Located to the east of the urban centre of Funchal, this area was one of the first to be inhabited. This borough had its origins around the same time as the construction of the first church in this area in 1430. The Historical Nucleus of Santa Maria presents an interesting architectural homogeneity, which is in strong contrast to the great diversity of social structures of the people living there.
In the 16th century – based on the growth of the sugar production and exportation – Funchal became a mercantile city and the Santa Maria area retreated further east to make place for the new attraction: the Sé Cathedral.
Since 1986 the Historical Nucleus of Santa Maria is a classified zone and it was submitted to many restoration and reconstruction works since then. New projects, such as the cable car station, the new green zone Almirante Reis, new hotels, banks, underground car parks, etc. made a big contribution to this area's urban recovery.
Because of the general economical and social conditions of the resident people, this area was never submitted to the pressure of a large-scale reconstruction and it managed to maintain its charm of the good old days. Nowadays it is one of the most sought after areas, especially at night, due to the many bars and restaurants.