Bartering and bargain hunting
Funchal has a reputation as one of the cleanest and most picturesque capitals in Europe, despite stiff competition from places like Montenegro and mainland Portugal. Part of what makes it such a charming place to visit, let alone live in, is its architecture – and more than this, the shops in those pretty buildings.
You’re going to find local crafts and high fashion boutiques on your holidays to Funchal as much as chances for the little ones to equip shiny new buckets and spades for the seaside. Sports fans should keep an eye out for goodies in store windows too, since footballer Cristiano Ronaldo grew up in gloriously sunny Funchal, and they love their local hero hugely here.
For a real taste of local colour though, you need to visit Funchal’s Mercado dos Lavradores. That translates as ‘Farmers Market’, and we’re sure you’ve never seen juicier fruit, more colourful baked goods or fresher fish in all your days. The whole place is sheltered from the sunshine in a beautiful 1940s building, and it’s the beating heart of trade and community spirit. Wicker baskets and handicrafts stand side by side with trinkets, treats and clothing in every corner. Expect to head back to your room laden with goodies.
The beauty of the bay
With splendid beaches seemingly just in arm’s reach, rich in sunshine and flecked with pebbles, cheap holidays to Funchal are always a favourite for those holidaymakers looking to sunbathe or get wet and wild in the sea. With its marina and lots of seafood, it’s pretty clear that Funchal’s relationship with the ocean has proven the backbone of its growth for generations, and even today tourism activities like boating trips take that ethos into the modern age.
That said, those of you looking for a little more adventure on the waves will be pleased to know the watersports community of Funchal is thriving. Kitesurfing and parasailing join bouncy banana boating and whizzing jet-ski racers, and every skill level is catered for.
Funchal also has tons of scenic views to offer from dry land. It has sunny plazas and cobbled streets, plus the whole town is gently cupped by the natural curve of the bay and the mountains around it. Those peaks are yours to savour too, thanks to the local cable car system that connects the town with Monte, high above. Funchal is beautifully interwoven with natural greenery, including pristine botanical gardens in the highlands, and the cable car journey is a serene way of surveying those splendours for yourself.
Take a sip of the local tipple
One thing that Madeira has always had a strong relationship with is wines, and Funchal is by no means exempt from that long history. Local vineyards produce flavours that are enjoyed across the world, and you’ll have the chance to try them for yourself during your stay in Funchal, right where the magic happens.
Places you can enjoy Madeira’s wine, and other tipples, range from pulsing nightclubs to swinging casinos. There is also a host of local bars that welcome live music performances as much as they’ll welcome you to sit inside and refresh your senses over a cool beverage.
Experience the cuisine
Like any capital city, Funchal is home to a number of brilliant restaurants, where you can expect to find a variety of traditional Portuguese dishes, albeit with a distinctive Madeiran twist on the formula.
Don’t think you’re restricted in your options, because the city is also rich in international cuisine, from Indian and Chinese treats to the old fashioned flavours of home. It’s all about knowing where to look, so make sure you explore the city in its fullest, from its modern streets to the twisting avenues of the old town.
Food forms a big part of the social life of Funchal. You’ve got everything from beachfront bar and grill establishments through to the most distinguished dining on the island. Wash it all down with a lovely rich glass of red, and before you know it, you’re going to be living just like one of the locals. You’ll soon see just why they’ve always got a smile on their faces.