Free Travel tips To Madeira
Great places to eat, see and enjoy - travel guide to Madeira, tips from a local!
(I did this guide once for one of my Airbnb guests that came to Madeira for the first time. They wanted some good recommendations for hiking locations, spots by the sea, must see’s, must eat and must do’s on the Island. Also some tips for Funchal. This choice was based on my personal preferences and on the feedback I get from my Airbnb guests. I’ve decided to share it on the blog so that you can use it, save it and share it, as an extra help in planning your stay. Hope you enjoy it and find it useful. )
Obs: there are no pictures so that you can print it without running out of ink on your printer 🙂 But please do check my Instagram account frommadeiratomars for photo inspiration.
If you’re coming to Funchal, you should allow yourself at least three 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 six nights and make the most of your time. I usually recommend that you rent a car unless you don’t enjoy driving. In that case, you can book tours, explore by bus or make arrangements with a private taxi.
From the airport to Funchal, unless you rent a car, do book a taxi previously, or take the Aerobus – they’re usually the cheaper options.
But before we start, there are three 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, check the weather. It could be a sunny day in Funchal and rain 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 can get cold up there, and although we’re very close to Africa, we can have all seasons in one day. ” Carry a jacket, just in case. Also, check the weather at this site which displays live webcams from different parts of the island. Also if the weather is not okay for some reason, check this post for rainy days inspiration.
- Third, be prepared to relax. Whether it’s the climate, the sea, the friendly people, the food, the wine or the natural beauty, you’ll figure it out. 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 on one visit.
WHAT TO EAT/DRINK
Remember these words or print them. 🙂
“Bolo do caco” typical bread with garlic butter, “Brisa Maracuja”passion fruit, local fizzy drink, “Coral”, local beer, “poncha” is strong but deliciously sweet rum drink, (try the flavour passion fruit).
Tomato soup with poached egg, “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 La vie shopping, top floor near the piano, btw the pasteis de nata are very good too).
If you’re not vegetarian, you can also try “espetada” beef cubes on a stick, “peixe espada”scabbard fish, and “bife de atum” tuna steak.
And of course, the unforgettable Madeira wine, have a visit to the wine cellars for a tasting session, check this article for inspiration. If you go to Câmara de Lobos area, try the Nikita at Farol Verde (ice cream with beer, I know it’s weird, but it tastes good and guess what it’s based on the Elton John song…”Nikita”… you’ll never know…)
And the cocktails at PUKIKI BAR in Estreito da Calheta are also damn good.!
You can also read this article about the six most typical dishes.
Restaurants in Funchal? Here are some of my favorites.
LUNCH: 9,50 € -12 € deals – Café Museu, Latada do Doutor, Il Vivaldi etc
DINNER: Fine Dining in Madeira – read this article. Another good option is NINI DESIGN CENTRE for outstanding views/romantic night. In Lido: Basilico for Italian.
TYPICAL Madeiran Food – TABERNA MADEIRA, A BICA, OS COMBATENTES.
VEGETARIAN food – read this article.
BUDGET bites to eat, check this list.
Oh, this is an endless journey to write about…
There are 2000 km of Levada walks (you know, those awesome water channels dig on the rocks ages ago) They will take you to an amazing forest called Laurissilva which is rare in the world because it disappeared in Europe during the ice age. Madeira has it. It’s green, magical, mystic and full of fresh air, century old trees and pure nature, nothing quite like this elsewhere in the world.
My favourites are Fanal/Rabaçal (25fontes)/Ponta de São Lourenço – chech miradouro PONTA DO ROSTRO! /Pico do Areeiro/Pico Ruivo/ Caldeirão Verde/Castelejo/Portela/Ribeiro Frio/ Balcões + For food try FAÍSCA .
Be careful while doing these walks, the weather can change dramatically, so I recommend this site for more information.
WHAT TO SEE AND DO?
Hidden gems in Funchal.
