Funchal is situated in a bay bathed by the Atlantic Ocean, on the south coast of the island of Madeira, and it´s the capital of Madeira.
Funchal dates back some 500 years, since 21st August 1508, owes its name to a sweet-smelling wild herb, the “Foeniculum Vulgare” traditionally known as fennel [funcho], which existed in abundance at the time of its settlement.
Funchal is the largest tourist, cultural and commercial center of the archipelago of Madeira. This city offers a wide range of leisure activities, from visits to museums, monuments and other landmarks, to walks in its beautiful gardens, walks along the Marina of Funchal full of boats, shopping and going out at night to bars and nightclubs.
In the form of an amphitheater, the Municipality of Funchal stretches along a hillside that goes from sea level to the Pico de Areeiro, at 1 818m altitude.
According to the 2011 census, the municipality of Funchal has 111,892 inhabitants spread over 10 parishes: Imaculado Coração de Maria, Monte, Santa Luzia, Santa Maria Maior, Santo António, São Gonçalo, São Martinho, Sâo Pedro, São Roque and Sé.
Imaculado Coração de Maria Parish
Imaculado Coração de Maria became a parish on 26th November 1954, due to its population growth.
Funchal underwent a profound renewal in the 40s, which turned it into a more modern city with the capacity to meet the expectations of international tourism on which it had focused. There has been a wave of migration to meet the needs of building new paved accesses, new official buildings and hotels.
The part of the population, who found employment in construction, lodged itself along the slopes of Funchal. This situation led to the creation of new parishes as was the case of the Imaculado Coração de Maria.
The Monte parish was created on 9th February 1565, based on devotion to Our Lady of Monte, which dates from the fifteenth century. With the flood of 1803, the Our Lady of Monte became evoked as the patron saint of Madeira and, in 1818, the church was inaugurated in her honour.
Housed at the very top of a grand staircase, the church of Monte features a twin-towered façade and a large churchyard with a splendid view over Funchal. On the staircase stands the statue of Blessed Charles of Habsburg, who died in Quinta do Monte in February 1922 and whose coffin rests in one of the chapels of the church. The most important and most attended pilgrimage of Madeira is the feast of Our Lady of Monte, celebrated on 15th August, similar to what happened in the late fifteenth century and early sixteenth century.
Monte boasts some of the most beautiful palaces and many other aspects that embrace this place with timeless romanticism.
The Monte Municipal Park, also known as Leite Monteiro Park is the municipal garden situated at a higher altitude, 550 meters. With an area of 26,000 m2, this lovely green space has various indigenous and exotic species and some century-old trees. At the entrance there is a bandstand and the Fountain of the Virgin, with a niche for the image of Our Lady of Monte. In the center of the park there is a lake that has a map of the island of Madeira carved in stone.
The Monte Palace Tropical Garden, which is now the headquarters of the José Berardo Foundation for Social Solidarity, is one of the biggest attractions of this locality. The wonderful Quinta do Monte Palace has a palatial house surrounded by gardens and lots of trees, and was visited by Isabella of France, when consul George Stoddart lived there.
The gardens of the emblematic Quinta do Monte were recovered, and today, it is referred to as “Quinta Jardins do Imperador”. This is one of the most symbolic villas in Madeira because the late Emperor Charles of Austria lived there after his exile in 1921. This villa boasts a tower of an extreme architectural beauty, the Malakof Tower, which allows one to enjoy the romantic scenery of Monte. Near this tower there is a garden with the same name consisting of a small fountain, and around it a vast area full of roses of various colours.
From Monte one can enjoy a unique tour in the typical Monte sledge (carros de cesto). These cars mounted on wooden runners are pushed by two “carreiros”; along 2 km downhill to Funchal, more precisely Livramento.
In this parish, in Largo das Babosas, there is a cable car that connects to Funchal, to the old part of town, an 11-minute journey which provides excellent views over the bay and valleys of Funchal.
In this place there is also a cable car that connects to the Botanical Garden, a 9-minute journey with a landscape of great natural beauty formed by a vast patch of laurel forest.
The Botanical Garden, with more than 35,000 m2, boasts more than 2,000 exotic plants from all continents, and some plant species under threat of extinction. This fantastic garden consists of several ornamental trees and shrubs, an area with orchids, lawns, belvederes and an amphitheater for recreational activities.
About 2 km from Monte, in Terreiro da Luta, stands the biggest monument in Madeira, dedicated to Our Lady of Peace. This monument was raised after the bombing of Funchal by German submarines in 1917. The locals promised that if peace was settled then they would erect a statue in honour of the Lady of Monte. Ten years later, a 5-metre statue in marble was built.
