Things To Do In Madeira Island

Exotic gardens, natural seawater pools and incredible mountain views await you in Madeira.

The island is famous for its all-year-round warm climate, as well as its fortified wine and delicious tropicalfruits. For nature lovers, there are hiking trails known as ​levadas ​that follow irrigation channels and passthrough dramatic viewpoints.

Whether you’re coming on a cruise or arriving by plane, Funchal will likely be your first stop. As the capitalof Madeira, the city is a great base to explore the island and is home to a variety of attractions. Visitorscan rent a car, hop on a local bus or join a guided tour to visit other towns.

Below is a 3-day Madeira itinerary, including tips on what to see, where to eat, and where to stay. Webegin our journey in Funchal and then head towards the west and north of the island. If you’re spending acouple more days in Madeira than us, you can also check our day trip suggestions


Day 1 - Funchal

Morning - Visit Mercado dos Lavradores

Tropical fruits rest on wicker baskets, and chilli peppers hang over the stands of this lively market in the heart of Funchal. Designed by architect Edmundo Tavares, the striking art-deco building has been an exchange point for fresh produce since 1940. Every day, locals and visitors come here to smell and taste the island's unique ingredients, such as bananas or passion fruit. While the fruit takes centre stage, you can't help noticing the tiles adorning the walls and the women dressed in traditional Madeiran wear. If you're visiting in the morning, you can watch the fishmongers prepping scabbardfish and other local seafood.


 
Admire the street art at Rua de Santa Maria

From the market, we headed to Rua de Santa Maria, one of the oldest streets in Funchal. Dating back to the 15th century, it’s famous for its series of colourful doors. The initiative called Arte de Portas Abertas (Art of Open Doors) began in 2010 when the city council invited artists to revamp the doors and entrances on the street. Walking past it today, you'll find more than 200 painted doors tucked between cafés and restaurants.


Go up to the Monte neighbourhood

After admiring the street art, we took the ​Funchal cable car​ from the seafront up to the Monte neighbourhood. Within ten minutes, we reached the hill, capturing the sea views as we made our way to the top. The panoramic views over the city are the first thing you'll notice when you arrive at Monte, but there are many more reasons to visit this area.

Get lost in the ​Monte Palace Tropical Gardens​, an exotic garden dotted with sculptures, fountains and tropical plants.


Then, head to the  ​Igreja da Nossa Senhora​, a Baroque church framed by a steep stairway. Finally, take a stroll to the ​Parque Municipal​, another peaceful park surrounded by century-old trees and water features.



Take the Toboggan Ride

You can take the cable car back to the city, but we decided to hop on a toboggan instead. The journey begins near the Monte church and ends at Estrada do Livramento. Once used to carry goods, the wicker toboggans are now a fun tourist attraction, whisking visitors down the hill. Dressed in white, the drivers pushed us along the road until we reached Livramento. From here, you need to take a bus or a taxi to the centre of Funchal.



Map of The Monte Itinerary


Afternoon - Explore the Old Town

We spent the afternoon exploring Funchal's old town. Also known as Zona Velha, it's where you'll find most of the city's historical attractions, such as the cathedral and the Jesuit College.

Dating back to the 16th century, the ​cathedral​'s entrance stands out with its mix of exposed tiles and white-plastered walls. For a while it was one of the largest dioceses in the world, covering Madeira and other Portuguese territories such as Angola and Brazil. Step inside to admire the ornate ceiling and the altar featuring Gothic panels.



From the cathedral, you can walk to the ​Jesuit Church​. Completed in 1647, it features a lavish Baroque interior with blue and white tiles, gilded altarpieces and painted ceilings. If you have time, you can also climb the church's tower.



Go souvenir shopping 

There are many places to buy traditional souvenirs in Funchal. We recommend Armazém do Mercado, the Caravel Art Center and Bordal. Set behind the Lavradores market, ​Armazém do Mercado ​houses a series of boutique shops, cafés and a toy museum. Here you can find a mix of traditional and modern crafts designed by local artists. The ​Caravel Art Center​ is an art gallery, but you can also find some artisanal items in their gift shop. Finally, there's ​Bordal​, a shop founded in 1962 that sells traditional Madeiran embroideries. You can visit their factory at Rua Fernão Ornelas. They also have a branch at the airport in case you need a last-minute souvenir!