Best spots in Madeira.
Beach lovers. I LOVE Praia Formosa in Funchal, especially by sunset/sunrise when there’s hardly anyone at the beach. You can walk along promenade do Lido all the way to Câmara de Lobos.
Just to feel like a local.
Need a therapeutic retreat.
A day in Funchal: Start at the city park Santa Catarina, walk along Avenida Arriaga, see the Theatre and Visit the Cathedral, the Town Hall, and the Farmers Market. Walk into the old town and enjoy the painted doors by local artists check out the gallery Caravel art center. Reach Socorro Church and have a break at Barreirinha. Take the cable car to Monte, and enjoy the ride up the hills. There are a beautiful Monte church and tropical garden to visit there. 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. From the stop point at Livramento you can walk all the way down to Funchal, it’s about 30 minutes walk. Check the Praça do Mar with all the CR7 buzz and have an ice cream at one of the cafes or a pizza at CR7 hotel, they’re kind of good. At night the old town is the busiest spot.
CHECK OUT THE MAP USE-IT plus the app for the phone is pretty good too. (no wifi required).
FAV SPOTS BY THE SEA:
Northwest Coast: Sao Vicente (with its lava caves), via Serra d’agua/Encumeada, and Seixal ( the mini eco bar is a nice spot there to relax) and Porto Moniz and its beautiful natural lava pools. To eat, try the limpets rice at Seixal or the romaria soup at Porto Moniz.
Southwest Coast: Camara de Lobos(beautiful fisherman town) Restaurants there? I do like Vila do Peixe, Ponta do Sol – Restaurants there? I like the Old Pharmacy, Jardim do Mar (for food try Joe’s bar or the grilled squid at Portinho), and Paul do Mar – Maktub (for sunset and mojitos), are some of my favorite locations. Calheta – the marina has a nice Italian restaurant and ice cream parlor. Mudas art museum is a must visit if you love architecture.
Northeast Coast – Take the cable car to the nature reserve Rocha do Navio in Santana – magic spot. Food? Try Quinta do Furão, Cantinho da Serra or Casa de Palha.
South East Coast: Machico (an artificial golden sand beach, this is a town located in the biggest valley of Madeira) See the art door around the center, far less crowded than Funchal and has some very cool art scenes). Porto da Cruz (Food: A PIPA, check the sugar cane factory next door) and Caniçal (see the new bar in town – Ritual do Sal – Praia da Ribeira do Natal) Restaurants? Tasquinha do Pescador e Amarelo are some of my favorites.
Madeira has three main Shopping Malls, 2 of them with a cinema (movies are mostly shown in the original language), many international brands are there. If you’re looking for souvenirs here are my tips: For wine, I would advise buying it at the airport, because of the liquid carrying restrictions in airplanes. Although you have much more options in the wine cellars, just make sure you can carry it on the airplane. For food and souvenirs there are shops with Portuguese brands, here are some stores – read this.
My favorite spots are Barreirinha Bar Café, Revolution Bar, Copacabana Garden, hole in one (typical Irish bar) and Vintage bar in the old town. As for discos: Marginal, jam and Vespas for a late night dancing.
DTOX & LIVING ROOM start late around midnight/1 am.
So many choices so little time, leave something for next time and come back again 🙂
Have a lovely Holiday!
(In Madeira Island, you’ll find pebbles “calhau” beaches or black sand which is beautiful, unique and typical of its volcanic origin. It might not be very comfortable to reach water (wearing neoprene shoes might be a good solution) that’s why in most beaches, there are piers with ladders to the sea. However there are a few of beaches with sand in Madeira which I really like such as Porto do Seixal beach, Banda d’Além Beach and Prainha.)
Send me your tips for the next article – what did you like and dislike?
Please leave a comment below.
Obrigada! ( that’s what you say if you’re a girl if you’re a boy you say Obrigado).
PS- Cover images from the photographer @Benjamin_artwork.