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  • Tony

Madeira in December

Updated: Jan 2

December 2023

This month, we traveled to the Portuguese Island of Madeira, an archipelago of 4 islands in the Atlantic located south of the Portuguese mainland just west of the African Continent and Morocco. The island is known for its namesake wine, warm, subtropical climate, pebbly beaches, and Lava rock-seawater swimming pools. The main island is dubbed the Hawaii of Europe due to its volcanic origin, lush greenery, and rugged cliff topography. The capital, Funchal, has a lively historic center and expansive botanic gardens and is known for its harbor, Christmas Lights, and extravagant New Year's fireworks show.

There are no direct flights to Madeira from Faro, although we hear that they will become available in 2024. We opted to fly out of Lisbon, a short hour-and-a-half flight direct to Funchal but a two-and-a-half-hour drive from our house to Lisbon. When flying from Lisbon, we usually drive from our house and leave our car at the airport. We decided to try the "Flix Bus" from Portimao for this trip based on recommendations from others who have used it. The coaches were clean, comfortable, and well-equipped for the three-hour and ten-minute trip, with one stop along the way. We drove our car to the Portimao bus station and parked there for free while we were away. The bus takes you to the Orient station in Lisbon, and then it's a 20-minute metro ride direct to the airport. The appeal of the bus, along with not having to drive, is its low cost, 7.99 euros each way per person. Three hours is a long time to sit on a bus, so I am not sure we will repeat this form of transportation.

Lisbon airport is a mess at any time of the year. Everything from construction to impromptu strikes by various workers unions, not to mention that it is significantly over capacity for what it was designed for. You always have to allow for a significant time cushion whether arriving or departing from here. The government has been "researching" options to expand or relocate the airport for years to improve capacity and reduce passenger frustration. It probably won't happen in our lifetime, so we'll deal with it. On the other hand, Funchal was busy but efficient, and who could fault an airport with a spectacular ocean view like this?

We arrived early in the evening, checked in to our hotel, and walked the surrounding area to find a light dinner.

We stayed at the Cliff Bay Hotel on the Estrada Monumental, an area of hotels and resorts about a 20-minute walk to the marina and the old center of Funchal. The balcony of our room faced the Marina, Funchal Bay, and the distant Ilhas Desertas, providing a fantastic view at any time of the day. We could watch the cruise ships, fishing boats, and leisure boats coming and going, in addition to the sunrise over the distant islands.

To start our first full day, we met Madeira residents and fellow ex-pats Gary and Steph for Brunch. We were introduced to them over Whats App by a friend in common who we met in Portimao. They love living in Madeira and were happy to share valuable insights and recommendations with us. Great people that we are happy to now call friends. We spent the rest of the day exploring Funchal on foot.

The Mercado Lavradores (Farmers Market) is a top destination for the colorful displays, fresh tropical fruits, Food stalls/restaurants and of course souvenirs.

The painted doors are a must see in Funchal. Wander down the narrow streets in old town (Zona Velha) lined with restaurants and shops and admire the art created on the doors of functioning and abandoned building doors.

Poncha is a traditional Madeira drink. You will find Poncha bars everywhere serving this refreshing concoction. It's made with Aguardente de cana (Sugar cane distilled alcohol, most made in at-home stills), honey, sugar, fresh orange or lemon rind, and juice pounded to a pulp with a traditional Poncha stick mixed and served.

We rode the cable car from just near the marina up to Monte, one of the spectacular botanic gardens in the foothills. We didn't have time to explore the Botanical gardens but did take advantage of a Toboggan ride down the hill from near the gardens.

We hired a private Range Rover tour of the island for our third day in Madeira. Our new friends, Gary and Steph, recommended Hit the Road Madeira. They have used them often, and when they can, they select Hugo as their driver and guide. We secured Hugo for our full-day trip, and as a double bonus, Gary and Steph came with us, too. It was priceless to get both Hugo's and Gary & Stephs's perspectives on the island. We asked Hugo to take us to places that we wouldn't experience on our own or be able to get to in our rental car. He did not disappoint. Hugo is also quite the character. You can follow his antics and videos @ Madeirahugowego on Instagram. 

This stop at Teleférico das Fajãs do Cabo Girão provided an exceptional view of the coastline/cliffs both east and west, along with the farm at the bottom of the tram. This stop was an excellent alternative to the crowded glass observation deck of Cabo Girão Skywalk just up the road. It is far less touristy, and you can experience several activities here. A viewing platform or take the cable car down to Cabo Girao and grab a nice lunch at "the Top" with a fantastic view. Parking is challenging, so you may need to find a spot on the narrow/steep street to park and walk in. The trio in the picture below is Gary and Steph, with Hugo in the middle.

We continued the journey along the western coast.

