Travel to Madeira
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Travel Guide to Madeira- tips from a local

travel guide Madeira

Free Travel Guide To Madeira

Great places to eat, see, drink and enjoy – tips from a local!

Travel Guide

(I did this guide once for a friend of a friend that came to Madeira for the first time, a few months ago. It was based on my personal preferences. I’ve decided to share it on the blog so that you can use it and share it as an extra help to planning your stay. Hope you enjoy it and find it useful. )


If you’re coming to Funchal, you should allow yourself at least 3 nights stay.

There’s so much to see, taste and enjoy, you’ll leave with the will to come back for more, or at least I hope you do, with my tips 🙂

If you want to explore the full Island then come for at least 6 nights and rent a car to make the most of your time.

(If you don’t like driving then there are also many tours available. You can book them directly at your hotel or online .

There are many taxi drivers that do private tours, north coast tours are one of the most popular, you can ask for prices in the tourism office as well).

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Porto Santo Island

If you’re a beach lover, please include a day trip or a night stay in Porto Santo Island, in one word: Paradise!

(Notice: in Madeira Island you’ll find rocks “calhau” or black sand which is beautiful, unique and typical of its volcanic origin, although might not be very comfortable to reach water, that’s why in most beaches, there are piers with ladders to the sea)

But before we start, there’s 3 things you should know about Madeira:

  • First, we love tourists and we’re used to having their company all year, so most people speak a foreign language, mostly English.
  • Second, don’t trust the weather. It could be a sunny day in Funchal and raining in the West part of the Island. We are a tropical Island and we can reach 500 mt above sea level in 30′ drive which means it gets colder up there and although we’re very close to Africa , we can have all seasons in one day. ” Carry a jacket, just in case”
  • Third, be prepared to relax.Whether it’s the climate, the sea, the friendly people, the food, the wine or the natural beauty. Don’t pack too many attractions in one day, and please don’t go all around the Island in one day. The roads are full of curves, you ll get car sickness! I´ll try to be more convincing by telling you a secret, I live here for over 30 years and there are places I’ve never been, so keep this in your mind while planning your stay; just because it’s an Island doesn’t mean you have to see it all this time.

Madeira is a unique place to be discovered, be ready!

Where to Sleep:


Depending on your budget and the kind of experience you’re looking for, there are many options from luxury to budget. I leave you with a few of my favourites:
Porto Bay Hotels (award winner hotels, ratings are top!  Porto Mare hotel is one of my favourites, love the swimming pools, garden and spa, and excellent customer service. They also have a great Italian restaurant called Basilico and it’s right in front of the sea)

Choupana Hills (beautiful bungalows, great spa and restaurant, up in the hills like a little hideaway secret, surrounded by trees, and beautiful views of Funchal)
The Vine Hotel (amazing design by the internationally acclaimed madeiran designer Nini Andrade Silva with the best rooftop terrace with swimming pool I’ve ever seen! Great location in town)

Reid’s Palace, the most famous hotel in Madeira, try the afternoon tea in the balcony for a taste of luxury and go back in time for how the first tourists experienced Madeira.

Fajã dos Padres, beautiful, peaceful, unique place. Little houses by the beach, in a spot that can only be reached by boat or elevator, 20 minutes away from Funchal by car. If you’re looking for a place to escape and disconnect from the world…this is it.
If you’re looking for apartments to rent check this article.

 Faja dos Padres, Madeira

Faja dos Padres, Madeira

Some tips outside Funchal:
Estalagem da Ponta do Sol and its infinity pool

 

Where to eat:


Remember these words (or print them :)) “Bolo do caco” typical bread with garlic butter, “Brisa Maracuja“passion fruit, local fizzy drink, “Coral”, local beer, very good, “poncha” strong but deliciously sweet  alcoholic drink, try the flavour passion fruit, “milho frito”, fried corn in little cubes, “lapas”, limpets, “bolo e broas de mel“, honey cake and biscuits, “rebucados de funcho” fennel sweets and “queijada“, cottage cheese cake , they sell in coffee shops (I like the one from Penha d’ ‘aguia) If you’re not vegetarian, you can also try “espetada” cow meat on a stick, “peixe espada“sword fish, and “bife de atum” tuna steak with a typical sauce (I’ve just told you the most typical traditional food and drinks of Madeira, without forgetting, of course, the unforgettable Madeira wine,  have a visit to the wine cellars for a tasting session) Some of my tips for restaurants:

  • Basilico for italian
  • Riso for risotto
  • Jango for typical food in the old town or Atalaia for Pizza (In Rua Santa Maria there are many options, with  a lot of variety and prices for every pocket)
  • Shua ka for sushi
  • In Rua da Carreira you can enjoy many lunch deals na old classic is Londres, wich is popular  as a lunch break, affordable generous portions.
  • In Estrada Monumental  try Atlantic beautiful terrace by the sea and lovely food.
Castelo dos hamburgers

Castelo dos hamburgers

What to see and do:


  • In Funchal:

Take a day to walk around Funchal city centre. If you’re traveling with children check this map with points of interest. You can also book your tours, depending on what you’re interested in: air, land or sea.

