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 tropical fruits. For nature lovers, there are hiking trails known as levadas that follow irrigation channels and pass through dramatic viewpoints.
Whether you’re coming on a cruise or arriving by plane, Funchal will likely be your first stop. As the capital of Madeira, the city is a great base to explore the island and is home to a variety of attractions. Visitors can 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. We begin our journey in Funchal and then head towards the west and north of the island. If you’re spending a couple 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
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
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.
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.
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.
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 Centre 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
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
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.
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.
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
- 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
- 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.
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.
- 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 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.