ROL Cruise recommends...
1. Experience the nightlife
FunchaI by day is an awe-inducing amphitheatre of red-roofed homes on lush, escalating hillsides. By night, it is a mesmerising sea of twinkling city lights and a hive of activity. Evenings offer a wealth of opportunities, from world-class dining washed down with aromatic Madeira wine to all-night dancing and spectacular firework shows. It is home to the world’s largest New Year display and two vibrant, pre-Lent carnivals that fill the streets with samba and laughter.
2. Fantastic flora
The name Funchal refers to the abundant fennel that grew here when it was colonised by the Portuguese. Though it is a far cry from the wild, uninhabited island of the fifteenth century, flora-filled exuberance is still a major part of its appeal. Vibrant gardens and banana plantations thrive in the shelter of the valleys’ luxuriant slopes; perfectly manicured terraces are scattered across the capital.
3. Get a birds-eye view
Take in verdant views as you ride the cable car from old town to Monte. At the top, amble amidst exotic plant-life, free-roaming birds and historic pieces at the Monte Palace Tropical Garden and Museum. For more lovely blooms visit the Palheiro Gardens and Jardim Botânico or, for untamed allure, take a trip to Laurisilva forest, a UNESCO Nature Site in the centre of Madeira Island. Enjoy postcard-perfect surroundings with a hike from Rabaçal to the 25 Fontes Falls, or head to Curral das Freiras, a valley framed by majestic mountains. During the spring there’s also a flower festival that shouldn’t be missed.
4. Soak up the sun
Golden bays aren’t Funchal’s strong point, though its black sands, pebble beaches and an open air lido still offer pleasant spots to soak up some sunshine. Head west along the promenade for Praia Formosa, visit Garajau in the east with its imposing Cristo Rei statue, bathe in the natural swimming pool at Porto Moniz, or visit the nearby island of Porto Santos.
5. Take a tour of the vineyards
Much like its most famous son, footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, everything in Madeira’s untarnished little capital has been nurtured to perfection. Don’t forget to sample the island’s most delicious export – enjoy a glass of its famous wine as you relax in the cosmopolitan marina. Take a vineyard tour of visit Blandy's Wine Lodge to fully appreciate why this mouth-watering produce has been highly regarded for centuries, even by William Shakespeare.