Join a Madeira wine tasting

Next, we headed to the Blandy’s Lodge to taste some local wine. Vinho da Madeira, or Madeira Wine, is a fortified drink that ages through heat. It can range from dry to sweet, and usually has the taste of caramel and roasted nuts. Blandy's is one of the most famous producers of Madeira wine, and you can visit their cellars in Funchal. We joined one of their afternoon tours and learned how they transform the grapes into wine and how they store it. The 45-minute tour ended with a visit to the museum and a sample of the wine.



Take a walk by the waterfront 

We finished our first day in Funchal with a walk along the waterfront. The palm-tree-lined promenade is the perfect place to take in the ocean views and the mountains rising above the city. We started at the marina, and then followed the Avenida do Mar until Praça do Povo.


If you’re up for it, you can also stop by Parque Santa Catarina, a large public garden featuring an artificial lake, a chapel and a children's park.  



Map of The Afternoon Tour


Day 2 - Pico do Arieiro, Curral das Freiras & Câmara de Lobos

Pico do Arieiro Tour

On our second day in Madeira, we took a trip up to the mountains. By car, it takes a little less than an hour to reach Pico do Arieiro, the third-highest peak on the island. Standing at 1818 metres high, it offers incredible views of the landscape, especially on a clear day, when you can spot the island of Porto Santo. We visited two viewpoints in the area, ​Miradouro do Juncal​ and ​Miradouro Ninho da Manta​, where the clouds seemed almost as high as us. From Pico do Arieiro you can take a hike to the highest mountain of Madeira, Pico Ruivo. The walk takes around two to three hours, so make sure to come prepared.



Curral das Freiras

From Pico do Arieiro, we continued west to Curral das Freiras, aka the Nun's Valley. In the 16th century, this was home to a convent, which is how it got its name. The valley was the perfect place to hide from the pirate attacks at the time, as it's sheltered by steep mountains. These days, people head here for the breathtaking views and to follow the hiking trails. Before reaching the centre of the village, we visited the Miradouros do Paredão​ and the ​Miradouro Eira do Serrado​. The first viewpoint had two sides, one facing Funchal and the other facing Curral das Freiras. Eira do Serrado also overlooks Curral das Freiras but takes you a bit closer. The village itself is pretty calm, and it's famous for its chestnuts which feature local dishes such as soups and cakes. There's even a chestnut festival which takes place in November.


Câmara de Lobos

After exploring Curral das Freiras, we headed back south to visit Câmara de Lobos. Even if you don't have a car, you can easily visit this small fishing town. There are direct buses from Funchal which take about 20 minutes. It's worth coming here to see the colourful boats resting by the shore and enjoy a drink in one of the local bars. 

 
Cabo Girão Skywalk

Not far from Câmara de Lobos is the Cabo Girão Skywalk. This striking platform stands 580 metres above sea level. It is the second highest sea cliff in the world, offering spectacular panoramic views. If you're brave enough, you can approach the edge of the cliff, where the see-through floor allows visitors to look down into the water.



Day 2 Tour Map


Day 3 - São Vicente, Seixal & Funchal

São Vicente Caves

For our last day, we decided to explore the north coast of Madeira. We began in São Vicente with a visit to the volcanic caves. From Funchal, it takes around 40 minutes to reach these historic underground tunnels. The tour includes a trip through the lava tubes and ends at the Centro do Vulcanismo, an interactive centre where you can learn more about Madeira's volcanic origin. The town is also home to a church and a small 17th-century chapel carved into a rock.


Seixal

Our next stop was Seixal, a coastal town located halfway between São Vicente and Porto Moniz. On the way there, we stopped at the ​Miradouro do Véu da Noiva​, a viewpoint overlooking a waterfall that resembles a bridal veil (véu de noiva) as it drops down.


As you get closer to the village, you'll find several places to go for a swim, including two beaches: ​Praia do Porto do Seixal​ and ​Praia da Laje​. If you continue down the road, you'll end up at the ​natural pools​, with its inviting crystal clear waters and rocky arches. Even if you don't go in the water, it's worth coming here to admire the natural landscape.



Funchal

In the afternoon, we returned to Funchal and visited ​Madeira's Botanical Gardens​. You can get here via cable car from the Monte neighbourhood, take a bus or drive straight there if you have a car. Stretching for over 80,000 square metres, the gardens feature a variety of plants, from cacti to colourful shrubs and exotic trees. Plus, it boasts fantastic views over the city as it stands on a hill. 


To end our Madeira trip, we went to a local bar and ​tried a glass of​ ​Poncha​. It’s another typical drink from the island made with ​aguardente, sugar, honey and orange or lemon juice. There are several bars in Funchal that serve it, but we suggest getting one at Bar Number Two. 


