Looking for things to do in Funchal Madeira? You have come to the right place! Here is an ultimate guide on how to visit Funchal, with a few fun day trips thrown in as well. I cover the basics like the toboggan rides, Monte cable cars, and Madeira wine.
But there are also fun tidbits thrown in from my first-hand experience exploring this beautifully epic Portuguese island, Madeira. This is a special place, that will always be near and dear to my heart as it was the first location I started my digital nomad journey. And boy did it deliver.
Be sure to check out all of these amazing Madeira restaurants to make your vacation even more special. And if you are traveling to Portugal in the winter, I have a few tips for you to make the best out of your trip! Now, let’s get you started on the best things to do in Funchal so you can be one step closer to enjoying Portugal like a Pro!
List of Things to Do in Funchal
- Cabo Girão Skywalk Funchal
- The Best Guided Tours
Things to see in Funchal
Funchal Cable Cars
One of the first things to do in Funchal Madeira are the Funchal Cable Cars. Keep in mind that there are two different cable cars that you can take from Funchal. The first is the main Funchal cable car and it will take you to the town of Monte. And the second is the Funchal botanical gardens cable car station and this one will take you directly to the botanical gardens.
The first Monte cable car covers almost 4 kilometers, this is the best way to see the magnificent views of Funchal. Look out at the bright rooftops, glistening water, and luscious green cliffs. Taking the Funchal cable car to Monte is one of the most astounding because of Monte’s charming streets and peaceful atmosphere.
What to do in Monte Funchal
There are plenty of things after taking the Monte cable car. The best way to get around town is to pre-book yourself a tuk-tuk ride around town! Your tour guide will not only take your around to the must-see spots like the Monte Palace museum, Monte church, and the wicker toboggan rides, but they will also give you a brief history lesson and point out hidden gems.
What to do Monte Palace Tropical Gardens
The second ride is the botanical garden cable car. This is where you will see the Quinta Monte Palace and be able to tour the Monte Palace Tropical Gardens. Stop to smell beautiful exotic flowers throughout the Botanical gardens.
Madeira Botanical Gardens
When looking for Funchal attractions, The Botanical Gardens, or Jardim Botânico, should be at the top of your list. It is one of the best things to do in Funchal. There is a diverse collection of plants and stunning views of the surrounding landscape.
Be sure to check out the five main sections of the gardens, a few have exotic plants. They are split indigenous plants, succulents, the tree garden, medicinal plants, and loiro park, which is home to a few birds as well.
One of the highlights of the garden is the Orchid House, which exhibits multiple varieties of orchids. With a focus on botanic education and biodiversity conservation, the Madeira Botanical Gardens are a Funchal must-see.
There is also a hassle-free, one-stop-shop tour to see everything in Monte. This tour rolls all the best Funchal tourist attractions into one day, with a private transfer, pre-booked cable car tickets, transfer to and from the hotel(or ship), botanical garden tickets, and more!
Monte Famous Funchal Wicker Toboggans
After the peaceful cable car ride to Monte, get ready for some adrenaline with this exhilarating way down the mountain. The Monte Toboggan Ride involves 1-3 people getting in famous Funchal wicker toboggans and sledding down the mountain while being guided by two carreiros, or toboggan drivers, controlling the toboggan.
Special to Madeira, this is not only one of the most unique things to do in Funchal but also one of the most unusual things to do in Funchal! The history of this thrilling activity dates back to the early 19th century when it became the main mode of transportation from Monte to Funchal for the rich. Today everyone can join in on the fun!
Holding true to the culture and history behind the toboggans, the carreiros wear traditional white uniforms and straw hats. The toboggan ride also offers scenic views of luscious gardens, idyllic houses, and charming streets making it one of Funchal’s most iconic things to do. Get ready for an adventure of a lifetime!
Prebook your ticket here: GetYourGuide.com
Day Trip to Porto Moniz
Popular for its natural swimming pools and breathtaking landscapes, a day trip to Porto Moniz is one of the most incredible Madeira day trips from Funchal. About an hour and a half away, the drive has beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean with waves crashing against the rocky shore, scenic villages, and black volcanic rock.
