Travel guide: what to visit in Madeira

Madeira Island is an amazing place. With its history, culture, and distinct gastronomy Madeira has the most beautiful landscapes of nature and the sea.

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Need ideas to start outlining your travel plan to Madeira? If you read this article, you will find all the answers you need to make the most out of the trip. Start packing your bag right now because you're going to be a real explorer of this island.

What to do in Madeira? What are the main sights of the archipelago?

Monte Cable Car

Funchal is the ideal place to start your visit around the island. To have a general perception of space, nothing better than a cable car trip, from downtown to the top of the parish of Monte. On the trip, you will observe the harmony between the most urban part and the gardens and vegetable gardens, as well as the amphitheatre and the bay of Funchal. 

Google Maps

Monte Cable Car, Madeira

Basket Cars

The famous “basket cars” are one of the most popular attractions in Madeira. These cars, handcrafted with wicker and wood, are driven and controlled by two “carreiros”, dressed in white with a straw hat on their head. With thick rubber soles, the boots of these “carreiros” act as brakes for the “basket cars”.

The route has a duration, as a rule, of ten minutes and connects Monte to Funchal covering about two kilometres of great adventure.

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Mercado dos Lavradores (Farmers' Market)

The Mercado de Lavradores was built in the 30s of the twentieth century and, today, is one of the most touristic places on the island. This space, located in the centre of Funchal, has two floors: in the lower floor, you will find fish and meat and  the tropical fruits in the upper floor.

A curiosity of this place is that you will find fruits never seen before, such as tomato passion fruit or orange passion fruit. With architecture from the Estado Novo season, this is, in fact, a mandatory stopping point in Madeira.

Google Maps

Farmers' Market, Madeira

Historic Area

The historic area of the city is also another place to visit on Madeira Island. The narrow streets of the sidewalk and the old town of Funchal are historic areas with many bars and restaurants.

Many streets have colourful façades with doors and windows painted in an artistic way, enjoy and stroll along Santa Maria street and discover the magnificent gardens. Whether it is day or night, this area is quite busy and there is no shortage of animation!

Google Maps

Historic area, Madeira

Cabo Girão

With a verticality of 580 metres, Cabo Girão is the largest natural cape in Portugal, being considered the second highest cliff in the world. Recently, it had the implementation of a viewpoint with a glass bottom, which allows you to contemplate the beauty of fajãs. From this viewpoint, you can contemplate the beauty of the sea, Câmara de Lobos and Funchal. It is a much-visited and challenging tourist attraction for those who are afraid of heights, but rest assured that the structure is quite safe.

Google Maps

Cabo Girão, Madeira

Pico do Areeiro

Located at 1818 metres of altitude, Pico do Areeiro offers us a breathtaking view over the central massif of the island of Madeira. Here, it is possible to enjoy some walking routes. For the more adventurous, the PR1 - Pico Areeiro - Pico Ruivo trail is advisable, towards the highest point of the archipelago. If you don't have much time, take advantage of the route of about a kilometre to the viewpoint, where you can also enjoy the most splendid views of the island.

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Pico do Areeiro, Madeira

Pico Ruivo

With an altitude of 1861 metres, Pico Ruivo is the highest point on the island of Madeira. For connoisseurs of trails and nature, this is another mandatory stop. If you want to reach Pico, you will have to walk to Achada do Teixeira, in Santana, and from there start the route that lasts about 1h30 for both directions. A real adventure in nature!

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Pico Ruvio, Madeira, Portugal

Natural pools of Porto Moniz

Created from the action of volcanic lava, the natural pools of Porto Moniz form a bathing area without waves, where the sea naturally enters the rocks. This space, considered the ex-libris of Porto Moniz, offers a children's pool and playground.

The pools feature 3,800 square metres of swimming area and 3,217 square metres of area for solariums, providing a true sensory experience. They are open throughout the year from 9 am to 5 pm in winter and from 9 am to 7 pm in summer time.

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Natural pools of Porto Moniz, Madeira

CR7 Museum

At Cristiano Ronaldo's museum, you will find the 150 trophies won throughout the career of the Portuguese ace.

At least so far. Visitors can also watch videos and photos of the most striking moments of the CR7 route, explore interactive content and take pictures with the player's wax figure. The three Golden Balls and the four Golden Boots conquered by Cristiano Ronaldo are considered the great attractions of the museum.

