Madeira, Portugal – Islands of little pleasures

Madeira, Portugal – Islands of little pleasures

The first thing that catches the eye of the arriving tourist is the scenery. It is almost always either a steep descent or a steep ascent. It is flat only in the center of the island and only for a while. Outside it, the landscape is as rippling as the rough waters of the Atlantic. Get ready for a crazy journey through the green island . Madeira owes much of its fame to the TV series. Here every little action, every meaningless gesture is a pleasure. It’s a perfect combination of food, wine, climate and landscape.


The old town of Funchal (capital of Madeira) with the most popular street, Rua de Santa Maria at its head, is reminiscent of Lisbon’s Barrio Alto. Although it’s still empty at 6 or 7 p.m., by evening it turns into one big party. Despite the fact that Fado, Portuguese classical music, necessarily accompanied by “saudade” (sadness, a state of overwhelming melancholy, understood and felt only by the Portuguese), pours into the streets of every second restaurant, dancing and partying is endless. Just 10 years ago the old city was like Prague in the 1980’s, easier to lose your wallet here than to find a decent restaurant.

Today Funchal is one of the safest cities in all of Portugal. The old town is an open-air art gallery. Most of the doors to the townhouses are decorated with paintings by local artists, and sometimes you’ll find original art installations behind the facades of the townhouses or in the café gardens .

Madeira, Portugal - Islands of little pleasures


Not far from the old town there are monuments to two famous Poles: Marshal Jozef Pilsudski and John Paul II. The bust of the marshal is on Antonio José de Almeida Street. The monument commemorates Piłsudski’s stay on the island from December 1930 to March 1931. The monument to the Pope is in front of the Cathedral and was unveiled in 1992 after his visit to the island.

Funchal makes you feel like a teenager on a first date, from the first moment you see it. An accelerated pulse, shallow breathing and perhaps a slight fever are typical symptoms of a traveler coming here from the continent. The beauty of the island makes one wonder more and more.

The ubiquitous greenery and blooming gardens enhance the impression. Everyone coming here will develop their own plan to explore the city. All you have to do is follow your intuition; everywhere you go, surprise is everywhere.

Local Market

A visit to the traditional bazaar (“Mercado dos Lavradores”) will be a great experience. Dozens of species of exotic fruits, aromas and a variety of flowers. More than 20 kinds of passion fruit, one with the consistency of pudding and the taste of apple, sugar cane or a bizarre hybrid of pineapple and banana, “monstera deliciosa”, Madeira bananas – smaller and tastier than those sold in Europe . In the next room, seafood dominates, led by fish barely brought from the port and processed locally. A must for vegetarians who allow it on their plate.

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The architecture of the market building is very interesting, it is an example of “Estado Novo.” (New State) in architecture is a mix of modernism and art deco from the 1930s.

Madeira, Portugal - Islands of little pleasures

The local market

This name defined Portugal during the dictatorship of António de Oliveira Salazar (1933-1974), who wanted to leave his mark on architecture, an example of which is the Mercado dos Lavradores. When visiting Funchal, it is impossible not to mention perhaps the most famous inhabitant of Madeira . Those of you familiar with soccer history know that Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the best footballers of today, was born and lived here until 2001. As a teenager and youngster he played for local clubs. Walking around the suburbs of Funchal, it is best to pass by the backyards where the ball genius must have practiced his perfect game. Every thirtysomething you meet in Madeira will confess to knowing at least superficially the footballer or a member of his immediate family.

Interesting places in the city

The tuk-tuk (Madeiran version of an Asian tuk-tuk, a three wheeled scooter carrying two passengers and a driver) through Funchal’s steep streets makes one’s head spin as much as the surrounding nature. The gondola ride is worthwhile as it takes you up to Monte Hill, a hill rising 550 meters above Funchal. From here you have a beautiful view of the city and the bay.

The botanical garden is a popular meeting place for locals next to the cable car station. Here is the church of Nossa Senhora, built in the 18th century, where King Charles I of Habsburg, the last king of Austria-Hungary, who died in 1922, is buried. He remained here in exile after an unsuccessful attempt to restore his power in Hungary.

Madeira, Portugal - Islands of little pleasures

Interesting places in the city

However, the aim of the tourists coming here is not the botanical garden or the church, but perhaps the most famous attraction of the island – “Carros de Cestos” (descent from the mountain on special three-seater sleds made of wicker twigs and wood) – led by “carreiros”, dressed in distinctive white suits. This occupation can only be performed by clan members who have been passionate about it for generations. In exceptional cases, a person from outside the “family” may be hired for this job, although this is very rare.

