Where to eat, sleep and play while on vacation in Funchal, Madeira

A soothing destination (Photo: Tanyel Mustafa)

Fancy a year-end getaway?

Madeira is one of those Goldilocks vacation spots. It enjoys decent weather most of the year, being located in the Atlantic Ocean and geographically closer to Africa than Europe.

The Portuguese island is sleepy and slow-paced, even in Funchal, the capital.

For this reason, it is an ideal short break for those who have relaxation at the top of their list of priorities.

For four days we were able to explore many local activities as well as one of the best hotels you can stay in.

However, if you’re flying in from the UK and heading straight home, make the trip for five days, as the nearly four-hour flight seems a little too out of reach for a long weekend.

Here’s why we think you should add Madeira to your travel bucket list.


The place of residence is Palace of Savoy – while it has nothing to do with the Savoy here, although it is genuinely full of things to discover and try.

The rooms are second to none. The suite I stayed in – around £650 a night at this time of year – had two showers and a bath, huge comfortable bed, sea view with a large balcony and seating area.

I’m never one to wander into a hotel room, wanting to explore, but I must admit I left this peaceful, dreamy space with great reluctance.

A sea view is never a bad idea (Photo: Tanyel Mustafa)
A bath had to be taken (Photo: Tanyel Mustafa)

Being in one of the most luxurious suites on offer means access to a private infinity pool.

I used it early in the morning when no one else was around, calmly swimming up and down while looking out at the sea and the surrounding mountains.

These leisurely half-hour sessions couldn’t have been more perfect – and I even snuck in there one morning before sunrise, basking in the moonlight.

Swimming with this view (Photo: Tanyel Mustafa)
The view from the 16th floor (Photo: Tanyel Mustafa)
A welcome reception (Photo: Tanyel Mustafa)

Spa facilities were great too, with everything you would expect – sauna, steam room, pool and jacuzzi.

The real reason to go there though is for a massage. I had a forest therapy massage which they were testing and it was so soothing I fell asleep at the end and my limbs were floppy.

Thermal pool (Photo: Tanyel Mustafa)
Night swimming (Photo: Tanyel Mustafa)


The food here is something to be experienced indulgently and to the full – it’s a fish lover’s dream.

At the Savoy Palace there are several restaurants with different themes – from sushi to gastronomy – which allow you to taste authentic Portuguese cuisine and dishes with modern touches.

Throughout the options, local fish dishes can change daily, and many Madeirans will dine at the hotel, simply enjoying the food on offer without needing to stay the night – which is a good sign as tourist.

Sushi dreams (Photo: Tanyel Mustafa)
Soft wagyu on a bamboo stick (Photo: Tanyel Mustafa)
Lobster rolls (Photo: Tanyel Mustafa)
Poncha (Photo: Tanyel Mustafa)

One dish you must try for an authentic experience is Bacalhau à Brás, made with salted cod, potatoes and eggs, all mixed together for a multi-textured and very tasty meal.

Otherwise, on the fish side, there is lobster, tuna, black scabbard and many others.

For those with meatier tastes, at Galaxia, the gourmet restaurant, wagyu beef is served on a bamboo stick, which is a nod to an old Madeiran tradition that you have to ask the waiter to savor. explain.

In terms of sweets, the pastel de natas are a must, as well as the sweet dessert wine for which the island is known. You can also try a Poncha, the most famous local fruity cocktail – which is very drinkable.

Bacalhau in Brás (Photo: Tanyel Mustafa)
Pastel de natas on the go (Photo: Tanyel Mustafa)
Fruit flavored chocolates (Photo: Tanyel Mustafa)


There’s plenty to keep you busy for a short trip here.

First, go dolphin and whale watching (but be prepared for rough waters).

We went searching for an hour and finally found baby fin whales in a group – it was an amazing sight.

Whale watching (Photo: Tanyel Mustafa)

So try the local waterslide – if you dare.

It’s basically a wooden cart being pushed down a windy road that cars also use. I was terrified, but enjoyed the bizarre experience. Adrenaline junkies are in for a treat.

On a similar, but more stable note, there are the cable cars, which offer lovely views of the city and its green spaces while ascending the mountain.

This is the slide you sit in (Photo: Tanyel Mustafa)
Float (Photo: Tanyel Mustafa)
Watch the world go by (Photo: Tanyel Mustafa)

Once you’re back on the grounds, walk down Rua De Santa Maria, a narrow street known for having lots of street art (and at night, bars).

Do this before heading to the town’s famous food market (but make sure you go on a market day) where you can buy fresh fruit and vegetables, flowers, raw fish and other produce.

Even if you’re not there to shop, it’s so colorful and vibrant you won’t want to miss it.

Admire Rua De Santa Maria (Photo: Tanyel Mustafa)
Many varieties of fruit (Photo: Tanyel Mustafa)
The main market (Photo: Tanyel Mustafa)
Lots of fish to take home (Photo: Tanyel Mustafa)

Other notable stops include Blandy’s, a British wine company, which runs wine tours where you can learn about local sweet wine, how it’s made, and even smell a container of (heavy booze) vintage wine.

At the end, you can taste wine from different years to see how the flavor changes.

Wine tasting (Photo: Tanyel Mustafa)
You can walk around this wooden structure, which once housed wine (Photo: Tanyel Mustafa)
Watching them at work (Photo: Tanyel Mustafa)

Finally, head to Bordal, which is a short walk from the main cathedral, to see Madeira embroidery first-hand.

This is a traditional business on the island, and in addition to purchasing high quality items, visitors are allowed to watch the women employed here at work, and get a glimpse of the steps taken to create items. household items like tablecloths.

Like many things in Madeiran culture, the vibe seems to be very free and easy, with most people open to tourists watching if you just ask.

Madeira is a restful getaway destination – and what a welcome joy it is after the year we’ve had.

You can book to stay at the Savoy Palace here.

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