Google Maps

Source - CR7 Museum, Madeira

Madeira Botanical Garden

The Botanical Garden is one of the highlights of the island of Madeira. The space, which has an area of 35 thousand square metres, offers an authentic visual experience.

The colourful flower mosaics and shrubs are the most striking image of the Botanical Garden. In addition to having more than 2,500 indigenous and endemic plants, you can also enjoy incredible views over the city in this garden.

Google Maps

Madeira Botanical Garden, Portugal

What to visit in Madeira for free?

Ponta de São Lourenço

If you love walking outdoors, you'll love Madeira. Ponta de São Lourenço, the easternmost end of the island, nine kilometres long, is ideal for hiking and trails.

Characterised by its arid terrain, this place is a nature reserve, allowing you to observe several species of creeping plants and animals. The route is a bit tiring and some resistance is needed especially on hotter days.

If you are really tired and cannot make the way back, at the end of Ponta there is a pleasure boat company that brings you back to the Marina do Caniçal.

Google Maps

Ponta de São Lourenço, Madeira

Cascata das vinte e cinco fontes (Twenty-Five Fountains Cascade)

Located in Paul da Serra, the Cascata das Vinte Cinco Fontes is characterised by its 30 metres high. This cascade forms a varied set of waterfalls that descend through the rocks lined with plants and lichens that flow into the lagoon, leading the water to the Levada das 25 Fontes.

In this Waterfall, you are faced with a breathtaking landscape and as it is a very popular place, Excelente advises you to visit this place first in the morning or at the end of the day so as to avoid the crowds and enjoy the whole view quietly.

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Twenty-Five Fountains Cascade, Madeira

Santana

Situated on the north coast of the island, the municipality of Santana is one of the must-visit places. You will find the famous typical houses painted in bright colours with thatched roofs, characteristics that are due to the fact that, for a long time, the municipality has been inaccessible by land and sea, not having suffered external influences. Nowadays, Santana experiences a lot of tourism, being one of the favourite places of its visitors to take pictures and buy local products.

Google Maps

Santana, Portugal

Costa de São Jorge

Between Santana and São Vicente, you will find a road that allows you to visit some of the most characteristic villages of Madeira, such as São Jorge, Ribeira Funda, Arco de São Jorge, Boaventura and Ponta Delgada.

It is the ER101 road and passes through several viewpoints, allowing an immersion in the traditional way of life of the population. Along the way, you can buy traditional fruit from local farmers at a more affordable price. Look for fruits such as passion fruit banana, pineapple banana, orange passion fruit, lemon passion fruit or the simple and tasty banana from Madeira.

Google Maps

Costa de Sao Jorge, Madeira, Portugal

Pico do Areeiro e Pico Ruivo

Located at 1818 metres of altitude, Pico do Areeiro offers a breathtaking view over the central massif of the island of Madeira. From here it is possible to observe some walking routes.

For the more adventurous, the PR1 - Pico Areeiro - Pico Ruivo trail is advisable, towards the highest point of the archipelago. If you don't have much time, take advantage of the route of about a kilometre to the viewpoint.

Access is made by mountain paths with splendid views and high altitude. The landscape changes in each part of the route between rocky, green spaces, descents, ascents and some tunnels. Walking through Pico do Areeiro is like walking on top of the clouds.

With an altitude of 1861 metres, Pico Ruivo is the highest point of the island of Madeira. If you are an adventurer and love trails and nature, this is another must-stop. To reach Pico, you will have to walk to Achada do Teixeira, in Santana, and from there start the route that lasts about 1h30 for both directions. The walk is a bit demanding and you have many stairs ahead, but at the end when you come across the stunning view of Madeira you recognize it's really worth it!

Google Maps

Pico Ruivo and Pico do Areeiro mountain peaks in Madeira, Portugal

Historic area

The historic area of the city is also worth a visit. Here, you should know the narrow streets of the sidewalk and the old area of Funchal. Take the opportunity to stroll along Rua de Santa Maria and discover the magnificent gardens. In these streets you will find several restaurants and bars, shops and the old merchant houses.

A peculiarity of this area is that the doors of the houses were painted by artists and became an attraction as a kind of open-air museum.
The historic area is one of the best areas of the city to taste the typical dishes of Madeira and animation will not be lacking!

Google Maps

Madeira Island, Portugal

Cabo Girão

With a verticality of 589 metres, Cabo Girão is the largest natural cape in Portugal, being considered the highest cliff in the world. Recently, with the implementation of a gazebo with a glass bottom, the cable allows us to contemplate the fajãs.

