One of the joys of the city of Funchal is just how easy it is to walk around. It's a walkers' town with lots of sights to see along the way. So bring a good pair of shoes and spend a day or two taking in the town at a relaxed pace.
And bring your camera! From the painted doors of the Old Town to the beautiful floral displays of the Museu da Quinta das Cruzes, there's an inspiring picture around every corner. Start your stroll at São Lourenço Palace near the harbour, a fortress since 1513 and a most imposing building. Then head north towards Convento de Santa Clara up the hill but an easy enough amble with plenty to keep you distracted.
First stop should be Funchal's main square (see main picture above) with the town hall or Câmara Municipal as its centrepiece. The granite fountain is surrounded by typical Portuguese paving, half-moon shapes that are quite distinctive.
I find the architecture in the Old Town something similar to South of France. It's a real mix due to the constantly changing influences of traders from every part of Europe.
There's a great little tea house in the Universo de Memorias Museum called 'Petit Plaisir' where you can take a break and enjoy the views.
Next visit the Santa Clara Convent, home to one of the oldest religious orders in Madeira. The Convent was founded by the second captain-major of Madeira Island, João Gonçalves da Câmara in 1492. Go inside and visit the Courtyard and the São Gonçalo de Amarante Chapel, built in the 17th century.
A highlight and must-visit is Museu da Quinta das Cruzes which brings together 500 years of art, ceramics, jewellery & antiques presented within an 18th-century villa. The villa was originally the manor of João Gonçalves Zarco, the Portuguese captain who discovered Madeira. His house was remodelled in the 18th century into a stylish home which is now the museum.
Heading back into town again, a worthwhile stop is the Farmers' Market or Mercado dos Lavradores to capture its sounds, sights and smells as well as pick up some fresh flowers, vegetables or fish (best done in the morning when supplies are plentiful). It's worth noting that one avocado in the UK costs the same as a bag-full here. The Market was purpose-built in 1940 under the dictatorship of Salazar and is an interesting example of an Art Deco, state building. Sit and have a Chinesa or Garoto (different styles and sizes of coffee). You never know who you might bump into!
Nearby the Gothic-style Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption is a late fifteenth-century structure and one of the few that has survived intact since the early colonization of Madeira. The Cathedral is still used and is the main religious building much visited by locals and tourists who appreciate its Gothic interior and art.
In front of the theatre, Municipal Garden is where you find flora from many parts of the world. With Madeira being such an important stop-over on the trade routes people tended to bring plants as gifts.
Here are a few shots I took along the way... click to open up in lightbox...