Funchal is a vibrant and colorful city located in the south of Portugal. With its beautiful beaches, stunning natural scenery, and rich cultural heritage, Funchal is sure to provide you with an unforgettable experience. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing vacation, an adrenaline-filled adventure, or some of the best local cuisine, Funchal has something for everyone. Here are 10 must-do activities in Funchal, as well as 5 places to avoid.
1. Explore the Old Town
The Old Town of Funchal is a historic area full of cobblestone streets and colorful buildings. It’s the perfect place to explore on foot and take in the sights and sounds of the city. Here you’ll find the iconic São Tiago Fortress, which overlooks the city and the harbor. There are also numerous churches, museums, and monuments to discover, as well as plenty of shops, restaurants, and bars.
2. Visit the Botanical Garden
The Botanical Garden of Funchal is one of the city’s most popular attractions. The garden is home to a variety of exotic plants, trees, and flowers from all over the world. There are also several walking paths and trails, making it the perfect spot for a leisurely stroll. Be sure to take your time to admire the stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean.
3. Take a Cruise
Funchal is located on the Atlantic Ocean, so there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the sea. One of the best ways to do this is to take a cruise around the harbor. You can choose from a variety of vessels, from traditional wooden sailing boats to modern yachts. Onboard, you’ll be treated to spectacular views of the city and its coastline, as well as local wildlife.
4. Go Shopping
If you’re looking for a great shopping experience, then Funchal is the place to be. The city is home to a variety of boutiques, stores, and malls, where you can find everything from designer clothes to handmade souvenirs. Be sure to check out the Mercado dos Lavradores, a bustling market with a wide selection of fresh produce, seafood, and other local specialties.
5. Sample the Local Cuisine
Funchal is known for its delicious local cuisine. From fresh seafood dishes to traditional Portuguese recipes, there’s something for everyone. Make sure to try some of the local favorites, such as caldeirada (a fish stew), carne de porco à alentejana (pork stew with clams), and pastel de nata (custard tart).
6. Visit the Madeira Wine Cellars
Madeira wine is world-famous, and Funchal is the perfect place to sample it. There are several wine cellars located in the city, offering tours and tastings. Here you can learn about the history of Madeira wine and even purchase a bottle to take home with you.
7. Take a Cable Car Ride
For breathtaking views of Funchal, take a cable car ride up to the top of Monte. On the way up, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the city and its surroundings. Once you reach the summit, you can admire the lush greenery and take in the fresh mountain air.
8. Climb Pico Ruivo
For those looking for an adrenaline-filled adventure, Pico Ruivo is the highest peak in Madeira, and it’s located just outside of Funchal. The hike up is quite challenging, but the views from the top are worth it. If you’re feeling brave, you can even attempt the Via Ferrata – a via ferrata route that leads to the summit.
9. Relax at the Beach
Funchal is home to several beautiful beaches, perfect for a day in the sun. Praia Formosa and Machico Beach are two of the most popular spots, and they offer plenty of activities, such as swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking. If you’d rather stay on land, there are also plenty of cafes and restaurants to choose from.
10. Visit the Markets
Funchal is home to several vibrant markets, such as Mercado dos Lavradores and Mercado da Ribeira. Here you’ll find everything from fresh produce and seafood to handmade crafts and souvenirs. It’s the perfect place to get a taste of local life and discover some unique items.
Places to Avoid
1. Avoid Nightclubs
Funchal has a vibrant nightlife, with plenty of nightclubs and bars. However, it’s important to be aware of pickpockets and other criminals who may be looking to target tourists. It’s best to avoid these areas at night, especially if you’re alone.
2. Don’t Get Lost
Funchal is a beautiful city, but it can be easy to get lost in its winding streets. It’s best to keep track of where you are and always have a map or GPS handy. If you’re unsure of where you are, it’s best to ask a local or head back to a more familiar area.
3. Be Aware of Scams
Like any major tourist destination, Funchal is full of scammers who are looking to take advantage of unsuspecting tourists. Be aware of anyone who is trying to sell you something at an unusually low price, or offers to exchange money for you. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
4. Watch Out for Pickpockets
Pickpockets are a common problem in Funchal, especially in crowded areas such as markets and public transportation. Be sure to keep your valuables close to you and be aware of your surroundings. It’s also a good idea to carry a dummy wallet with a few Euros in it, in case you are targeted.
5. Don’t Drink Tap Water
Tap water in Funchal is not safe to drink. Make sure to only drink bottled water, and avoid ice cubes in drinks unless you are certain that they were made with bottled water. This is especially important if you are visiting from a country with poor water quality.