Gabo Girão is considered one of the must-see places of Madeira Island and, on this Skywalk by the sea, you will have a view  over a glazed walkway of the entire panorama of the sea and the city, from Câmara de Lobos to Funchal.

Google Maps

Cabo Girão, Madeira

Curral de Freiras

Curral das Freiras, the small parish of the municipality of Câmara de Lobos, is in the heart of the mountains of Madeira Island and is one of the best places to breathe nature.

In the past, this population was practically isolated in a closed valley and was known as the refuge of nuns since the time pirates plundered the island. Currently, there is already a tunnel that facilitates access. In the local cafés you can taste Poncha and Nikita, typical drinks in Madeira.

Google Maps

Curral das Freiras, Madeira

Cristo Rei Viewpoint

At Ponta do Garajau, with a breathtaking view, we find the statue of Christ the King of Garajau. The viewpoint was made in 1927 by French sculptor Georges Serraz, four years before the statue of Christ was created, the most famous statue in Rio de Janeiro.

This hilltop monument was erected in honour of Jesus Christ and offers a panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean. Walking along the path on the left side of the statue, you can go to Ponta do Garajau and there is a cable car to the beach.

Google Maps

Cristo Rei Viewpoint, Madeira

What to do in Madeira at night?

Going to the casino

If you want to have a different night in Madeira, try the games at the island's casino, where you'll find blackjack tables, roulette, poker games and more. At the casino, admission is free.

Google Maps

Source - Facebook - Casino da Madeira, Portugal

Walk through the old town

The old town of Funchal is also a good place to enjoy your night. There, you can observe the project Arte de Portas Abertas, an artistic initiative to revitalise the old town of Funchal, which made the city more colourful with its paintings. In the old town, you will find several restaurants, bars and lots of entertainment in the typical streets of Funchal. Take the opportunity to try the gastronomic dishes of the Island.

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Have a drink at Venda Velha

Want to take advantage of the island for a drink? So, we have the ideal place: Venda Velha. In this traditional place, you can try the traditional poncha, a drink made with brandy, honey and lemon.

Google Maps

Source - Tripadvisor - Venda Velha, Madeira

Visit to the Port of Funchal

The Port of Funchal is an excellent option for evenings, because it has a few bars. You can, for example, go to the Marginal, a bar with alternative music, to Jam, for more commercial music, or Vespas, the place that attracts the youngest.

Google Maps

Port of Funchal, Madeira

Musical dinners and theme nights

There are many hotels that offer interesting weekly programs that are open to the public. Parreira and A Seta organise Madeiran folklore shows accompanied by a typical dinner. In the Old Town area, Arsenio's and Marcelino organise dinners to the sound of fado, there is no shortage of options to have fun.

Google Maps Restaurante A Parreira
Google Maps Restaurante A Seta
Google Maps Restaurante  O Arsénio´s
Google Maps Restaurante O Marcelino

Musical dinners and theme nights, Madeira

What are the best restaurants in Madeira?

The richness of Madeiran gastronomy is truly exciting. Visiting Madeira with time, to be able to taste a little of everything, is essential.

The secret lies above all in the use of fresh and varied ingredients, coming from the volcanic nature of this archipelago.

From fried corn to meat kebabs, swordfish, tuna, limpets, bolo do caco, honey cake and even fruit, there is plenty to discover on the island.

So, here are the best restaurants in Madeira, where you can taste the local specialties.

Adega Moniz

The Adega Moniz restaurant is one of the best positioned venues in terms of quality/price ratio. The space, located in the area of Gaula, has delighted those who visit it, providing a remarkable experience. It is an ideal restaurant to enjoy a good wine and a delicious board of cheeses and sausages.

Google Maps

Source - Tripadvisor - Adega Moniz

Rei da Poncha

Rei da Poncha is one of the best restaurants to try the famous Poncha. You can enjoy an authentic regional experience with the different flavours available. The drink can be accompanied by the traditional bolo do caco, a hamburger or a hotdog.

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Source - Facebook - Rei da Poncha

MadMarket Restaurante

Inside the Monumental Experience shopping centre, MadMarket Restaurante offers its customers an exclusive gastronomic moment. Open all day, the space serves lunch, snacks and dinners.

It is advisable that customers make reservations to secure a place. Here, you eat a little of everything: fish, seafood and meat. Due to its somewhat hidden location, they say that MadMarket is “the best kept secret in Madeira”.

