Sightseeing in Madeira
Madeira has numerous opportunities for sight seeing and discovering more about this historic island. The Madeira Story Centre, located in the Old Town of Funchal, is a great place to start as you can learn everything about Madeira’s history, from its volcanic birth 14 million years ago to the present day.
The Sao Vicente Caves give evidence of Madeira’s volcanic past with long stretches of lava tubes formed in an eruption 400,000 years ago. The fascinating underground tour will take you into the bowels of the Earth where you will see fascinating rock formations and no doubt learn a thing or two.
Another natural wonder is the Laurissilva Forest which covers 20% of the island’s surface and is classified as a UNESCO world heritage site.
There are plenty of museums in Madeira to explore including the Whale Museum on the east coast of the island, chronicling the rise and fall of this former vital industry. There is also the popular Frederico de Freitas Museum which is an antique lover’s heaven and contains a vast collection of Turkish, Moorish and North African tiles, mugs, trophies and vases.
Sé is the Cathedral in the heart of Funchal and the most impressive religious building on the island. Although it is not spectacular outside, the inside is magnificently constructed and adorned.
Away from the main resorts you can take a cable car ride from Parque Almirante Reis in Old Town Funchal up into the hills to the quaint village of Monte. Spend an afternoon exploring this picturesque village and sampling some local cuisine, you will also be rewarded with stunning panoramic views across the island on your way up.
Further a field you can take a boat excursion to Madeira’s sister island of Porto Santo. Located 24 miles north east of Madeira, Porto Santo has many treasures of its own to offer including a rich history involving the visit of Christopher Columbus and a 5 mile stretch of beautiful, gold sandy beach on its south coast.
Fun Seekers in Madeira
Madeira is a quality destination for an active holiday with a diverse landscape and excellent coastline, great for all kinds of different sports.
The island is an up and coming destination for surfers who can take advantage of the North Atlantic swells that create fantastic surfing conditions.
There are also some great golf courses on the island with two of the best being Palheiro Golf and Santo de Serra Golf Club.
Scuba diving is popular with several diving schools in the area, so you can take advantage of the crystal clear water and try and spot creatures like barracudas, monkfish, dolphins and rays. Out to sea Madeira has some amazing big game fishing grounds as close as only 5 miles away from the harbour with opportunities to catch marlin and tuna. Whale and dolphin spotting trips are also popular.
If shopping is more your kind of sport then Madeira doesn’t disappoint. The main shopping centres and streets are to be found in Funchal, with Forum Madeira and Dolce Vita being two of the biggest and most modern with over 70 shops each. If you’re after something more authentic then the Mercado dos Lavradores farmer’s market is where you can pick up everything from flowers and music to fish, as well as good quality local wares including embroidery and tapestry.
A wine tasting trip is a must of any holiday to Madeira so you can give the famous sweet wine a try. You could even combine it with a vineyard tour or dinner.
Madeira offers a huge choice of eateries from international cuisine in the main towns and resorts to delicious local dishes, the most authentic of which can be found in the villages.
The nightlife is mainly focused around Funchal and the main resort areas with a huge variety of café-bars, pubs, bars, nightclubs, and discos available. Whether you want a quiet night with a glass of wine or you want to dance the night away, there is something for everyone.
Family Fun in Madeira
Madeira is a family haven if you’re looking for relaxing beaches and coves, pools and activities. The Lido is especially popular with families as it is a Blue Flag complex of large and small sea water pools and the most popular bathing area in Funchal.
As Madeira is a volcanic island it has black sand or pebbled beaches but this doesn’t mean that they are any less fun than the golden sand variety! There are vast choices for water sports and the sea is crystal clear and mild in temperature, perfect for all the family to spend their days having splashing fun by the coast.
Away from the beach there is Santana Theme Park, a discovery journey of Madeira combined with fun rides spread over 7 hectares of land. There is also Santa Cruz Water Park with several pools, a lazy river and lots of slides.
For all of those little explorers out there Levada Walks are a great way for all the family to enjoy the best scenery that Madeira has to offer with many trails to follow. You can even go trekking or mountain biking!
Romantic Breaks in Madeira
Described by Winston Churchill as a ‘floating garden’, Madeira’s mild climate, lush vegetation, flowers and relaxing atmosphere has made the island first choice for honeymooners and couples looking to get away from it all.
With numerous gardens and parks you and your loved one can while away the afternoons with a picnic or quiet stroll amongst beautiful scenery. The Boa Vista Orchid Garden is one of the most beautiful with a colourful backdrop of flowers for your walk.
There are spas aplenty if you’re looking for a bit of pampering to go along with your relaxation to leave you rejuvenated or spend some time on the numerous beaches by the crystal clear sea.
Take a walk along the promenade before dining at one of the delicious restaurants on offer in Funchal. Or you could even head into the hills to one of the small village restaurants for authentic Madeiran cuisine and their famous wine.
Top Tips for Madeira
Try some delicious local food including Espada (fish with banana) and Poncha (a drink made from sugar cane rum, bee’s honey and lemon).
Cost of a pint of beer approx. £1.80.