This popular cruise port features on many transatlantic cruise itineraries and is also a favourite destination for many winter sun cruises from the UK so we thought you would like a Funchal M
adeira Cruise Port Guide.
is the main town of an island in the Atlantic off the west coast of Africa but, oddly, as Madeira is part of Portugal it is therefore part of the EU and Schengen Zone. The island is volcanic and rises sharply out of the sea – making for a good deepwater port close in to the main town, Funchal and dramatic views of the cliffs, the airport and the mountains above when arriving and departing.
The harbour is quite small with only a single cruise ship docking at one time. There is a very small Cruise Terminal with little in the way of facilities except a taxi rank. There are no shops, Duty Free or free wifi. However you can use your UK contract phone data here if you have an EU roaming allowance.
As always it is worth checking out if anything special is happening while you are in port also if there is a saints day which could affect opening hours. You will find lots of information here and there is a good downloadable map of Funchal here.
What is within walking distance of Funchal cruise dock?
Madeira is a great port stop as you can DIY a lot of things almost without losing sight of the ship! There is a lot that you can see that just a short walk into town from the Cruise Terminal. From the ship it is a 20 minute uphill walk into town, the pavement is uneven and the walk not recommended for wheelchair users. Taxis from the ship to the centre of town are €7.50 per taxi. But you don’t even have to leave the port for the first place worth noticing, you will pass it before you reach the end of the harbour arm!
- Nini Design CentreThis Design Centre opened in late 2015 dedicated to the work of Nini Andrade Silva, a famous interior designer, born in Funchal and trained in Lisbon. There is a permanent exhibition of her work, spaces for temporary exhibitions, a shop, a restaurant and a cafe with spectacular views. Open from 11.00 every day & worth a visit more here.
- Whale Watching
tours run from Funchal harbour. The deep waters around Madeira and nearby Islands contain almost 30 species of cetaceans including Common Dolphins, Atlantic Spotted Dolphins, Bottlenose Dolphins, Striped Dolphins, Pilot whales, Fin whale, Bryde’s whales, Killer whales and Sperm whales. Trips take place all year round depending on weather conditions, find out more here.
- Boat Trips
in addition to whale watching there are shorter, gentler tours that may include swimming stops in summer. More info on all types of boat trip here.
- Reids Hotel
If you walk away from the port and up to the left you will reach the famous hotel Reid’s whose walls are adorned with pictures of the famous people who have stayed there such as Sir Winston Churchill who was a visitor in 1950. Other well known guests, whose signatures are in the hotel’s Golden Book (kept safely locked away) include Empress Zita of Austria, King Edward VIII (the Duke of Windsor) Princess Stephanie of Monaco, Antarctic explorers Ernest Shackleton and Robert Falcon Scott, actors Roger Moore and Gregory Peck, writers Rainer Maria Rilke and George Bernard Shaw.
Traditional high tea here is very popular and many ships include a visit in the itinerary. Just a warning, groups are served in the newer extension to the hotel so if you want to eat tea (or lunch with cocktails) on the famous terrace overlooking the harbour I recommend looking relatively smart, arriving by taxi & booking in advance (you need to book an early seating, tea starts at 3.00 – check the ships departure time to be sure how long you’ve got). Otherwise you will gently be directed to the newer extension which has a similar view but is not as special. More here.
- The Market
is really colourful with some vendors in traditional local dress and is worth a visit. This is a mixed fruit, vegetable, flower and fish market, just inland from the cable car station. Look out for some vibrant woven local bonnets on sale… Open from 7.00 to 7.00pm Monday to Saturday
- The Madeira Story Centre
is quite close to the market. An interactive museum covering Madeira’s history, it has a Bistro with a terrace and is open 10.00 to 19.00 seven days a week
- Funchal Cathedral is about the same distance from the market but in the opposite direction and worth a visit if you are nearby ( you could walk this way from the toboggan rides too). The brown and white building with late Gothic architecture has nave and side aisles and dates back to 1485. It has an impressive Mudéjar ceiling with geometric and animal designs carved into cedar and juniper wood and inlaid with ivory. It is probably the oldest building on the island
- Museu CR7Stay on the flat and walk around the port to the right you will reach the Museu CR7, a museum dedicated to Madeiras most famous resident Cristiano Ronaldo and his footballing career highlights and trophies. He is a very popular local resident and supports many island events and institutions for example the hotel built above the museum is owned by a partnership between Ronaldo and local Pestana Group.
What can I do on a hike or bus from Funchal cruise dock?
- Madeira Cable Car.Keep walking past the CR7, the marina and along the Avenue Do Mar to reach the Madeira Cable Car, it is about a half an hour walk from the ship (buses aren’t very convenient and would take just as long) or a 9 minute taxi ride. The Cable car costs 11€ one way or 16€ return. This takes you up to the Spa town of Monte for
- Monte Palace Tropical Garden
The magnificent 70,000 sq meter Monte Palace Tropical Gardens are also accessible by bus and car and will fill a few hours easily. Thisvery carefully maintained garden of has several styles with a huge exotic plant collection as well as ponds where you can see Koi fish, swans and ducks. There is also a Museum with sculptures, a famous mineral collection and a tile collection from palaces, churches and private houses throughout the former Portuguese empire. Entrance is €12.50 and there is a good coffee shop.