We then headed up steep, narrow roads on our shortcut over the mountain to the North side. Gary told us about driving in Madeira; an array of tunnels and highways cut through the mountains, making travel far more efficient than before. He also said if you see a narrow road with steps down the middle or one that is just dirt, avoid them. This was not how Hugo felt as he kicked "the Beast" into all-wheel drive and proceeded to climb both steep, narrow roads with steps and even steeper narrow dirt trails with the remains of fallen trees and deep ruts in the road. When we reached the top, it was a nice break to stop for a Puncha and some traditional homemade Bolo de molo de mel Cake at Rochaos Bar, Arco da Calheta, as a reward.

Our next stop was down a makeshift dirt road to a spectacular cliff-top view of the canyon and town of Seixal below, then just down the road to the Fanal Forest. People love this place for a mystical experience of the fog and ancient Laurel trees. The old trees were certainly present during our visit, but not a hint of fog. Seeing the ancient trees and the surrounding views is still pretty cool. The trio in the picture below is Gary and Steph, with Hugo in the middle.

Still on the north, we stopped in Porto Moniz for Lunch @ Hotel Aqua Natura, Porto Moniz, Miradouro Ilheus da Ribeira da Janela, Seixal, Sao Vicente, and our last stop for a Poncha and snack at Tasquinha da Poncha in Serra de Aqua before descending back into Funchal.

In addition to the cliffs, rock formations, and lush greenery, two other things stood out on the island. First, the terraces! The hillsides, and I mean cliff-like hillsides, were covered with stacked rock terraces. I imagine they were built decades if not centuries, ago to support crops where the water was available; they are a site to see and to think about who made them and the effort it took. Second, you will find ocean water pools in many seaside towns and some resorts. Some are manufactured concrete structures, while others are natural coves that are now controlled to allow enough seawater in. Only a few braved the cooler waters of December while we were there, but I can imagine that the pools are crowded in the summer when the water is more tropical.

On day four we drove on our own toward the east side then to the north. We stopped at one of the most popular hiking trails Ponta de São Lourenço or the Dragon's Tail. A bit too crowded for us so we continued on.  

As we headed North we stopped at Porto da Cruz, Faial, Miradouro da Rocha do Navio, Praia da Alagoa, and the Engenhos do Norte, North Mills Rum Distillery.

From there we dove through Santana, Sao Jorge, Ponta Delgada, to our final stop for a late lunch and spectacular views at Miradouro de São Cristovão and lunch @ Sao Cristovao restaurant, Boaventura

For our last full day here , we walked the Promenade along the shore from the hotel/lido area to Camara da Lobos then relaxed for a while poolside at the hotel

In the afternoon we walked Funchal from hotel along the Marina, stopped for lunch @ Snack Bar Perola where we met three Americans Daniel, Jen and Lauren from Florida who are PT Madeira residents.

On our last night, Gary and Steph invited us to join them and the Funchal Ex-pats group for a walking tour of the Christmas lights of Funchal. Sorry about the photo quality, you just can't capture the scale of the lights that the City has set up for the holidays.

A late addition to this post...Our friends Danien, Jen, and Lauren sent us this video from their rooftop of their apartment showing the famous New Years Eve Funchal fireworks ringing in 2024

A few photos from our most memorable meals.

Tapas Y Copas just across the street from the hotel.

A Vista, located in our hotel, features Mediterranean Cuisine and is a Michelin Bib Gourmand noted restaurant. Avista is run by the prestigious chef Benoît Sinthon (Il Gallo d'Oro, two Michelin Stars) and, like its older “brother,” boasts truly spectacular views, with the coast, the vast Atlantic Ocean, and nearby islands as a backdrop. The restaurant’s philosophy of informality encourages guests to share plates, enabling them to try more dishes.

The Hotel sent up a nice card and Birthday cake with Sparkling wine.

My first Scabbard Fish, a very ugly long fish looking somewhat like an Eel. It was very tasty, big white flaked fish with a mild flavor.

Gems like this with stunning views and good food can be found on the cliff tops around the island.

We had a great experience in Madeira and plan to return soon and often. We will definitely take the 2 hour ferry boat ride to Porto Santo, for its white sand beaches, and venture out on some of the fantastic hiking trails outside of Funchal on future visits.

