Funchal Madeira

Funchal Madeira

Funchal Madeira Portugal Funchal Madeira Portugal

Exploring the Capital of the Atlantic's Garden Isle - Culture, Cuisine, and Scenic Splendor

We were onboard the Norwegian Cruise Lines 'Epic' on a repositioning cruise from Port Canaveral, FL to Barcelona with various stops along the way - the second stop being Funchal.

Funchal is 3,797 sea miles from Port Canaveral and 648 sea miles southwest of Portugal. It is the largest city and the capital of Madeira. It’s population is about 111,892 and it has been the capital of Madeira for more the five hundred years. The name is derived from the Portuguese word "funcho" (fennel) and the suffix "-al", to denote "a plantation of fennel". Click here to go to the Funchal Wiki Page.

The island of Madeira is sometimes called the “Floating Garden”. Flowers bloom year round on the island and there are gardens and parks all over the city of Funchal. Our camera captured a few of the flowers and flowering trees as we toured the city. I kept thinking about my grandmother while I was there. She was from Portugal and plants and flowers were a big part of her life; lovingly caring for them on her front porch. I conjured an image of her in my mind…a big smile on her face, happy to see the flowers that adorn the city.

Interesting facts about Madeira   Map
Travel Tile
  • Madeira Island is closer to Africa than it is to Europe. Located just 280 nautical miles from the African coast, it is more than 500 miles to Lisbon.
  • The island has the world’s largest fireworks display for New Years Eve. ​They even made it into the Guinness Book of World Records in 2006.
  • Madeira island is home to Europe’s tallest sea cliff - more than 1,900 feet above the sea; Cabo Girão.
  • There are more than 25 miles of tunnels throughout the island. Most of these were built throughout the 16th century. However the construction didn’t stop until and all the way up to the 1940’s. They were built to help with building and maintaining the hundreds of miles of aqueducts called Levadas that cover the island.
  • There are more than 1,300 miles of hiking trails in Madeira.
  • Plants grow here that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
Funchal Coat of ArmsImage is the property of Heraldry of the World
Exploring Funchal   Map

The ship took 36 hours to travel from Ponte Delgada to Funchal. It’s only 607 miles so we suspect that the ship slowed down to arrive early in the morning to allow all passengers time to visit the city ( 607 miles in 36 hours is approximately 16 mph, somewhat slower than the Epic cruising speed).

We didn’t book a ship excursion. Everything there is to do in town is in close proximity to the port and it’s easy enough to walk or take taxis which was more cost effective than the ship excursions.

 Quick History Lesson 

Funchal began around 1424, when the island was divided into two captaincies, and the zones that would become the urbanized core of Funchal would be founded by João Gonçalves Zarco who settled there with members of his family. Owing to its geographic location, the site became an important maritime port, whereas its productive soils became a focus of new settlers. Its coastal position, the most productive on the island, quickly permitted Funchal to develop an urban core and surpass the populations of other settlements, which slowly gravitated around it.

Funchal is the largest city, the municipal seat and the capital of Portugal's Autonomous Region of Madeira, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean. The city has a population of 111,892, making it the sixth largest city in Portugal, and has been the capital of Madeira for more than five centuries. Because of its high cultural and historical value, Funchal is one of Portugal's main tourist attractions. It is also popular as a destination for New Year's Eve, and it is the leading Portuguese port on cruise liner dockings.

Wikipedia Logo The above information was extracted from Wikipedia.
Exploring Funchal   Map

We took a taxi to the Teleferico Do Funchal (cable car) so that we could head up to Monte to take the famous toboggan ride back down. Since we weren’t going to come back down on the cable car, we got a one way fair to the top which was 11 euro per adult. If you wish to see the botanical garden (via another cable car from the top) the cost would have been 31,40 euro per person. We didn’t do the garden but in hindsight I wish we had.

This building is where you purchase your tickets for the gondola ride to the top of Monte, and the queue seen in this picture gives you a pretty good idea of how popular this cable car is!


Image # 2 is the property of Michael Gaylardvia Wikipedia Commons (Creative Commons 2.0). All other images are the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC unless otherwise noted.

Hiker Dudes ImageKeep in mind that the Teleferico cable car does not open until 9 AM and the Toboggan run opens at around the same time. This means that people will queue up at the cable car and also at the toboggan run which means the lines can take some time to get through. Especially when the boat excursion cut in front with people from the tours. Next time we go we would probably visit the botanical garden or the town of Funchal first and plan to go up late morning after the initial Toboggan crowds die down.
 Quick History Lesson 

There was a "cog train" (called the "Pombal Railway") that operated between 1893 and 1943 which would take passengers from the city of Funchal to the top of Monte. There was additional service to Terreiro da Luta as well.

