Funchal, Madeira Port Guide

Madeira island

 The port of Funchal in Maderia is a really popular one with cruisers as there is so much to see and do in this lovely Portuguese Island. Full of traditional Portuguese life, cable cars and beautiful botanical gardens there’s something for everyone when stopping on this island during a cruise around the canaries. 

When docking in Maderia you will find yourself in Funchal with the port being about a 15 to 20-minute walk from the town’s centre. Funchal is Madeira’s largest town and offers a large range of activities all within easy reach to those visiting for the day. Keep reading for our top recommendations for a fun day in Funchal!

Hop On Hop Off Bus

Of course, with all good tourist hot spots comes a hop on hop off double-decker bus. Funchal has it’s own city sightseeing bus which offers visitors 360-degree panoramic views of Maderia and a route to all its biggest attractions including the famous Teleferico cable car, Forum Maderia shopping centre and the Maderia Wine Lodge for all you wine enthusiasts!

The best thing about using a hop on hop off bus when in port is that you can pick it up from outside the cruise terminal and be at your first site within no time at all. You have the opportunity to listen to an audio commentary detailing all the sites along the route and the town’s history (headphones provided). As the name suggests the ticket allows you to hop on and hop off the bus as many times as you like for the duration of the ticket (normally 24 hours).

If you choose to stay on board and not hop off at any of the tops then you can expect the complete route to take around 1 hour and 15 minutes. The recorded audio guide is available in multiple languages and most buses run relatively frequently, especially in the summer months. More information can be found on the city sightseeing website which includes a full list of the 21 bus stops, a route map and bus timetables.

Portugal, Madeira, Elevated view of Funchal.

Monte Cable Car

A must when visiting the town of Funchal is to take a ride on the Teleferico do Funchal Maderia Cable Car up to Monte. The ride cable car ride takes 15 to 25 minutes each way and offers stunning views over the beautiful city. When you reach the top stop of Monte you will have climbed a whopping 3200 meters! From here you might choose to take a second cable car taking you up to the wonderful Botanical Gardens of Maderia or you might choose to stay where you are and visit the Monte Palace Tropical Garden.

You can buy a range of money-saving combination tickets for the cable car which allow you to also travel on the yellow sightseeing bus or add entry to the botanical gardens. Alternatively, you can opt for a cable car only ticket with a one-way ride costing €11 (€5.50 for children) and a return journey costing €16 (€8 for children). For full opening times and up to weather forecasts be sure to check the official website.

Monte Toboggan Ride 

If you chose not to take the return cable car journey back to the town then an exciting tradition not to be missed in Funchal is the Monte Toboggan. This is a 19th-century means of public transport that sees visitors climb inside a wicker toboggan sled before being pushed and steered down the hill by men dressed in white suits and straw hats! Sounds like fun don’t you think!

The ride will set you back €30 for a sled for two people and allow you to enjoy an exhilarating ride down the winding roads from the start point at Nossa Senhora do Monte Church to the suburb of Livramentio. After that, you will need to find your own way back down to the port (we recommend a taxi as it is quite a long walk).

We think this is such a fab and unique tradition which is a definite must when visiting – I mean where else do you get the chance to experience a ride like this?! Just to let you know you will need to have taken a ride on the cable car to Monte first to reach the start point of the toboggans where you can expect some queues in popular months. The ride down takes about 10 minutes.

Monte Palace Tropical Garden

A lovely place to visit when you reach Monte is the Monte Palace Tropical Garden. Here visitors are greeted with an area of 70,000 square meters full of exotic plants and fauna. The garden is situated right next to the upper station of the Monte Cable Car mentioned above and entrance is free for all visitors. With thousands of species of plants from around the world, a pretty central lake and a museum to explore too there is plenty to keep you occupied.

Madeira Botanical Gardens

If gardens are your thing then you might also like to take a trip to the Madeira Botanical Garden (Jardim Botanico). Here there are over 2500 exotic plants to see from lots of different collections from around the world and 6 mains areas to explore.

The gardens also offer amazing views over Funchal and are very popular with tourists. The gardens are typically open from 9am to 6pm and can be reached by a further cable car from Monte.

Madeira Story Centre

If you’re looking to find out more about Madeira then be sure to take a peek inside the Madeira Story Centre – a museum dedicated to showing the complete history of Madeira. The Museum informs visitors all about the history and culture of Madeira as well as offering a shop full of regional produce and a restaurant with a panoramic terrace.

The museum is situated at close to the lower station of the Monte cable car within the Old Town. Entry costs €5 for adults, €3 for children and the recommended length of stay is 45 minutes to enjoy the exhibits.

Ponta de Sao Lourenco on Madeira

Tours and Excursions

There are many companies that offer a variety of trips and port excursions in Funchal. We know that Tui / Marella and other cruise lines offer a paid excursion to the caves of sao vicente. This offers visitors a chance to visit the ancient caves and volcanism centre which sounds fun and a little bit different! We don’t think that a trip here would be possible without using a guided tour or hiring a car as it is quite a journey from the port.

Viator offer various opportunities to see the local sea life with trips to swim with dolphins or enjoy a luxurious catamaran dolphin and whale watching excursion. We think that both of these sound like a fab trip for children and we would love a chance to see one of our favourite animals! There are lots of different dolphin and whale watching trips on offer so do check out the details for prices and timings to decide which tour is best for you and your time in port.

For those wanting to do something a little more active during their time in Funchal, there is the option of a guided ascend to Madeira’s highest peak on an 8 hour Levada walk to Vereda do Pico Ruivo. This tour offers a chance to explore the ancient heather forest, lots of flora and fauna and offers panoramic views when you reach the top! With this being a longer tour we recommend checking port times before booking this excursion.

Madeira

A tour that we really like the sound of is the ‘skywalk and wine tasting & vineyards tour’ which is offered in an open-roof 4×4 jeep. This tour sounds right up our street as it offers a fun 4×4 adventure to see the sights, stop-offs at vineyards to try the local wine and includes some yummy tapas too. This tour with Viator starts at £45.91 and lasts for 4.5 hours so again one to check the timings for before joining to ensure you’re back on the ship before sail away!

Places to Eat and Drink

If you fancy keeping things simple and stopping for a bite to eat and drink in Funchal then you will find plenty of traditional places to enjoy and while away an hour or two. You could try the locally caught scabbard fish, which is traditionally served with deep-fried bananas – certainly sounds interesting!

Taking a trip to the local market which is situated in the town centre and open in the mornings, will allow you to grab fresh fruit and other produce including Madeiran wines and the delicious-sounding local juice ‘maracuja’ which is made from passion fruit – yum!

If you’re looking for something a little special to treat yourselves too then we recommend indulging in afternoon tea at lovely Reid’s Palace. Here you can sample a traditional British afternoon tea and know you are among previous guests including Winston Churchill and Roger Moore! Afternoon tea is only available on Wednesdays and Sundays for a couple of hours in the afternoon and there is a smart casual dress code required. The cost is €36 per person and offers everything you expect from a traditional afternoon tea so make sure you don’t overindulge at the breakfast buffet on the morning of your visit! Take a look at their tempting menu – it’s guaranteed to tempt you!

We have listed just a few of the main popular sights and things to do in Funchal, Maderia although there is plenty more on offer in case none of these attractions takes your fancy. The Visit Funchal website is particularly handy for learning more about this wonderful cruise stop. 

Lighthouse on the pier in Madeira island, Funchal

If you have visited Funchal before then please do leave a comment below on your thoughts of the city and what you enjoyed during your visit!

 

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