Walk Avenida Arriaga, see  the Theatre and one of the oldest coffee shops in town, the Ritz. Visit the Cathedral, the Town hall and the Farmers Market.

Avenida Arriaga , Xmas Time

Avenida Arriaga , Xmas Time

Keep walking into the old town and enjoy the painted doors by local artists. Reach Socorro Church and have a break at Barreirinha.

There are also hop in hop off  buses and Tukxi Tours that take on tours around these areas.

(If weather allows, don’t miss a boat ride in the marina to see the dolphins but also the see the view of the island from the sea, beautiful indeed….If you’re planning to go to Porto Santo, you should book in advance)

Veu da noiva, Seixal, North Coast

Veu da noiva, Seixal, North Coast

Take the cable car to Monte, and enjoy the ride up the hills. When you come down you have two options back on the cable car again or on the toboggan rides, wicker cars pushed by man “carreiros”, a classic. There’s a beautiful Monte church and tropical garden to visit there.

  • North west Coast: Sao Vicente (with its lava caves),  via serra d’agua ( if you’re not driving, have a break in Taberna da Poncha, original poncha bar), and Seixal (mini eco bar is a nice spot there to relax) and Porto Moniz and its beautiful natural lava pools.
  • South East Coast: Machico (an artificial golden sand beach, for a change, this is a town located in the biggest valley of  Madeira) e Canical (with its beautiful Baia d’Abra, visit the whale museum if you’re travelling with Kids)
Maktub

Maktub

  • For Levada Walks:

There are around 2,000 km (1,240 miles) of levadas. These drainage canals built by man, allow now easy walking access to the island’s dramatic mountain peaks and coastline. Beware some of the paths are difficult to reach and find your way, you should take a walking tour.

There’s also an app called Walk me to guide you through the levadas.

I would recommend these 4 walks that I’ve once done:

1.Queimadas- Caldeirao Verde (5-6h)

2.Ribeiro frio ( Balcoes ) – Portela(4h)

3. Rabacal- Risco- 25 Fontes(3-4 h), my favourite!

4. Pico Do Areeiro ( It’s worth going there just to feel what it’s like to be up above the clouds! You can reach it by car, and if weather allows you can go by foot to Pico Ruivo the highest peak in Madeira. It’s not suitable for people who suffer from vertigo and its better to do it with a mountain guide)

Pico do Areeiro

Pico do Areeiro

  • For Shopping

Madeira has 3 main shopping Malls, 2 of them with a cinema (movies are mostly shown in the original language), many popular international brands are there. If you’re looking for souvenirs here are my tips:

    • For wine, I would advice buying it in the airport, because of the liquid carrying restrictions in airplanes. Although you have many more options in the wine cellars, just make sure you can carry it on the airplane.
    • There’s there a shop called Madeira Lovers in the airport that have very cool stuff like t-shirts and accessories.

For food and souvenirs there are shops with Portuguese brands, here are 13 special gifts from Madeira.
(Note: Sometimes products like the Honey cake, cookies or fennel sweets are much cheaper in supermarkets, check the prices.)

For drinks and nightlife check:


My favourites are Barreirinha Bar Cafe, Mini eco Bar, Boteco, Copacabana Garden, hole in one (typical irish bar), Venda velha and Vintage bar in the old town, Cafe do teatro, Marginal, jam and Vespas disco for late night dancing.

Coral beer at Barreirinha Bar Café

Coral beer at Barreirinha Bar Café

So many choices so little time, leave something for next time and come back again 🙂

Have a nice Holiday!

P.S.You can also check my instagram for inspiration, click on the map and see what is near you.



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35 Comments

    • Welcome Katie, you ll love it! for hikes check naturemeetings.com list, I love the sunrise at pico Ruivo, the highest peak of Madeira. Have fun!

  1. Sybilla Penel says

    Hola Sofia, i have found your blog by pinterest. We are coming to Madeira in July 2016 ( 2 family’s with each one daughter- 9 y en 11 y ) Can we contact you to meet as a greeter? We have already Booked our flights/ we want to stay in estalagem ponta do sol for 7n and 3n in Funchal. Stil looking for a place to stay in Funchal.
    I have also a personal blog Simply Sybi , but it is in dutch language 🙂 I am also on pinterest and instagram.
    Greets from Sybilla
    Adeó!

    • Yes please it Would be my pleasure. For places to stay in Funchal for older kids try 29 hostel they have forma for 4. Or if money isn’t an issue see portomare hotel. They have family rooms. Any thing else Let me know, happy to help if i can. Will check your blog too ! Thanks sybilla for your comment 🙂

  2. Sybilla Penel says

    We have found an appartement by airb&b, staying in Funchal 27/07 – 30/07 / after ponta do sol / We would-be like to go 28/07 to porto Santo by boat, do we have to book a lot in advance? Obrigada!

