Funchal Introduction Walking Tour, Funchal

Funchal Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Funchal

In 72 AD, Quintus Sertorius, a Roman general, encountered some sailors in Cadiz. The sailors spoke of two idyllic islands in the Atlantic; the "Isles of the Blessed." Quintus was intrigued, but he had other fish to fry. The islands slipped back into the mists of historic oblivion.

In 1418, Joao Goncalves Zarco and Tristao Vaz Teixeira, while in service to Henry the Navigator, were driven ashore by a storm on an island they named Porto Santo. One year later they returned and "under a heavy black cloud" to the south, they found Madeira.

The island was organized in 1424 into two "captaincies." Zarco and his family settled in "Funchal." The name means, "place where fennel grows." Funchal was fertile. It was ideally located on the south coast and it became a focal point for European commerce.

The sugar industry expanded in the 15th and 16th centuries. A church became a cathedral. Customs houses, hospitals and palaces were raised. In 1566 the island was raided by French corsairs. Funchal was sacked for fifteen days. The population learned the lesson and the city was completely fortified by 1573.

Wine production nudged sugar aside to become a mainstay of the Madeira economy well into the nineteenth century. The Nobility of Europe included Madeira in their Grand Tours. Funchal has been a center of international tourism ever since. There are hotels, a seaport and the Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport nearby.

Funchal has eighteen museums. Museums are dedicated to Sacred Art, Sugar, Football, Photography, Wine (of course), a Fortress museum, Natural History, and Contemporary Art. Churches and chapels include: Corpo Santo, Santa Catarina, Our Lady of the Mountain, Funchal Cathedral, St. Pedro, Holy Savior, and Holy Trinity.

The Monte Palace Gardens can be reached by the exciting cable car ride of Telefericos. From Monte ride a wicker sledge back to Funchal. See the painted doors of Santa Maria Street in the Old Town. Stroll the beautiful Sea Avenue by the shore. Visit the incomparable Worker's Market.

Funchal and Madeira beckon explorers, and those who seek the "Ises of the Blessed."
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

Download The GPSmyCity App

Funchal Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Funchal Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Portugal » Funchal (See other walking tours in Funchal)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.0 Km or 1.2 Miles
Author: john
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Sé Catedral do Funchal (Funchal Cathedral)
  • Praça do Município (Municipal Square)
  • Câmara Municipal (City Hall)
  • Rua Fernão Ornelas (Fernão Ornelas Street)
  • Mercado dos Lavradores (The Workers Market)
  • Rua de Santa Maria (Santa Maria Street)
  • Forte de São Tiago (Saint James Fort)
  • Teleférico Funchal-Monte (Funchal-Monte Cable Car)
  • Avenida do Mar (Sea Avenue)
Sé Catedral do Funchal (Funchal Cathedral)

1) Sé Catedral do Funchal (Funchal Cathedral) (must see)

The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption in the city of Funchal on the Atlantic-bound island of Madeira had not fared well. The exterior volcanic tuff masonry had severe moisture damage, and the roof tiles leaked. Interior woodwork needed cleaning and repair. Restoration began in 2000. The cathedral was reopened to the public by 2014.

The Cathedral, dedicated in 1514, is among the few buildings that have lasted more or less unscathed since the early colonization of the island of Madeira. It is designed as a Gothic structure. It has three naves. It was put together using massive volcanic rocks quarried in the cliffs of nearby Cape Girao. The facades are white with stone corners.

The cathedral roof is cedar, carved Mudejar style. The choir is wood. The choir stalls display images of the the prophets and disciples in 16th century raiment. Detailed carvings show winged cherubs toting fruit and wine in skin bottles. The cathedral has a massive silver cross donated by Portuguese King Manuel I.

Outside of the cathedral is a statue of Pope John Paul II. He visited madeira in 1991. The Cathedral was designed in the 1490s by architects Paro Anes and Gil Enes. The building was basically complete in 1514. The bell tower and spire were finished by 1517.
Praça do Município (Municipal Square)

2) Praça do Município (Municipal Square)

The center of the square is a pedestrianized area paved with dark and light Batistini tiles in wave patterns. In the center of the square is a fountain spire towering above a wide overflowing basin. Auto traffic and parking are allowed in a street surrounding the Square.

The square is the most notable public area in Funchal. It is lined with fine historic buildings. There is the 18th century Town Hall, the 17th century Church of Saint John the Evangelist, the Museum of Sacred Art housed in the 16th century Episcopal Palace, and the former Jesuits College of Funchal, now the rectory of the University of Madeira.