In the late nineteenth century, there was the Monte Railway, commonly known as the Monte Train or the Monte Elevator, which was a single-track railroad that connected Pombal, in Funchal, to Terreiro da Luta in Monte, covering 3,911 km. There was a single carriage, which was pushed upwardly, or suspended when going downward by the locomotive. The occurrence of two accidents caused the population to stop using this transportation and the line was dismantled in 1943.
Santa Luzia Parish
The parish of Santa Luzia was created by decree of 28th December 1676 of Dom Pedro II. At the beginning a small chapel was erected, which was progressively enlarged, and subsequently a new construction was made between 1719 and 1741.
On its territory was the former convent of the Incarnation, where an important building of the old seminary was erected. Later it served as headquarters of the former Junta Geral (General Board), then as a high school. Still today one can find a considerable number of old Madeiran villas.
This parish is home to the Santa Luzia Public Garden, with a green area of about 17,000 m2. This garden was built on the site of the former Hinton factory, a former firewater and sugar factory with a very important role in the sugar industry of Madeira, and for this reason the huge chimney of the old factory was preserved.
Santa Maria Maior Parish
The parish of Santa Maria Maior, originally known as Santa Maria do Calhau, was established by the first settlers of the captaincy of Funchal and although it wasn’t officially established it was already a reality between 1425 and 1430.
At the History Center of Santa Maria one can see various tourist attractions and monuments of a relevant cultural importance. Here it is worth visiting the São Tiago Fort, built in 1614 to defend the port of Funchal, later restored and today is house to the Museum of Contemporary Art, and a nice restaurant overlooking the sea. The Church of Santa Maria, also known as Church of Socorro was erected by the citizens in the sixteenth Century and the Chapel of the Holy Body, built in the fifteenth century, are other important historic resources.
The Old Quarter was reclassified, and presents the cultural project “Open Doors Art”, which resulted in the social and cultural boost of this neighbourhood, transforming it into a permanent “art gallery” through creative rehabilitation, by local artists and craftsman, of doors of houses, shops and spaces which had been abandoned.
Here one finds the Funchal Cable Car that connects the old part of Funchal to the Monte parish in about 15 minutes, providing spectacular views over the bay of Funchal.
In this place the narrow cobblestone streets and the facades of the rehabilitated old houses offer a pleasant walk leading to the Mercado dos Lavradores (market).
The Old Quarter is a major attraction of Madeira’s nightlife. Here one can find several fado houses and bars, which serve the traditional Poncha and other beverages. There is also a variety of restaurants where one can enjoy the delicacies of Madeiran cuisine.
Also in this area, particularly in Rua de Santa Maria and Largo Corpo Santo, there is an annual tribute to the patron saint of the city of Funchal, São Tiago Menor. This festival is distinguished by a typical Madeiran outdoor festivity with lots of musical entertainment.
Santo António Parish
Santo António became a parish in 1566 and like the Monte parish, is proud to have a twin-towered church, which have a particular impact on the landscape which it integrates. The parish is the most populous of Funchal, covering a vast area between the peak and viewpoint of Barcelos.
On 12th June, the streets of the parish of Santo António fill up to welcome the Marchas Populares. People from different parts of the island participate in these marches to pay homage to Santo António, the Santo Casamenteiro (matchmaker saint).
This parish is home to the Pico dos Barcelos Belvedere at about 355 metres altitude, built in 1950. From this viewpoint you can admire a breathtaking view over the bay and the city of Funchal, with the Deserted Islands in the background.
Footballer Cristiano Ronaldo was born in this parish on 5th February 1985. He lived in the Quinta Falcão neighbourhood where he started playing football with the local kids and even adults. His first contact with the world of football took place in Madeiran club, Andorinha, where his father was responsible for the equipments. The facilities of this club are located in the parish of Santo António.
Currently Rua Princesa Dona Amelia in Funchal is home to the CR7 museum, which portrays the history of Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo. With an area of 400 m2, the museum features 126 trophies won by the player, including the Golden Ball in 2013, the Golden Ball in 2008 and two Golden Boots (2007/08 and 2010/11). Throughout the visit you can see emblematic photographs of his career, videos and a replica of his wax statue.
São Gonçalo Parish
The parish of São Gonçalo was created in 1558. In the mid-twentieth century the current church was built, to the liking of Estado Novo (dictatorship). In this church there is a statue of Our Lady, by Francisco Franco, carved in 1914 and offered to the parish by Henrique Vieira de Castro in 1921.
