Welcome to the port of Madeira (Funchal cruise port)!
Imagine an oasis of incomparable beauty in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, a paradise on Earth full of colors, exquisite sceneries, picturesque towns, and incredible mountain views? That was my first impression when I first took a glimpse of Madeira island once I stepped off the gangway in Funchal cruise port.
Madeira is an archipelago of a volcanic origin located in the North Atlantic Ocean, 400 km (249 mi) to the north of the Canary Islands, and 520 km west of Morocco, Africa. It consists of a group of islands (out of which only two islands are inhabited), the main one being the island of Madeira.
Funchal is the capital of Madeira, located on the south coast of the island. It is the largest city of Madeira (around 112.000 inhabitants) and one of the main stops for passenger cruise ships throughout the whole year. It is the sixth-largest city in Portugal and has been the capital of Madeira for more than five centuries, which gives the city huge historical importance and value.
In this article, I share with you:
- Port of Madeira info (Funchal cruise terminal, getting around the port)
- 10 best things to do in the port of Madeira (port highlights, shore excursions)
Port of Madeira
Cruise ships dock at the Port of Funchal (Porto do Funchal – International Maritime Passenger Terminal), located within 15 minutes walking distance from Funchal city center.
Funchal port consists of a long Pontinha pier situated in a wide, natural bay sheltered by lush mountains and surrounded by endless blue waters. Madeira harbour sail-in is absolutely spectacular, so make sure you come out on outer decks to admire the breathtaking beauty of the island before arrival.
The pier has 4 berths for cruise vessels: North Wharf (Length: 260m), Pier 2 (Length: 425m), Pier 3 (Length: 347m), Pier 8 (Length: 330m). North Wharf is closer to the city center and can accommodate smaller vessels, while Piers 2, 3, and 8 are located in the southern part of the port and can accommodate large cruise liners.
Pontinha Pier boasts a modern terminal building, equipped with a tourist information desk, ATM/currency exchange, free wi-fi, cafeteria, public toilets, a few gift shops. A taxi rank and parking are available outside on the pier.
Funchal port also serves Lobo Marinho, a ferryboat operated by Porto Santo Line that offers a connection between Madeira and Porto Santo Island.
Funchal city center is located approximately 1 km (0.6 mi) from the port of Madeira and it takes around 15-20 minutes walk slightly uphill to get there.
There is a shuttle bus provided by port authorities to the city center for $9.00 (return ticket), however, some cruise lines offer it for free for their guests.
Taxis are also available outside on the terminal and the ride to the city center shouldn’t cost you more than 7.50 € per vehicle one way. The taxis are metered and colored in yellow with a blue stripe.
Public buses are available in the city center and they serve routes across the whole island. There are four bus companies and the “Horários do Funchal” is the one serving Funchal urban areas and inter-urban routes. The ticket prices are reasonable (around 2 € for a single ticket and 6 € for a day pass).
If you want to use the public bus, I suggest you stop by at a tourist information office in the cruise terminal or in the city center, as you can get maps, brochures and check the timetables.
You can also check out the official webpage for timetables and routes http://www.horariosdofunchal.pt/
Rent a Car – Car rental in Madeira is relatively inexpensive, the roads are well marked and it’s easy to navigate through the island (the first time I came to Madeira, I rented a car for around 40 € a day and it was super easy). You will find numerous car rental agencies in Funchal, but you can also rent a car online.
Funchal Hop on Hop off buses are also available at the Funchal cruise terminal and there are two routes: The Funchal route and the Câmara de Lobos route. The ticket prices start at 17 € per person.
Madeira Airport (Cristiano Ronaldo Airport) is located 21.5 km (13 mi) from the port of Madeira, and it takes 25 minutes drive to get there.
Currency in Madeira
Madeira is part of Portugal and the European Union and the official currency is EURO (€). The exchange rate is 0.85 € for 1 US dollar. Currency converter
Major credit cards are accepted.
Hotels in Funchal
Hotels nearest to the port of Madeira are Next Hotel, Royal Savoy, Pestana CR7 Funchal, Madeira Bright Star by Petit Hotels, Quinta Da Penha De Franca, Pestana Casino Park Hotel & Casino, Savoy Palace.
Weather in Madeira
Temperatures average between 23 ºC (73 °F) and 17 ºC (63 °F), however, the weather can instantly change once you start climbing to the mountains. Due to unpredictable weather, I suggest you always bring a light umbrella and a rain jacket.
Suggested article: 25 Top Shore Excursion Packing List Items
10 Best Things to Do in the Port of Madeira
I’ve been to Madeira several times and every time I tried something different, from Monte toboggan ride, wine tasting to exploring the island’s gorgeous countryside. Before I share with you my list of top 10 things to do in the port of Madeira, I invite you to sign up below and get my Shore Excursions Guide for FREE!
