Port of Madeira (Funchal) Cruise Guide, Things to Do, Shore Excursions

Pico de Torre, Madeira

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 at Funchal cruise port.

Madeira is an archipelago of volcanic origin located in the North Atlantic Ocean, about 400 km/249 miles 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, read about:

  • Port of Madeira (Funchal cruise terminal, getting around, helpful info)
  • 10 best things to do in the port of Madeira and best Madeira shore excursions 

Visit also our cruise port guides to Lisbon, Gibraltar, Barcelona, Malaga, Cadiz, Vigo, La Coruna, Las Palmas (Gran Canaria), Tenerife, Lanzarote, Santa Cruz de la Palma, Rome (Civitavecchia), Sardinia

Port of Madeira

Cruise ships dock at the Port of Funchal (Porto do Funchal – International Maritime Passenger Terminal), located within a 15-minute walk 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 the 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), and 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, and 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.

Port of Madeira map
Port of Madeira. google.com/maps/

Helpful info & links:

  • Funchal city center is located approximately 1 km/0.6 miles from the port of Madeira and it takes around 15-20 minutes walk to get there. The port area is flat and suitable for wheelchair users. Funchal is partially hilly, so make sure you wear comfortable walking shoes.
  • There is a shuttle bus provided by port authorities to the city center for around $9 (return ticket), however, some cruise lines may offer it for free for their guests.
  • Taxis are also available outside the terminal and the ride to the city center shouldn’t cost you more than 8€ per vehicle one way. The taxis are metered and colored 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 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. Check out Madeira Hop on Hop off bus tours on Viator and Get Your Guide
  • Madeira Airport (Cristiano Ronaldo Airport) is located 21.5 km/13 miles from the port of Madeira, and it takes a 25-minute drive to get there. Search the best flights to Madeira
  • Madeira is part of Portugal and the European Union and the official currency is EURO (€). Local currency and credit cards are widely accepted. ATMs are available at the cruise terminal and in town. See the currency converter
  • Temperatures in Madeira average between 23 ºC (73 °F) and 17 ºC (63 °F), however, the weather can instantly change once you start climbing the mountains. For more useful cruise packing tips, check out my article What to Pack for a Cruise in 2023 – Top 60 Cruise Essentials
  • Explore Madeira tours and activities
  • Book a private transfer from/to Funchal cruise port
  • Search the hotels in Funchal
  • Get cashback on travel services – Get a promo code!

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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 and wine tasting to exploring the island’s gorgeous countryside. Before I share with you my list of the top 10 things to do in Madeira cruise port, I invite you to sign up below and get my SHORE EXCURSION 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 heights, 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/8.5 miles) from the city of Funchal. It’s easy to find, as it’s one of the top attractions on 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 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.

Check out Cabo Girão tours and activities

View from Cabo Girao, Madeira
View from Cabo Girão
Cabo Girao, Madeira
View from Cabo Girão, and I’m standing on glass, see-through floor 580 meters above sea level!!!
Cabo Girao, Madeira
The sea line you can spot through the glass floor at Cabo Girao.

2. Enjoy “Poncha” at Câmara de Lobos

Only 8 km/5 miles 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.

Check out Câmara de Lobos tours and activities

The view over Camara de Lobos from the viewpoint of Pico de Torre
The view over Camara de Lobos from the viewpoint of Pico de Torre.
Enjoying "Poncha", a typical Madeira drink
Enjoying “Poncha”, a typical Madeira drink

3. 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 miles) from the center of Funchal via 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 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 which 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.

Check out Ribeira Brava tours and activities

The Church of St. Peter in Ribeira Brava, Madeira
The Church of St. Peter in Ribeira Brava
Espada fish and Madeira wine in Madeira
I couldn’t resist tasting typical “Espada” fish accompanied by Madeira wine.

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 miles 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).

The church Our Lady of Monte, Funchal
The church of Our Lady of Monte is one of the main historical landmarks of Monte village. Nearby is located the starting point for the toboggan ride.

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 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 to help them to steer and brake the toboggan.

The ride down the worn, curvy road is long 2 km 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/

Check out Monte Toboggan tours and activities

The view from Monte village overlooking the town of Funchal
The view from Monte village overlooking the town of Funchal.
Toboggan ride, Madeira
The photo I took is a bit blurry, but this is what the toboggan ride looks like!

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 is also one of the main attractions of the city.

Funchal Cable Car
Funchal Cable Car
Funchal Cable Car
Although I’m afraid of heights, I truly enjoyed the cable car ride!

You can also go the opposite way – start at Monte cable car station and finish the ride in the 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/

Explore Funchal cable car tours and activities

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, and 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 marvelous architecture influenced by different cultures, mostly Oriental ones.

Some botanical gardens are home to valuable and unique bird species and are part of art museums and galleries. Most of the gardens are located in Funchal and its surroundings – no need to leave the town to enjoy Madeira’s colors!

Check out Madeira Botanical Gardens tours and activities

Madeira botaical gardens
The island of Madeira has a very rich flora due to the favorable climate and boasts many botanical gardens.

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 the 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!

Explore Madeira wine-tasting tours and activities

At Blandy's Wine Lodge.
At Blandy’s Wine Lodge.
Madeira Wine Tasting at Blandy's Wine Lodge.
Madeira Wine Tasting at Blandy’s Wine Lodge.

8. Madeira’s Markets and Embroidery

Madeira’s markets are a great place for shopping and Mercado dos Lavradores or the Farmers’ Market is one of the most famous ones. It was founded in 1940 featuring an 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 and 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!

Mercado de Lavradores, Funchal
Mercado dos Lavradores, Funchal
Marcado dos Lavradores, Madeira
A detail from the Marcado dos Lavradores – Madeira is famous for its diverse and unique flora.

Besides the picturesque markets, 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.

In addition to 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.

Check out Madeira’s Markets and Embroidery tours

9. Dolphin & Whale Watching

The island of Madeira is one of the best places for whale spotting in Southern Europe. There are several species of whales and over 20 species of dolphins that can be seen in Madeira’s waters throughout the year. While dolphins can be seen almost always, the best time to see whales is between May-June and September-November. Speedboat and catamaran tours are the most popular ways of seeing these amazing sea creatures!

Check out Dolphin and Whale Watching tours and activities

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 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/

Explore Cristiano Ronaldo tours and activities

Cristiano Ronaldo's museum in Funchal
Cristiano Ronaldo’s museum in Funchal
Cristiano Ronaldo statue in Funchal, Madeira
Cristiano Ronaldo statue is located on the promenade by the sea, in front of the museum.

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, diving, hiking, 4×4 rides and so many other activities you can enjoy while on the island. If you are visiting Madeira port on a cruise, make sure you plan your day ahead to get the most out of this fabulous place!

Visit also our cruise port guides to Lisbon, Gibraltar, Barcelona, Malaga, Cadiz, Vigo, La Coruna, Las Palmas (Gran Canaria), Tenerife, Lanzarote, Santa Cruz de la Palma, Rome (Civitavecchia), Sardinia

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4 thoughts on “Port of Madeira (Funchal) Cruise Guide, Things to Do, Shore Excursions”

  1. Wow Katarina, this a very well thought out post!
    I love your photos, and love how you’ve given some really helpful info before you dive into the list!

    You’ve given some great tips and information regarding each idea too which is amazing!
    Thanks so much for sharing these unique ideas!

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