Best Things to Do in Madeira Portugal

Madeira

Madeira is one of the world’s leading holiday destinations. It’s known for its volcanic landscape, beautiful beaches, well-preserved historic buildings, and its rich culture.

If you’re looking for a destination that has all the ingredients for a relaxing getaway, then Madeira is for you.

Madeira Island is located in the Atlantic Ocean, just off the coast of Africa, and is a popular tourist destination. If you’ve been looking for a great vacation spot, this is it!

The island is home to an array of natural wonders, such as lush rainforests, beautiful waterfalls, and impressive water views. It is also home to various types of animals, including dolphins, sea lions, and even sloths!

Madeira Island is a great place to visit, for both nature lovers and party-goers. It offers many different types of events, like festivals and a variety of different amazing restaurants.

Table of Contents

Best Sights in Madeira

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Pico do Arieiro Viewpoint

Located at 1818 meters (5964,57 feet) high, you will find one of the most visited and mandatory places to visit in Madeira.

Pico do Arieiro will grant you breathtaking views over this beautiful and magical island. From here, you will see, depending on the weather, Ponta de São Lourenço, the east point of the island, and even the paradisiac island of Porto Santo. During winter the peak and the surrounding areas can be covered with snow.

Although behind only the third highest mountain in Madeira, it is the one that is easily reachable by car, and if you are willing to hike from Pico do Arieiro, you can hike to the second-highest mountain in Madeira, the Pico Ruivo. Read the best hiking trails below.

Insider tip: before heading up, check the weather forecast. If it is a cloudy day, the views will be blocked.

Monte Palace Tropical Garden

To contrast the beautiful green nature that covers almost all of the island, right in the city of Funchal, the main city of Madeira, there is an amazing tropical garden.

This garden is a part of the Monte Palace Madeira Hotel, but it is a lot more than just a beautiful garden surrounding a luxury hotel.

It is an amazing tropical garden with exotic plants native to various countries (Cycads and Protea from South Africa, Azaleas from Belgium, Heather from Scotland, among others) and indigenous plants from the Madeira forest namely, “Laurissilva”, such as Ferns, Cedars, laurels, Canary Laurels, and much more. Here you will also find the beautiful and rare Japanese Koi fish, present in the large three lakes of Monte Palace Tropical Garden.

Decorated with several influences from different countries and cultures, you will enjoy a beautiful walk and feel the serenity flowing through you.

The price of the tickets is around 12.50 euros and it should take you between two to three hours to visit the garden.

For updated opening hours, consult the Monte Palace website.

Teleférico do Funchal-Monte

Built to replace an old train line that connects the lowest point of Funchal to its highest point. It is a 15 minutes long ride that offers you to sit back and enjoy the most amazing bird-eye view over the city.

And this cable car will take almost directly to the next place on this list.

Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Monte

Right on the end of the cable car Teleférico do Funchal-Monte is the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Monte. This church was built on top of a chapel that was built by the first man born in Madeira island, which started the construction back in 1470.

In 1741 the construction of a new church began, but a few months after the conclusion of the church, the Church was severely damaged by an earthquake on March 31, 1748. It was then rebuilt and on December 20, 1818, the church was consecrated.

On the interior, you can appreciate beautiful pieces of jewelry carved from the 17th and 18th centuries, and the views over Funchal and the Atlantic ocean, from the entrance of this church, are just priceless.

From here you can take another cable car, to our next destination on this list.

Jardim Botânico

One of the most beautiful botanical gardens in Madeira, the Jardim Botânico surrounds a peculiar estate, that dates 1881. Built by a rich family, they created the garden as their private park, but these days, the estate and the garden are open to the public.

The garden covers an area of ​​80,000 m² and houses a fascinating collection of species of many different plants, and with spectacular views over the city of Funchal. Inside the estate, you can also visit an amazing Natural History Museum.

Cabo Girão

The Cabo Girão viewpoint is famous for its suspended glass platform, located on the highest point in Europe, at an altitude of 580 meters(1 903 feet).

From here, you will see some breathtaking views over the small cultivated lands at the bottom of the cliff, as well as beautiful panoramic views over the ocean.

