At whatever time of year, its mild climate makes Funchal the ideal destination for a short break. There are many places to visit in this 500-year old city, several of which are unmissable…
The best way to visit the Funchal’s historic city centre is to do it by foot. The tour begins at the Gothic Cathedral, built in the 16th century. Upon entering, look up to admire the precious alfarge ceiling (an Iberian decorative multiform style) in cedar wood carved in the Mudejar style. Visit also the Collegiate Church, whose sober facade hides an interior rich in 17th century gilt woodwork, altar pieces and tile panels.
On the opposite side of the Largo do Município, in the former Bishop's Palace, is the Museum of Sacred Art, the core of whose collection is Flemish art of the 15th and 16th centuries, evidence of the trade contacts with Flanders, to which sugar cane grown on the island was sold. Tasting this and other local flavours at the Farmers' Market provides plenty to occupy the senses: from exotic fruits to traditional delights such as bolo de mel (honey cake), you mustn’t forget also the craft shops, the flower sellers wearing traditional costumes and the lively fishmongers’ stalls.
Go on to the old town, to the São Tiago Fort, which houses the Museum of Contemporary Art. Find out the most appreciated products in the region in the Embroidery and Wine Museums. Here you can learn all about the beautiful pieces of delicate lace, and the fortified wine that gained fame in the 17th and 18th centuries, when it was highly appreciated in the European courts.
To finish this tour, we suggest a visit to the village of Camacha, just nine kilometres from Funchal, well known for its wicker crafts and folklore. A highlight is the traditional dance of the region - the animated "Bailinho da Madeira", whose rhythm is marked by the "brinquinho", a curious piece of handicrafts made of castanets, ribbons and wooden figures. You can see a live performance while you have dinner in a typical restaurant, savouring gastronomic specialties like kebabs on bay sticks with fried maize. Delicious!