After arriving in Porto Moniz, travelers can take a dip in the natural pools, explore the Porto Moniz Aquarium or Volcanism Centre, and take in the views of the turquoise water contrasting against the rugged volcanic coastline at the Miradouro da Santa viewpoint.
Porto Moniz is known for its delectable seafood and many visitors choose to indulge in specialties such as grilled octopus, Madeira wine, or Poncha. There are also serval walking trails, or levadas in Porto Moniz to explore.
Day Trip to Seixal
Another of the many day trips from Funchal is exploring Seixal. Seixal is a small village that boasts a black sand beach and a picturesque waterfall and viewpoint. With natural pools and plenty of tide pools to explore, Seixal’s beach is one of the only natural sand beaches in Madeira, and it is pitch black.
The natural pools are one of Seixal’s main attractions and many travelers cool off in the crystal clear water by switching between swimming in the natural pools and the ocean. There are also several hiking trails surrounding Seixal along the rugged coastline.
Seixal is not one of the tourist hotspots in Madeira, so it offers a tranquil and quiet experience for those looking to connect with nature. The contrast of the black sand, turquoise water, and vibrant emerald cliffs is well worth the visit.
Dolphin & Whale Watching Tours From Funchal
No trip to Funchal would be complete without setting out to sea on a tour to get a look at some playful dolphins. Many travelers say this is one of the most special things to do in Funchal, Portugal.
On either catamaran or speed boat tours, many people get lucky and actually get dolphins to join them around the boat playing in the wake and spinning out of the water.
The whale and dolphin tours in Funchal provide experienced guides who are very knowledgeable about marine life in the area. Book your tour today: GetYourGuide.com
Sunset Boat Tours
Another fantastic way to enjoy the water is on a sunset private boat tour. Looking out at radiant skies with the everlasting Atlantic Ocean to one side and the dramatic cliffs and vibrant green landscape on the other are truly one of the most amazing experiences in Madeira.
Many sunset tours even get lucky and get to watch the dolphins playing on the surface while the sun goes down. You can enjoy this unforgettable experience with champagne and snacks while swimming, relaxing, or watching the waves crash onto the shore! It is one of the most romantic things to do in Funchal!
Cabo Girão Skywalk Funchal
One of the many popular places to visit in Funchal is the Cabo Girao Skywalk. This glass platform is one of Europe’s tallest sea cliffs at 580 meters up and is located on the cliff of Cabo Girão. Since the platform is glass, it provides visitors with the sensation of floating over the ocean when they look down at the dramatic drop beneath them.
Not for those afraid of heights, the skywalk is a thrilling experience. Not only does the skywalk have jaw-dropping views from above the clouds, but it is also one of the many free things to do in Funchal.
You can take public transport from the Funchal centre to reach the Cabo Girao Skywalk easily or book a full transfer tour for the perfect day in Funchal. You could easily knock out a day trip to Porto Moniz, Skywalk, and even visit Fanal Forrest.
Explore Funchal Old Town
When looking for things to do in the Funchal city centre, exploring the old town of Funchal should be at the top of the list. With cobblestone streets and colorful shops, quaint alleyways, and plenty of places to shop.
Stop by one of the many cafes and restaurants. Be sure to try poncha, a Madeiran alcoholic drink, and bolo do caco, a local flatbread with herbs, garlic, and butter smashed in the middle.
There are also a number of bars located on Rua de Santa Maria offering DJs, live music, and other fun things to do in Funchal at night.
Also on Rua de Santa Maria Street is the “Art of Open Doors”. It is an outdoor gallery that has been created by a group of local artists. As you walk down the street notice the old buildings there is something special about them. They are all uniquely painted doors and put life back into the old town of Funchal.
After you’ve seen the doors, the next stop on your trip around the old town should be the nearby Sè Funchal Cathedral. It’s tiny but worth the stop. This beautiful cathedral was built back in Portugal’s Age of Discovery and is a work of art.