The square often serves as a ceremonial space, especially in the Christmas season. Light shows, concerts, demonstrations and dances are frequent events. There are admirable views of the surrounding hills. The vistas change with weather and time of day.

The black and white paving stones are accented here and there with the red blossoms that fall from the nearby tulip trees. Behind the Museum of Sacred Art is the often visited Museum Cafe with its restful patio and tempting food.
Câmara Municipal (City Hall)

3) Câmara Municipal (City Hall)

Francisco Antonio Camara Leme built his home, the Carvalhal Esmeraldo Palace, in the city of Funchal in 1758. It was designed by Raul Lino and Carlos Ramos. The style can be described as Baroque Rococo. Construction materials were mainly masonry, stone, wood, cast iron and tiles. The building was acquired by the city of Funchal in 1883.

The first Funchal town hall was built in 1486 on the Duque Square (Largo do Duque) near Funchal Cathedral. The town council moved several times after that, finally settling in Largo da Se in 1802. Still not happy, the council discovered the Palacio Esmeraldo Palace on the Ferreiros Street (Rua dos Ferreiros) bordering the Municipal Square.

The City Hall has an impressive main entrance doorway carved in grey stone. The reception area on the first floor (second floor USA) has eleven windows with balconies. Security gratings dating from the 17th century shield windows on the ground floor.

From the entrance an extravagant staircase reaches into the inner courtyard. Here, one encounters the sculpture of Leda and the Swan. The legend is that Zeus, disguised as a swan, had an affaire with his lady love, Ms Leda. All this because Zeus was afraid of Hera, his wife. It's an old story.
Rua Fernão Ornelas (Fernão Ornelas Street)

4) Rua Fernão Ornelas (Fernão Ornelas Street)

Doctor Fernao de Ornelas became mayor of Funchal in 1929. He was 27 years old, the youngest ever mayor. He was a visionary elected to revive a city that was stuck in time. While in office he modernized streets, organized economic districts, brought progressive changes to education, sanitation, and created a modern and more accessible urban layout.

He created new streets and paved older ones. Fernao Ornelas Street, named for him, was an important access to the Workers Market (Mercado dos Lavradores), also his creation. The street opened in the 1940s. The growth of street enterprises accelerated in the beginning of the 21st century. There are few shops over twenty years old.

The esthetics of the Fernao Ornelas Street are tourist-friendly. A large part of the street is pedestrianized. There are terraced restaurants lining the street for 700 feet. The street ends at the Market Bridge, in front of the Workers Market.

On the right, by the the Ribeirinho Street (Rua do Ribeirinho), a lady sits in her wicker chair, stitching a pattern of Funchal lace and watching over the busy street. With all the modernity, the best things never change.
Mercado dos Lavradores (The Workers Market)

5) Mercado dos Lavradores (The Workers Market) (must see)

Cross over the Market Bridge (Ponte do Mercado) at the end of the Fernao Ornelas Street and one is standing before the art deco entrance to the Workers Market of Funchal. Opened in November 1940 and Designed by Edmundo Tavares, the facade and the market throughout are decorated with panels of Azulejo tiles by Joao Rodrigues depicting scenes of Funchal.

The market is divided up into squares and staircases of sales venues. Inside the main entrance are stands for flowers, seeds and bulbs, some stands in operation for as much as fifty years. In the main square within are fruit and vegetable stands, cafes, wine shops and some souvenir stalls.

Cross the square to the opposite side and nose out the fish and seafood market. Ah, the aroma! But it's all good. The walls are adorned with illustrations of different fish and other denizens of the sea.

Second floor, exotic fruit, dried berries, rare herbs and cork things. Also, there is a sizable terrace with two sizable cafes. Have a seat and enjoy a break.

The market neighborhood is always busy as bee hive. Busiest of all is the night before Christmas Eve. That's when Market Night is celebrated in Funchal. The Workers Market becomes an open party of music, food and drink stands. It's Christmas in Madeira!
Rua de Santa Maria (Santa Maria Street)

6) Rua de Santa Maria (Santa Maria Street)

Santa Maria Street is in the parish of Santa Maria Major, the very first parish on the island of Madeira. The street is basically a stone path, approximately 2,000 feet (~609 meters) in length. When the area was first settled, a small church, Santa Maria of the Pebble (Santa Maria do Calhau), was built. A rough square extended to the beach and a street grew parallel to the shore.

The street is a mixture of residential houses and commercial establishments. The families that reside here have been on the street for generations. Well known and not so well known artists have painted the doors of private houses. The illustrations are masterful, adding a feeling of liveliness and color to the street.

