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One Day in Funchal Itinerary: How To Experience The Best of Funchal, Madeira

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Many people (myself included!) agree that a trip to Madeira should last for at least a week. After all, there are so many stunning sights to see!

But what if your cruise is only docking in Madeira for one day? Or you’re staying outside of Funchal and you just want to see Madeira’s capital city for the day?

This one day in Funchal itinerary will help you to experience the best of Madeira’s capital city even if you’re super pressed for time.

Psst! My itinerary is based on many trips to Madeira I’ve enjoyed over the years. My mum owns a timeshare near Funchal, so I’ve been visiting Madeira and its capital city on and off for over 20 years! Safe to say, I love it there!

Views of Madeira from the Cable Car
Beautiful island views from the Funchal to Monte cable car

One day in Funchal is enough time to see some top sights (but not everything!)

If you’re wondering whether one day in Funchal is enough time to see everything you want to, then the answer is pretty simple. You will have enough time to see some top sights in Funchal but sadly, not everything.

If this is your only trip to Funchal, then read on for my one day in Funchal itinerary. Here’s how it looks at a glance (with a more detailed version later on in this blog post):

  • Morning: Monte and Monte Palace Tropical Garden
  • Afternoon: Funchal’s Old Town
  • Evening: Sunset Whale-Watching Tour OR Avenida do Mar Walk

If you’ve visited Funchal and Monte before, then you’ll probably prefer exploring more of Funchal rather than following the itinerary above. Check out this list of top things to do in Funchal to help you decide what to see and experience.

RELATED: How Many Days in Madeira is Ideal (+ Itinerary Suggestions)

One Day in Funchal Itinerary For First Time Visitors

Okay, here’s how my one day in Funchal itinerary for first time visitors looks in detail.

Note: If you’re visiting Funchal as part of a cruise, then you’ll need to walk for about a mile before you reach Funchal (or the cable car terminal, which is the first main stop on this itinerary). Alternatively, you can catch a taxi relatively easily from the cruise terminal.

Funchal Gardens
Wandering through Santa Catarina Park in Funchal

Breakfast

If you find yourself in Funchal in the early morning, then you might want to check out the Mercado dos Lavradores market, which is open 6 days a week. It’s closed on Sundays and national holidays.

Here, you’ll find all kinds of amazing local produce from tropical fruit and veg to fresh fish and even flowers. This is how to experience an authentic market experience (and breakfast) in Funchal.

This market is also right around the corner from the Funchal to Monte cable car terminal, which is where we’re heading next.

Morning: Monte

From Funchal, you can catch a cable car and be in the nearby province of Monte in as little as 15-20 minutes (assuming there’s no queue).

Monte is 2 miles north of Funchal, so it’s technically classed as a day trip. But it’s well worth doing.

If you’ve never experienced Monte before, then here’s where you should spend the bulk of your morning and maybe even part of your afternoon.

Note: I’ve suggested going to Monte in the morning because it’ll likely be quieter than if you try to come after 11am or later.

“The Church of Our Lady of Monte”

Monte Church, Madeira
“The Church of Our Lady of Monte” as seen from part-way up the many steps

Here you’ll find an interesting 18th-century church called “The Church of Our Lady of Monte” (yes, that is a bit of a mouthful!)

You’ll instantly recognise its striking monochrome façade and the 50+ steps leading up to it. You’re welcome to explore inside. It’s well worth a look!

Monte Palace Tropical Gardens

Next, you should spend a good few hours wandering around the Monte Palace Tropical Gardens.

There are various sections of the garden to explore. Some of them are even Japanese-inspired complete with ornate bridges, vermillion torii gates and decorative pagodas.

Monte Tropical Garden
The Monte Palace Tropical Gardens are stunning!

Leaving Monte

When you’re ready to head back to Funchal, you have a couple of options. You can either hop back on the cable car or catch a bus or taxi.

If you’re feeling adventurous, though, then you might enjoy zigzagging your way down a steep hill inside a traditional wicker toboggan. This is just one of the many awesome and unique activities you can enjoy when you’re in Madeira.

I wouldn’t really recommend walking down from Monte to Funchal unless you’re on a very tight budget and very fit. It involves some steep hills so you’ll need to have ‘Madeira knees’ to manage it.

