Top things to do in Funchal

Must-see Funchal sights

Funchal, the capital city of Madeira in Portugal, has a lot of appeal. From spectacular viewpoints to tropical gardens and arty streets, there’s plenty of charm to go around here.

  1. Discover the Madeira Film Experience
  2. Enter the Funchal Cathedral
  3. Travel around in a wicker toboggan!
  4. Enjoy a cable car ride over Funchal
  5. Enjoy an afternoon in Monte Palace Tropical Garden
  6. Enjoy outdoor art
  7. Head up to Pico dos Barcelos
  8. Hike up the third-highest peak in the Madeira region

This cute city is gloriously picturesque. With pretty quarters and vibrant street art, Funchal is a perfect Portuguese break. And where else can you be taken around on a wooden toboggan?

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1. Discover the Madeira Film Experience

For an interesting museum in Funchal, make sure to visit the Madeira Film Experience. Inside you’ll learn all about the volcanic origins of the archipelago. You’ll discover around 600 years of history in a snippet film. Learn all about the political upheaval, famine and wars that have shaped this island to what has become today.

Best for: Museum

While you’re there: The whole film is 30 minutes long.

2. Enter the Funchal Cathedral

Step back in time to the Portuguese Age of Discovery in the Funchal Cathedral. Built in the 16th century using multi-coloured rock from the cliffs of Cabo Girao, the cathedral is a real beauty. Look up the steeple’s roof and you’ll notice all the classic glazed tiles. Inside you will also find some impressive choir stalls made of wood. They depict saints, saints and apostles. Looking for Funchal holiday packages? We’ve got your covered for your summer holiday!

Best for: An incredible church

While you’re there: You’re in a great spot for a coffee. There are plenty of cafés in the area.

3. Travel around in a wicker toboggan!

What to do in Funchal if you’re looking for a unique experience? One of the most popular things to do in Funchal is to travel by none other than a wicker toboggan! An unconventional way to travel for sure, you’ll sit inside the wicker sled with runners and be pushed around town. It’s a tradition that dates back to the 1800s. The journey will take you down Carro de Cesto all the way to the Livramento suburb.

Best for: A memorable way to travel!

While you’re there: Note that the whole journey is around two kilometres.

4. Enjoy a cable car ride over Funchal

If you don’t mind heights, take a ride on the cable car. It’s one of the best things to do in Funchal. Found 600 metres above sea level in the Monte neighbourhood of the city, you can see all the sights of the area in one cable car visit. Look out over to the glorious mountain scenery which is dotted with white houses and glance your eyes over to the ocean while you soak in the beautiful views.

Best for: Views

While you’re there: Note that the cable car ride lasts around 15 minutes.

5. Enjoy an afternoon in Monte Palace Tropical Garden

For one of the most peaceful things to do in Funchal, head to Monte Palace Tropical Garden. Here you’ll find a superb botanic garden to while away an afternoon. There are exotic plants aplenty to marvel at. Make note of the incredible tiles from the 15th and 16th centuries. There is the Monte Palace Museum onsite too. Inside, there are exhibitions on display featuring African art.

Best for: An afternoon outdoors

While you’re there: Don’t miss the Japanese garden. It features tile panels which depict the trade history between Japan and Portugal.

6. Enjoy outdoor art

Walk down the cobbled street, Rua Santa Maria, for a lovely area in the city. Funchal is home to a buzzing street full of painted doors. One of the first streets in Funchal, its history dates back to the 15th century. Enjoy spotting all the vibrant colours from fiery reds to bold yellows. After, peruse the shops and many restaurants in the area.

Best for: A walk with an arty twist

While you’re there: Don’t forget to enjoy a glass of traditional Madeira wine while you’re here!

7. Head up to Pico dos Barcelos

For the ultimate view of Funchal head to Pico dos Barcelos. Standing up at 335 metres, you’ll find fantastic views of the sprawling city below. Look out to the bay of Funchal and try to spot the Desertas Islands found in the distance.

Best for: Another fantastic view of Funchal

While you’re there: You can have coffee at the renovated viewing point.

8. Hike up the third-highest peak in the Madeira region

For an active day trip from Funchal, make your way to Pico do Arieiro. At 1,818 metres, it’s quite the adventure! It takes around two hours each way and once you reach the top you might even be able to see the Porto Santo island in the distance on a clear day. You can then continue onto Pico Ruivo, the tallest point on the island.

Best for: Hiking

While you’re there: Make sure you prepare all the appropriate gear for your hike. The temperatures on the peaks are a lot lower than Funchal.

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