Our Itinerary - Madeira December 2023

Day 1

  • FLIX Bus Portimão to LIS Oriente

  • Metro from Oriente Station to LIS Terminal 1

  • TAP flight TP 1691, Sun, 17 Dec, 15:25 LIS, 17:10 FNC

  • Car Rental - Madeira Rent


  • Dinner @ Tapas Y Copa


Day 2

  • Walked through Parque de Santa Catarina

  • Brunch Club w/with Gary & Steph, Friends of Peter & Elena;

  • Walking around Funchal Old Town and the waterfront;

  • Mercado Lavaradores

  • Zona Velha

  • Cathedral of Funchal

  • Praça do Povo & Funchal Marina

  • Cristiano Ronaldo Statue

  • Rei da Poncha

  • Old town, Rua Santa Maria for painted doors

  • Cable car from marina on the Funchal – Monte line

  • Botanical Gardens - Monte Palace and/or the Madeira Botanical Gardens – The second gardens are located not too far from Monte Palace and are connected by the Botanical – Monte line

  • To get back to Funchal you can simply take a cable car back or take a ride in the famous Toboggan cart ride.

  • Took the Madeira Toboggan ride on traditional wicker basket sleighs. At he end you can either catch an awaiting taxi back to the center of Funchal or walk the 45 minute extremely steep downhill roads to town. We did the walk and our thighs were burning!

  • Dinner @ Avista


Day 3

  • Breakfast @ Hotel

  • Hit the Road Madeira - Private 4x4 Tour with Hugo - Full Day, Invited Gary and Steph to join us. Steph and Gary recommended Hugo and HRM from their previous experience with them. We asked Hugo to take us to places that we wouldn't experience on our own or be able to get to in our rental car. He did not disappoint. Hugo is also quiet the character, you can follow his antics and videos @ Madeirahugowego on Instagram.

  • Visited;

  • Camara dos Lobos

  • Teleférico das Fajãs do Cabo Girão

  • Ribeira Brava

  • Cascata dos Anjos (Waterfall of the Angels) Drive through waterfall

  • Ponta do Sol

  • Off Road over the top to Rochaos Bar, Arco da Calheta

  • Off road to Miradouro Fio, a fantastic cliff and valley view to Seixal below

  • The Fanal Forest

  • Lavada dos Cedros

  • Porto Moniz

  • Lunch @ Hotel Aqua Natura, Porto Moniz

  • Miradouro Ilheus da Ribeira da Janela

  • Seixal

  • Sao Vicente

  • Tasquinha da Poncha, Serra de Aqua

  • Dinner, Frango da Gui

Day 4

  • Drove on our own east side to the North

  • Ponta de São Lourenço Dragons Tail…crowded

  • Porto da Cruz

  • Faial

  • Miradouro da Rocha do Navio

  • Praia da Alagoa

  • Engenhos do Norte, North Mills Rum Distillary

  • Santana

  • Sao Jorge

  • Ponta Delgada

  • Miradouro de São Cristovão and lunch @ Sao Cristovao restaurant, Boaventura

  • Dinner @ Aconchego

Day 5

  • Walked the Promenade along the shore from the hotel/lido area to Camara da Lobos

  • Relaxed poolside at the hotel

  • Walked Funchal from hotel along the Marina

  • Lunch @ Snack Bar Perola, met three Americans from Florida who are PT Madeira residents

  • Walked the Lights of Funchal with Madeira expats group, invited by Gary and Steph

  • Gary and Steph invited us to Join the local expats group to walk the Christmas lights of Funchal, meet at the Renaldo Statue

Day 6

  • TAP Flight 1688, Fri, 22 Dec, 11:20 FNC, 13:00 LIS

  • Metro from LIS to Oriente Station

  • FLIX Bus LIS Oriente to Portimao

Things to do/see

Highlights (Detailed in the regions below)

  • Pay attention to the number of Cruise ships in the Marina, go to the most popular sites when there are fewer or zero in port.

  • The one thing to note when you’re traveling in Madeira is the weather. There are several different micro climate zones on the island so you can experience different weather throughout the island. 

  • Ride the Teleférico (Cable Car) up to visit the Botanical Gardens.

  • Ride a wicker basket toboggan down a steep street (Touristy but fun)

  • Hike some of the many great Lavada (Aqueduct) hikes/walks

  • Take one of the many Teleférico (Cable Car) rides down the face of a steep cliff landing at a small village/Garden on the beach below

  • Walk the Promenade along the sea starting at Lido on the West side of town. You can walk all the way to Camara de Lobos

  • CN Traveler; The southwest coast is home to mountains covered in banana and avocado trees, exotic flowers and a string of pretty coves, like Madalena do Mar, Ponta do Sol, and the picturesque fishing village of Câmara de Lobos. On the north side, you’ll find the photogenic black sand beach of Seixal, the charming, 15th-century straw-roofed houses in Santana, and the lava pools of Porto Moniz. Many visitors, however, stay in Funchal, and day trip to all of these places. One of the most beautiful activities to do is to walk along one of Madeira’s remarkable 200 irrigation tunnels, or levadas, which wind through tunnels, clouds and waterfalls high in the mountains.