The viewpoint was the subject of requalification works, having been built on a suspended platform in glass, called skywalk.

It is also a privileged place for paragliding and base-jumping, for those who are not faint of heart.

Parque de Santa Catarina

Parque Santa Catarina is one of the most important parks in the city of Funchal. Besides its natural beauty, It has several walking trails accompanied by stunning views over the bay of Funchal. The Parque de Santa Catarina is filled with many species of flora from around the world and you will also discover a charming lake with a small island. Children will also love this park as they will play with two old machines that were once to crush grapes and put asphalt on the road.

Walking around this park, you will also find several sculptures dedicated to various personalities, and the Chapel of Santa Catarina.

Sao Vicente Caves

Formed 890 thousand years ago, the São Vicente Caves were formed from a volcanic eruption that descended into the ocean. The outside parts of these caves, exposed to lower temperatures, quickly solidified, while the interior continued to flow with many gases, forming a series of lava tubes.

The caves were first discovered in 1885, by the local population, but they were only opened to the public in 1996.

The caves can be visited through an underground route of more than 1000 meters (3 280 feet) in length and the height of the caves varies between 5 and 6 meters (16 and 19 feet).

At the end of the route in the inside of the cave, you can also visit the Volcanism Center, a pavilion that allows you to watch audiovisual shows that recreate the geological evolution of the caves, the eruption of a volcano, and even a simulation of the birth of the Archipelago of Madeira.

Mercado dos Lavradores

The Mercado dos Lavradores, in the center of Funchal, was opened back in 1940 and created to be the great supply center of food and goods for the city.

Taking a walk on this market, you will see large panels of Portuguese tiles from 1940, they decorate the facade of the building, the main entrance, and the fish market. If you look closely, you will see painted themes, of the daily life of locals, on the tiles.

Nowadays this market is still working as it has been for more than one hundred years, selling products of all kinds in it, in an environment where colors, sounds, smells and different people are mixed.

Colégio dos Jesuítas

The Colégio dos Jesuítas is, due to its historical importance, one of the most emblematic buildings in the city of Funchal.

Founded by King D. Sebastião on August 20, 1569, the Jesuit College influenced the life of the entire island of Madeira over 4 centuries.

First used by the Jesuits to propagate the Christian faith, it was later used by the English invaders who settled here for more than a century until reaching our days as the headquarters of the University of Madeira.

Sé Catedral da Madeira

The Sé do Funchal cathedral was classified as a National Monument in 1910 and is full of historical, architectural, and artistic value.  The altarpiece, which was executed by orders of King D. Manuel I in 1510-1515, stands out from the interior of the Cathedral. The altarpiece, topped by a Gothic overhead, is in the form of a large polyptych, consisting of gilded woodwork, completed by small sculptures, and oil paintings on wood.

The high value of this altarpiece comes from the high technical quality of execution and the fact that it is the only altarpiece from the Manueline period that remains, in its entirety, in its place of origin.

The Sé do Funchal also has one of the most beautiful ceilings in entire Portugal, made with local wood and the main chapel chair has a Flemish style.

The main door has gothic lines, and the gilded pieces from the 17th century show some characteristics of the Manueline period.

The church also has an exceptional processional cross, offered by D. Manuel I, considered one of the masterpieces of Portuguese Manueline jewelry.

Best Beaches

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Praia da Ribeira Brava

Praia da Ribeira Brava is a small pebble beach surrounded by a small bay. It has two swimming pools, one for adults and one for children, two sand fields for the practice of sports, a restaurant area, and sanitary facilities. With clean and calm waters, Praia da Ribeira Brava has human resources for the proper surveillance of bathers in an environment of tranquility and security so sought after, in Madeira, in the summer months.

Lido

The Complexo Balnear do Lido, is in the western part of the City of Funchal, in Madeira, and is a small beach with several accesses to the sea. Equipped with sanitary facilities, changing rooms, a first-aid post, and a restaurant area, the Lido Bathing Complex is an obvious choice for the warm afternoons of those who do not want to escape the bustle of Funchal.