The current Teleferico Funchal building is sitting on the original location of the Pombal Railway station where the cog train started from.

Wikipedia Logo The above information was extracted from Wikipedia.

The cable car views allowed us to see the layout of the city and the harbor below. Mostly white houses with orange tile roofs make up the city. The hills are steep to the point that I’m not sure I’d be comfortable driving until I got used to it. Think San Francisco on a smaller scale, with narrower streets and sometimes steeper hills.

At the top, there was an overlook to get more photos and some gardens. It was a short walk down around the corner to the toboggan area and the Church on top of Monte.

 Quick History Lesson 

In 1470 a chapel (dedicated to Nossa Senhora da Encarnação) was built on the Church of Our Lady of Monte site by Adão Gonçalves Ferreira, the first man born in Madeira. On 10 June 1741, the first stone of the current Church dedicated to Our Lady of Monte was laid. A few months after the church was completed, the Church was seriously affected by an earthquake on 31 March 1748. It was rebuilt and on 20 December 1818 the Church was finally consecrated by the Archbishop of Meliapor and administrator of the Diocese D. Frei Joaquim de Meneses e Ataíde.

Emperor Charles I of Austria died in exile on Madeira and was laid to rest in the church.

Wikipedia Logo The above information was extracted from Wikipedia.
Top of Monte

The area at the top of Monte is partially surrounded by the Monte Palace Tropical Garden and above that is a suburban area where we hiked up along the Caminho do Ferro. The road quickly ascends to where it is above all the houses on the city-side, so the views (all the way to the harbor) were superb.

The area surrounding Monte Palace Tropical Garden is renowned for its natural beauty and cultural richness. Situated amidst lush greenery, the garden offers a tranquil escape with its diverse collection of exotic flora and serene water features. Visitors can explore winding pathways that lead to scenic viewpoints overlooking Funchal Bay and the surrounding mountains. Additionally, the area boasts historical significance, with attractions such as the Monte Palace Museum showcasing fascinating exhibits on Madeiran history and culture. Whether admiring the botanical wonders or delving into local heritage.

Open daily from 9:30AM to 6PM everyday and the entrance fee is €10 per person and children under 15 are free. We did not have time to enter & explore the gardens, but we did see quite a bit of it while waiting for our toboggan ride. If we had not been time limited, we would have spent more time here, as it is beautiful.

 Quick History Lesson 

The Monte Palace Tropical Garden opened to the public in 1991. This masterpiece was put together by José Berardo and includes one of the most important tile collections in Portugal. The tiles exhibited amidst the tropical vegetation represent several ages, coming from palaces, churches, chapels and private houses throughout the former Portuguese empire. Most of them describe social, cultural and religious events. From these we point out a door from the 18th century, framed by a chapel’s frontispiece, with two lateral figures holding the stones of the 10 Commandments and a sword; and 40 tile panels telling the Portuguese history, beginning with the kingdom of Dom Afonso Henriques and ending with a panel dedicated to the Third Republic.

Wikipedia Logo The above information was extracted from Wikipedia.
Carreiros do Monte (Toboggan run)

The Carreiros do Monte is a renowned tourist attraction famous for its traditional wicker toboggan rides. These toboggan rides originated as a mode of transportation for locals in the early 19th century and have evolved into an exhilarating tourist experience. Visitors embark on a thrilling descent down winding roads, guided by skilled carreiros dressed in white uniforms and straw hats. The ride offers breathtaking views of Funchal Bay and lush landscapes along the way. Carreiros do Monte is not only an adrenaline-pumping adventure but also a cultural immersion into Madeiran history and tradition, captivating travelers from around the world.

The toboggan run is about 2Km long and you can reach 48km per hour in spots. You can see in one of the above images where we had just started the toboggan ride, as well as one of the places where we slowed to turn a corner. Be sure to take a look at our video (below) of our toboggan ride!

Click this image to watch a video of our toboggan ride down from Monte.
This video is the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC.
Or click here to subscribe to our Youtube Channel.

Down the hill to Funchal

We caught a taxi from the end point of the toboggan ride to the edge of the city and did some exploring. We found ourselves at Praca do Carmo plaza at lunch time where there were numerous restaurants. We ate lunch at Restaurante Sabores where we sat outside. We endulged ourselves with a bottle of Vinho Verde, some fresh fish, french fries and I had an excellent omelete.