If you head inside the Funchal Cathedral, has a beautifully painted ceiling carved from cedar wood. They are open every day and have daily mass at 8 am. Also, take a peek at the high altar to see the statue of Nossa Senhora do Monte.
Mercado dos Lavradores Farmers Market
In the heart of the Funchal city centre, Mercado dos Lavradores is open Monday- Saturday. Walk around and explore the hustle and bustle with vendors selling exotic fruits, fresh fish, and local delicacies.
The Mercado dos Lavradores has been a staple in Funchal Madeira since the 1930s and is inside a two-story old art deco building. The hand-painted tiles that Portugal is so famous for, are beautifully arranged in a big wave.
Keep your eyes peeled for the most famous exotic fruit on this Portuguese Island the passion fruit. It resembles a banana passion fruit and has the clout of a killer fruit. Seriously, if you do not wait for this fruit to mature properly it can kill you! Buy one, and wait until the “scales” fall off on their own, and then you are good to try it!
is one of the top things to see in Funchal.
Food & Madeira Wine Tour
When in Madeira, one of the top things to do is a food and wine tour in Funchal. Many wineries in the area offer tastings and guided tours giving visitors a unique taste of Madeiran wines along with an interesting look into how they were made.
There are also culinary walking tours that visit traditional markets and food stalls. Experiencing them with a local guide is incredibly worthwhile. Many restaurants offer food and wine pairing experiences, giving guests the chance to savor local cuisine along with carefully chosen Madeiran wines.
Most of this walking tour is indoors and is one of the best things to do in Funchal when it rains and people are looking to escape the beaches. Book your spot today!
After a long day of lounging at the beach in Funchal, head over to Barreurinha to enjoy a cocktail with a sea view. This fantastic Funchal restaurant has a stunning patio next to the ocean and even offers a live DJ. Bafferinha is one of the most popular bars in town and is one of the best things to do in Funchal.
Day Trip to Câmara Dos Lobos
This picturesque fishing village is only a short drive from Funchal. With a seafront promenade and colorful fishing boats, the restaurants along the port have some of the most mouthwatering seafood in Madeira.
There is a quaint old town, a stunning beach, and a cave tunnel to natural pools. Spending the day watching the fishing boats coming in and out of the harbor makes for one of the best day trips from Funchal. Or book a site-seeing tour with a local to get the inside scoop on this beautiful seaside town.
Cascata dos Anjos Waterfall
Madeira has plenty of quirky tourist attractions, but one of the most unique things to do from Funchal is taking a drive to the Madeiran car wash the Cascata dos Anjos, which is a waterfall directly on the road.
Located near Porto Moniz, Cascata dos Anjos dramatically plunges off of a cliff onto the middle of the road. With the lush greenery and views of crystal clear water, this natural beauty is worth the drive. As you approach you will hear squeals and screams as people take their turns running under the cascade! Don’t say I didn’t warn ya, the water is cold!
Find the Cascata dos Anjos here, and go at sunset if you can!
One of the best beaches in Funchal is Praia do Gorgulho. The beach is made up of pebbles and surrounded by cliffs giving shade and making it more private and serene than other beaches.
Sunbathing surrounded by the phenomenal landscape, snorkeling in the sparkling water, or enjoying lunch at the promenade at one of the Funchal restaurants.
Find the address to Gorgulho Beach here!
Praia Sao Tiago
Another one of the best places to see when visiting Funchal is the Praia Sao Tiago beach. This is a small free beach very close to Funchal city center below the Sao Tiago Fort. To enter the beach climb down the concert staircase.
On the shore, there are small pebbles and for those who have sensitive feet, it is recommended to wear water shoes. The water is clear and calm enough for snorkeling, and the best time to go is either early in the morning, or at sunset to beat the crowds. Also, the Sao Tiago Fort makes for a beautiful backdrop if you are going to get some sunbathing in.
After your swim grab a cold drink or glass of Madeira wine at Santiago’s bar next door, you cannot miss it! Spending a few hours in the sun at the Praia Sao Tiago is one of the best things to do in Funchal.