South side

  • Caniçal is a fishing village near Funchal. It has beautiful white cliffs overlooking the sea, pristine countryside, and hiking opportunities. South side, sunny side, warmest side of the island

  • Valley Of The Nuns - Curral das Freiras or Valley of Nuns in Madeira. It’s located a short drive from Funchal and it’s an in/out kinda trip. This small town has a couple of restaurants and tourist shops but aside from the views, there isn’t much to do there. However, these viewpoints are beautiful and you shouldn’t skip this area on your Madeira adventure.

  • There are two major viewpoints, the first being Eira do Serrado, a very popular spot on the island. Once you arrive at the spot, there is a small parking spot with a café. In order to get to the viewpoint, you’ll have to take a short 5 min walk. I recommend grabbing a coffee and a pastel de nata at the cafe for a little longer appreciation of the area. The second point, Paredão Viewpoint, is located above the clouds and it’s not too far from the first one. It’s also a short walk from the parking area.

  • After admiring the views from the top, I recommend grabbing lunch in the little town which will give you a slightly different perspective of the area. Everyone recommends a restaurant called Sabores de Curral but I opted for La Perla instead.


  • Funchal is the capital of Madeira and is certainly worth spending some time in. If you’re driving, the streets can get really narrow so rather than looking for street parking, I recommend finding a parking garage near the center. Garage prices are very cheap and it will save you time and a headache.

  • Walking around Zona Velha, seeing the market, and most important feeling the liveliness of the town by spending some time by the waterfront. Don’t forget a mandatory stop for some good poncha either.

  • Mercado Lavaradores: Yes it is touristy but the market is colorful and has many souvenirs to look at.

  • Avenida Arriaga: Right next to the market, you will find this pedestrian shopping street. It’s a good spot to take a stroll and window shop for a bit.

  • Zona Velha: This is the Old Town which includes cobblestone streets, restaurants, bars and lively nightlife. You will also find the painted doors project here on Rua Santa Maria with many creative works of art.

  • Cathedral of Funchal:  in the heart of town.

  • Make sure to stop at Rei da Poncha, a very popular hole in the wall with some great tasting poncha and some great snacks too. The outdoor tables might be full but just linger around for a couple of minutes and a table will free up in no time.

  • Praça do Povo & Funchal Marina: Walk along the waterfront to observe the ships and the festive atmosphere of locals and tourists. Many festivals and activities are scheduled here too…

  • Parque de Santa Catarina: Small park overlooking the town and the incoming ships.

  • Cristiano Ronaldo Statue: If you make your way by the park, grab a photo with the icon of Madeira, the one and only Cristiano Ronaldo. Since he was born on the island, you will see a lot of references to him. There is even a Hotel and a museum

  • Botanical Gardens - you can explore either Monte Palace or Madeira Botanical Gardens (or maybe even both if you love gardens). If you are visiting in the Spring set aside at least two days for the gardens and plenty of time simply driving around the island, the lush greenery and flowers are an incredible site to see..

  • Monte Palace – Situated in the foothills above Funchal, the best way to get here is by cable car from Funchal on the Funchal – Monte line experiencing some awesome views from above of the city along the way. To get back to Funchal you can simply take a cable car back or take a ride in the famous Toboggan cart ride. It is a bit touristy but a fun experience in Madeira.

  • Take the Madeira Toboggan ride on traditional wicker basket sleighs

  • Madeira Botanical Gardens – The second gardens are located not too far from Monte Palace and are connected by the Botanical –  cable car line which starts adjacent to the Monte Gardens

  • Funchal at night: Local cuisine is bomb. So make sure to take yourself to a nice place, have some good traditional food and then walk around the town at night. Most towns should always be seen during the day and night. There is a whole new vibe that emerges when the lights dim!

South West

  • Pico Do Arieiro - It’s the third-highest peak and one of the only that you don’t actually have to hike. Yes, you can simply drive there and see the most amazing views without any pain. Known for its incredible sunrise overlooking Madeira under the clouds. However, check the webcams for both, sunrise and sunset to ensure clear skies before heading up.

  • Cabo Girão Skywalk - a short ride from Funchal to the famous glass skywalk with great ocean and Funchal views. A small platform but still impressive. There is no entrance fee and the spot gets pretty crowded. As an alternate check out the top of Teleférico das Fajãs do Cabo Girão and the restaurant “The Top” Far less touristy and you can experience several activities here. A viewing platform or take the cable car down to Cabo Girao, and/or grab a nice lunch with an amazing view. Parking is a challenge so you may need to find a spot on the narrow/steep street to park and walk in. 

  • Ribeira Brava: shops, restaurants and nice mountain and ocean views.

East side

  • Sao Lourenco Toward Sao Vincente Now that you got to see most of the Funchal area and its surrounding gems, it’s time to head to the super green part of the island.