Hiker Dudes ImageNegotiate with the taxi drivers if you want a quick and reasonably priced trip down. Otherwise you can take the bus - there is a stop very close to the end of the toboggan ride.

Mercado dos Lavradores Exploration

After lunch with headed over to Mercado dos Lavradores - which is a combined shopping center and open air vegetable and fish market. There were tourist shops with things made out of cork, local crafts, and the obligatory t-shirts. We saw many people from the ship here. Note that we didn’t have a map or anything we just wandered into these places. The town is pretty compact and it was not difficult to find interesting things to see.


NOTE: After liking what we saw on our short visit to Madeira Terry did some deeper research and found that there are some beautiful hikes and scenery outside of the city of Funchal and much more to see and do - and we both agreed that we should place Madeira onto our list of places that we would like to revisit & spend more time there.

As an example, go to YouTube and enter "Madeira Hiking" and you will get a large list of some amazing videos, below are several good ones - and there are many more;

  • Just Traveling Thru European Travel Tips
  • Just Traveling Thru Travel Planning Tips
  • The 5 best hikes of Madeira | World Wanderista
  • Madeira, the most thrilling hike: Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo | Vlog 1 | World Wanderista
  • 7 days on an amazing island
  • Madeira Levada Walks on the "Youtube" site
  • Madeira - Top 10 Hikes
  • Madeira Drone Views (this is a great video with beautiful views of the island)
  • The Best of Madeira on the "Youtube" site
  • Madeira History on the "Madeira Web" site
  • Discovering Madeira Website
  • Google Search Results list for "Funchal Restaurants"
  • Google Search Results list for "accommodations in Funchal"
  • Visit our Youtube Channel
  • Funchal Tours from the "Get Your Guide" site
  • Our Image Gallery for Funchal
  • Wikipedia Article for Funchal
  • Google Image Gallery for Funchal


You should be aware that Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) varies where their ships go, as well as what ships they will reposition. To determine where NCL is sending what ships, you should visit their website. Our list of ports below, is based upon what the "Epic" did when we were onboard in 2019.

 Norwegian 'Epic' Cruise Overview
This is a large ship; 1,081 feet long, 155,873 gross tons in weight, and 133 feet wide. We cover the ship from bow to stern in our overview page.
Visit our Cruise Overview Page
 Ponta Delgada, Portugal
Ponta Delgada is located on São Miguel Island, the largest and most populous in the archipelago. 137,856 (2012) island population and 62.1 kilometers in length by 15.8 kilometers in width.
Visit our Ponta Delgada Page
 Funchal Madeira Portugal
This island is 599 miles from Ponta Delgada, with a population of 267,785. The island is 35 miles long and 13 miles wide and has 99 miles of coastline, but the shore is all rock and cliffs. It's a mountainous island; the highest peak is 1,862 meters/6,100 feet high.
Visit our Funchal Page
 Cadiz/Seville, Spain
This port is 659 miles from Madeira. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Western Europe, with archaeological remains dating to 3,100 years and was founded by the Phoenicians.
Visit our Cadiz/Seville Page
 Malaga, Spain
This port is 141.5 miles from Cadiz. With a population of 571,026 in 2018, it is the second-most populous city of Andalusia and the sixth-largest in Spain. The southernmost large city in Europe, it lies on the Costa del Sol (Coast of the Sun) of the Mediterranean.
Visit our Malaga Page
 Cartagena, Spain
This port is 199 miles from Malaga. With a population of 213,943 inhabitants, being the Region’s second-largest municipality and Spain’s sixth-largest non-Province-capital city.
Visit our Cartagena Page
 Mallorca, Spain
This port is 334 miles from Cartagena and it is the capital and largest city of the autonomous community of the Balearic Islands in Spain. Population of 409,661.
Visit our Mallorca Page
 Barcelona, Spain
This port is 153 miles from Palma. It is the capital and largest city of the autonomous community of Catalonia, as well as the second most populous municipality of Spain. With a population of 1.6 million within city limits.
Visit our Barcelona Page



Disclosure: Some of the links on this page are Affiliate Links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, that we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. So we would appreciate any click throughs, if you are inclined.

Note: All images on this page are the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC unless otherwise noted.

Note: If you are interested, click here to view our European Travel Tips & Warnings. Or to take a look at our methods for planning, click here to view our Trip Planning Page..

 Visit our Store 
Come Explore our Tee Shirt Shop!
 Visit our Favorite Charity 
Come Explore our Favorite Charity!



To review any of our content, make suggestions and/or comments, please click the "Info" menu button at the top of this page. You will find our "Contact Us" link on that drop-down menu.

Matomo Link