How to spend a day in Funchal
Funchal is the capital city of the Autonomous Region of Madeira and situated in the South of the island. The first settlers named the city after the abundant wild fennel that grew in the valley where the city was founded. The city of Funchal is framed by a spectacular backdrop consisting of beautiful lush mountains on one side and by the vast Atlantic Ocean on the other.
In total we spent 2 afternoons in Funchal. But we used most of our time to just wander around more or less aimlessly and soak in the city. Thus we did not do many of the major tourist attractions of the city. In this post we write about some of the things we got up to while in Funchal. If you wish to read more about what we did during our time on Madeira, head to our Extensive Sightseeing Guide to Madeira!
Stroll around the port
We parked our car in a car park called Parking Gerage Funchal situated in the city center right at the port. So the first thing we did was walk towards the beach. And then up the big walls that shut the port area from the sea. From here we were able to get the first stunning views of the city.
Up until the Second World War many great ocean-liners stopped at the Funchal port thanks to its strategic mid-Atlantic location. The port was therefore an important port of call for various routes between Europe, Africa and America. Today mostly cruise ships stop here.
The port area was actually one of our favorite areas of the city. You can escape from the busy streets and just enjoy the calm atmosphere in between the masts of the boats docked in the port. Later in the day we actually spent quite some time just sitting on a bench in the midst of all the boats and yachts and simply enjoyed the sun.
Old town (Zona Velha)
The Zona Velha starts directly behind the parking garage we parked at and is therefore situated only one street away from the port. Nowadays this area is rather famous for its colored doors. They are part of the Street ArT of opEN doors project that is mainly focused on the Rua de Santa Maria. The project’s intend was to introduce the city of Funchal to art and culture, by giving new life to the old and forgotten doors that lead to abandoned buildings and shops.
The project resulted in really beautiful artworks on the doors and building walls of this area of the city. The artist’s name is usually indicated on a sign next to the door.
Miradouro do Lazareto
We would consider this next spot a hidden gem because apart from us no other tourists seemed to have found their way here. But we were there during rather quiet times so maybe that was only our impression. If you simply follow the Rua de Santa Maria and the following street always further up the hill, you will some when reach a beautiful viewpoint called Miradouro do Lazareto.
We actually found this viewpoint randomly on Google Maps and wanted to check it out so we followed said street up the hill. The street is leading you through more residential areas always along the shore. The viewpoint is actually a small parking lot that is situated directly above the sea. The platform is framed by a wall that looks out to the sea as well as towards the city center. The views were absolutely stunning! We sat on the wall for quite some time just soaking in the view!
The Botanical Gardens
The Botanical Gardens are situated quite high up in the hills of Funchal not far from the famous area called Monte. There are usually gondolas that will take you up the hill towards the Monte area. However when we visited the gondolas were closed (we are not sure if that was pandemic related or not). So on our first day in Funchal we actually skipped this area completely. It wasn’t until our second visit to the city that we made our way up the hills. We visited the Botanical Gardens which are usually portrayed in one of the first pictures of Funchal when looking up the city.
We parked our car at a parking lot a little further down the street of the entrance to the gardens. The entrance fee is 6€ per person. You can also buy a combined ticket for the Botanical Gardens and the gondola between the gardens and Monte for 13€. To save you some confusion (which we had): there are two gondolas, one going from the port to the Monte area and one from the Monte area to the Botanical Gardens. The 13€ ticket includes the second one.
The Botanical Gardens have some nice areas with really beautiful flowers and some amazing views over the city. However, when we were there we did have the feeling that some areas of the gardens were a little run down. But that could also have been due to the pandemic and the gardens being closed for a while – we are not sure. Nonetheless we did enjoy our time there!
Things we missed
We did not do the famous wooden sledges or the Monte area of the city in general. However, we would like to go back and visit this area someday.
Other than that we would have liked to properly visit the Mercado Lavradores. We briefly entered the market, but it was already later in the day and the mornings are a better time to go.
Bonus Tip: Chocolate
Located in the city center of Funchal is a really great chocolate shop called UauCacau. We discovered it on Google Maps actually due to its really great reviews. When looking up the shop we knew we needed to try it. But on the first day there was a rather big line in front of the shop so we checked it out on our second visit to Funchal. This time the shop was empty (lucky for us) so we were able to take our time picking out the chocolates we wanted. They have a huge selection of different flavors, each in a different shape. We bought a box of 10 chocolates to enjoy back at our AirBnB! If you like chocolate we highly recommend you check it out!