The famous Mariazinha Bakery is here. It is crowded from morning until night. Cream Cakes, Fruit Cakes, sandwiches, croissants and espresso, every tasty baked thing in Funchal can be found in this five-star cafe/bakery.

The street is jammed with restaurants and cafe terraces. There are a variety of menus, traditional or international. There are bars to drink poncho and houses to hear fado.
Forte de São Tiago (Saint James Fort)

7) Forte de São Tiago (Saint James Fort)

There was a time when Portugal completely dominated commercial routes of the North Atlantic. The safety of Funchal seemed assured. Who would want to attack this island? Someone did. In 1566 pirates ravaged the undefended port. There was a great deal of slaughter. The danger was real and ongoing, but Funchal was not fortified until 1614.

Construction of the fortress began under the direction of Master builder Jeronimo Jorge. The work was continued later by Jeronimo's son, Bartolomeo Joao and engineer Tossi Columbiano who also designed the Port of Funchal. The fort was considered finished by the mid-18th century.

Pirate and privateer activities diminished over the years and the fort served a multitude of purposes. It was used as a base for British troops during the Peninsular Wars of the early 19th century. The military police and the Funchal Lancers quartered there. The fort also served as shelter for the victims of the devastating floods of 1803.

In 1901 King Carlos I and Queen Amelie of Orleans paid a visit to Funchal and had lunch at the Fort. They were served under a tent set up inside the fort.
Teleférico Funchal-Monte (Funchal-Monte Cable Car)

8) Teleférico Funchal-Monte (Funchal-Monte Cable Car) (must see)

All aboard the Funchal-Monte Cable Car for the ride of your life, thrilling but not scary. It's called a ropeway in Funchal. Yes, it's a cable car. A gondola lift, to be specific. It's a soaring high ride above green gardens, canyons, homes and fields. The gondolas have clean, unmarred windows affording generous views and perspectives.

The gondolas go from Funchal up to the village of Monte and return. The Monte station is halfway between Babosas Village (Largo das Babosas) and Mount Garden (Jardim do Monte). The base station is in the botanical garden Almirante Reis in Funchal. Visit the botanical gardens first, then go up to Monte. There is a bar in Babosas Village with magnificent views of the valley.

The cable car line is over 12,000 feet long, running at heights between 33 and 1,840 feet. Monte was established in 1565 as the parish of Our Lady of the Mount. The ride from Funchal to Monte takes about 15 minutes. The maximum capacity for each car is eight people.

The cable car system's functions: speed, and the opening and closing of the clamps suspending the cars hanging from the cable are controlled and monitored automatically. Monte Station drives the system. Funchal Station, also called the return station, houses the hydraulics of the cable system.

There are two ways to return to Funchal from Monte. One, of course is the cable car. The other is the traditional "basket" ride of Monte. It is a basket on wheels, propelled by two laughing attendants who push riders in the basket down, down to Funchal, laughing and screaming all the way. It's quite safe, really. Like the cable car, it's unforgettable.
Avenida do Mar (Sea Avenue)

9) Avenida do Mar (Sea Avenue)

Sea Avenue stretches out 4,270 feet along the shoreline of Funchal. It runs west from Kings Garden (Jardim do Almirante Reis) on the city's east side all the way to Carneiro Roundabout (Rotunda Sa Carneiro). On the east end, an 11 foot statue of Cristiano Ronaldo, Madeira's football superhero, straddles a pose facing the CR7 Museum. For some reason, visitors are fond of rubbing his crotch.

A generic giant footballer statue stands at the west end. These two bracket Funchal's most favored seaside promenade. The walls of historic St. Lawrance Palace (Palacio Sao Laurenco) line part of the avenue. The are some parks along the way: Provo Park (Parco do Provo), Independence Square (Praca do Autonomia), Cable Car Garden (Jardim de Teleferico), and the aforementioned King's Garden.

Drifts of blue and white agapanthus wave among various sculptures and memorials. Funchal marina is also part of the scene. There are benches to rest on and observe the passing world. Featured on the avenue are restaurants, cafes, vendors, and the central market.

Walking Tours in Funchal, Portugal

Create Your Own Walk in Funchal

Create Your Own Walk in Funchal

Creating your own self-guided walk in Funchal is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Monte Walking Tour

Monte Walking Tour

Monte, a spectacular hilltop area 550 meters above sea level in the northeast of Funchal, is a favored destination for many tourists visiting Madeira. Getting to and from Monte – up on the cable car and down on an exhilarating dry toboggan run – is only half the fun. The other half is exploring the unique blend of natural beauty and cultural attractions found in the area.

One of the...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.6 Km or 0.4 Miles