Madeira is full of surprises – beautiful churches, fantastic food, stunning scenery. From the port town of Funchal to the quirky traditional houses in Santana, there’s lots to see. Read on for our full list of 6 Madeira must see attractions.

Madeira Must See Attractions

The island of Madeira has a good quality road network, so if you hire a car you can easily travel around. There isn’t a lot of public transport outside of the main towns, although you can also book excursions to most of the main Madeira sights.

The Best Things to Do in Madeira
The best things to do in Madeira

1. Old Town, Funchal

The capital city of Madeira is Funchal, a charming city named after the fennel plant funcho. It has approximately 110,000 inhabitants and is the 6th largest city in Portugal.

The cobbled streets of the old town have some beautiful designs. As the climate in Madeira is so mild all year round, there are lots of nice pavement cafes.

Funchal old town square
Funchal old town

There’s a shady park near the theatre, and the Jesuit College and Church is located close by on the main square. Completed in 1647, it has an impressive collection of golden carved altarpieces.

A beautiful church in Funchal, Madeira, Portugal
Jesuit College and Church

One of the best restaurants in Funchal is O Calhau on Rua de João Gago. The decor is modern and you can eat on the terrace outside. We had a delicious lunch of spaghetti linguine followed by chocolate tart.

There’s also a fantastic ice cream shop in the Old Town, Ottavia. They have a great variety of flavours and seating inside and outside the store.

Delicous dessert at a restaurant in Funchal, Madeira, Portugal
O Calhau

At night, the main square or Praca do Municipio is often lit up and open air concerts are held there. On the edge of the old town, towards the Painted doors district, you’ll find the Workers Market, the Mercado dos Lavradores.

This popular Funchal market is a bit of a tourist trap but interesting to have a wander around. In case you want to make a purchase, the currency in Madeira is the euro and bank cards are widely accepted.

Mercado dos Lavradores, Funchal, Portugal
Mercado dos Lavradores

2. Rua de Santa Maria

This street near the Old Town has some striking artwork created by local residents and shop owners as part of the Open Doors Art Project. There are also quite a few colourful doors in the surrounding streets too.

The area is nicknamed the Painted Doors district thanks to the number of decorative entrances. If you walk to the top of the hill after the painted doors district, you will come across a beautiful church, Igreja do Socorro.

Funchal painted doors
Painted door district

There is a fantastic fish restaurant in the Painted Doors district, Jaquet at Rua de Santa Maria 5. It only has a few tables and you eat what the chef is cooking.

We tried the grilled limpets to start, which are a bit of an acquired taste – they’re a type of aquatic snail. However the main fish course was absolutely delicious.

Grilled limpets are a typical Madeira food

3. Monte Palace Tropical Gardens

There are many beautiful gardens in Madeira and the Tropical Gardens in Monte are a must visit. You can travel up on the cable car and down on the famous Funchal toboggan ride.

Dating from the 1850s, the Funchal wooden sledges are steered by men wearing rubber soled boots. There are no brakes, so it’s quite a hair raising ride!

In Monte Palace botanical garden, you can see many colourful orchids and flowers of Madeira. You will also find a beautiful 18th century palace in the centre of the park. Behind the palace you can admire a statue of a girl skipping rope.

Monte Palace Gardens, Funchal, Madeira
Monte Palace Gardens

There’s a cafe past the palace but choice is limited so if you want anything other than a sandwich it is best to eat before your visit to the gardens.

A few minutes walk from the exit, you will find the picturesque church of Nossa Senhora do Monte.

Nossa Senhora do Monte church in Funchal
Nossa Senhora do Monte

4. Cabo Girao

Cabo Girao is one of the highest cliff faces in the world, at 589 metres above sea level – just look at the drop from here. Situated along the southern coast of the island, there is a glass platform which you can stand on to admire the view from below.

The viewing platform shields you from the wind as it can be quite breezy up here. If you want to stop for lunch or dinner near to Cabo Girao, we can recommend Bacchus restaurant. 

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We had one of our best lunches, a delicious stew pot of chicken at Bacchus restaurant overlooking Camara dos Lobos. It’s part of the Charming Hotels group and certainly lived up to it’s name. 

Bacchus has a charming garden with spectacular views to the sea. The beaches of Madeira are very unspoiled and Camara de Lobos, the one below Cabo Girao is no exception.

Cabo Girao, Madeira
Cabo Girao

5. Madeira Levadas

Hiking in Madeira is extremely popular as the scenery is so spectacular. The levadas are a series of canals that irrigate Madeira’s hillsides.

They are fantastic places to walk along if you plan it out properly. Ideally, you need proper walking boots and a torch.

We didn’t have these so did a “levada light” version on the Levada dos Tornos. The views from the hillside were spectacular.

You are likely to come across many beautiful flowers such as wild lilies. It could well be misty and chilly so we’d definitely suggest wrapping up warm.

Levada dos Tornos near Funchal
Madeira levada walk

6. Thatched Houses of Santana

Some of the houses in Madeira are extremely distinctive. Santana is famous for its traditional triangular thatched houses, known as patheiros

Situated on the north coast of the island, some of the houses are still in private hands and used as extra storage or summer houses. Most have become shops and one houses the tourist information office.

Typical thatched houses in Santana, Madeira, Portugal
Santana thatched houses

Practical Information for Visiting Madeira

  • Currency in Madeira – Euro
  • Electricity – Voltage is 220V. It’s wise to bring an adaptor
  • Health – no vaccines are required
  • Language in Madeira – Portugese. English is widely spoken
  • Tipping – a service charge isn’t normally added however it’s customary to tip 10%

Read all our Portugal travel blogs here

Have you been to Madeira? We’d love to know what are your own favourite things to do on the island.

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Madeira must see attractions

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3 thoughts on “6 Amazing Madeira Must See Attractions”

  1. Wonderful photos. We also recently toured Funchal and were struck by its laid back charm and colourful pallete. A perfect destination to retreat and relax on the island.

  2. Pingback: My Luxury July Moments

  3. What an amazing place! So many great things to do and eat there. I will be sure to check these out when I go there.

    Thanks for sharing!


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