You cannot and won’t miss Funchal for sure. It is the capital of the island and the majority of the services are based here. It is in fact a modern, cosmopolitan, rejuvenated city, well known for its many top class restaurants, stunning new 4 & 5-star hotels, warm all year round climate. Located in the stunning south of Madeira, on its sunniest coast amidst banana plantations and wonderful gardens where flowers bloom all year round in the shelter of the verdant mountains, it is an extremely lush, green and relaxed city. Let’s see now the places that you cannot miss once you’re in Funchal. Here comes our ultimate Funchal bucket list!
- 1 Funchal Bucket List
- 1.1 Painted benches of Funchal
- 1.2 Praça do Município
- 1.3 Igreja de São João Evangelista
- 1.4 Câmara Municipal do Funchal – Funchal City Hall
- 1.5 The Cathedral of Funchal
- 1.6 Fortress São João Baptista do Pico
- 1.7 Fortress São Tiago
- 1.8 Palácio de São Lourenço
- 1.9 Santa Catarina Park
- 1.10 The statue of Sissi
- 1.11 The statue & sqaure of Cristiano Ronaldo
- 1.12 Cristo Rei
- 1.13 Quinta do Monte
- 1.14 Cabo Girão
- 1.15 Eat Bolo do Caco
- 2 Where to stay in Funchal
- 3 Best experiences in Funchal
Funchal Bucket List
Painted benches of Funchal
Included in Accessibility Program, Funchal City Hall painted the traditional garden benches located in the Praça do Munícipio and all around the city. Three different motifs were painted in the benches, namely Madeira Embroidery, Flowers and the typical pattern of the folklore skirts.
Praça do Município is the main square in Funchal. It is considered one of prettiest squares in the city, with a fountain at its center, red-flowering tulip trees in one corner and in another some fine examples of the extraordinary trees. It gives home to two very important building: Igreja de São João Evangelista & Funchal City Hall. Both worth the visit.
Constructed in the 17th century by the Society of Jesus, the church marked the transition from the Mannerist style to the Baroque, marked by great, ostentatious decorations. It constituted the largest structure built in the city until the 19th century. In 2008 a large organ was installed in the church. The church belongs to the old Jesuit College and is presently occupied by the University of Madeira and the Catholic University.
Câmara Municipal do Funchal – Funchal City Hall
The Funchal Town Hall Building is located in what was once the palace of Count Carvalhal and it is a harmonious example of late 18th century architecture. This building was commissioned in 1758 by the Count of Carvalhal to be his residence, and then passed through several owners and tenants. In 1883 it was acquired by the Funchal Municipal Council to serve as Town Hall, due to the development of the city, which forced the authorities to look for a larger place to hold its headquarters. The building has undergone adaptations and changes over the years, but kept its original architecture.
The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption (Sé Catedral de Nossa Senhora da Assunção) is the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Funchal. Which encompasses all of the Autonomous Region of Madeira. The late fifteenth-century cathedral is one of the few structures that survives virtually intact since the early period of colonisation of Madeira. The patron of the cathedral is Our Lady of the Assumption.
The exact date, when the construction of this fortress was first started, is not yet known. Although, it is believed that the construction had already begun in 1606, the fortress was only finished during the second half of the 17th century. At around that time its name was also changed to São Filipe, then in the 19th century to São Miguel and later back to São João again.
In the 20th century the fortress was ceded to the Navy, which installed their communications centre here. Classified monument of public interest in 1943, this fortress (Fortaleza do Pico) offers a magnificent view over Funchal to all those who made it up the steep alley!
As the Portuguese almost completely dominated the North Atlantic routes at those times, the defence of the island did not seem of special importance. Because of this negligence, in 1566 Funchal suffered a terrible pirate attack, where many people were slaughtered. In spite of the constant danger of another attack, only in 1614 the São Tiago Fort was finally built to protect Funchal from the corsairs. In 1767 it was enlarged and exclusively served military purposes until 1992, year in which Madeira’s Regional Government decided to use it for cultural activities.
Funchal’s first fortress was only built in the years 1529 to 1540 on a plea by the population of Funchal after a boat, moored in the harbour of Funchal, had been pillaged. But the construction completed until the second half of the 16th century was not really appropriate for all fortification needs and consequently it succumbed easily to the attacks of the French pirates in 1566. In the following years until up to the 19th century, many improvements, alterations and extensions to the original primitive construction were made so that the Palácio de São Lourenço that has survived until today, belongs to one of the best-preserved examples of Portuguese fortification from the 16th and 17th century.
