Top 10 Attractions in Funchal – Experience the Heart of Madeira

by Javier Rios

From Author

Embark on an exciting journey through Funchal’s top 10 attractions with Javier Rios, The Digital Nomad. Delve into the city’s rich history, discover local flavors, and immerse yourself in the vibrant culture of Madeira’s largest city. Experience Funchal like never before!

Top 10 Attractions in Funchal – Experience the Heart of Madeira

1) Zona Velha - The Old Town's Artistic Soul
Wandering through Funchal’s charming Old Town, known as Zona Velha, I really felt like I was being transported back to a world where history meets creativity around every corner. The narrow cobblestone streets, brightly painted doors, and winding alleys adorned with such vivid street art all lead you to discover picturesque hidden plazas and fascinating historical sites and architecture. I loved al fresco dining at the small local restaurants tucked away in Zona Velha, where I got to sample authentic Madeiran cuisine. Exploring the trendy art galleries and unique artisan shops revealed the contemporary side of Funchal’s art scene. With its wonderful blend of tradition and modern vibrancy, Zona Velha is an absolute must-visit when exploring Funchal, especially for culture enthusiasts – it easily makes it into the top 10 attractions in Funchal.
2) Funchal Cathedral - A Historical Treasure
I absolutely loved exploring Funchal’s magnificent cathedral, known as Sé Catedral de Nossa Senhora da Assunção. This place is a must-see for any history or architecture buff visiting Funchal. I was blown away by the intricately carved stonework and artistic details, which really exemplify the Portuguese Manueline architectural style in all its grandeur. The wooden ceiling, glittering gold altar, and stunning tiles made wandering through the cathedral an aesthetic delight. I’d definitely recommend taking a guided tour to fully understand all the symbolic meanings and important history embedded in the cathedral’s artwork. Making sure to explore the quaint cafés and little shops in the picturesque surroundings after your visit adds to the whole experience. Dating back originally to the 15th century, this cathedral is so much more than just a religious site – it’s a true window into Madeira’s captivating cultural heritage and absolutely one of the top 10 attractions in Funchal.
3) Monte Palace Tropical Garden - A Lush Escape
If you’re a nature lover like me, the Monte Palace Tropical Garden nestled in the hills high above Funchal is an absolute paradise and one of the top attractions to visit in Funchal. I loved taking the cable car ride up, where you get the most breathtaking bird’s-eye views over Funchal Bay before entering this unbelievable botanical wonderland. Strolling under the palm trees and amongst all the cascading flowers, mingling with exotic birds, and finding quiet corners with koi ponds became such lovely therapeutic moments for me. The way the gardens marry different cultural influences from Oriental to Portuguese, combined with the rich collection of sculptures, tiles, and minerals, makes this such an eclectic and inspiring place. I’d suggest spending at least half a day wandering here to really fully embrace the serenity. It’s a garden lover’s dream and easily one of the top 10 Funchal attractions!
Monte Palace Tropical Garden
Monte Palace Tropical Garden – A Lush Escape
4) Mercado dos Lavradores - A Market Bursting with Flavor
The bustling Mercado dos Lavradores is an absolute explosion of color, flavor, and local character that no visitor should miss during their time in Funchal. This lively market is considered one of the top places in Funchal to experience local culture, especially for foodies like me! I had the best time wandering around sampling all sorts of exotic fruits, incredibly fresh seafood, and classic regional delicacies like bolo do caco bread. The flower sellers dressing up in their traditional Madeiran folk outfits added the most delightfully whimsical touch too. I’d really recommend coming on a Friday or Saturday morning if you can, when the market is at its liveliest and full of locals shopping. And make sure to chat with the vendors while you’re here – their stories and recommendations will really add that extra depth and color to your experience. It certainly ranks among the top 10 attractions in Funchal for visitors looking for some true local flavor!
5) Madeira Botanical Garden - A Blooming Wonderland
The sprawling Madeira Botanical Garden is like entering a living showcase of dazzling flowers and plants. As part of the top 10 attractions in Funchal, I was seriously impressed by the sheer diversity and meticulous designs of the thematic gardens dedicated to everything from succulents to indigenous species to a stunning topiary garden. The panoramic views out over Funchal and the sea provided from the garden’s lookout points were a lovely bonus. I highly recommend taking the guided tour if you visit, which gave me all these fascinating insights into Madeira’s unique biodiversity and botanical histories. Whether you’re a full-on garden aficionado or just someone looking for a tranquil escape, this botanical garden truly enchants all the senses.
