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
- 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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
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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..
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