Fajã dos Padres

Fajã dos Padres Beach is a pebble beach in Câmara de Lobos. It is well known for its clear waters and mild temperatures. Despite the lack of specialized surveillance, Praia da Fajã dos Padres offers a peaceful and relaxing environment, and is, due to its diversity of species, an attraction for diving lovers. Access by land is via a panoramic cable car with a view of the beauty of the south coast of Madeira Island.

Praia do Garajau

Praia do Garajau is part of the Madeira Natural Park and is a pebble beach, at the foot of a huge cliff. It is possible to reach the beach on foot or by car, but it is by cable car that you will feel the spirit of the place. Distinguished by the Blue Flag, Praia do Garajau lies between the green of the mountain and the calm blue sea, ideal for resting, swimming, and sunbathing. For lovers of sports diving, so practiced in the seas of Madeira, the variety of species is the biggest attraction. However, as part of the Garajau Partial Nature Reserve, it is prohibited from any form of fishing activity.

Natural Pools of Porto Moniz

The Porto Moniz Natural Pools are pools formed by volcanic lava, where the sea enters naturally with crystal clear water.

In these natural pools, the seawater enters naturally and is composed of volcanic rocks. The pools and the facilities are in an area of 3,800 m², where there is even a swimming pool for children, a playground, and access for the disabled.

This beach also has a car park, changing rooms, and changing rooms with lockers to store personal belongings, a snack bar opens in the summer season, first aid, sun loungers, and umbrellas for rent.

Praia Formosa

Praia Formosa is one of the largest bathing areas in Madeira, close to the west of Funchal. It has an extensive pebble beach and, in some parts, black sand. The quality of the water is certified by the Blue Flag and the lifeguards’ surveillance is a strong point in the safety of bathers. Praia Formosa has a children’s playground, three medical posts, changing rooms, sanitary facilities, and areas suitable for the practice of some sports. It also has a wide variety of restaurants and cafes, which make this Funchal beach one of the most comfortable, safe, and sought after in Madeira.

Praia da Calheta

Inaugurated in 2004, the artificial yellow sand beach in the village of Calheta was the first artificial beach in Madeira.

Its sand is imported from Morocco and is 100 meters long. It has two slope breakwaters as a form of protection.

Located near the Recreational Port, it has a solarium with about 7,300 m2.

It is often sought after by canoeists and windsurfers.

Sun loungers and parasols are available.

Praia de Machico

The bay of Machico has a wonderful golden sand beach with a wonderful stretch of soft sand, which adds to the charm of this charming historic city.

It is also made of pebbles, like almost all the beaches in Madeira, this beach is chosen by the locals during the summer, with a large turnout at weekends.

In addition to other infrastructures to support visitors, such as catering services and cafes, Machico beach has changing rooms, showers, football, and beach volleyball venues, pedalos and jet skis, rent sunbeds, and umbrellas. And even a big car park. Safety is guaranteed by lifeguards.

Prainha do Caniçal

Prainha is very close to the well-known Ponta de São Lourenço, it is a black sand beach, intensely sought after by bathers in the summer months. The surrounding paradisiacal scenery and the crystalline and mild waters characteristic of the south coast of Madeira, make Prainha the ideal place for spending hot days. Despite the lack of specialized surveillance, it has the facilities of a supporting restaurant, showers, toilets, and umbrellas to rent.

Praia do Porto do Seixal

The Natural Pools of Seixal, in Porto Moniz, are formed by a set of volcanic stones that, like the surrounding areas, meanwhile, recovered. Despite the lack of surveillance, the Seixal Natural Pools have a support bar and bathing facilities, conditions that seem sufficient for those who just want the rest and tranquility of the majestic view of the sea and the paradisiacal surroundings of the north coast of Madeira.

Where to stay in Madeira

Madeira has many accommodation offers, from some of the best luxury hotels to a small cabana in the middle of the mountains.

One thing that is very important while visiting Madeira, is to rent a car, as public transportation is, scarce and confusing.

How to get to Madeira:

By Plane

The main island of Madeira has its airport and it truly is the best way to get to the island. The Funchal Airport (FNC) is very close to the main city of Funchal and it is a great home base for your visit to Madeira.

Check the best flight prices for Madeira.

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