Madeira — Attractions
Madeira has a striking coastline, dotted with fishing villages-turned-resorts and quaint harbors. There are many great attractions away from the shore, however, such as the lofty Cabo Girao cliff and the ancient levadas canals. Funchal is home to most of the top sights, including the Sé cathedral and various lush gardens. You can get to most of these on foot, but a public bus network serves the towns and villages island-wide.
The capital city in the south of Madeira is the main draw for visitors thanks to its numerous resorts and sights. While it isn’t home to the island’s best beaches, Funchal has a striking waterfront — best seen by walking the Lido Promenade — and a dazzling marina. The town is set on a hillside with mountains looming behind, and is well within reach of nearby coastal resorts. Must-see sights include the cathedral and Quinta Palmeira Gardens.
Address:__ Funchal, South Coast
This pleasant stretch down at Funchal’s waterfront links the Lido area with Praia Formosa Beach to the west. The promenade is great for walking and strewn with attractions, including three swimming pools, a plethora of hotels, and fine views. Lido, Clube Naval, and Ponta Gorda have seawater and freshwater pools, leisure facilities, and restaurants. The botanical gardens also borders the Promenade.
Address:__ 9000 Funchal
Camara de Lobos
This pretty fishing village just west of Funchal is a popular visitor base in Madeira. Although it doesn’t have fabulous beaches, it is backed by striking cliffs, features a quaint harbor, and is centrally located for trips to Funchal. Head down to the harbor early in the morning and watch the fishermen tend to their daily business. The lofty Cabo Girao is just to the west of Camara de Lobos.
Address:__ Camara de Lobos (near Funchal), South Coast
Ribeira Brava is an historic coastal village in Madeira noted for its 16th century church, 17th century fortress (Forte de Sao Bento), bustling waterfront, and art and crafts shops to the west of Funchal. The beach at Ribeira Brava is sandier than Camara de Lobos, and the two places are divided by the spectacular Cabo Girao cliff. Ribeira Brava is a 30-minute drive from Funchal.
Address:__ Ribeira Brava, South Coast
Just a short drive or bus ride from Funchal and Camara de Lobos is the stunning must-see landmark of Cabo Girao. One of the world’s highest and most monumental cliff faces, visitors have a remarkable view of the Atlantic Ocean. You can walk the rocky beach at the base.
Address: Cabo Girao (near Camara de Lobos), South Coast
A fishing village on the northwest coast of Madeira, Porto Moniz makes for an interesting stop on a tour of the island. The drive in itself is part of the attraction, with its high, winding turns and fabulous sea views. The village has a harbor and a sectioned-off area for swimming in the volcanic rock pools, while town walks reveal cute cottages nestled amid cobblestone streets. Porto Moniz is also noted for its seafood restaurants and the Achadas da Cruz cable car ride makes for a breathtaking activity.
Address: Porto Moniz, Northwest Coast
Levadas are small aqueducts that were built on the mountainous Madeira back in the 1400’s onwards to transport water from the interior of the country to quench crops. Over 1,500 miles of the canals were constructed over a period of 500 years, and visitors today can walk alongside them on a network of footpaths. There are numerous levadas around the island, graded from easy (such as the Levada do Norte-Quinta Grande) to challenging (like the Boca da Corrida-Encumeada).
São Vicente Caves and Volcanism Center
A major attraction on the north coast of Madeira, São Vicente Caves and Volcanism Center draws in thousands of visitors each year. The center is both educational and fun, and is situated near the charming São Vicente in a valley setting. The lava tubes stretch for more than half a mile and can be seen on a half-hour tour. The center teaches all about volcanoes and the formation of Madeira.
Address: São Vicente, North Madeira
Phone: +351-29-184-2404 (caves)
Cathedral of Funchal
One of the top cultural attractions in Madeira is the Sé in Funchal. Located in the historic section of town, this stucco-basalt building looks plain from the outside, but the interior is stunning with an elaborate altar and a Moorish carved ceiling.
Address: Rua da Aljube, 9000-067 Funchal
Quinta Palmeira Gardens
These beautiful gardens are a major highlight situated just a few minutes from the center of Funchal. Some of the gardens are a century old, and many have been lovingly restored, providing a feast for the senses and fine views over the south coast. Look out for exotic plants and flowers, machinery from the sugar plantation days, and Columbus’s window!
Address: Rua da Levada de Santa Luzia, Funchal