1. Cabo Girão Skywalk
Cabo Girão is the second-highest sea cliff in the world and the highest one in Europe.
Ok, don’t let the word “highest” scares you off. I am extremely afraid of height, but when it comes to this place, you should definitely face your fears and come to visit.
Cabo Girão is located a 15-20 minute drive (13.5 km; 8.4 mi) from the city of Funchal, Madeira’s capital. It’s easy to find, as it’s one of the top attractions of the island. The majority of shore excursions include a stop at Cabo Girão and there is huge parking in front of the complex, so you can park your vehicle whether you come by bus or a car.
Its recent installation is a “skywalk”, a platform that stands 580 meters above sea level where visitors can approach and stand on a see-through glass floor, admiring the fascinating panoramic views of the island. I needed a few minutes to pluck up my courage and approach the edge of the cliff – and I didn’t regret it. The view was absolutely worth it!
A shop, café bar, and restrooms are available within the complex. There is no entrance fee to Cabo Girão, and it’s usually packed with tourists.
2. Enjoy “Poncha” at Câmara de Lobos
Only 8 km (5 mi) from Funchal, on the way to Cabo Girão, lies the village of Câmara de Lobos, tucked in the picturesque bay. This traditional fishing village boasts a beautiful harbor filled with colorful boats and a center filled with local restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, and several hotels.
Câmara de Lobos is also a home of “Poncha”, a local Madeira drink made with aguardiente de cana (distilled alcohol made from sugar cane juice), honey, and lemon or orange juice. It is available in many taverns and bars throughout the whole island but tastes best in its village of origin.
Câmara de Lobos can be best admired from Pico de Torre, one of the viewpoints overlooking the village, easily accessible by both cars and buses.
3. Day Trip to Ribeira Brava
Ribeira Brava is a municipality and a beautiful little town on the southwest coast of the island, located only a 20-minute drive (19 km; 12 mi) from the center of Funchal using the highway. You can also access it by taking local roads – it takes longer (up to 45 minutes), but natural sceneries are so spectacular that you will quickly forget about the length of the ride.
Ribeira Brava is one of Madeira’s first towns and a growing tourist resort. One of the main events in the municipality is St. Peter’s festivities that take place at the end of June and give the town a lively atmosphere full of colors and music.
When I visited the town, I had only one hour free so I decided to enjoy a typical Madeira dish – the “Espada” fish, a black scabbardfish usually served with banana. I couldn’t resist a traditional Madeira wine either – a perfect match.
4. Monte Toboggan Ride
Funchal toboggan is one of the most popular attractions in Madeira and a ride is a must-do activity if you are a first-time visitor.
The ride starts in a 500-year old Monte village located 4 km (2.5 mi) from the Funchal city center. The neighborhood is located over 1000 meters above sea level, and there are several ways to reach it: by cable car, bus, tuk-tuk, private car, or by walking (at least 1.5 hours uphill).
I went there on a tour organized by our cruise company, so everything was arranged for us. The bus dropped us off near the starting point for a toboggan ride – Our Lady of Monte church, and we needed to wait in line for at least 20-30 minutes for our turn (it’s always crowded there!).
For individual visitors, it’s advisable to book a ticket online in advance or join one of the tours as I did due to the crowds.
The ride itself is fun and wild, but don’t worry – it’s safe and suitable for all ages. Toboggans are made from wicker and wood, they are a sort of two and three-seated baskets pushed by two carriers (or drivers) dressed in white uniforms and wearing straw hats. They also have special shoes helping them to steer and brake the toboggan.
The ride down the worn, curvy road is long 2 kilometers and lasts up to 10 minutes. It finishes in Livramento, located a 10-minute drive from the center of Funchal. Here you can grab a coffee or snacks at the café or use the restrooms before hitting the road back to the town. In Livramento you can either catch a taxi to bring you back, or you can walk downhill – it takes 20-30 minutes to reach the town on foot.
There will be professional photographers taking pictures of you once you start gliding down but you can take your own phone as well. The Funchal toboggan is usually a lifetime experience for most visitors, so it’s nice to have a professionally taken photo to remember.
On the official website of Funchal Toboggan, you can check the opening hours and prices: https://www.carreirosdomonte.com/
5. Funchal Cable Car Ride
The cable car is another activity in Funchal allowing you to enjoy the spectacular views of the city and the surroundings up-close. The ride lasts up to 15-20 minutes and cabins are large enough to fit up to 7 people (7 seats per cabin).
The departure station is Almirante Reis Park, located in the old part of the city and the final station is at Monte, in the vicinity of Monte Palace Tropical Gardens which are also one of the main attractions of the city.