Hike Pico do Arieiro or PR1
Pico do Arieiro is one of the best sunrise spots on the south coast of Madeira. Only a 30-minute drive from Funchal city center, this mountain peak stands above the clouds and offers a 360 view of the surrounding coastal landscape.
Starting the day off by watching the sun come up over the ocean’s rugged mountains and the clouds feels like a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The hike is considered moderate to hard, and there are two ways to get there. The best way is to park in the closest parking lot and walk up.
The other way is to hike from Pico Ruivo and make your way there. Taking this route will take you about 4 hours if you stop to take photos. Which you should! I did both ways and prefer the first parking lot route.
The fog is unpredictable and can be a blessing or curse. It either covers everything up and makes it super hard to navigate, or it gives you a light covering making these beautiful mountains look even more magical. If you have the time, it is a great idea to hike this beautiful trail at different times of the day to ensure you get the views you are looking for.
Kayaking in the Funchal Bay
One of the best things to do in Funchal is to get off the land and into the water to explore the island by kayak. Kayaking is a fun and active way to explore the thriving coastal landscape. There are a number of kayak rental shops or kayak tour operators in Funchal.
Taking a guided kayak tour gives travelers the opportunity to explore the best spots while learning about local marine life and Madeira’s geography. Many kayakers get lucky and even get to encounter marine life such as dolphins and sea turtles.
Santa Catarina Park
Santa Catarina is a beautiful public park in the city centre of Funchal. Walk around and admire the tropical flowers, huge trees full of shade, playful lizards, birds, butterflies, and even swans in the big lake! Rest assured that there are public bathrooms and two small cafes to order a pick-me-up of tea, poncha, or coffee!
Or take a load off at one of the many benches and admire the views of the Funchal Marina. Like most places in Portugal, Santa Catarina Park is very family friendly with a big play area for children. It is easily walkable from Funchal’s old town, and it’s a perfect place to get out of the hot sun.
The first thing to do when visiting Funchal is to head down to the Marina. Here you will find a long stretch of luxury yachts, beer stands, and beautiful sculptures. It is in the middle of Praca do Provo and the CR7 Museum.
You can book all kinds of tours here, from fishing, dolphin watching, and snorkeling trips. You name you, they have it at the Funchal Marina. For a bite to head the locals love, Solar da Santola and Portalinao, as they both have amazing views of the water.
Live webcam of the Marina all year round.
Funchal Marina is easily walkable from old town, and most places to stay in Funchal!
There is no doubt when visiting Madeira you will see Christiano Ronaldos’s face, jersey, number, and even cutouts of him plastered everywhere. He is Madeira’s most famous resident, and even the Funchal airport is named after him! This brings us to one of the best things to do in Funchal, the CR7 Museum.
Check out his golden boots, rub his head for good luck, and see some love letters posted from his fans worldwide. Even if you aren’t a big soccer fan, you have to give Ronaldo respect as he is one of the best players to ever step on the pitch.
Find the CR7 Museum in Funchal city center right by the marina.
Wine Museums in Funchal
Calling all wine lovers! You have to check out the beautiful and historic Old Blandy Wine Lodge to taste the traditional alcoholic drink madeira wine. Take a tour, do a tasting, buy some bottles, whatever your feeling they have it.
You must make a reservation for a tour because even during the low season they book up fast! Expect your Maderia wine tour to last about 45 minutes and you are rewarded by tasting two types of wines when it’s done.
Also, very noteworthy is that you can buy however many bottles of Madeira wines that you want at Blandy’s wine lodge, and they will take them to the airport for you! No need to worry about passport control or stuffing it into your suitcase.
Santa Clara Convent
Up next is the Santa Clara Convert. To enter you have to ring the bell and the magic door opens. For a very small fee, you are guided around this beautiful hidden gem in Funhcal. The nun who leads the tour can speak English, French, and Portuguese with ease.
This Convert is like stepping back to a simpler part of time, and is worth the visit if you have 30 minutes to spare! Find them here in Funchal Santa Clara convent.