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Although the descent looks quite dangerous and takes you through the impenetrable Caminho de Ferro, it is more enjoyable than frightening. After spending 15 euros (per person) after 10 minutes on the two-kilometer road, tourists are ready to visit the other attractions of Funchal. Madeira is so small that you can cover it in a day, which means that all the memorable sites are at your fingertips, just a stone’s throw away.

The Porto Moniz area on the north-western edge of the island is home to natural pools formed by the waters of the Atlantic. Unforgettable bathing is included in the admission price, fantastic views are free.

While passing through here, be sure to stop on ER101, an old road that no longer carries traffic. Between Seychelles and Porto Moniche, it runs in a narrow ribbon along the oceanfront, providing an aesthetic experience as impressive as a visit to the National Palace in Sintra. Be sure to visit the Faj dos Padres on the other side of the island.

Madeira, Portugal - Islands of little pleasures

Interesting places in the city

There are two ways to get here: from the sea or by taking the unique elevator, which descends 250 meters over the rocky cliff. It’s cramped and stuffy inside and the elevator looks worse than it did back in Gierek’s day. The view of the Atlantic and the prospect of resting suppresses the fear of heights even in the most sensitive people. A path leads from the “elevator” to the restaurant, where you feel like you’re in the best delicatessen.

Everywhere you look there are banana trees, avocado, mango or papaya fruits. The restaurant itself is a few simple tables and plastic chairs arranged as if on the ocean. The simplest table wine tastes like a 10-year-old East India Reserve madera, but the more curious should head to a nearby vineyard run by Mario Fernandes and his wife Isabel.

A miniature cellar, several barrels arranged by crop, and in the glass is malvasia, a strong, sweet, amber-colored wine. The contents of the bottle disappear faster than euros from Portuguese purses during the crisis. A stay here guarantees a complete reset.

What to try

A dozen or two tourists on a kilometer-long beach, it’s empty and calm. Warmed by wine, travelers return to the restaurant to try the local specialty, espada preto. (black swordfish). Most often served with bananas, it doesn’t look impressive; the flavor of the boneless white meat is as delicate as the morning fog over Funchal.

Another specialty of Madeira cuisine-though beef is much harder to find here than fish-is “espetada.” Grilled beef in a marinade of olive oil, garlic and salt with the addition of bay leaf and bay leaves. It may not sound sophisticated, but in practice the simpler the better, or rather, the tastier.

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Madeira, Portugal - Islands of little pleasures

What to try

The way in which the esetada is served is interesting. On hooks above the tables, the waiters suspend meter long skewers with fried meat, which with the help of “tongs” made from a knife and fork, you need to tear from this peculiar rack. It is also worth noting that the meat served on the island is the antithesis of a fried steak. It is definitely the region of bloody meat, barely scorched by fire.

If you don’t prefer this way of cooking, you should ask for a stronger roasted meat when ordering. However, culinary satiation is very easy to achieve, just try the “bolo do caco”. (bread with garlic butter and parsley), salt, butter, and wine or “poncha. It is a refreshing alcoholic drink based on rum made from sugar cane, honey, and lemon juice. On the way back from Seychelles to the capital a stop in Encoumeade is worthwhile and from here you can see the two coasts of the island, north and south.

Madeira is not so far away and expensive! Licence of the Portuguese island

Madeira, in a small area, concentrates striking landscapes, ocean, mountains, steep slopes and high promontories, relict forests and levards. The service team visited the island and talks about why you should come to Madeira.

How to get there.

Madeira is a Portuguese archipelago consisting of two inhabited islands – Madeira and Porto Santo – and two groups of small uninhabited islands. Madeira is situated in the Atlantic Ocean about 1 000 km from the mainland Portugal and 500 km from the African continent.

There is no direct flight from Russia to get here, but this does not mean that the trip will be long and inconvenient. A large number of European airlines – EasyJet, Norvegian Air, Transavia, British Airways and TAP Portugal – fly to Funchal Airport, Madeira’s largest city.

It’s pretty easy to find short connections not only from Lisbon and Porto, but also from Paris, Berlin, Cologne, Munich, Dusseldorf, Helsinki and other cities. We flew via Lisbon with TAP Portugal, Moscow – Lisbon, and then took an EasyJet flight (though we made a stopover and walked around Lisbon for a day).

