Planning a solo trip to Funchal (Madeira)? Here’s everything you need to know for your visit:
- The capital of Portugal’s Autonomous Region of Madeira, with a population of ~112,000.
- The city’s name is derived from the large amount of fennel (funcho) that grows on the island.
- First settled in the early 15th century by the Portuguese explorer João Gonçalves Zarco.
- Geographically, Madeira is closer to Morocco than it is to Portugal.
- Currency: Euro (EUR)
- Spoken languages: Portuguese.
- Best time to visit: from April to August for the best weather (mediterranean climate).
- Arriving via airport (Funchal Airport/Madeira international): many opt to rent a car and drive to the city directly from the airport, as renting a car is a great way to see the area in general. The Aero-bus is an express bus service between the airport and Funchal, and costs around 5€. Taxis are also available outside the airport, and a ride to the city is around 20€.
WHERE TO STAY
- Best hostel for solo travelers in Funchal: 29 Madeira Hostel. Clean, comfortable, cozy – with friendly staff and a big kitchen if you need it. Perfect for exploring the island (located in the old town center), walking distance to the airport bus. Late check-in available, also free coffee/tea for guests.
- Try areas such as Cliff Bay and Porto Mare for great accommodation options.
- Luxury hotels can be found in the Lido area.
- Funchal is a small enough city that walking is often the best way to get around.
- Buses cover routes around Funchal and up to Monte (single rides are 1.90€).
- Taxis are ideal for trips further afield. Try the bolt app as an alternative to taxis.
- Car rental is available at the airport. However, driving here is not for the faint of heart (hills, narrow streets).
- Electric scooter rentals are available – could be a fun way to zip around (e.g from Lido to Central Funchal).
- Drinking age is 18, last call is 6 AM.
- The nightlife in Funchal is fairly tame during the week (weekends are your best bet).
- Rua da Imperatriz Dona Amélia has cafe-bars and pubs on offer.
- For the most active weekend nightlife atmosphere, check out the nightclubs and discotheques around the central Funchal area.
- Best bars to check out in Funchal: Revolucion Bar (artisanal cocktails), Lido’s Tavern (casual), and Rei da Poncha.
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
- Sé Cathedral (built between 1493 and 1517) is the most visited monument in Funchal, and a central point of the city.
- São Lourenço Palace (Palácio de São Lourenço) – with its beautiful architecture, this fortress/palace has many rooms and gardens to explore.
- Head up to Monte (the peak) via cable car and view the city from above. You can also visit the church at Monte and the Monte Palace Gardens. If you’re feeling adventurous, try the wicker sled ride down the hill!
- Take a walk along the promenade, from the Lido to Praia Formosa. This walk is around 3 kilometres, and offers beautiful views of the ocean the whole way!
- Go for a walk in and around Funchal itself – most parts of the city are incredibly beautiful.
- Avoid taking coach tours to the popular places in Funchal or the surrounding areas in Madeira when possible – you’ll find that by hiring a car or walking that you can spend time at attractions how you want, rather than being rushed.
- Great restaurants to try in Funchal: Restaurante O Polar ($), As Vides Restaurant ($$ – try the espetada), White House Pub ($$ – great food in a bar environment), Abrigo do Pastor ($$).
- Whilst spending time in Funchal, make the most of the many boat trips that are on offer that can give you unique views of the island – they’re worth it!
- Where to find good cheap eats: the city is full of good places to eat, with many places offering traditional Madeiran cuisine. Look for small seafood restaurants in Lido and Praia Formosa. Keep in mind that most places are expensive. Ask the locals for the best affordable spots.
- Dangerous areas: none, as Funchal is extremely safe.
Recommended trip duration: 3-4 days