  3. Thank you for all the information. We are coming in late June 2016 and scheduled to stay at Hotel Eden Mare which seems to be part of the Hotel Porto Mare family of hotels. How is the Eden? I still have time to change so I could change to Porto Mare if there is a big difference between the two hotels. Also, I was not planning on making any reservations for excursions (dolphin watching or other) until we arrived. Would you recommend reservations in advance?

  4. We are traveling with our 2 daughters 20 & 18 so booked 2 rooms at Eden since it was slightly less expensive than Porto. The Jr. Suite looks to have 2 double beds pushed together but they refer to them as twin beds. Roll away bed is $60E/night so just booking 2 rooms seemed like a better option. I’m open to suggestions though as we want it to be as nice as possible.

    • Hi Ramona, I think both hotels are very nice, you’ll be in good hands in that family ;).About the excursions I don’t think you need to book in advance, there are many tours available that you can book once you’re here. Besides dolphin watching, hiking in the ‘levadas’ is also a lovely experience. I hope you enjoy Madeira! Best wishes Sofia

  5. luyckx willy says

    Hello Sofia,
    We (2couples) are visiting Madeira from 15/04/2016 till 25/04/2016 – We booked 3 nights in Sao Vicente and 7 nights in Funchal. We also hired a car for 10 days. For the first 8 days (15/04 till 22/04) we like to visit the island. On 22.04 at 00 hours, one of us is participating at the Miut ( a trail starting in Porto Moniz and finishing in Machico – 115 km) – The other 3 persons are following the runner by car and help him at the check points – We would like to discover some unknown places on Madeira. Perhaps you can give us some information. Maybe we can meet somewhere if possible.

    Nice blog

    Regards

    Willy Luyckx
    Belgium

  6. Thanks a lot for this blog, Sofia! It´s really well done. It´s giving me a lot of inspiration for my trip to Madeira with all the useful tips that you gave to us. I like your writing style and pictures are really lovely. GO on like this!

  7. Hi Sofia! A big THANK YOU for all of the great Madeira info on your site!! I am honeymooning in Madeira in early September (9/1-9/12) and am staying at AirB&Bs in Funchal, Faja Da Ovelha, and Seixal. Coming from the United States, and we are so excited! I’d love to contact you with any questions, should I have any between now and then!
    Many thanks,
    Jenna

  8. Hi Sofia! Greetings from Montreal, Canada. Came across your website while researching Madeira. I have just started my research for our trip and find you to be so welcoming and helpful to all! I’m sure I will have many questions for you in the near future and would very much appreciate your advice! My first question: I want the best, most panoramic view of the New Years Eve fireworks! Unfortunately, a boat is not a possibility. Where would you suggest? Thanks, Heather

    • Hi Heather! For panoramic views of fireworks I would suggest Neves or Pico dos Barcelos viewpoint. Both of them offer great views of Funchal bay and fireworks, but these are public areas and get crowded, you must go very early to get a front view. If you want something bit more exclusive try a rooftop bar of a hotel like orquidea, carmo, castanheiro, vine or casino hotels. Another good point of view is from the pier in the marina ;). Enjoy!

  9. Heather Abrams says

    Thank you Sofia for your excellent info! I will definitely continue to read your website and of course, will have more questions for you in the future. Best regards, Heather

  10. Hi Sofia,
    I loved reading your blog, there are some great tips in here. My other half and I are going in November and were wondering where you would recommend staying. I’ve been told both Funchal and Calheta are good choices, but would love your advice!
    Thanks,
    Sarah

    • Hi Sarah,

      Thank you for your nice comment!
      I think Funchal is a good base to explore the Island. You have plenty of options in terms of accomodation and restaurants and it is centraly located in the Island, so good accessibility. You can also choose to stay a few days in Funchal and other days in Calheta, depending on how long you’ll be here and what kind of experiences you are looking for. Please let me know if I can help you with any extra tips. You can text through my page in Facebook as well. Best wishes Sofia

  11. Question?? I’ve seen beautiful pictures of the waterfall highway, but I can’t seem to find where it is. Any help would be appreciated.

  12. Hi Sofia, we will visit the island in May for 3 days, can you recommend us a reliable car rental company? We see CarRentMadeira and Funchal Car Hire Madeira, any tips and/or advice? greatly appreciated “:) Vee

      • Thanks for your tip! We love market, any others market beside Mercado dos Lavradores? We will arrive on Saturday noon and leave the folowing Tuesday noon, also will the water warm enough for us to go in to the natural pool at Porto Moniz in May? Xoxo

        • Yes, other markets are Penteada Market in Funchal and Sunday Market in Santo da Serra/Machico, this last one hast food stalls as well. I would swim in May ;). xoxo

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