Day 3 Tour Map


Other Day Trips in Madeira

EAST

  • Caniço​ - Caniço is a coastal town featuring a series of pebble beaches, including a tiny one accessed via cable car. Most visitors head here to see the Cristo Rei, a tall Christ statue that sits at the edge of Ponta do Garajau. This famous tourist attraction is part of the hop-on-hop-off bus circuits, so it's easy to reach even without a car. There's also a diving centre and a surf school in the area.

  • Machico - ​Machico has one of the few golden-sand beaches in Madeira. Besides swimming, there are many activities to do in the area, including golf, whale-watching and hiking. The best viewpoints in Machico are Ponta de São Lourenço and Pico do Facho. Other attractions include a church and a whale museum.
  • Porto da Cruz​ - Porto da Cruz is a quiet village within the Machico district. It's worth coming here to visit the sugar cane factory and admire the views from Fortim do Pico and Penha d'Águia. Ribeiro Frio - ​This small town sits amid lush mountain slopes. It marks the beginning of many walking routes, including the Vereda dos Balcões, one of the easiest trails on the island. Like most​ levadas, it follows the island’s water stream, passing through a trout farm and ending at an incredible viewpoint, overlooking the Ribeira da Metade valley and the mountains of Pico do Arieiro and Pico Ruivo.


  • Levada Walks - ​Besides Vereda dos Balcões, there are two famous ​levadas ​ in the east of Madeira: Levada do Caldeirão Verde and Levada do Rei. The first one begins at the Queimadas forest and passes through cliffs and tunnels until reaching the São Jorge valley. The second begins in São Jorge and finishes by the Ribeiro Bonito stream. Nearby is a water mill that has been running for more than 300 years.


WEST

  • Paul da Serra​ - Paul da Serra is a plateau located on the west side of the island. Its highest peak is Pico Ruivo, which stands at 1640 metres above sea level. From this vantage point, you can capture the views over the mountains and the valley. Many walking trails start in this area, including the famous Levada das 25 Fontes, which passes through a series of natural springs.

  • Calheta​ - This coastal stretch in the south of Madeira is a popular spot among surfers. Like Machico, the beach of Calheta features imported golden sands. In this area, you'll also find Engenho da Calheta, an active sugar cane mill, and a modern art museum.

  • Porto Moniz - ​Another place worth visiting on the west coast is Porto Moniz. Set near Seixal, this village is renowned for its natural swimming pools nestled between rocks. From Funchal, it takes around one hour to drive straight there, or you can follow the road from Santana for a more scenic route. Before you leave, make sure to try some grilled limpets.


Porto Santo

Porto Santo is another island belonging to the Madeira Archipelago. If you're spending a couple of days in the region, it's worth paying a visit to this little island famous for its pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters. You can fly there directly from Lisbon or if you're already in Funchal take the ferry boat, which takes around 2 hours. 