6) Funchal Cable Car - A Skyward Adventure
The Funchal cable car ride is so much more than just a mode of transportation – it’s a thrilling adventure that gives you these absolutely incredible aerial views of Funchal’s landscapes that you can’t get anywhere else. This exciting cable car ride, which features as one of Funchal’s top 10 attractions, connects the city’s seaside downtown to the lush green Monte area up in the hills. I loved watching the patterns of the terracotta rooftops give way to the green botanical gardens and farms nestled among the hills, with the bright blue Atlantic Ocean as a backdrop. The journey is smooth and safe, and reaching Monte allows you to further explore the area’s sites, like the world-class Monte Palace Tropical Garden. For photography enthusiasts like myself, riding the cable car is a unique way to gain different elevated perspectives looking down over Funchal’s characteristic charm.
Funchal Cable Car, Madeira
Funchal Cable Car – A Skyward Adventure
7) Museu CR7 - Cristiano Ronaldo's Legacy
Any sports fans visiting Funchal simply have to make a stop at the action-packed Museu CR7 dedicated entirely to Madeira’s legendary football icon Cristiano Ronaldo. This museum showcases Ronaldo’s extraordinary career achievements in such an inspiring way. I was so motivated walking around checking out the amazing collection of trophies, memorabilia items, and interactive multimedia displays that detail Ronaldo’s journey to becoming one of football’s greatest stars. Even if you’re not a huge football or sports enthusiast, seeing Ronaldo’s sheer dedication and unbelievable success story here will resonate with you. I found the adjacent CR7 hotel and themed restaurant to perfectly complement the museum experience and immerse you fully into Ronaldo’s world. The Museu CR7 is a true testament to the power of dreams and hard work, making it one of Funchal’s standout modern attractions.
8) Santa Clara Convent - An Oasis of Peace
Stepping into the serene Santa Clara Convent genuinely felt like entering an oasis of peace and tranquility, which I really welcomed after busy days exploring Funchal. Dating back to the 15th century, this convent, now preserved as a historic site, just exudes this incredible sense of reverence, grace, and history. I was so moved wandering around the elegant cloisters, stunning chapel with its lavish gold details, and the quiet outdoor gardens. One highlight for me was seeing the convent’s ornately carved wooden choir loft, which still retains its original intricately inlaid detail. Taking one of the guided tours really helps you understand the convent’s long history and what daily life was like for the nuns residing here long ago. With its beautifully contemplative ambiance, the Santa Clara Convent is an absolute must-visit heritage attraction among Funchal’s top sights.
9) Madeira Story Centre - A Journey Through Time
For an interactive and engaging way to learn all about Madeira’s captivating history and culture, the Madeira Story Centre is a great family-friendly attraction to visit while in Funchal. I found the state-of-the-art multimedia exhibits so informative but also entertaining, from the colorful dioramas to virtual reality experiences that really bring you right into each historical moment and location. The Centre covers such a diverse range of topics, from Madeira’s volcanic origins to its seafaring adventures and unique festivals. Don’t miss taking a break on the panoramic terrace, which offers these sweeping views out over Funchal and the coastline that really complement the indoor exhibits perfectly. The Story Centre provides exactly the right blend of education and entertainment for learning about Madeira’s rich historical tapestry.
10) São Tiago Fortress - A Historic Stronghold
The distinctive sunshine-yellow São Tiago Fortress standing guard over Funchal’s harbor takes you right back in time to when it defended the city from pirate attacks and foreign invaders. Exploring this 17th-century fortress, I felt transported to the days when fleets of ships ruled the seas. The fortress now houses the Contemporary Art Museum, which makes for a fascinating blend of history and culture. Strolling along the ramparts, I was able to take in these absolutely gorgeous elevated views over the coastline and harbor that just emphasize the fortress’s strategic military position. Visiting the small chapel on site and seeing the well-preserved cannons adds that extra bit of authenticity too. With its prized location scoping over the city and artistic offerings, São Tiago Fortress is a compelling historical and cultural stop for any visitor exploring Funchal’s treasures.


Funchal, Madeira’s vibrant capital, brims with attractions that reflect its multifaceted personality. From historical landmarks to creative expressions, culinary delights to natural wonders, Funchal’s top 10 attractions offer something for every traveler. Join me, Javier Rios, The Digital Nomad, in uncovering the city’s gems and creating memories that last a lifetime. Explore, indulge, and immerse in Funchal’s unique allure. Happy travels!