Google Maps

Source - Tripadvisor - MadMarket Restaurante

Faí­sca

In Ribeiro Frio, the Snack-Bar Faísca delights tourists who are sure to taste the delicacies of this space. The Prego em bolo de caco is one of the most appreciated dishes, but the other traditional and local specialties don’t lag behind. It is a charismatic place in the interior of Madeira Island and there you can also taste the “curtadinho”, a typical coffee drink with treated wine.

Google Maps

Source - Facebook - Snack-Bar Faísca

Fajã dos Padres

Salpresado tuna, also known as São João tuna, is a delicacy that is not found in many restaurants in Madeira. If you want to taste it, Fajã dos Padres is an excellent option.

This restaurant has a very interesting curiosity because you can only access the space by cable car. Enjoy the trip and you can still spend the day on the beach of Fajã dos Frades, right in front of the restaurant.

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Source - Facebook - Fajã dos Padres

II Gallo d'Oro

At Il Gallo D'Oro restaurant, you will find a relaxed atmosphere, but at the same time elegant and refined. The cuisine of Benoît Sinthon is established in the international gastronomic scene, proving itself one of the best restaurants you can find on the island of Madeira.

With two Michelin stars, in this restaurant, the Portuguese carabineiro delights its customers, accompanied by a royal fennel and caviar or eucalyptus pigeon 2015-2016.

Google Maps

Source - Tripadvisor - II Gallo d'Oro

O Barqueiro

At O Barqueiro restaurant, the fish of the day is exposed at the entrance, so that customers can see it and make a personalised choice. Living seafood, in aquariums, decorates the space.

In this restaurant, you can also taste the traditional Madeiran kebab and taste delicious food from starters to dessert, with immense variety.

Google Maps

Source - Tripadvisor - O Barqueiro

PVP: Pão, Vinho e Petiscos

In the PVP restaurant, which has three distinct spaces (terrace, dining room and wine cellar), you can find several regional dishes. In the cellar, you can order a good wine and taste some tapas. In the dining room, you can order a traditional kebab with bolo do caco.

PVP is worth visiting as it is a quiet, welcoming place with good food.

Google Maps

Source - Facebook - PVP- Pão, Vinho e Petiscos

William Restaurant

The Michelin-starred William Restaurant is located within the main building of the Belmond Reid's Palace luxury hotel and is one of the best restaurants on the island of Madeira. The restaurant's menu was designed by award-winning chef Joachim Koerper, with Luís Pestana being the restaurant's executive chef. Here, you can find dishes such as “Tuna Symphony in Tataki and Tartar” or “Confit Piglet with Tomato Chutney, Passion Fruit and  Ponte Nova Potato”.

Google Maps

Source - Tripadvisor - William Restaurant

Dining room

The Dining Room is an exclusive restaurant of Quinta da Casa Branca. This space, surrounded by a huge garden, is characterised by the luxurious and classic atmosphere, which requires a formal dress code.

The Dining Room menu is modern and includes delicacies such as Sautéed Scallops on Green Asparagus Puree or Grouper and Harmonized Carabiners on Cuttlefish Ink Puree.

Google Maps

Source - Tripadvisor - Dining room

Which hotels in Madeira are good for families?

After a full day getting to know the charms of the Madeiran island, nothing better than enjoying the comfort of a good hotel.

Find out the best hotels to stay at and what their scores are on the Booking platform.

1905 Zino’s Palace

Built in a mansion in Ponta do Sol, this hotel excels in elegance and comfort. Zino's Palace features air-conditioned rooms, an outdoor swimming pool, a bar, a garden and a terrace. Its surrounding area is great for hiking and outdoor walks.

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Source - Facebook - 1905 Zino's Palace

Three House Hotel

The elegance and location of the Three House Hotel leave no one indifferent. Located in the city centre with a 24-hour reception, this guest house features an outdoor pool and a terrace.

The rooms are equipped with a seating area and a private bathroom. Close to the hotel are the Marina, the Cathedral of Funchal and the Fort of São João.

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Source - Tripadvisor - Three House Hotel

Savoy Palace The Leading

This 5-star hotel is an excellent option for those who want to spend an unforgettable night. Well-located with stunning views, Savoy Palace features an outdoor pool, fitness centre and night space.

