Funchal, Madeira, Portugal
Name: Portos da Madeira
Address: Av. Sá Carneiro n.3, 4 e 5 9004-518 Funchal
Phone: +351 291 208 600
Funchal Harbor is now exclusively used by cruise ships and pleasure craft. It used to be the main container port for the island of Madeira but a new commercial port has been built nearby.
The cruise terminal is just a 15-minute walk from downtown Funchal. Taxis and car rentals are available. The airport is 22 km from the center of town and the cruise terminal and the best way into town is by taxi.
Madeira has been a European tourist destination for a couple of centuries so the island has a wide selection of hotels of all price ranges and character.
Reid’s Palace is set on the cliff tops overlooking the Bay of Funchal and the Atlantic, is an Orient Express property and has, since 1891, been a standard bearer for excellence on the island. While working on his war memoirs and painting in the nearby village of Câmara de Lobos, Winston Churchill occupied rooms on the ground floor.
Nestled within 3.5 hectares of beautifully landscaped gardens, the Madeira Palacio Resort Hotel is a 10-minute drive from Funchal. Overlooking the sea, it is 22 kilometers from the Funchal Airport and has undergone a complete renovation.
The Pestana Carlton Madeira is a luxurious five-star hotel that was one of the first hotels built in Madeira. It has been recently refurbished in a modern motif while maintaining its former elegance.
Situated just 300 meters from Funchal’s city center next to the harbor, the Quinta da Penha de França has oceanfront access and has two sections. The original hotel sits on a cliff and was built around an old manor house, surrounded by subtropical gardens. A more recent addition, the Penha França Mar, is located on the ocean shore with direct access to the sea via a swimming platform.
Off the beaten track is the Hotel Oasis Atlantic, situated on the sea front only 10 meters from the Reis Magos beach in the fishing village of Caniço de Baixo. It’s ideal for those who want to get away from the city and enjoy a seaside resort.
Madeira and the neighboring island of Porto Santo are situated in the Atlantic Ocean off the West African coast, just north of the Canary Islands. Madeira is 36 miles long and 14 miles wide and has a population of approximately 300,000.
Porto Santo, 74 kilometers northeast of Funchal, is much smaller – only nine miles long and three miles wide. The main attraction there is an eight-kilometer-long white sand beach, in contrast to Madeira’s breathtaking volcanic rock shoreline. It’s a two-hour boat ride from Funchal to Porto Santo.
Madeira’s almost five-century-old capital is supposed to have been named Funchal because of the abundance of fennel (funcho) that was growing there. The volcanic island is covered in colorful flowers and fruit trees.
It’s a small island but the rugged mountains and tortuous roads make it seem much larger. It’s rumored that some of Madeira’s residents in outlying villages have never even been to the main city Funchal, much less to the mainland because of the ruggedness of the countryside. But that might just be local legend.
Nonetheless, the amphitheater of Funchal city begins at the harbor and rises almost 1,200 meters high on gentle slopes. This provides a natural shelter and was what once attracted the first settlers. Today’s Funchal is a modern city with some 104,000 inhabitants.
The island was discovered in 1419, and the city of Funchal was established soon thereafter. The wildlife in the surrounding area is remarkable and the museums are outstanding. Although Funchal is quite built up, the remainder of the island is remote and made up of dense jungle.
Since the city is located on the south side of the Madeira Islands, it was the first halting place for Portuguese and Spanish ships on their way to the New World.
Nearly all the fun and exciting activities on Madeira are located in Funchal, and the restaurants here are splendid. You are sure to be pleased by the fine dining facilities, good shopping, and active nightlife. There are a number of very nice stores, lively bars, and nightclubs.
And there are numerous museums scattered throughout the city including the Museum of Contemporary Art that, surprisingly, is considered to be one of the top five art museums in Portugal. The collection of contemporary art is unique in that much of the acquisitions are indeed donations by the artists themselves. Some paintings are bought. But again these are usually purchased at a token fee to the original artist or owner.
The quality of the Madeira lace is world known and it continues to be produced with over 20,000 cottage industry workers scattered over the island. Another equally famous product is Madeira wine. Make a visit to the Adegas de São Franciso to learn how it is made and stored as the oldest bottles still existing date from 1772.
Quinta das Cruzes is the house of Madeira’s discoverer Joao Goncalves Zarco. It is now a museum and depicts much of the island;s history. Next door is a 16th century church where Saint Clare is buried.
The city can easily be explored by foot and no matter where your hotel is located (as long as it is in the Funchal tourist area) you will find no difficulty in walking into the city center to delight at its sights and sounds.
Things to do:
The cable car to Monte is one of the island’s favorite destinations and allows you to go inland and to see Madeira from the hills. At one time, a rack and pinion railway hauled cruise line passengers from Funchal to Monte, but the old railway closed in 1939, and today a cable car carries passengers to the top. Atop Monte, you can board a typical wicker basket sled that was once used to travel downhill…and some still make the trip.
The Madeira Wine Museum and wine cellars are adjacent to the old convent of the Order of St. Francis. Here is where you learn about Madeira Wine History and, obviously an opportunity to taste and buy them.
– By Ray Chatelain