- Nossa Senhora do Monte ChurchThe 18th century Nossa Senhora do Monte Church sits at the top of a flight of 60 steps but this beautiful, richly decorated church is worth the climb! If you feel really fit you can then climb the church tower too for even more specula views! Inside the church you will find the tomb of the last Austrian Emperor Karl – the last of the Hapsburg family – who lived in exile in Monte until his death in 1922.
The Fountain of the Virgin
Our Lady of Monte is the patron saint of Madeira and her image is in a niche at the entrance to Monte Municipal Park, also known as Leite Monteiro Park. This large public park has ancient trees, lovely gardens. a lake and bandstand. From here it is a short walk to…
The Jardim Botânico cable car
which takes you on across the valley to the Botanical Gardens. The cable car route is 1600 metres long and up to 100 metres high! The route takes nine minutes and has great views back down to Funchal Harbour and City as well as a fantastic view of the mountains and forest around João Gomes River.
The Jardim Botânico da Madeira
dating from 1881 these lovely gardens are on a steep slope with a wonderful collection of plants from all over the world, with colour all year round and excellent views over the Bay of Funchal from the garden terraces. This is accessible by taxi from the port and then you could take the cable car across to Monte and go back down to town on…
The Monte Toboggans
this is an adventurous way to get back back down to town! Originally these sledges were a fast means of transport to Funchal for the citizens of Monte and their goods. First used in the 1850s and still in use today, they attract thousands of tourists every year. The experience of sliding at high speed on the narrow, winding streets is exciting and unforgettable! The wicker sledges hold two people and glide on wooden runners guided by two men, traditionally dressed in white cotton suits and a straw hat, who use their rubber-soled boots as brakes. The downhill journey goes to Livramento & costs 30€ for two people. The 2km journey takes about 10 minutes reaching speed up to 48 km/hour. Adventurous, yet safe, an ‘old-fashioned’ toboggan ride to make your way down from Monte is the perfect contrast to the 20th century cable car ride going up and is great fun! You will find the Monte toboggans at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the Nossa Senhora do Monte Church Opening hours: Monday to Saturday from 9am to 6pm. Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. From their end point you can take a local bus or taxi back to the ship or you could walk back down to the harbour in an hour or so which will take you past the Cathedral.
What should I do by private tour or cruise excursion from Funchal cruise terminal?
The island is very mountainous and rugged, land is so precious that you will see houses, crops and animals clinging to the side of the island. The new airport in the north of the island is worth watching out for as you cruise by… it is known to be one of the most hazardous airports in the world and definitely much nicer to see from the sea than it is to land on by plane!
Although distances in the island are small the roads are very mountainous so a drive will take longer than you think. You could certainly see a lot of the island with a days private tour, taxi or car hire. Driving laws are as in the UK although they drive on the European side of the road and you need to be confident on narrow mountain roads. There is one ‘motorway’ on the island but otherwise the roads are pretty tortuous. You will find branches of Europcar, Sixt and Hertz in Funchal as well as many local companies. A days car hire is quite reasonable and as it is within the EU relatively safe but if you’re not sure about driving then you could hire a taxi for the day or book a driver and guide. Various places you might want to think about visiting include…
Camara de Lobos
is a small and picturesque fishing port with a black, volcanic beach – about 8km south of Funchal
is slightly further along the coast will bring you to one of the tallest cliff in the whole of Europe at 580m high. If you’re feeling brave (and it isn’t too windy!) you can walk out on the Skywalk, a glass platform suspended out over the drop!
Walk the Levadas
As you travel the island you will notice that every inch that can be cultivated has been utilised. As part of this, there is a system of Levadas (irrigation Channels) that were created in the 16th century to take water from the wetter, windy North side of the island to the more temperate areas of the south. They run across the Paul de Serra plateau in the centre of the island and provide lovely shaded walks and waterfalls. From the car park at the Rabacal viewpoint you can walk or get a minibus to the forest station- depending on time available and fitness obviously! You should consider a guided trip here from the port as this gets you a long way off the beaten track!
Pico do Arieiro
is the highest point on the island which is accessible by car. It is about about 45 minutes drive from Funchal and you will find a cafe & gift shop at the viewing terrace. There are wonderful views but choose a clear day or you will only look down at the clouds!
is the islands highest peak. It is a tough 7km hike from Pico do Arieiro or drive on to Achada do Teixeira for a much gentler 2.8km uphill walk to the top, an estimated 3 hour round trip from the carpark. Details on short hikes in Madeira can be found here. As always, keep an eye on the time…….!!
if you are happy to take a driver or tour there are many dramatic views, waterfalls, picturesque villages and wonderful bays all around the island. You will not find much in the way of facilities but you will find local restaurants and bars. A fun way to do it would be on a Motorbike and sidecar tour….
I hope you enjoyed reading about how to spend your cruise stop in Funchal and that it will be useful on your cruise. Funchal features on many Transatlantic crossings, repositioning and Canary islands cruises – if you are looking for inspiration you could start here…
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