Funchal, Madeira, Portugal cruises

Step off your cruise ship and into a little piece of Portuguese paradise in the archipelago of Madeira, in the Atlantic Ocean.

Enchanting towns and villages, breath-taking landscapes, a spectacular array of unique flora, and delicious local wines are awaiting your discovery on a cruise to the Portuguese islands of Madeira.

You’ll dock in the capital city of Funchal, an area bustling with bars and restaurants that radiate local charm. From here, you can explore further into the unique Madeira countryside, where imposing mountainous slopes give way to luscious rainforests and vast moorlands.

Madeira port guide.

Madeira sits off the North-western coast of Africa – a little further north than its popular neighbours, the Canary Islands. An archipelago comprising four small islands, the capital port city of Funchal sits on Madeira’s largest island, a land teeming with visual, culinary, and experiential delights.

Funchal port lies just over a mile and a half from the city centre, and is situated on the south of the island. From here, guests can spend time exploring the stunning botanical gardens, lounge on pebbly beaches, or take a trip further inland to experience a unique landscape that seems to shift every few miles.

Here’s our guide on everything you need to know about the beautiful port city of Funchal, Madeira.

Top landmarks and sights in Madeira.

Meander through the sweeping Madeira Botanical Gardens, a 20-acre paradise draped in all manner of perfectly manicured tropical flowers, plants, and trees. The Jardim Botânico da Madeira is home to over 2,500 exotic plants, and views from the gardens across the city and the deep blue of the Atlantic Ocean beyond are spectacular.

At the heart of Funchal lies a Gothic masterpiece – the Funchal Cathedral. Dating back to 1490, the modest exterior of the cathedral hides an indescribably rich interior, complete with intricate gilded woodwork.

History lovers may also wish to pay a visit to the Church of Our Lady of Monte. Built on the foundations of a 15thcentury chapel, the church is the final resting place of Charles I of Habsburg, the last Emperor of Austria. The church is accessible via the famous Madeira cable car, which transports tourists from the lower section of Funchal to the charming suburb of Monte.

Guests looking to stretch their legs and dust off their hiking boots can tackle Pico Ruivo, the tallest peak on Madeira. While the trail up to the top can be strenuous, the sweeping panoramic views are more than worth the effort.

Things to do in Madeira.

Perhaps take a dip in the natural pools of Porto Moniz, the water of which is fabled to have restorative powers. Located on the northwest of the island, the area comprises natural pools formed from rugged volcanic rock, as well as a man-made lido complex complete with shallower pools, and an area where visitors are invited to lounge in the warm sun.

Madeira is truly a wine lovers' paradise, with a multitude of locally produced tipples to choose from. For those who’d like to sample the best wines the region has to offer, you could opt for a tour of one of the vineyards, complete with a tasting session where you’ll have the chance to try Madeira’s famously dry wines.

Another experience could be to treat yourself to a decadent afternoon tea at Reid’s Palace. This was a one-time retreat of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, before his second stint in office in 1951, where he took time to paint and work on his war memoirs. The hotel today has changed very little, maintaining its elegant, upper-class charm.

You could even step into Churchill’s paintings on a trip to Câmara de Lobos – a quaint fishing village where the former Prime Minister would often set his easel. His influence is felt in the village to this day, where visitors can find souvenirs and postcards bearing Churchill’s likeness.

Nearby lies the popular lookout point of Cabo Girão, home to the highest cliff skywalk in Europe. Sitting at a gravity-defying 1,900ft above sea level, the skywalk provides exceptional views of the island and the alluring waters of the Atlantic.

Eating and drinking near Madeira cruise port.

With influences stemming from Mediterranean and Portuguese cuisines, Madeira boasts an exciting culinary scene. One popular choice is espetada, a traditional dish of tender beef cubes seasoned with garlic, rock salt, and bay leaf cooked on skewers over hot coals, and often served with a hearty helping of bolo do caco bread.

Seafood is an integral part of Madeiran cuisine, with plentiful options of fresh fish and seafood to choose from all around the islands. One well-loved fish dish is Madeira-style lapas, or limpets, served lightly grilled with fragrant garlic and a squeeze of lemon juice.

There are plenty of aromatic local wines to sip on as you take a break in one of the many bars or restaurants in Funchal, as well as sweet exotic fruits available at the farmers' markets such as Mercado dos Lavradores – an open-air market popular with the locals.

Shopping in Madeira.

In addition to its wines, Maderia is also well known for its intricate, handcrafted embroidery which is sold at many small village shops. Funchal has plenty of souvenir and trinket shops from which to pick up a memento of your time on this enchanting island.

Getting around: Madeira transport.

Public transport on Madeira is limited, however, there is a hop-on-hop-off bus available that transports guests around some of the most significant spots in Funchal.

Taxis are readily available at the port and throughout the city, or many visitors do choose to hire a car to tour the island at their own pace.

Madeira port facilities.

While the city center of Funchal is within walking distance of the port, shuttle buses are available from the main terminal to transport guests to the city, or onwards to various locations across the island. Taxis and the hop-on-hop-off bus service depart from the terminal entrance, and guests can also find tuk-tuk rides and small electric cars for hire.

The cruise terminal has plenty of amenities, including an ATM, a money exchange kiosk, a café, and gift shops.

Madeira quick tips.

Currency.

The currency used in Madeira is the Euro, and there are plenty of ATMs across the island as well as currency exchanges in the port terminal. There is no expectation to tip in Madeira, so don’t feel obliged to leave anything after you finish your meal or when using local taxis.

Weather.

Nicknamed ‘The Land of Eternal Spring’, Madeira is blessed with a beautiful subtropical climate and plentiful sunshine all year round.

Springtime and autumn temperatures reach a very pleasant 22°C, which is ideal for island exploration. Summer brings with it the hottest temperatures of the year, with a daily average of around 24°C, however, Saharan winds can bring with them temperatures upwards of 33°C. The winter sun in Madeira heralds slightly cooler temperatures, but sun-seekers will not be left disappointed, with daytime temperatures in the south of the island averaging 20°C.