre, than my suggestion is that you park your car in “La Vie” shopping centre (Rua Doutor Brito Câmara 18, Funchal) and, from there, go to Santa Catarina Park, beginning, this way, your visit to the centre of Funchal.

  • Location: Avenida Do Infante 16, Funchal

CR7 Museum

If you’re a football lover, than you must visit Cristiano Ronaldo Museum, one of the two best footballers in the world.

I know that there is much speculation about who is the best football player in the world – is it Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo? In my opinion, they are two incomparable players.

One of them is a genius, even without trying too hard he would be among the best; the other works hard everyday to be one of the top players in the world.

In CR7 museum you’ll find Cristiano Ronaldo photos from childhood up until now, the trophies he won, the medals and even some footballs from matches he played.

Even if you’re a Cristiano Ronaldo fan, you should visit this museum. I loved to see the trophies from the main leagues (Premier League and La Liga) and the one from the Champions League. It’s wonderful to see up close trophies that you’re only used to see on television.

  • Location: Rua Princesa Dona Amélia 10, Funchal
  • Opening hours: from Monday to Saturday, 10h to 18h
  • Tickets: 5 euros

Funchal Historic Centre

After visiting CR7 museum, go down the street until you get to Avenida Sá Carneiro and then walk for 1,5 km along the coastline. You’ll find Santiago Fortress (Portão Rua de São Tiago, 21), built in 1614 to protect the city against pirate attacks.

After your visit to the fortress, turn right on Rua de Santa Maria and go to Largo do Socorro to admire this beautiful church and the amazing view over the sea.

Next, turn back and go to the end of the street Rua de Santa Maria (650 m). You’ll come across with some street art in the doors of buildings, bars and restaurants.

At the end of the street, turn right and visit Mercado dos Lavradores where you can buy flowers, fish, exotic fruit and much more.

This market is perfect because here you’ll get to know some of the best things Madeira has to offer – the problem is that many tourists go there.

To be honest, I found it hard to visit this market. The minute I entered the market, someone approached me to sell me something. After three or four times I was fed up with this situation and so I left this beautiful place – I was there only for a few minutes.

Usually, when someone goes to a market, is to buy something (fish, fruit, etc.) but in a city like Funchal there are more tourists than clients. Because of that, sellers become disappointed  and fed up with all the tourists taking photos but not buying a thing.

In part, sellers are right, but the problem is that if they are too pushy with tourists / customers, than people will go away and nothing will be sold / bought.

Maybe the problem would be solved if tourists had to pay a symbolic fee. Take the example of Lello Bookshop in Porto – it charges an entrance fee (3€) but customers can deduct that value if they buy a book.

At the end of the day, everybody wins – those who don’t want to buy anything pay for the visit and those who buy something can deduct the entrance fee.

After your visit to Mercado dos Lavradores, go towards “La Vie” shopping centre. On your way, stop to admire Funchal Cathedral (Rua da Sé, 2).

Don’t miss the opportunity to stroll through the streets surrounding the cathedral to discover the beauties of the city centre.

Formosa Beach

If you rented a car, then visit the biggest beach in Madeira, Formosa beach. It’s located 6 kms from Funchal historic centre and is a place where you can admire the sunset just sitting on the sand or relaxing in one of the nearby bars or restaurants.

Information: you can also take the bus to go from the historic centre to the beach. Take the 01 or 24 buses next to Parque de Santa Catarina and get off at Praia Formosa S central bus station.

  • Location: rua da Praia Formosa, Funchal
  • GPS: 32°38’33.5″N 16°57’19.0″W

Check here to see how was my fifth day of my visit to Madeira – on this day, Pico Ruivo was my place of choice.

Information: My trip to Madeira was sponsored by the airline Aigle Azur. This airline made it possible for me to discover the island and, this way, I can show you the amazing places you’re missing.

Are you going to visit Madeira? Then don’t hesitate to book your hotel room and your car by clicking the links below. This way you are helping me in the development of my blog and I’ll be able to offer you free tips and travel guides so that you can better prepare your visit to Portugal. Thank you!

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About Tiago

Tiago, 27 years old, Parisian since 12, I decided to go on an adventure and make my dream come true: get to know our country from one end to the other. I believe that if we don’t know our origins we don’t truly know ourselves. Read more here