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Zona Velha do Funchal

Embark on a journey through the annals of history and the allure of Old Town Funchal (Historic Core of Santa Maria) – experience an unforgettable trip back in time.

It is impossible not to be enchanted by this charming locale, where the magic of times long past remains vividly alive.

To fully immerse yourself in the city’s tourist hotspots, see Things To Do in Funchal Madeira in December. For a comprehensive tour of Madeira island, click on Madeira Portuguese Island.

The Old Town of Funchal is where we travel to the earliest stages of the island’s settlement. Its historical heritage is awe-inspiring: its narrow streets, cobblestones, churches, and facades have been witnesses to invasions and grand celebrations.

Come explore the main tourist attractions of this historic quarter, from its winding alleyways to its iconic landmarks.

1. Mercados dos Lavradores

Mercados dos Lavradores

This brilliant and elegant construction draws many tourists who admire the diverse hues and scents (fruits, flowers, fish).

At the main entrance to the Mercado dos Lavradores (Farmer’s Market), we find tile panels depicting the activities developed there in the early 20th century.

The architectural style of the building blends the influence of Art Deco (more geometric) and Modernism (more minimalist).

On the ground floor, fresh fruits and vegetables from the region are displayed in large baskets, with wash basins at each corner.

We see many flowers: orchids, camellias, roses, and other species. The Farmer’s Market also features a balcony that runs around the entire building, offering a panoramic view of the city.

2. Madeira Story Centre

Madeira Story Centre

The Madeira Story Centre is a meticulously designed interactive experience to offer visitors a memorable recollection.

The exhibition is organized in stages, each representing different periods and events.

Here begins a captivating journey that takes us to the volcanic roots of Madeira, its discovery by the Portuguese, and its development. The visiting time is approximately 40 minutes and costs €5.

We ascend to the third floor and discover a terrace with a breathtaking view. The food is flavourful. The staff is cordial and eager to assist visitors with all the information they require about their beloved city.

3. Rua de Santa Maria

The Rua de Santa Mariais one of the oldest in the city, dating back to the 15th century.

It is a charming place teeming with restaurants and terraces offering diverse menus. Of the dining establishments present, the Taberna Ruel Restaurant stands out for its delicious fresh fish.

Another famous establishment in this area is the Mariazinha Bakery frequently bustling throughout the day with enthusiastic customers.

As the settlement expanded, it was forgotten and fell into disrepair.
It was transformed into an art gallery through the artE pORtas abErtas (Open Doors) project (2010).

Now we are encouraged to walk down the street and interact with the small works of art. Some were painted by renowned artists. The illustrations give a vibrant feeling.

The signature of Marcos Milewski can be found on the first painted door at 77 Saint Mary Street. This Argentine painter is the most well-known artist to work in Madeira.

His work oscillates between symbolist and surrealist fantasies. At night the colourful bars come to life, and we sample a refreshing Poncha. For cocktails, try the Revolucion Bar.

4. Corpo Santo Square

Continuing down Santa Maria Street, it didn’t take long to reach the Largo do Corpo Santo, a central hub adorned with trees that exude the delicate fragrance of mimosa blooms.

Some of the houses present there date back to the 15th century when it was exclusively inhabited by the common folk.

In the square lies a Corpo Santo Chapel, one of the oldest – dating back to the 16th century – dedicated to Peter González, the patron saint of fishermen.

5. São Tiago Fort

Forte de São Tiago

The São Tiago Fort is a must-visit for all those who venture into the old town of Funchal.
In 1566, Funchal was the target of a disastrous raid organized by French privateers, which made evident the necessity of this fort, whose construction is attributed to master builder Jerónimo Jorge.

This 17th-century fortress offers breathtaking views of the city and the seashore. It is well-preserved with its vibrant colours.

At the fort’s restaurant, we find a romantic atmosphere, ideal for special moments with a loved one. Prices are above average in Funchal, averaging around €30 per person.

6. Santa Maria Maior Church

The Santa Maria Maior Church, located approximately 100 metres away, was built in the 18th century to replace an older chapel.

It is also known as the São Tiago Church, replacing Santiago Menor chapel.

On Workers’ Day (1st of May), a procession is held between the church and the Cathedral in honour of James the Less (Funchal patron saint) and the victims of a 16th-century outbreak of the plague.

This is the only church on Madeira island with a Baroque façade. Upon visiting its interior, one can admire its fascinating sacred art.

7. Barreirinha Bathing Complex

The Barreirinha Bathing Complex, located in the eastern zone of Funchal, near Forte de São Tiago, affords a direct connection to the tranquil waters of the ocean, ideal for swimming.

The facility boasts a spacious sunbathing area, restrooms, swimming pools for both children and adults, a bar for relaxation and first aid administered by a professional lifeguard.

Individual admission costs 5.20 euros, while families will be charged 1.2 euros per person. Entry is free for kids under the age of six.

8. Funchal Cable Car

The Funchal Lower Cable Car is at Almirante Reis Park, near the Madeira History Center. An adult ticket costs €22.50.

The ride ascends to the small parish of Nossa Senhora do Monte, informally known as Monte.

As we bask in the sun and enjoy the brilliant ocean views, we watch people and cars become miniatures as we ascend.

Near the Monte station, we have the unique Monte Palace Tropical Garden. Perhaps the most visited tourist spot on the Island of Madeira.

Close by is the beautiful Nossa Senhora do Monte Church (17th century), where the last emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire rests.

You can return down using the cable car (or descend in one of the traditional wicker basket sledges).