Where to eat in Madeira

  • A Confeitaria​ - This is a chain of bakery shops in Funchal, where you can grab a coffee and try local pastries. You can eat on the spot or order take away.
  • Saudade Madeira​ - This cosy café in the old town serves delicious sangria and light meals like salads and wraps. It also doubles as an art shop, selling handmade crafts from local producers. Art workshops and live jazz sessions are often part of the agenda, too.
  • Cidade Velha​ - Set near the fort of São Tiago, this restaurant serves a mix of meat and fish dishes. Specialities include codfish with a cornbread crust and the chateaubriand steak. You can take a seat inside or enjoy the sea views from their outdoor terrace.
  • O Avô​ - The first thing you’ll notice when entering O Avô is its immense collection of soccer scarves. More than 1,000 scarves decorate the ceiling of this small restaurant in the heart of Funchal. The dishes vary each day, but there's always a meat and fish option.
  • O Tasco​ - Open since 2013, this restaurant is famous for its fresh seafood selection. We suggest the parrotfish or the grilled sea bass. The restaurant is quite small, so it’s worth making a reservation in advance.
  • Casal da Penha​ - Set near the Funchal port, Casal da Penha lures visitors with its picturesque terrace overlooking the city. On the menu are local specialities such as ​bolo do caco ​ , meat skewers, fresh fish and delicious rice dishes. It gets quite busy, so we recommend booking a table.
  • Restaurante dos Combatentes​ - Located a few steps away from the city’s cathedral, this traditional restaurant has been open for more than 50 years. Skewers, seafood and vegetarian dishes are all part of the menu, and there’s a good selection of wines, too.
  • Il Gallo D'Oro​ - Chef Benoît Sinthon is behind this two-Michelin-star restaurant housed inside the Cliff Bay Hotel. The restaurant combines Iberian and Meditteranean cuisine and uses fresh ingredients sourced from the island. You can order ​à la carte ​ or try one of their tasting menus.
  • Belmond Reid’s Palace​ - This 5-star hotel is a paradise for food lovers. Inside you’ll find two restaurants: the Italian, Villa Cipriani, and the Michelin-star William which offers delicious seafood dishes. The hotel is also famous for its afternoon tea, served every day in an outdoor terrace overlooking the sea.
  • Sabores do Curral​ (Curral das Freiras) - If you’re visiting Curral das Freiras, you can stop here for lunch and admire the mountain views. Chestnuts are the star of the menu and feature anything from the starters to dessert. We recommend the chestnut soup and the cheesecake.
  • Ilhéu Bistro​ (Câmara de Lobos) - You'll find this minimalist bistro in the village of Câmara de Lobos. The menu features traditional Madeiran dishes with a focus on fresh fish. Order a glass of wine and watch them prepare your meal in the open kitchen.
  • Caravela​ (São Vicente) - This restaurant in São Vicente serves generous portions of seafood. Specialities include limpets and grilled octopus. Grab a seat by the terrace and enjoy the view of the sea and the mountains.


Bars in Funchal

  • Bar Number Two​ - This bar is one of the best places to try ​poncha ​ in Funchal. Besides the original version with ​aguardente ​ and orange juice, they also have other variations with vodka and whisky. You can also try the ​nikita ​ , a cocktail made with ice cream, beer, white wine and pineapple juice.
  • Flair Spot Bar​ - Located in the old town, this is the perfect spot for cocktail lovers. There are over 200 cocktails on the menu, so you won’t have any trouble finding your favourite. If you feel overwhelmed with the choice, the staff will happily give you a recommendation.
  • Madeira Rum House ​- As the name suggests, this bar specialises in rum from Madeira. You can order it by the glass or try one of their rum tastings. There are also other drinks on offer, including a good range of Madeira wine.
  • Fuga Cidade​ - If you’re in the mood for some local craft beer, head to FugaCidade. Set near the Jardim Municipal, it offers six beers on tap, including IPAs, stouts and porters. They also have bottles from national and international brands.
  • Barreirinha Bar Café​ - This kiosk overlooking the ocean is the best place to hang out on a summer day. They serve cocktails, ​poncha ​ , craft beer and wine, as well as a bit of food like toasts, salads, hot dogs and burgers. It’s open until midnight on most days and until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.


Where to stay in Madeira

There is no shortage of hotels in Funchal, but you don’t need to spend your whole stay in the city. Below are four hotel recommendations, two in Funchal, one on the east coast and one on the west coast.

Porto Santa Maria​ is a four-star hotel set along Funchal’s waterfront. It’s only a few steps away from the historic centre, allowing you to explore the city's main attractions on foot. Guests have access to two pools, a spa, a fitness room and a terrace featuring a jacuzzi and incredible views over the city.

You’ll find the ​Belmond Reid’s Palace​ on the edge of a grassy cliff, overlooking the sea. Located a few miles away from the city centre, this 5-star hotel has been running for more than a hundred years. It offers all the luxury amenities, including a tennis court, a spa, an infinity pool, and a Michelin-star restaurant. Even if you’re not spending the night, we recommend coming here for their afternoon tea.

Set in Calheta, the ​Savoy Saccharum Resort & Spa​ ​is the ideal place to stay if you want to explore the west side of the island. This modern resort offers 243 rooms, and most of them feature private balconies and sea views. Guests can enjoy the three outdoor pools, the squash court, fitness club and the spa which includes a Turkish bath, sauna, and jacuzzi. The staff can also arrange a variety of activities across the island, including catamaran tours, golf, surfing or hiking.

If you’re heading to the east side of the island, we suggest staying at ​Quinta do Lorde​. ​At first sight, this Madeiran resort looks like a small village, with its cluster of houses surrounded by the sea. You can book a room here or an entire apartment if travelling with family. Facilities include a multi-sports field, outdoor pools, and even a chapel. Facing the hotel is a tiny pebble beach and a seawater pool. There’s also a small marina nearby that offers boat trips.