  • Ponta De São Lourenço - This hike is certainly not a hidden gem of the island. If possible try to arrive before 10 am as the spot gets pretty crowded. Even better if you can make a sunrise hike! If you’re worried about weather conditions, don’t forget to check out the webcams. This hike starts at the parking trail and goes all the way to the tippy top of Madeira. You won’t be able to reach the very end of these crazy rock formations because the very last part is separated by the ocean. The hike should take you between 1.5 to 2.5 hours each way depending on how many times you take picture stops. Towards the end, you will find a small cafe where you can use the bathroom or grab a coffee. This is a very popular part of the island so expect some crowds.

North side rustic/raw rock pools, steepest cable car

  • Northern Drive Toward Sao Vincente - I recommend a scenic drive along the northeastern part of the island. Here are a couple of stops to consider. Depending on the timing of your day, you will not be able to do all of them so plan the spots that appeal to you:

  • Coastal Viewpoints:

  • Faial Beach: This little beach is located about 25 minutes from Sao Lourenco parking lot.

  • Miradouro do Guindaste: Right above Faial Beach, there is a nice coastal viewpoint offering the awesome view of the beach does but from a higher perspective.

  • Miradouro do Curtado: This one is located a short 10 min drive from the point mentioned before. It offers a nice view of local town as well as the northern coast nearby.

  • Santana Houses: This will be one of the most crowded places on this side of the island.

  • Hotel & Restaurante Quinta do Furão: This is a good place for an early dinner but before you head to the restaurant, go on a little walk around the property. There is a vineyard in the back and a garden in that is accessible to walk around patrons and it was a (hidden) place during out little drive. It’s super pretty and you can even catch a view of a waterfall from there.

  • Miradouro da Beira da Quinta: quick stop but nonetheless a nice viewpoint of the local area.

  • Sao Vincente: This is a small town that’s the base of a lot of northern hikes. Quiet atmosphere and more local vibe compared to Funchal. The small town has a couple of restaurants and bars by the water. If you’re not staying in the area, I’d recommend grabbing some food before heading back home. Restaurante Calamar which had delicious food for amazing prices and Poncha de Sao Vincente, a local bar with good starters

  • Drive Toward Porto Moniz- Before you head to see the famous swimming pools of Porto Moniz, there is a couple of quick stops you can make before heading over.

  • Miradouro do Véu da Noiva: This is a very popular viewpoint on the island. The main highlight of this stop is a waterfall that drops into the ocean.

  • Seixal: What many describe as the best beach in Madeira is located in Seixal, a small town on the northern coast. It’s all black sand contrasting with vibrant green nature and surrounded by mountains. There are also small natural swimming pools located in town.

  • Porto Moniz - The Porto Moniz natural swimming pools are swimming areas formed by lava and filled with fresh seawater on the northwestern side of the island. They are one of the coolest outdoor swimming pools. There are two pool areas in town. One with an entrance fee but only 1.5 euros, there you will find lockers and snack bars the other is free but more rocky and natural. The actual town is super small, you can walk from one pool area to the other in under 10 mins.

  • Fanal Forest - Quick Tip: If you’re heading to Fanal Forest or Fanal Pond from Porto Moniz, make an easy and quick stop at Miradouro da Eira da Achada for more island views from above. People love this place for a mystical experience of the fog and ancient Laurel trees. If you visit during the summer peak months, the chances of the fog are said to be greatest in the morning. However, in the “winter” months, you can catch it at pretty much any time. Put Fanal Pond in your GPS and you will arrive in a small parking lot, then walk towards the forest. There are many cows in that forest so be careful not to step in some cow poo as you’re taking your picture.

Hikes & Levada Walks

  • Garganta Funda Viewpoint: Although you will need to walk about 15 minutes to reach this viewpoint, the awesome waterfall that you will see at the end will make it worth it.

  • Ponta do Pargo Lighthouse: A small picturesque lighthouse on the far end of the island. It might not be a super exciting spot, but you can take a small walk in the area and admire the calm atmosphere.

  • Cascata dos Anjos: The famous waterfall that falls on your car as your drive on ER101 is certainly a cool experience. If you’re driving toward the west side, you can even pull over and see it up close.

  • Levada dos Cedros

  • Levada du Balcoes (PR 11). balcoes levada hike, 1.9 miles, 1 hours, follows Levada Serra do Faial to Balconies viewpoint.

  • Levada de rei

  • Lavada do Calderio verde (part of PR 9): Located in Santana, this popular trail, lavada do Calderio verde, begins in the Queimadas Forestry Park and leads you along the stunning Levada of Caldeirão Verde. The hike is flat, plan on going 5-6 miles RT. The trail starts after the charming fairytale house Casa de Abrigo das Queimadas and the small cafe and a parking lot. On the way, you’ll see waterfalls, cross a few tunnels (don’t forget your headlight), and get glimpses of the valley below.

