The tranquil capital of Madeira island is one of Europe’s most picturesque and cleanest cities. Funchal is on the south side of Madeira’s sunniest coast in a giant natural amphitheatre with the backdrop of the mountains and the audience of the Atlantic ocean. The topography of the city makes it the warmest area of the island as the slopes rise 1,200 metres, protecting the city from northerly winds. The city has more than 500 years of history as it was founded in 1510 and named Funchal due to the abundance of the funcho (fennel) plant the early colonizers encountered.
Funchal is a clash between the past and the present with its antique calçada portuguesa (traditional Portuguese stone sidewalk) and modern shopping areas, cafes, bars and restaurants. Traditional areas and buildings in the city include Zonha Velha (the Old Town), Mercado dos Larradores (the Farmers Market), Igreja do Colégio (the Church of St. John the Evangelist) and Sé Cathedral (the Cathedral). The city exhibits its urban character during many festivals including Festa das Flores (the Flower Festival), Carnival, the Atlantic Festival and New Year’s Eve where this small city has the largest display of fireworks in the world!
Funchal is the largest city on the island and one of Portugal’s main tourist attractions. The bay is one of the Atlantic cruise-ships’ main ports as you can see up to four cruise ships at a time docked in the port. Funchal is an extremely safe city as there is no crime on the island; you can venture out at any time of the day or night in any area you please.
One of the biggest exports of the city that has brought a lot of tourism to the island is the native-born world-class footballer, Cristiano Ronaldo. The Madeirenses (Madeirans) do not hold back their pride of this legendary player who was a poor boy from a tiny island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The airport has been renamed Cristiano Ronaldo Madeira International Airport where the heavily criticized statue of Ronaldo’s head is. In Funchal there is also the CR7 Museum, opened in 2013, which showcases Ronaldo’s accomplishments. If you are a Ronaldo fan, there is no better place to go than to his motherland.
A completely unique experience and genuine attraction of the area is the Carreiras do Monte; a wicker basket over two wooden skis that takes people from Monte, located 550 metres above sea level, to Funchal. You can take a cable car from Funchal to Monte and get beautiful views of the city, then race all the way down in a thrilling basket ride. Two men run behind the basket with no brakes, but their heavily-soled shoes and pure Portuguese muscle. Cars need to be cautious in this area as baskets fly down the hills with only two men controlling it. Only in Madeira can you find such creativity paired with sheer madness.
Funchal is a majestic city oozing with culture, cuisine and a captivating landscape. The subtropical climate, exotic flowers, volcanic mountains, cleanly streets and heavy tradition make Funchal a safe haven, unique from any other city in the world.