When to fly?

Madeira is well known in Europe for its mild climate all year round. There is no “off season” here and eternal spring reigns (which, by the way, is more like summer). The temperature of the ocean throughout the year is comfortable for swimming and is +18-21C.

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You can safely plan a trip to the island at any time. Keep in mind that during the calendar summer, Christmas and Carnival (annually in late February, in 2020 from February 19 to March 1) prices for holidays can be higher.

Budget trip

The common perception is that a vacation on the island is expensive. But not in the case of Madeira. Compared with a number of European cities (and especially islands) Madeira is affordable. There are hotels, apartments and hostels for all tastes and wallets. For example, we were able to find accommodation on Airbnb for 1.5 months for less than 1000 euros for four people.

The average check in a restaurant for one person – from 10-15 euros. A glass of wine costs about 2.5 euros. A glass of poncha, a national drink based on rum and orange juice, costs from 2 euros, though in the old town of Funchal there are restaurants where you can enjoy it for free as a compliment.

Public transportation is well developed, and you can get around most of the island by bus. Rides around Funchal start at €1.85, but if you buy a multi-use card and pay for 10 or more rides, the price is much lower at €1.25.

Uber and Bolt have recently started working in Madeira, the prices are also humane, especially if you divide the cost of the trip by several people.

Rent a simple car for a day – from 10 euros.

What to do?

Madeira offers primarily active recreation: trekking, paragliding, surfing, snorkeling, jeep safari, dolphin watching, visiting vineyards, walks in the levades. Yes, levads (irrigation canals which were begun to be built in the 16th century to bring water from the northern part of the island to the arid southern part) are a true national treasure of Madeira.

Travellers usually stay in hotels in Funchal, the largest city in the south. Here you will find a variety of restaurants, you can taste the madera, stroll through the old town and watch the sunset near the marina with the huge cruise ships, and relax on the rocky beach of Praia Formosa with its black volcanic sand.

However, to really feel the atmosphere of Madeira, it is worth staying at least a few nights in the north of the island. Here the nature is completely different – relict forests, high waves that are good for surfing, tragic landscapes with sharp cliffs. From the northern part of the island, it’s convenient to take trips to major natural attractions – trekking to the peaks or walking through the levards.

Capital of the Roman Empire.

For beach vacations and a bronzed tan, head to the small town of Calheta or the neighboring island of Porto Santo.

Five things to do in Madeira
Walk between the two highest points of Pico Ruivo and Pico Areiro

Pico Ruivo is the name of the highest point of the island of Madeira (1862 m) and one of the three highest points in Portugal. What every traveler in Madeira must do is walk between the peaks. This can be done in different ways, depending on the level of fitness. Each of the routes is amazing and will allow you to observe incredible landscapes.

Another must-do in Madeira is to come to the second peak, Pico Areiro at sunset and at night. The area around the peak is far from the lights of the cities and villages, making it a unique point for stargazing.

Swim in the natural volcanic pools of Porto Moniz

Porto Moniz is a municipality located in the northwest of the island. Although the weather is more capricious than in the south, it is possible to swim in the pools of molten lava almost every day. Other natural volcanic pools can be found near Seixal.

Walk around Ponta de São Lourenço

Ponta de São Lourenço is one of the few places that can be said to be untouched by man. On the natural reserve there is almost no tourist infrastructure, only you and amazing landscapes.

The length of the trek on this natural reserve is 3 km. During the walk you will get more and more perspectives with views of rocks, volcanic formations and, of course, the ocean, which is especially beautiful in this place at sunset.

Get a thrill on the Cabo Girão Cape

Cabo Girão is an observation point, located only 2 km from Funchal, the capital of Madeira. Standing 580 m above the ocean, the viewpoint offers incredible views and a thrill to behold. The glass floor of the lookout is so steep that visitors can see the steep cliff below their feet.

Walk along one of the levadas

Walking along levadas (special irrigation engineering solutions) is another must do in Madeira. Such a walk does not require any special physical preparation, the paths go along the picturesque relict forests and mountains, which guarantees pleasant memories and beautiful photos. There are dozens of routes, the most beautiful to our taste are in the north. For example, near Ribeiro Frio and the village of Faial.

We invite you to amazing journeys to hidden places in Portugal with

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