Madeira Beaches

  • Almost all beaches in Madeira are small pebble not sand or concrete pads where you can drop a towel and enjoy the sun.

  • Calheta Beach one of only two beaches in Madeira with white sand (imported).

  • Seixal Black Sand Beach: I mentioned this beach earlier but if you like black sand, you should spend some time enjoying the beauty of Seixal.

  • Ponta do Sol Beach: In the (almost always) sunny part of Madeira, you can find a nice small beach to enjoy without the crowds.

Traditional Foods to Eat

  • Bolo do Caco The “Bolo do Caco” is a typical wheat bread of Madeira and Porto Santo. This bread, made from wheat flour, is flattened and has rounded edges. Its name is due to the way, until very recently, it was cooked: on a basalt stone, called “caco”, on hot coals. It can be consumed hot, such as a meal entree, with a garlic butter spread to melt, or even as a main delicacy. It is common to be used in making sandwiches based on the “Bolo do Caco” with varied fillings, such as steaks (Prego no Bolo do Caco), ham, swordfish, octopus. Try the “Padaria Petit Fours” in Funchal to give it a taste!

  • Prego no Bolo do Caco The “Prego” (steak sandwich): grilled steak, served on traditional Madeiran Bolo do Caco. The ‘Special Prego’ includes lettuce, tomato, ham and cheese, sometimes served with fries. A cheap and extremely popular dish for lunch. Our suggestion to eat the Best “Prego” is in Ribeiro Frio at the “Faísca” Restaurant or “Abrigo do Pastor” at Carreiras restaurant and, if you are visiting Porto Santo Island, take a stop at “Escorpião Pub” or “João do Cabeço” where you will also have a fantastic traditional Prego!

  • Espetada: made with beef cubes in a laurel skewer and grilled on wood or charcoal. Many restaurants have tables with iron structures applied in the center, to hang long laurel skewers in which broil the meat pieces.  To accompany the dish, the locals suggest the Fried Maize “Milho Frito” and Bolo do Caco, traditionally baked on a tile or slab over fire. The restaurants “Polar”, “Lagar” or “Santo António” in Câmara de Lobos are some of the most popular restaurants to eat a good espetada.

  • Filete de Espada (Scabbard Filet) The most typical fish of Madeira Island is the black scabbard fish “Espada“, which swims in deep waters and has a fearsome appearance, at least when viewed in the market. However, it is also very tasty, especially when prepared the “Madeiran Way”, with passion fruit and banana sauce. The restaurant “Casa Madeirense “, “Classico” or “Doca do Cavacas” in Funchal and also the Restaurant “Preia Mar” in Madelena do Mar (Ponta do Sol) or “Maré Alta” (Machico) are some of the most popular restaurants for a great “Espada”.

  • Lapas (Limpets) A Madeiran specialty, much appreciated by locals and visitors. The limpets “Lapas” are cooked upwards in a frying pan of their own and their taste increases when splashed with fresh lemon and butter. The typical Bolo do Caco is a great accompaniment to this snack. We can suggest some Restaurants around the island to try these “Lapas” such as “Barqueiro” (Funchal), “Portinho” (Jardim Do Mar), “Muralhas” (Caniçal), “Poita” (Madalena do Mar), “Maré Alta” (Machico) or “Many” (São Vicente).

  • Picadinho The “Picado” or “Picadinho” is a traditional Madeiran dish, and therefore prepared in almost all of the restaurants of the region. It is traditionally prepared with beef cut into small cubes, fried and seasoned with garlic and pepper. The “Picadinho” is usually served on a platter being shared by several people, who dig in with a toothpick or a fork. You can still find “Picado” made of octopus and squid, although the recipe and presentation are a bit different. Our sugestions for restaurants to eat a “Picadinho” are: “Caravela” (São Vicente), “Virgilio ” (São Vicente), “Beer Garden” (Funchal) and “Vila Bela ” (Porto da Cruz).

  • Cozido Madeirense The famous Madeiran stew (Cozido Madeirense) is a dish based on salted pork, sausages and whole vegetables, among them sweet potatoes. It is cooked over a wood fire, which gives a great taste and flavor, the ingredients are all mixed in a large pot, and all cooked at the same time. To accompany all this meaty goodness, couscous. The restaurant “Cantinho da Serra” in Santana is a nice spot to try this typical dish.

  • Polvo (Octopus) Octopus is a very popular dish here in Madeira, although it is not a typically Madeiran dish. It can be served as a “dentinho” or as an entree, a marinade or with rice. In São Vicente the “Many” restaurant is our sugestion to try this dish.

