Funchal – Europe’s most picturesque and cleanest capital.
The Funchal city of today is very different from its fennel growing, pirate days of old. It is in fact a modern, cosmopolitan, rejuvenated city, well known for its many top class restaurants, stunning new 4 & 5 star hotels and warm all year round climate and of course its most famous export, world class footballer Cristiano Ronaldo. In short, it is now known for its style as well as its substance.
The city itself is nestled in a great natural amphitheatre, facing the blue Atlantic with a backdrop of dramatic mountains. Located in the stunning south of Madeira, on it’s sunniest coast amidst banana plantations and wonderful gardens where flowers bloom all year round in the shelter of the verdant mountains, it is an extremely lush, green and relaxed city by day but scratch Funchal’s surface and you will find it to have a vibrant and varied nightlife scene with multiple personalities.
Funchal has also for many years been one of the Atlantic Cruise-ship’s main ports of call; with the Liner harbour right in the middle of the town. The approach to Funchal Harbour is well documented as one of the two most spectacular in the world, being on a par with Rio de Janeiro. It has now become a tradition that most European Liners, on their maiden voyage, call here; it is quite usual to see upwards of four cruise ships in at any one time. Once ashore, the cafés, restaurants and history that mark this famed capital are just a stroll away.
Tourists in Funchal also roll up to enjoy activities such as diving in the crystal-clear waters, surfing the waves, boat trips, swimming with dolphins, spending the day at sea ‘whale-watching’, taking day long excursions along the coast and through the eucalyptus smelling mountain woods, paragliding on the coast, enjoying spectacular rounds of golf on the famous courses or simply to just enjoy a snack at the numerous “people watching” cafes and outside garden venues.
Madeira’s first city has a somewhat less obvious nightlife scene than its neighbouring island counterparts, (Gran Canaria, Tenerife) in so much that you might be forgiven for thinking that it just a quiet sleepy city only for walkers and body and mind enthusiasts. But, you would be wrong, in fact “night owls beware” on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, Funchal comes alive after midnight. There are two stages to an evening out in Funchal, one is the bars and clubs that operate between Midnight and 4am and the other is the 4am to 7am clubs. The locals and the tourists “in the know”, enjoy dinner at the usual time but instead of going straight out from here they go home and relax for a few hours before setting off again for an all night evening of partying.
Of course Funchal has not lost any of its well, known charm as both camps of tourists (Day relaxers and Night revellers) work extremely well with each other. Not only does it cater for the mature tourist happy to enjoy its long stunning daytime walks, breathtaking scenery and al fresco evening dining but it is now the preferred haunt of the new breed of young, trendy and affluent Europeans, many of which travel from the Portuguese mainland to the island at the weekends just to enjoy the late night party and clubbing diversions on offer and unlike most other European cities, with no crime on the island it’s safe to venture out any time of day or night without any gangs of rowdy drinkers creating binge-drinking ‘no-go’ areas. Funchal is a truly safe city something which the new bunch of ‘fun loving’ tourists enjoy as well as respect.
Of the many festivals, perhaps the most well known are the world-record New Year’s Eve Firework display, which is the largest display in the world (yes, the World) according to the Guinness Book of Records. The spectacular Carnival and the colourful Flower Festival, complete with samba beats and colourful costumed parade are unmissable. During June, the Atlantic Festival International Fireworks Competition every Saturday evening is sure to impress.
Christmas is a fantastic fairytale season, with lights and festive decorations lighting up the whole city and night sky, the city centre becomes a wonderland and the twinkling lights that line the mountain streets look down on Funchal like glimmering stars.
Last but not least, don’t forget the renowned Wine Festival!
These people really know how to celebrate and they share it all with you!
Funchal’s history goes back over 5 centuries when early Portuguese settlers colonised the coast of a bright and sunny bay where fennel (funcho) grew in abundance, giving it’s name to the new town of Funchal. Over the years the population grew, with international trade attracting the attention of all of Europe. Nowadays Funchal is a very modern city with over 104.000 inhabitants. It is one of the safest and cleanest cities in Europe and is a place that takes real pride in itself. In fact, it’s Portugal’s leading re-cycler! Mayor Miguel Albuquerque is highly respected on the island and is showing that Funchal is a forward thinking City that can be both beautiful and fun filled without being dirty and unsafe. The perfectly cobbled streets in the centre mixed with the modern shopping areas, cafes, bars, restaurants and of course tourists, make Funchal a city that is both interesting and exciting.
The Storm – recovery
Madeira is a tranquil island with a benign climate that is not normally subject to severe weather events. But on February 20th 2010 a severe Atlantic depression, the like of which has not been seen since the early 1800’s poured weeks worth of rain on the mountains in a very short time. The tourist and hotel areas were virtually unaffected but the deluge overwhelmed the rivers causing flooding and debris damage that was mainly limited of the proximity to the rivers.
Being a modern society with a Mayor and city council to match, the island was quick to recover and whilst some scars remain, Madeira has emerged stronger and friendlier than ever. Cleverly, a new promenade has been constructed from the fragments that were left behind.