Madeira has a fun lineup of events and festivals throughout the year. The massive fireworks display in Funchal for New Year’s Eve alone is worth traveling to the island for. The Madeira Flower Festival, held early in the summer season, is also a special time and visitors always enjoy the annual Wine Festival.
Funchal is the main focal point of the flamboyant Madeira Carnival in mid-February. Not unlike the Rio Carnival, albeit on a smaller scale, the event boasts big processions (on Avenida Arriaga in the capital) and also features live music and theater from Saturday to Shrove Tuesday, concluding with the Trapalhão ‘fun’ parade.
Madeira Flower Festival
Madeira’s Flower Festival is like no other, bringing all the island’s beautiful floral produce together in a riotous splash of color in the center of Funchal. There are floats, singing and dancing galore, flower carpet-making and musical performances. The day before sees costumed kids construct a ‘Wall of Hope’ in the Municipal Square (Praça do Município) and the whole shebang takes place two weeks after Easter.
Atlantic Firework Festival
Orchestras perform to a backdrop of elaborate fireworks every Saturday in June in Funchal. The event incorporates the International Fireworks Competition and the Madeira Music Festival at the waterfront. For classical music, head to the Teatro Municipal Baltazar Dias, Palácio de São Lourenço or Casa das Mudas.
July 1 marks the autonomy of the archipelago of Madeira, granted by Portugal in 1976. There’s plenty of flag-waving and parades, and local events take place all around the archipelago and the neighboring islands.
Funchal Jazz Festival
Local acts and bands from around the world perform for two days at the Funchal Jazz Festival in early July. Jazz and blues musicians can be seen at the Santa Catarina Park and jam sessions, workshops, and master classes are also held.
Madeira Wine Festival
A really fun and intriguing event for tourists is the Madeira Wine Festival, which reveals some of the culture and history behind the island’s wine making heritage. The late-August celebration begins in Camara de Lobos with the picking and stomping of grapes and a parade, followed by the main event in Funchal, which hosts various shows and tasting ceremonies.
This week-long event takes place on Porto Santo, where Christopher Columbus lived for a time and still holds a special place in the hearts of Madeirans. There are parades, parties, and exhibitions in mid-September, with the culmination being the re-enactment of Columbus’s arrival on the island.
New Year’s Eve Fireworks
This is without a doubt the main event on the Madeira festival calendar. Forget the Chinese with their noisy firecrackers on Chinese New Year, the New Year’s Eve display in Funchal Harbor is the biggest and best. The display goes on for around 20 minutes and is best seen either from the marina or a special cruise ship launched for the day. Bars and restaurants all over the island put on parties for the celebrations.