  • Truta (Grilled Trout) In Ribeiro Frio there are the famous trout nurseries where they produce large quantities of trout. Due to this, in the parish of São Roque do Faial, the Ribeiro Frio Grilled Trout is an appreciated typical dish of this parish. Try the restaurants in Ribeiro Frio and the “SolMar” in Porto Moniz to have a traditional trout experience!

  • Sopa de Trigo (Wheat Soup) The Wheat Soup is one of the specialties of the island, characterized by its gummy texture, much appreciated by residents and also by theones who visit the island. It is a great soup to eat in the winter because it is very dense, due to the amount of vegetables it takes. There are several variations of the recipe, each home does its own thing. The richest recipes are prepared with pork and various vegetables, in the humblest, only lard and seed are added. In Camacha village you have some restaurants where you can try a great Wheat Soup such as the “Bar dos Sócios”, “O Cesto”, “O Regedor”, “Café Relógio”, “Katespero”, “O Boleo”.

  • Bife de Atum (Tuna Steak) Tuna is one of the most popular dishes in Madeira, and is usually eaten in the form of steak. Tuna is a fish abundant in the seas around the island and hence have a strong component in the traditional cuisine of the region. The Madeiran Tuna steaks are usually prepared in a marinade of olive oil, garlic, salt and oregano. It is served with cooked or fried maize, or boiled potatoes, rice and salad. Our sugestions for restaurants to eat a delicious “Tuna Steak” are: “Taberna Moderna” (Funchal), Fajã dos Padres, “PVP” (Funchal), “Atlantic” (Funchal), “Casal da Penha” (Funchal) and “Quinta do Furão” (Santana).

  • Carne Vinha D'Alhos The “Carne de Vinha D’Alhos” is a traditional dish of the Christmas season in Madeira however, it is consumed all year round. It is made with pork, white wine, vinegar, garlic, bay leaf, salt and pepper, and left to marinate for at least two days. At the time of eating it is fried along with the marinade and a bit of lard. One of the best spots to try this snack is in Funchal Farmers Market at the Restaurant “Cica”.

  • Sopa de Tomate (Tomato Soup) The tomato and onion soup is one of the references of traditional Madeiran cuisine. Served with poached egg and bread, it is to eat and cry for more!

  • Castanhetas The “Castanheta” is a fish that is found in abundance along the coast of Madeira, Azores and Canary Islands. They are seasoned with salt and fried in very hot oil. When serving, you can season with lemon juice and accompany with what you like best, we guarantee that they are a delight! The village of Caniçal is the ideal place to try this delicious dish at the “Amarelo” restaurant.

  • Chicharros Fritos The “Chicharro” is a small fish that abounds in the Madeira seas and, for that reason, has played an important role in Madeiran gastronomy along the years. It can be eaten fried, grilled or baked, being currently more common to find it fried. The village of Caniçal or Machico is the ideal place to try this delicious dish at the “Amarelo” and “Muralhas” (Caniçal) or the “Maré Alta” (Machico).

  • Cracas The “Cracas” are calcareous formations that develop in colonies on the rocks of the marine coasts, from where they are uprooted by hammering. We can find them on Porto Santo Island and also in Madeira Island. They are considered a fine snack with an incomparable sea flavor. It is worth trying this delicacy if you are seafood lover. You cant try this dish at restaurant “Vila Miséria” (Porto Santo) or “Barqueiros” (Madeira).

  • Bolo de molo de mel: This traditional honey cake is pretty tasty!

  • Madeira Wine: It’s heavy and has a very distinct taste and you’ll certainly feel it going down your throat! Blandy’s Madeira is a very popular spot to consume this beverage.

  • Fresh Poncha: (Don’t buy it in a bottle) Poncha is the most delicious alcoholic drink. It’s made of cane rum and had different fruit flavor options. Get the traditional kind (Fishermans) and enjoy the happiness that comes after drinking this. The best we had was @ Rei du Poncha, @ Tasquinha da Poncha, Serra de Aqua, and @ Rochaos Bar, Arco da Calheta

  • Frutas Tropicais (Tropical Fruits) Tropical fruits that grow on the island, such as bananas, mangos, papayas, pomegranates, grapes and avocados are undoubtedly an endless delight. Why not to try the tabaibos, also called “figs of the devil”? These fruits, from a species of cactus, are appreciated for their juicy freshness. Pass through the Farmers Market (Funchal or Ribeira Brava) and sample some of these fruits for free. A number of tropical fruits are well worth a try.

  • Hamburgers The “Castelo dos Harmburguers” (Hamburger Castle) or the “Hamburgueria do Mercado” are a must try restaurants for hamburger lovers! Both places are very popular spots for all the Madeirans. Restaurants where they serve various types of hamburgers, all made on the spot, from the bread to the meat with the authentic flavour of its ingredients, mixing tradition with a dash of modern!