In the beginning of its history the Fortaleza de São Lourenço served as residence for many captains and governors of the island and then it became gradually a national residential palace. It was classified National Monument in August 1943, now serving as residence for the Prime Minister of the Autonomous Region and the Military Command.
Santa Catarina Park (Parque de Santa Catarina) is one of the largest parks in Funchal, The site of the park was originally occupied by a chapel. The Santa Catarina Chapel is from the early 1400s. This park is about 36,000 square metres in area. It has multiple aviaries, and is located near the Bay of Funchal. There are several paths with benches, in addition to some statues and Santa Catarina Chapel.
Sissi made her first trip to Madeira for health reasons. A lung specialist recommended a cure at the seaside. In the winter of 1860 she travelled to Madeira to cure her cough. The Austrian K&K-Marine had no ships suitable for the Atlantic, so they organised an English ship for her. A winter stay turned into an extended journey and lasted from 29 November 1860 to 28 April 1861. Elisabeth resided in the Quinta Vigia, which is now the Casino Park Hotel. A life-size statue of Sissi commemorates the legendary empress. She lived on Madeira very withdrawn.
Most probably, there is no living human on this plane who wouldn’t heard of Cristiano Ronaldo. He was born in Funchal in 1985 and raised there too. Once he became successful he started donating significant amount of money to his home island. Hence, all around the island of Madeira they worship the iconic footballer like a god.
Ronaldo is undoubtedly Madeira’s most famous export – and the locals are incredibly proud of his sporting achievements. They named the airport, and an entire square after him. Besides his famous statue we can visit his restaurant and hotel as well.
The Christ the King statue (Portuguese: Cristo Rei) also known as the Sacred Heart statue. It is an Art Deco statue of Jesus Christ in Garajau district on Madeira. The location of the statue is important. As only Catholics were allowed to be buried on the island until 1770. All non catholic Christians were thrown from these cliffs. In 1770 they opened the British Cemetery of Funchal for non catholic Christians. The Jewish Cemetery of Funchal was established in 1851. They built this statue in remembrance of the function of the area’s history.
They built the statue in 1927 and consecrated on October 30, 1927. Created by French artists Georges Serraz and Pierre Charles Lenoir. They completed it 4 years before Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil.
The last king of Hungary & last emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Charles IV spent a little time on the throne. Charles (in Hungarian: Károly IV) took over the estate of Emperor and King Ferenc József in November 1916. Just two years later, he needed to relinquish his sovereign rights. Károly IV. died in exile, on the Portuguese island of Madeira, on April 1, 1922, by the Spanish flu. One of the most infamous and most devastating epidemics in modern history.
During the time in which he lived on Madeira, he lived in Quinta do Monte. Today this district bears the name of Quinta Jardins do Imperador. There, in the Church of Nossa Senhora do Monte his mortal remains are to rest. In front of the church we find his statue. And just next door – in Casa dos Romeiros (Pilgrim’s House), there is a permanent exhibition of his life.
Cabo Girão is a lofty sea cliff located along the southern coast of the island of Madeira. It is a popular lookout point, with up to 1800 visitors a day. The location is also a popular starting point for hikers. The Cabo Girão Skywalk is the highest cliff skywalk in Europe, located on top of the cliff. The skywalk opened in late October 2012 and is similar to the one in America‘s Grand Canyon. Both are out of transparent glass to provide stunning views to visitors.
Eat Bolo do Caco
It’s hard to find any restaurant or bar on Madeira or in Funchal that don’t serve Bolo do caco. It is for sure on the menu, but it might happen, that at the moment they are out of it. With us it happened this only once. For every other meal we were able to order as a starter or next to a soup. It’s so simple, and this is why it’s so brilliant.
Bolo do caco is a circular Madeiran flatbread, shaped like a cake and thus called bolo (Portuguese for ‘cake’). They traditionally cook it on a caco, a flat basalt stone slab. The bread is usually with a lot of garlic and butter. And normally it’s warm. It is delicious by itself or eaten as a sandwich with cheese, sausage, octopus.
Where to stay in Funchal
Best experiences in Funchal
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