Most of the population of Madeira live in Funchal, and more than most Islands much tourism and attention is focused on Funchal the capital. Funchal is easily reached now via the motorway running along the southern coast of the island from Madeira's Airport. There's a designated Hotel zone in Funchal, slightly to the west of the centre which has its own self contained bars, restaurants, casino and more nightlife. Alternatively there's a choice of hotels closer to the centre (click on Funchal Centre accommodation on this website).
Funchal Madeira is a character capital indeed, with a compact centre easily explored on foot. A host of attractions including castles, convents, botanical and tropical gardens, numerous museums and a telefericos cable car ride up into the hills for the brave are all here in Madeira's capital. Funchal is a lively capital and certainly the centre of the action. It's quite possible to see a large part of Madeira from Funchal, with the cable car taking you inland and up to historic Monte with its tropical gardens, and a choice of Madeira excursion companies offering walking, sailing, birdwatching tours and more all based here in Funchal, particularly at Funchal Marina for Sailing, Diving and Watersports. Oh, and there's a superb choice of Madeira golf courses around Funchal (see Madeira Golf guide elsewhere on this website).
The name Funchal is derived from the Portugese Funcho meaning fennel - large amounts of this herb were discovered here by the Portuguese navel leaders Joao Goncalves Zarco and Tristao Vaz Teixeira when they first arrived in 1418.
Almost half of Madeira's population live here in Funchal, and as Island capitals go it's one of the best. A lively base combines with a stunning coastal setting and natural harbour. Base yourself in Funchal with car hire, and take a few days exploring Madeira's capital, then branch out to explore the stunning wider landscape of the island.
It's pleasant strolling along the seafront promenade in Funchal, which is lined with restaurants and bars, note the huge Madeira balloon (tel. 291 282700) on the seafront if you fancy seeing Funchal from the air! Funchal really has two flavours. Funchal centre contains the old town, the castle and cathedral, numerous museums, the cable car upto Monte Gardens and palace, a choice of chic shops, cafes, restaurants and bars, and many other historic sights. Move to the west of the centre slightly, beyond the port and Santa Catarina park and here lies the luxury Funchal hotel zone. (see Funchal accommodation on this website for a choice of luxury leisure and spa hotels situated here!). This western Funchal strip has the best of the bathing options, including Praia Formosa and the huge Funchal public lido. Many of the hotels offer their own choice of leisure activities in Funchal and wider Madeira. The marina is also the base for boat trips, fishing trips, cruises and catamarans. Check the fishing, sailing and scuba diving weblinks right for details.
Funchal centre is a joy, crammed with chic clothes and specialist shops, and more cafes, restaurants and bars. Also in the centre there's a 16th century cathedral, the superb old town cluster containing the best of Funchal's bars and restaurants, the old Customs House and the Palacio Sao Lourenco. Checkout the Museu Municipal on Rua da Mouraria with its Aquarium and natural history exhibits, ride up the Telefericos to visit Monte Palace and the Tropical Gardens, take a boat trip from the harbour or visit the Museum of Sugar exploring Madeira's sugar plantation history. You'll never be short of something to do in Funchal.
To the west of Funchal, from Santa Catarina park the main hotel zone stretches fro around 3 miles towards Camara de Lobos. If you opt for accommodation here in Funchal be awarre that it's around a 30 minute walk into Funchal centre. However, numerous free buses run from hotels into Funchel centre, alongside regular buses and cheap taxis. Many of the luxury hotels in the zone offer a choice of their own leisure facilities, but other attractions up this west end of Funchal include the Olympic sized public lido.
Check the Funchal accommodation section on this website for information on Baia Azul, Raga, and Vila Ramos hotels all in the luxury Funchal hotel zone to the west. Most offer a choice of leisure facilities, guided tours around Funchal and wider Maderia, plus in-house leisure facilities such as tennis, links to local Madeira golf, luxury spa and swimming pool facilities and more!
Most visitors to Funchal choose the western hotel zone for its better access to beaches like Praia Formosa. The Luxury 4 star Pestana Bay hotel is situated right near Pria Formosa (see listing on this website), plus is near 2 golf courses in the area and has regular free transport into central Funchal.
The main ferry to Porto Santo departs regularly from Funchal Harbour (see weblink right for timetable and details). You can take your car across - it's a big cruise ferry.
Funchal leisure and outdoor pursuits options couldn't be better. You've a huge choice here in Madeira's seafront capital. Funchal's casino is situated in the Pestana Park Casino Hotel near the marina/harbour area.
Funchal Marina has been operating for around 20 years, and there's lots of space for yacht berthing (around 210 berths). Numerous fishing trips and boat trips pull out from here, as well as the Porto Santo ferry. Check the weblinks right for a choice of sailing, fishing and boat trip choices from Funchal. See also Madeira Explorers weblink right. Based in Funchal they offer a choice of Levada and leisure guided walks around Madeira.
Marina do Funchal, Tel. (00 351) 291 232 717.
Alles, Estrada Monumental - Hotel Baia Azul, loja 5 F 9000-108 Funchal. Tel. 965012367. For walks, jeep safari, event organisation, sailing, climbing and hang-gliding. See also Baia Azul hotel listing on this website.
Bonita Da Madeira Boat Trips & Dolphin and Whale Watching, Apt.Baia Bloco Este, Loja 1 Estrada Monumental,187, 9000-100 Funchal. Tel. (351) 291 762 218. (weblink right for details)
See Big Game Fishing weblinks right also for Fishing Trips from Funchal's Harbour. For walking, trekking, canyoning and birdwatching tours check the Ventura Do Mar weblink right for details! For kids, the Madeira Magic Themed Gardens, Planetarium and interactive science centre is a good one in Funchal. Check the weblink right for details. Madeira's only Aquapark is located near the airport and Santa Cruz.
Funchal's Marina has an excellent choice of boat trips for dolphin and whale watching, leisure cruises, diving and scuba diving, so head there to book whilst you there, or check the weblinks right for forward planning. Checkout the Madeira Balloon on the seafront in Funchal directly adjacent to Funchal Marina. Balloon flights are every 15 minutes, is quite cheap and affords splendid views of Funchal and the waterfront, albeit briefly and tied to shore! Tel: 291 282700 for details.