Towards the eastern end of this parish, one finds the Neves Viewpoint, better known as the Pináculo Viewpoint. Situated 283 meters above sea level this viewpoint provides one of the most beautiful views over the bay of Funchal.
São Martinho Parish
The lands of the parish of São Martinho were separated from those of the parish of São Pedro in late sixteenth century. A church was erected in the late nineteenth century whose first stone was laid on 8th July 1883, but the works only took off in the twentieth century. From 1940, with the transfer of the central cemetery in the area of Angústias to the lands next to the old church, the latter became a funeral chapel.
São Pedro Parish
Between the end of the fifteenth century and the sixteenth century, the wealthier classes moved away from the lower part of Funchal, and the residences of the families of captains of Funchal began to be built on the hillside, along Ribeira Grande, also called Ribeira de São Francisco. The importance of the resident population led to the request for the creation of a new parish in 1566. In 1595, its church was completed and soon São Pedro became the most populous parish of Funchal and the main bourgeoisie area of the island.
The Church of São Pedro dating back to the sixteenth century, presents a remarkable collection of architectural and decorative elements, such as its mannerist portal, the choir stall, dated 1633, and an amazing set of seventeenth and eighteenth-century tiles.
In this parish there are several museums worth being visited, which constitute a great cultural heritage of Madeira.
The Funchal Municipal Museum or the Natural History Museum, located in an urban palace of baroque architecture, where the Counts of Carvalhal lived during the nineteenth century and which became famous for the receptions that took place there. Today, it houses a valuable exhibition of the archipelago’s fauna, flora and geology. It also conducts important scientific research into the Macaronesia region.
Casa Museu Frederico de Freitas, of romantic civil architecture, was home to the jurist Frederico Freitas da Cunha who kept here various art objects. The house museum was restored by the Regional Government of Madeira and displays an impressive exhibition of various collections, such as tiles, mugs, teapots, ceramics, religious sculptures, old prints and neoclassical and Art Nouveau furniture.
The Quinta das Cruzes Museum is located in a villa of Baroque civil architecture, where the 2nd captain-donee of Funchal lived. Today, it is occupied by this museum of decorative arts that features a vast collection of Portuguese and foreign furniture from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, porcelains of the Companhia das Índias e Europeias, Portuguese ceramics from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, Indo-Portuguese ivory, Flemish and Portuguese sculpture from the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries, nativity sets of the the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, paintings and prints from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries.
The Photografia Vicentes Museum is located in the building which was once the home and studio of Vicente Gomes da Silva, pioneer of photography in Portugal. The museum houses backdrops, cameras and negatives collected over 100 years of activity by the four generations of photographers in the Vicente family, in addition to other photographic archives from different sources.
The Fort of São João Baptista, also known as Fortaleza do Pico, situated in the parish of São Pedro, became one of the “ex-libris” of Madeira. This fort, built in the early seventeenth century and was part of the defensive system of the city against frequent attacks by pirates. Later the Radiotelegraph Station of Funchal, now the Radio Telegraph Naval Station of Funchal was installed here. With the array of antennas, the population of Funchal started to call it the Pico Radio. Currently, it is occupied by the Portuguese Navy, featuring a museum that can be visited daily. From the fortress one has one of the best views over the city of Funchal, comparable to a helicopter ride over the capital.
In this area one finds the Convent of Santa Clara, whose construction was ordered in the late sixteenth century, by the second captain-donee of Madeira, João Gonçalves da Câmara, near the residence of his father, to house daughters of the local gentry. The complex of buildings of the convent of Santa Clara is a valuable heritage due to all its furnishings and mainly for having reached our days with the same mission for which it was built: A Convent for Franciscan Sisters. In the Convent one can visit: the courtyard, the Chapel of São Gonçalo de Amarante, possibly built in the sixteenth century, access porch to the Choir and Cloister, the Lower and Upper Choir, with a beautiful panorama into the Church of Santa Clara.
São Roque Parish
São Roque is a parish since March 1579 and was established in the former chapel of São Roque, built in the early sixteenth century by the locals with the help of municipal funds, since São Roque was one of the patrons of Funchal, who protected the population against the plague.
The initial small chapel gave way to a church built in 1704 near that location, which eventually collapsed in 1790. A new church was then built. The construction lasted until 1820 and the finishings until mid-nineteenth century.
The Sé parish, originally known as Santa Maria Maior, was the successor of the first neighbourhood of Funchal, installed with the arrival of the first settlers. The construction of the church of this parish began in 1500, and was almost complete in 1508 when the walls were blessed, and in the same year the town of Funchal became a city. In brief, the grand church was finished to become a cathedral, seat of the diocese of the Portuguese discoveries.