You can also go the opposite way – start at Monte cable car station and finish the ride in Funchal city center. The line to get on a cable car wasn’t too long: people were boarding the cable car divided into groups of 6-7 people which made the ride truly comfortable and enjoyable.
The cable car ride is an authentic way to admire Madeira’s incredible charm and beauty and is definitely a must!
For more information, check their official website: https://madeiracablecar.com/
6. Madeira Botanical Gardens
Once you come to Madeira, the first thing you’ll notice is how colorful the island is. The sub-tropical climate, warm and moist in combination with the soil of volcanic origin rich in minerals, makes Madeira perfect for plant growth.
There is a large selection of sub-tropical colorful plants everywhere you go: in the streets, parks, hotels, private houses, markets – everything blossoms and makes the contrasting colors of the island appealing to the eye.
Madeira Island has many botanical gardens of breathtaking beauty where visitors can enjoy the diversity of exotic plants from all corners of the earth. The most popular ones are the Monte Palace Tropical Garden, Madeira Botanical Garden, Orchid Garden, and Palheiro Gardens.
The gardens are much more than typical botanical gardens: they are true masterpieces, beautifully designed, and set around fountains and lakes, boasting a marvelous architecture influenced by different cultures, mostly Oriental ones.
Some botanical gardens are home to valuable and unique bird species and part of art museums and galleries. Most of the gardens are located in Funchal and surroundings – no need to leave the town to enjoy Madeira’s colors!
7. Madeira Wine Tasting
Madeira wine is a very special one – I find it completely different than any other wine! Madeira wine has a strong taste of caramel and roasted nuts, and it can range from dry to sweet – in my opinion, its taste reminds me more of brandy than a regular wine taste we are normally used to.
There are many wine lodges in Madeira and particularly in Funchal: Blandy’s is one of the most famous producers of Madeira wine and their cellars are open for visitors. Here’s where I joined a wine tasting that also included a visit to the museum – the whole tour and wine sampling lasted around 45 minutes. It was a very pleasant experience that I highly recommend!
8. Browse for Madeira Thread
Handcraft and shopping lovers should know that Madeira hand embroidery is claimed to be one of the finest of its kind. It has a long tradition and its distinctive style is unique in the world, representing the result of the mixture of many influences from all across Europe.
There are several shops in Madeira that sell traditional Madeira embroideries: one of the most famous ones is the Bordal shop, founded in 1962 and is located in the Funchal city center.
Besides embroidery, there are many other shops where you can find both traditional and modern crafts designed by local artists. The best place for this kind of shopping is Armazém do Mercado, a warehouse located in Funchal’s Old Town, home to a variety of shops, cafes, and a toy museum.
9. Explore Madeira’s Markets
Madeira’s markets are another great place for shopping. Mercado dos Lavradores or the Farmers’ Market is one of the most famous ones. It was founded in 1940 featuring art-deco style: its façade, main entrance, and fish market contain large, traditional tile panels depicting regional themes that represent a true work of art.
The Lavradores market is the place where fresh and unique products of Madeira are being sold, such as exotic fruit, vegetables, scabbardfish, flowers… You’ll see women wearing traditional Madeiran wear, you’ll hear the island’s sounds, in one word – a truly unique Madeira experience!
However, bear in mind that markets are not cheap, as they are very popular and packed with tourists!
10. Cristiano Ronaldo’s Museum
The birthplace of the world-famous football player Cristiano Ronaldo is right here, on the island of Madeira. There is a museum located on the waterfront promenade in Funchal, only a 15-minute walk from the cruise port, and a 10-minute walk from the city center.
In front of the museum, there is a statue of Cristiano, a favorite spot for taking a picture. The museum that opened in 2013 portrays Ronaldo’s life story and boasts more than his 130 trophies. I’ve been there twice and there were no lines in front of the museum.
On the official museum website, you can check the opening times and ticket prices: https://museucr7.com/
To Wrap Up
You know those places and cities that you visit once and you think “that’s it, off the bucket list”. Well, Madeira is not one of those places!
It is so beautiful and has so much to offer, that it’s impossible to see everything in one or seven days. I didn’t even mention the beaches, whale watching, diving, hiking, 4×4 rides and so many other activities you can enjoy while on the island.
If you are planning a cruise to Madeira, make sure you plan your day ahead to get the most of this fabulous port of call!
10 Best Things to Do in Madeira Port
- Cabo Girão Skywalk
- Enjoy “Poncha” at Câmara de Lobos
- Day Trip to Ribeira Brava
- Monte Toboggan Ride
- Funchal Cable Car Ride
- Madeira Botanical Gardens
- Madeira Wine Tasting
- Browse for Madeira Thread
- Explore Madeira’s Markets
- Visit Cristiano Ronaldo’s Museum
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