Note: The Funchal to Monte cable car also passes the Madeira Botanical Garden. If you have longer to spend in Madeira, then you might enjoy a visit here. But seeing as you only have one day to spare, you’ll probably enjoy a visit to Monte Palace Tropical Garden the most out of the two.

Madeira Botanical Garden
Wandering around the Madeira Botanical Garden

Lunch

Once you’re back in Funchal, you’ll probably want to stop for a bite to eat (unless you’ve taken a picnic with you, of course).

One of my favourite cafes for lunch in Funchal is O.Giro Churros & Paninis on Rua Carreira. I usually come for the paninis, but I suspect my husband will order the churros when I eventually whisk him away to Madeira.

Another plus: this cafe is located in Funchal’s Old Town and is just a few minutes walk from our next stop!

Afternoon: Funchal’s Old Town

It’s finally time to experience the city’s historic Old Town. Funchal is a relatively small and very walkable city, so you can happily wander around the Old Town by yourself.

But if you’d like to understand more about the city’s history, then you might like to join a walking tour through the Old Town.

Here’s a look at what you’ll see during your wander around Funchal.

“The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption”

“The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption” (yep, another mouthful!) is Funchal’s historic cathedral. It dates back to the 1400s and you’re usually allowed to look inside – providing a service isn’t happening at the time.

Funchal’s Street Art

Something that surprises a lot of first-time visitors to Funchal is how much striking street art there is to see within the Old Town.

Back in 2010, a local man (Jose Zyberchema) launched the Funchal Painted Doors Project. To revitalise the area, he collaborated with local artists to create unique street art of varying styles, themes and colours. The murals are incredible to see!

You can even see various street art murals at the Funchal Marina.

Funchal Marina
Street art murals at the Funchal Marina

Souvenir Shopping

If you have time, you might also want to shop for some authentic Madeira souvenirs. Madeira wine, Poncha, traditional honey cake and anything made from either wicker or embroidery are all great options!

Evening: Dinner & Sunset Whale Watching Tour

Providing you don’t have to rush back to your cruise ship or anything, you might enjoy spending the evening in Funchal.

Sunset Whale Watching Tour

One of my favourite things to do in Funchal is to hop aboard a catamaran tour to go in search of whales and dolphins.

While there are many tours from Funchal’s harbour throughout the day, you can also join sunset whale-watching tours in the late afternoon. Of course, this is such a beautiful time to try and see some marine life.

Getting Around Madeira: Catamaran
Dolphins as seen from our catamaran tour from Funchal

Dinner

You’ll find many restaurants serving traditional Madeiran food in Funchal. I usually just wander around until I find a place that looks like it has a great vibe and an interesting menu.

While I’m not much of a foodie kind of person (except when it comes to dessert!), Madeira has some of the best food I’ve ever eaten on vacation.

A personal favourite of mine is swordfish washed down with a glass of Poncha (an alcoholic drink made from sugar cane juice, honey, sugar and orange juice). Check out this list for some other foods you might enjoy during your time here.

Avenida do Mar Walk

Finally, if you want to walk off some of your dinner, then you might have time to wander along the Avenida do Mar, which means “Sea Avenue”.

This seaside promenade walk is roughly a mile long and is clean and safe. It’s a lovely place for a walk on a warm evening.

It also ends with Santa Catarina Park, which is a very pretty public park complete with water fountains, tropical plants and seaside views.

If you’re in Funchal for a cruise then you’ll probably walk right by it either on your way to or from the terminal.

Santa Catarina Park, Funchal, Madeira
Santa Catarina Park is a relaxing way to finish your one day in Funchal, Madeira

Read More About Funchal & Madeira

If you’ve decided to spend longer than one day in Funchal (or Madeira), then you might enjoy reading some of our other Madeira travel blogs, such as:

Did you enjoy this guide to spending one day in Funchal? Why not pin or bookmark it now, so you can refer back to it later?

One Day in Funchal Itinerary: How To Experience the Best of Funchal, Madeira
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Justine Jenkins

Justine is one half of the married couple behind the Wanderers of the World travel blog. She lives in Bristol, UK and has travelled extensively within Europe and beyond since 2013. After her trips, she shares detailed travel itineraries, helpful travel guides and inspiring blog posts about the places she's been to. When she's not travelling overseas, you'll find her joining her husband, Scott on various day trips, weekend getaways and walks within the UK, which she also writes about on Wanderers of the World. Aside from travelling and writing, she also loves reading, crafting and learning about nature.

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