How to visit Funchal for under £100 a night
Located on the sunny south coast of Madeira overlooking the Atlantic, the terracotta-roofed houses of Funchal stretch out over the lower slopes of a mountain range.
Dubbed the Floating Garden of the Atlantic, palm trees line the roads, green spaces are awash in vibrant hues, while the rocky coastline is lined with ever-blooming bougainvillea and poinsettias.
Add in a favorable year-round climate (temperatures rarely drop below 18°C) and you’ll understand why over a million tourists visit each year.
Majestic: An aerial view of Funchal, the capital of Madeira, from a cable car
Where to stay
A two-minute walk from the cathedral, this blue-fronted hotel in the center of Funchal offers 54 contemporary rooms in sober colors juxtaposing the eclectic style of the lobby with its Venetian chandelier, its old-fashioned radiogram and its mini-bar from a converted wardrobe. Be sure to head to the quirky terrace bar (which serves drinks from 4pm to 11pm) to take in the panoramic views. B&B doubles from £76 (seboutiquehotel.com).
Hotel do Carmo
This downtown hotel features a rooftop pool and bar with stunning 360-degree views. Inside, it’s like stepping back to the 60s, with huge images of icons from the decade – including Paul Newman and Andy Warhol – adorning the walls of the rooms. The theme continues with the monochromatic color scheme and the collection of vintage crates, radios, and other items scattered throughout the hotel. All 80 rooms are smart and 49 have balconies (these cost an extra £8.85 for limited views). B&B doubles from £53 (hoteldocarmomadeira.com).
Santa Maria Inn
Don’t be put off by the word hostel. Yes, there are dorms and double rooms with shared bathrooms, but this old school in the heart of the old town also has two tastefully decorated private suites with TVs, king-size beds and freestanding bathtubs. Friendly staff greet you in the ruby-red walled reception area. B&B double rooms from £35; suites from £53; breakfast included (www.santamariafunchal.com).
Hotel in Dorisol
Three apart-hotels in one are found in this complex, just a short walk from the town and the promenade. For the most beautiful views, choose the Hotel Mimosa, its 99 studios have been redecorated this year. Although only three stars, this 50-year-old family resort stands out for its tennis court, pools, restaurants, and evening entertainment. B&B doubles from £45 (dorisol.com).
What to see and do
Fancy a hike?
Levada trails are popular. These 16th century irrigation canals crisscross the island, through ancient laurel forests, under waterfalls and around mountains. Take a guided walk with Adventure Kingdom (£32, madeira-adventure-kingdom.com). A walk not to be missed is along Ponta de Sao Lourenco, the jagged peninsula marking the easternmost point of Madeira. To get there, hire a car (from £36, drivingmadeira.com).
Explore the old town
Walk the streets of the old town, lined with galleries, shops, cafes and restaurants
Wander the streets of the old town lined with galleries, shops, cafes and restaurants. Don’t miss Rua de Santa Maria. Here, around 200 doors have been rejuvenated with vivid paintings, transforming the street into a permanent art gallery. Stop at Tapas do Anibal for a tuna sandwich (£2.22) and a glass of wine (£1.78).
Prepare a picnic
Funchal has a myriad of parks full of beautiful flowers and plants. Grab some picnic food from a supermarket or bakery and relax in Santa Catarina Park. From here you can admire Funchal Bay and enjoy a refreshing homemade lemonade (£2.90) at the cafe overlooking the harbour.
Museums cover everything from electricity to embroidery. Football fans will appreciate CR7, the museum of Cristiano Ronaldo housing more than 150 trophies, as well as balls, shirts and other memorabilia (museucr7.com). Try incorporating a visit to the Madeira Story Centre, which traces the island’s history (madeirastorycentre.com).
Board the ferry (£43 return, portosantolina.pt) and spend the day on the sister island of Porto Santo, with its 10 km long sandy beach. The crossing takes two hours, but you will be amazed by the imposing landscape of Madeira from the sea.
Enjoy the ride
Admire the black-and-white mosaic sidewalks along the marina towards the east side of the waterfront. Head to the bustling Workers’ Market, where a profusion of fruit, vegetables, flowers and fish produce a feast of colors and aromas.
Jump in a basket
Palace Tropical Gardens features tropical plants from around the world
Take a cable car (£9.76 one way) to Monte, a hilltop suburb of Funchal, and visit the Palace’s Tropical Gardens (£11), which feature tropical plants from around the world. When you’re done, head back down Madeira’s famous toboggan run. Introduced in the 19th century to transport goods up the three-mile hill, the wicker toboggans now bring tourists back to Funchal (£26.60 for two). Not for the faint-hearted.
Where to eat
Riso, Risotto del Mundo
With its cliff-top terrace overlooking the ocean, Riso specializes in rice dishes from around the world, even for dessert. The fine cuisine is complemented by the sight and sound of the ocean crashing against the rocks below. Try the beetroot risotto with goat cheese au gratin (£11.98) followed by delicious Thai black rice with coconut milk and mango (£4.80). Address: Rua de Santa Maria 274, riso-fx.com.
Café do Museu
Choose a table outside in the cobbled courtyard and watch the world go by at this café located in the Museum of Sacred Art, opposite the town hall. A popular pit stop frequented by locals, try the chestnut soup with chives and sunflower seeds (£3.19) followed by an espresso (67p).
For something heartier, choose the lunchtime special (available 12pm-3pm): a main course, a drink (including wine or beer) and a coffee for £7.97. Black scabbard tenderloin with potatoes, vegetables and passion fruit sauce is popular. Address: Praca do Municipio 85.
Don’t be put off by the fact that it’s located next to a busy roundabout by the harbour, it’s not every day you get the chance to dine in a cave. Relax outside and watch what happens, or sit inside under the chandeliers and stalactite decor.
This natural cave under Santa Catarina Park reopened this year after three decades. Try a steak sandwich (£4.25) or the tomato and onion soup with a poached egg (£3.99). Address: Sa Carneiro Avenue.
Stroll along the promenade and stop at this harbor beer garden (open until 1am). Enjoy a traditional honey cake (£1.73) with a glass of Madeira wine (£2.88) while watching the boats come and go. Address: Avenida do Mar and das Comunidades Madeirenses.