Mad about Madeira: How to spend 72 hours in the Portuguese Paradise
SAM | 24th July 2022
Madeira: Not all paradises are on the other side of the world. Sometimes we find stunning, surprising scenery just a short journey away.
Year after year, the stunning island of Madeira has been voted Europe’s leading Island destination, where visitors are drawn to a haven of natural beauty, spring-like climate, dramatic scenery, towering mountains and tropical forests.
Located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the archipelago of Madeira is around 500 km from the coast of Africa and 1,000 km from Lisbon and the European continent.
With a flight time of under four hours from the UK, and for as little as £35 return, this Portuguese paradise is the perfect place to recharge your batteries and enjoy unique experiences whatever your age.
Experience the island’s incredible nature and wildlife, hike the trails of the subtropical Laurisilva Forest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and explore the historical city of Funchal with its rich culture and fabulous food gastronomy.
Flying directly into Funchal, where some 75% of Madeira’s 300,000 permanent residents live in the south of island, there are more than one million or so visitors a year that are attracted to this most urban point.
It is a charming city in the form of an amphitheatre that opens onto a beautiful bay where the marina and the port are located and there are many attractions worth visiting, some of them unique to this travel & leisure destination.
ATTRACTIONS NOT TO MISSED
Wander the streets of the Old Town
The Art of The Open Doors project is literally works of art depicted on the doors along Rua de Santa Maria. It is a must see for art-lovers or those that simply enjoy bar-hopping from place to place.
It’s a rather trendy area of city where you will find cafes, bars and restaurants with doors that have been painted by local and international artists.
The trend began in 2011 and has since become a movement that has rejuvenated this historic area of the city.
Food & Drinks Tour
Take a 45-minute wine tour of Blandy’s wine lodge to explore 200 years of Madeira’s wine history, where more than 650 barrels and vats are stored ageing the finest of the family’s wines in the traditional ‘canteiro’ method. The guided tours are available from Monday to Friday and allow you to visit the various areas of the Lodge, followed by a wine tasting. These take place throughout the day and are available in various languages and cost just 28 Euros.
Visit Santo Antonio factory to try homemade honey cake and cookies as part of a food & drink tour. This lovely, old-fashioned shop is in the same building as the original factory which dates back to 1893. The cookies are out of this world, we bought chocolate & coffee, ginger and sugar cane, hazelnut and two types of almond ones – most for gifts, some for ourselves.
Artisan chocolate tasting shouldn’t be missed, especially when it costs just 1 EURO for an artisan chocolate and a coffee. UAUCACAU in Funchal was founded in 2014 by Tony Fernandes, a businessman and master chocolatier who bet on artisanal production using typical Madeira products, such as: Madeira wine, Ginja, Poncha, Honey from Cana, Passion fruit, Banana, Pitanga, Mango, among others.
Live like a local at Mercado dos Leveradores
Take a trip through the sounds, colours and flavours of this emblematic farmer’s market located in the old town in Funchal. Open daily from 7am in the morning, it’s one of the main meeting points between locals and tourists.
It sells all kinds of regional produce and there are some cafes and restaurants where you can taste local delicacies: its famous pork marinated in wine and garlic sandwiches (carne vinha d’alhos); freshly cut and boned fish and seafood, and the typical queijadas (cottage cheese tarts).
One of the best ways to see Funchal in all its beauty is to take a cable car ride. Thanks to the orography of the city, in the shape of an amphitheatre, the aerial views of the landscape, coastline and the city itself are unforgettable. The trip starts at Funchal’s old town and arrives at Monte in about 20 minutes.
Monte Palace Tropical Garden
As the name implies, this vast serene outdoor space is located at the top of the city (Monte meaning Mount) and inspires tranquillity. It’s much more than a simple garden though given its luxurious vegetation allowing plants from the four corners of the globe to thrive given perfect growing conditions.
The mystical Oriental Gardens are another point of interest where you will find Buddhist sculptures, bridges and ponds, where Koi fish and swans swim. A highlight is a lovely lunch at the pleasant Patio das Babosos, which serves a menu of Portuguese cuisine with stunning views over the city.
Take a Taboggan Ride
A Madeiran toboggan ride on the famous basket sledges is also one of the highlights of any visit to Monte, something that you cannot do anywhere else in the world!
