The Best Guide to Funchal

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1 Day Tour of Funchal, Madeira for Cruise Ship or Liner Passengers

The mountainous island of Madeira appears as an oasis of green amidst the deep blues of the swirling and rolling waves of the Atlantic Ocean. Historically, the island was a welcome sight for sailors travelling to or from the Americas, and today this intermediary port status continues, with cruise liners briefly mooring here before heading on to their final destinations of the Mediterranean, Northern Europe or the Canaries Islands. Funchal may only ever be a fleeting visit but the charming city will leave lasting memories and entice visitors to return for longer.

cruise liner Funchal Harbour

A cruise liner moored in Funchal Harbour

All cruise ships to Madeira moor in the sheltered bay of Funchal, which is the capital and largest city on the island. Funchal is an instantaneously likable destination for cruise liner passengers; the harbour is in the city centre, the climate is always pleasant and the setting is incredibly scenic. Funchal is situated in a steep river valley, with traditional painted houses given way to forested covered hills, which are often shrouded in low-lying clouds.



Funchal is a delightful and quirky city, which is a joy to explore in the limited time allowed to cruise ship passengers. If there is one destination on your cruise that you are an independent tourist, free of the tour bus, then Funchal and Madeira should be it. This guide will detail a suggested 1-day tour of Funchal, designed for visitors who arrive in Madeira by a cruise ship.

funchal shoreline water front

The view over Funchal from a moored cruise ship


Highlights of 1 day in Funchal

• Ride a wicker toboggan down some of the steepest streets in Funchal, avoiding traffic and roadside collisions by two men dressed like gondoliers…..


This wicker sledge, slides down 2km of steep hills......

• Fly soundlessly over the roofs of downtown Funchal in the cable car to Monte, and admire the spectacular vistas from the carriage, but just don’t look down!

cabel car funchal

The cable car skims the roofs of Funchal

• Wandering the peaceful Monte Palace Tropical Gardens and discover the wide biodiversity of flowers and flora that Madeira’s spring like climate supports

Monte Palace Tropical Gardens

Entrance to the Monte Palace Tropical Gardens

• Explore the charming city centre of Funchal, with its Portuguese architecture, cobbled streets, delightful forts and ancient cathedral.

Cidade Velha old town in Funchal

The Cidade Velha (old town) in Funchal

• Have a delicious lunch of freshly caught fish, and later recharge your batteries (energies levels) with a super strong coffee and sickly-sweet cake.

funchal meal food lunch

• Embrace the Portuguese love of football and admit that actually, Cristiano Ronaldo is a brilliant player by visiting the CR7 museum dedicated to him.

CR7 museum

The CR7 museum, on the harbour front


Why should you explore Funchal independently?

An independent tour of Funchal will get much more out of the city than some bland and crammed coach tour. By avoiding the mass tour, you will escape the other 48 people who want to ride the toboggan run at the same time as you, who will ruin the tranquillity of tropical gardens or form long queues to board the cable car. Also, a non-guided tour allows you flexibility to find the restaurant you want to eat at; not some high commission venue selling non-descript food.

funchal madeira

In other destinations, an organised tour provides the reassurance of safety, eliminates language difficulties and the dreaded possibility of getting lost and missing your boat. In relaxed and peaceful Funchal there is simply no worry of any of these potential issues.

Funchal is a very safe destination, which has the atmosphere of a small Portuguese town rather than a major municipal centre. The most hassle any tourist will experience are the enthusiastic tour boat sellers or polite restaurant maître d' touting for business. In Madeira language will never pose an issue as everyone speaks English fluently and often a second or third Europe language. As for getting lost, there is no real chance, as the city is a natural amphitheatre with your ship the focal point, clearly visible from anywhere in the city.


Our suggested route for a 1-day cruise tour of Funchal

Below is our suggested route for a 1 day cruise liner tour for Funchal, all prices for 2017 are detailed in a later section. The suggested route is:
• Stroll along the harbour front to the cable car ticket office (a 1km walk)
• Ride the cable car up to the little town of Monte, high above Funchal
• Visit the Monte Palace Tropical Garden
• Enjoy the wonderful views over the city from the Nossa Senhora do Monte church
• Ride the wicker toboggan cart half way down to Funchal the ride covers 2km and lasts about 10 minutes.

(The toboggan does not go all the way into Funchal, so a taxi is needed to complete the journey)

• Savour a delicious seafood lunch in the old town, overlooking the yellow Sao Tiago fort.
• Admire the historic centre of Funchal, which includes the Se cathedral, the Praca do Município plaza and the Palacio de Sao Lourenco fort
• Visit the traditional Mercado dos Lavradores market, where fresh and locally grown produce are amiable traded between vendors and shoppers
• Wander the delightful shopping street of Avenida Arriaga and drink a Poncha, sweet but lethally strong alcoholic drink.
• On the return back to the cruise liner visit the CR7 museum.

puchal drink funchal

A glass of Poncha in a cafe


Why this route?

This route is suggested as it tries to avoid the midday crowds at the cable car and toboggan run. For lunch, there is a better selection of restaurants and cafes in downtown Funchal than in Monte. For the final stage of the day you are relatively close to the ferry terminal without the worry of getting from Monte to the docks as the horn of the cruise liner goes. This suggested tour route circumvents many of the steep hills of Funchal and covers about 5km (not including any walking in the Tropical Gardens)


What about the yellow or red open top tour buses?

There are two Hop on Hop off open tour buses which navigate around Funchal, either red or yellow. These do cover a lot of different areas but do not include Monte, which is generally a highlight of any visit to Funchal. Generally, most of the areas that you would “hop off” are within the city centre and can be walked. If you do choose to join one of these tours it is suggested to complete the entire circuit and then get off at the stops which seems interesting. The commentary for both tours is very limited and simply laughable for the yellow tour.......

Palacio de Sao Lourenco funchal

The Palacio de Sao Lourenco


Typical costs for a day trip to Funchal

The day in Funchal will be one of the least expensive excursions of your cruise, as the city provides exceptional value for money. Typical costs are:
Cable car up to Monte – €10/€15 (single/return)
Entrance fee to Monte Palace Tropical Garden – €12.50
Toboggan ride – €30 per couple (plus a expected tip....)
Photo of your Toboggan ride - €10
Taxi from end of Toboggan ride into central Funchal – €25 for a 2km ride (a tourist con!). There is a public bus (€2) or a 25min downhill walk.
Light lunch – €10-15 (including a drink)
A coffee – €1
Bottle of water – €1
Glass of poncha – €2.50
CR7 museum entrance fee – €5
Yellow tour bus – €14
Entrance to the Madeira Story Centre – €3

São João do Pico Fortress funchal

The view over Funchal from the São João do Pico Fortress - its a tough walk


Disembarking The Cruise Liner

All cruise liners to Madeira moor in the deep-water harbour that overlooks Funchal. The cruise liners can either be moored on the sea wall side of the harbour or the city side but there is a tendency to moor on the sea wall side first. No matter the location of the mooring it is only a short walk to the pleasant promenade that extends around harbour and water front of Funchal. There is no real need to hire a taxi for the short walk to the city centre and the water front promenade is perfectly flat.

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