  • Pastelarrria Novos Sabores Funchal French pastries and Breakfst.

  • Lume Pizzaria - lunch

  • Minifattura di Gelato - Best homemade Gelato

  • Francos Corner

  • Blandys Restauant

  • White house pub

  • Funchal Taps for good mexican

  • Brunch Club

  • Aconchego - recommend from Gary and Steph with a great view

  • Restaurante Calamar - delicious food for amazing prices

  • Poncha de Sao Vincente, a local bar with awesome apps.

  • Quinta do Furao, near Santana, with sea view

  • Mad market restaurant

  • Dona Nina

  • Restaurant informal

  • Marisqueira splendida

  • Taberna do capito

  • Portaliano -pizza

  • TBerna Madeira

  • Casa da penha

  • Santa Maria Funchal, sushi and fish Taberna madeira, bar with great view

  • Hotel & Restaurante Quinta do Furão

  • Miradouro de São Cristovão and lunch @ Sao Cristovao restaurant, Boaventura

  • Casal da Penha Rua Penha de França, Funchal, 9000-014, Portugal, €€ · Portuguese. Bib Gourmand: good quality, good value cooking. A family-run restaurant that extols the virtues of all that is simple yet authentic with a menu which lets the ingredients do the talking. Located in the centre of Funchal, surrounded by large hotels, its modest yet neat and tidy dining room is enhanced by the superb terrace upstairs. The father is in charge of the kitchen, where he prepares dishes with a traditional flavour including lots of regional specialities, delicious fish of the day options, an extensive choice of meats, and tasty rice dishes, including a variety of paellas. Make sure you order the clams “à Bulhão Pato” if available – they are truly delicious!

  • Vila do Peixe Rua Doutor João Abel de Freitas 30-A, Câmara de Lobos, 9300-048, Portugal, €€ · Seafood Bib Gourmand: good quality, good value cooking. An ideal lunch or dinner option for visitors given its location in the upper section of the old town (opposite the municipal market) and its huge windows boasting superb views of both the bay and the ocean. If you’re looking for authentic maritime-inspired cooking and fresh fish caught the same day you won’t find a better option, as guests can choose the piece of fish they want to eat as if they were in the market; the fish is then weighed in front of you and cooked immediately on the grill. Typical dishes well worth sampling, if available, are the popular limpets and sea snails.

  • William - Estrada Monumental 139, Funchal, 9000-098, Portugal, €€€€ · Contemporary One Star: High quality cooking. A meal here represents much more than just a homage to gastronomy – it is an authentic encounter with history! And it’s not by chance that this hotel was one of the favourite destinations for European aristocracy. In its elegant dining room, split between two floors, savour cuisine with a well-established classical base that features pleasant harmonies, a showcasing of local ingredients, and extreme attention to detail. The idyllic views are worthy of special mention as they encompass one of the most panoramic vistas of the Funchal coast and are the icing on the cake for the perfect lunch or dinner. The name is a well-deserved homage to the legendary William Reid, the Scottish visionary who built the hotel over a century ago.

  • Avista - Estrada Monumental 145, Funchal, 9004-532, Portugal, €€ · Mediterranean Cuisine Bib Gourmand: good quality, good value cooking. Part of the fabulous The Cliff Bay hotel, Avista is run by the prestigious chef Benoît Sinthon (Il Gallo d'Oro, two Michelin Stars) and, like its older “brother”, boasts truly spectacular views, with the coast, the vast Atlantic Ocean and nearby islands as a backdrop. Here, the cuisine (Mediterranean on the ground floor and more Asian-inspired upstairs) highlights the restaurant’s philosophy of informality in which the idea of sharing plates to enable guests to try more dishes is key, along with a focus on fresh ingredients of the very highest quality.

  • Il Gallo d'Oro - Estrada Monumental 147, Funchal, 9004-532, Portugal, €€€€ · Modern Cuisine. Two Stars: Excellent cooking. Madeira is often called “paradise on Earth” and the “pearl of the Atlantic”, apt descriptions which are enhanced by a meal at Il Gallo d’Oro, the island’s very own culinary Eden. Here, French chef Benoît Sinthon conjures up fresh, delicious and creative cuisine that showcases the full flavours of the Atlantic, both from the island and its surrounding waters, reviving old recipes and reinterpreting them through the use of contemporary techniques and ingredients that support his quest for sustainability (many of which are sourced from the PortoBay organic garden). Various menus are available with varying numbers of courses, from which guests can also select individual dishes à la carte style. To make your experience even more special, why not book the chef’s table or dine on the terrace with its idyllic views?




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