The architectural beauty of the Cathedral is associated with the Hispano-Arabic and Roman-Gothic lines. Built in 1514, it has one of the most beautiful ceilings in Portugal made in wood of the island. The stalls of the main chapel is in Flemish style, the main door is gothic, and seventeenth century gilded pieces depict some of the architectural features of the Manueline period.
In this parish we find the Church of the Jesuit College or Church of São Evangelista which is a beautiful work of the Jesuits, which features a gilded seventeenth century woodcarvings considered one of the most valuable seventeenth century Portuguese carved pieces. It also displays tiles and paintings from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
The Building of the Funchal Town Council is located in the former palace of Count Carvalhal, in this parish. The building was acquired by the municipality and is today the seat of Town Council of Funchal. This is a harmonious example of the architecture of the late eighteenth century, which includes an inner courtyard lined with tiles and a fountain.
The Museum of Sacred Art, in this parish, has important collections of Flemish paintings from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, religious sculpture from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries and metalwork of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
The Palace of the Regional Government is also located here. The oldest part of the palace was built in the late seventeenth as a Hospital and housed the Medical School of Funchal. Today it is the Palace of the Regional Government, where some of the Regional Secretariats are located.
The Regional Assembly also located here, meets in a building commissioned by King Manuel I for the Customs of Funchal. This fine example of civil architecture has the features of sovereign period. Its style is gothic and it is decorated in Manueline style. Today, the old Customs building, is a building that stands out in the downtown area.
In this parish we find the Fortress or Palace of São Lourenço, a palace of military , Manueline and Mannerist architecture, which has changed over time and gradually turned into a “national palace”. This monument of historical and political reference of the Autonomous Region of Madeira, has an embattled tower on the east side characteristic of the Manueline period. During the Filipine period three bulwarks were built facing north. Currently, the palace serves as the residence for the Representative of the Republic and Headquarters of the Military Zone of Madeira.
The Baltazar Dias Municipal Theatre, located at Avenida Arriaga presents a great architectural balance. The ceilings were painted with decorative elements of the romantic era, the audience in the horseshoe shape has around it cabins decorated with Greek theater masks in gilded carved wood.
Avenida Arriaga boasts a statue of João Gonçalves Zarco, made by Francisco Franco, at the request of the General Board of the district, in order to immortalise the life and work of Zarco. The architect Cristino da Silva was in charge of the pedestal design, on which he represented allegorical elements related to the Discoveries: Settlement, Achievement, Wisdom and Evangelization.
This area is home to the Cellars of São Francisco, “The Old Blandy Wine Lodges” which have an interesting exhibition area, situated in a set of buildings largely the only remaining part of the former Convent of São Francisco of Funchal, demolished in the nineteenth century. The cellars of São Francisco can be visited today, presenting beyond their architectural attractions, tasting rooms, warehouses, shop, as well as an exhibition area which tells the story of the Madeira wine, from the production process of the vine until its transformation into the Madeira wine.
The Municipal Garden, also known as Dona Amelia Garden, is located on the north side of Avenida Arriaga and occupies an area of 8,300 m2. This site was once occupied by the Convent of São Francisco of which there is still the “Pedra de Armas” (Coat of Arms), on display on the lawns. The garden has some beautiful specimens of flora from Madeira and many other parts of the world and the species of greatest interest are identified. With a prime location in the city center, this garden also has a pond and a stream with fish and poultry. Highlight also goes to some artwork and an auditorium for cultural activities.
The Santa Catarina Park, with an area of about 36,000 m2, is located between Avenida do Infante and Avenida Sá Carneiro. With wonderful views over Funchal from its bay to Ponta do Garajau, this park has a large lawn surrounded by flowerbeds of numerous tree, shrub and herbaceous species from all over the world.
Visitors can also observe some aviaries. Highlight goes to the Chapel of Santa Catarina and the lake where an island was built for birds to rest and nest. In this park there is a statue of Henry the Navigator and Christopher Columbus.
Quinta Vigia, located near the Parque de Santa Catarina, is today the official residence of the Regional Government of Madeira. This Villa of baroque and neoclassical architecture, built over the sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries, offers a prime location overlooking the Port of Funchal and is one of the most emblematic villas on the island. It was home to Nicholas de la Tuelière and Count Lambert, Queen Adelaide of England, the Empress Elizabeth of Austria, Archduke Maximilian, the Prince of Oldenburg, the Duke of Leuchtenberg, Queen Amelia, the Empress of Brazil and her daughter Maria Amélia, who died here in 1853.