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Source - Facebook - Savoy Palace

Pestana Churchill Bay

Located in Câmara de Lobos, Pestana Churchill Bay offers a panoramic view of the bay. The 4-star hotel with high quality accommodation offers its guests a true sensory experience. All rooms are equipped with air conditioning, some of which have a balcony with city views.

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Source - Facebook - Pestana Churchill Bay

Hotel Cajú

Close to major tourist and cultural attractions, right in the centre of Funchal, Hotel Cajú has a restaurant, a fitness centre and a bar. Thoroughly decorated, this space is one of the most appreciated by those who visit the island and want to know Funchal.

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Source - Facebook - Hotel Cajú

Village Cabo Girão

Characterised by the calm and quiet of the surrounding area, Village Cabo Girão delights those who want, above all, to live a few relaxing days. From the hillside facing the Atlantic Ocean with outdoor and indoor pools, this hotel offers villas and apartments. The accommodation at this hotel is properly equipped, so you can enjoy a quality experience.

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Source - Facebook - Village Cabo Girão

Arts in Hotel Conde Carvalhal

In a restored old mansion, right in the historic centre of Funchal, overlooking the city and the sea, guests at this hotel can take the opportunity to stroll in the botanical gardens and relax on the terraces. Air-conditioned and decorated with modern and elegant furnishings, the rooms are equipped with all amenities.

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Source - Facebook - Arts in Hotel Conde Carvalhal

The Cliff Bay - Porto Bay

On top of a mountain, The Cliff Bay offers excellent quality service and comfort. The five-star hotel features indoor and outdoor pools, as well as a 2 Michelin star restaurant, II Gallo d'Oro. The spa, tennis courts, games room and library are places where you can occupy yourself too.

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Source - Facebook - The Cliff Bay - Porto Bay

Four Views Oasis

For those looking to enjoy quality family moments, Four Views Oasis is an excellent option. Surrounded by gardens, overlooking the Desertas Islands, it presents visitors with a quality stay. If you wish to relax, the hotel features an indoor heated swimming pool, a reading room and a fitness space.

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Source - Tripadvisor - Four Views Oasis

Albatroz Beach & Yacht Club

The five-star Albatroz Beach hotel, known for views of the ocean and the Desertas Islands, has spacious rooms with balconies, three swimming pools, two of which are at sea level and, therefore, are saltwater. Guests can also make use of the tennis court or play golf at the Santo da Serra Championship Golf Course.

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Source - Tripadvisor - Albatroz Beach & Yacht Club

What to do in Madeira when it rains?

If there is a possibility of rain on the days of your visit to  Madeira, don't worry. We have solutions for you.

Fábrica de Santo António (Saint Anthony Factory)

Take advantage of the bad weather to get to know the greatest traditions of Madeira. A visit to the archipelago is not complete without a visit to the Santo António Factory, where you can buy the traditional honey cake. This famous delicacy contains cane honey, candied cider, dried fruits and spices.

Google Maps

Source - Tripadvisor - Fábrica de Santo António

Esperança Bookstore

Esperança Bookstore, in addition to the largest Portuguese bookstore and one of the largest in Europe, is one of the oldest and most original Portuguese bookstores. There you will find three floors full of books.

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Esperança Bookstore

Visit a museum

In Madeira, you can visit and get to know at least 20 museums such asthe Museum of Sacred Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Cristiano Ronaldo Museum, the Whale Museum or the Toy Museum among others. There is no shortage of options.

Câmara de Lobos, Portugalia

Indulge in a wine tasting

If you're a wine lover, don't waste the opportunity to do a wine tasting. One of the oldest wine cellars is Blandy's Wine Lodges. Take the opportunity to get to know the various stages of Madeira wine production, through paintings by Max Romer and the tasting of wines of different grape varieties.

Wine tasting

Visit the São Vicente Caves and the Volcanism Centre

Be sure to discover the mysterious lava tubes that  were formed about 890,000 years ago on the island. Schedule a visit of about 30 minutes and get to know the entire volcanism centre.

The caves of São Vicente are another rarity that you can find in Madeira. Inside the cave, to the sound of ambient music and lighting meticulously thought to create  a mystical spirit throughout the visit, you can find small lakes of transparent water.

Google Maps

Source - Facebook - São Vicente Caves

Take advantage of Excelente guide and make a list of places you would like to visit. Whether it's summer or winter, you'll have plenty to discover. Don't forget to leave room in your luggage to bring souvenirs, ponchas and some bananas from Madeira!

Travel guide: what to visit in Madeira
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Travel guide: what to visit in Madeira