The use started of the Taboggans started in the 19th century to facilitate the quick transport of people travelling from Monte back down to Funchal centre. The drivers, “Carreiros do Monte”, drive the basket sledges made of wood and wicker, with the help of ropes and the traditional boots (Botas de Vilão), with rubber soles. The downhill ride is a lot of fun and runs about 2 km, through steep and picturesque streets.
Simple recipes with fresh ingredients are the secret to Madeiran cuisine. Portion sizes are huge, which makes eating out great value for money. Whatever your budget though, the appetising menus in restaurants on the island make it an unforgettable culinary expedition.
Dinner at Kampo
Live a sensory experience at Kampo, where flavours from the island’s cultivated ground are highlighted in the dishes created by Chef Júlio Pereira, who shows his origins in a creative way.
Located in the heart of the city of Funchal, the restaurant boasts a small, cozy space with the kitchen as a background, offering customers a first-class view of what’s happening and what’s cooking.
There’s a simple menu with elegance, where the fixed dishes will vary according to the products of the season. The natural fermented artisan bread is made at home and has some snacks to go with it. There is the “Fish from the Market” with lemon sauce; the tasty braised tuna; or for veggies we have vegetables prepared with technique and originality. There are also great well-crafted meats from the grill: matured calf loin, matured “Rubia Galega” chuletón and piglet terrine.
Restaurant DC Atelier
Enjoy an opulent set menu with wine pairings at this restaurant located within the International Artist Nina Andrade Design & Exhibition Centre. The cuisine combines creativity with a passion for tradition, in a creative re-interpretation of the region with spectacular views of the port, sea and bay of Funchal. It’s very romantic at night when the lights of the city twinkle and light up the sky during the hours of darkness.
Quinta do Furao
Open since 1993, the restaurant has an indoor and outdoor area is located within an area of natural outstanding beauty with spectacular views of the sea and mountain areas that make you feel like you are holidaying in Hawaii. The menu offers a balanced blend of typical Madeira gastronomy and international cuisine, specifically using organic and local products.
Its rustic ambience, big windows and two enormous fireplaces give a special welcome to guests. Outside, there is a sheltered veranda and another area where you can have your generously sized meals served in the sunshine by sea.
Historically, Madeira’s reputation for tourism has relied on older generation of visitors to its year-round climate, however, all kinds of ages are attracted to the high-octane adventure sports, its exceptional beauty and sandy beaches beyond Funchal that are well worth exploring beyond.
Madeira offers places with breath-taking views all over the island with the most fascinating landscapes, especially for the ‘Instagrammers’ and photography lovers out there. Try hiking the trails of the subtropical Laurisilva Forest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the North-East side of the island.
Visiting one of these panoramic viewpoints is inspiring and relaxing. From these locations, you can see the island’s highest peaks, the glitter of the sea, the famous ‘poios’ (terraced farming fields) or streams that meander through flower-covered valleys.
VIVA stayed at The Pestana Churchill Bay, which overlooks the bay of Câmara de Lobos, a picturesque Madeiran fishing city a few minutes away from Funchal. Now occupying the former Council Chamber and fish wholesale market buildings located on the seafront, the Pestana Churchill Bay was the very first hotel to open in this historic centre.
With 57 on-the-water rooms inspired by the paintings of Winston Churchill, the small but perfectly formed accommodation comes with all the mod-cons and have either a balcony or terrace that are two steps from the water. There’s a restaurant offering regional flavours, with a bar and esplanade, a panoramic rooftop pool and a sauna.
Next to the reception, open to the public, there is a bar and lounge, superiorly decorated, where Poncha (a boozy Madeiran tipple) and other traditional drinks are served, in the company of Winston Churchill in full size bronze sculpture that is a hotpot for those seeking selfies in the same place where he used to paint portraits of the landscape when he used to holiday there.
Once a fishing and agricultural town, today tourism is the main industry and its name comes to the large population of sea lions found by Gonçalves Zarco in 1419, when the bay was first discovered.
The backdrop of the city’s white houses, green mountains and deep blue waters of the Atlantic is the ideal setting for a holiday in this charming accommodation and lovely little seaside resort.
HOW TO GET THERE
Ryanair has recently launched new routes, there’s a direct connection from Manchester (and Stansted) with weekly frequencies from as little as £35 return.