For anyone planning on visiting an island of Madeira, their first stop has to be Funchal. This large resort town can be a very busy place during the summer months. Many visitors chose to take the ferry to Porto Santo in order to get away from the hustle and bustle of Funchal.
After the famous explorers João Gonçalves Zarco and Tristão Vaz Teixeira were blown off course in a storm, they discovered the area that is now home to the city of Funchal. These explorers were sent out back in 1419 in order to find more land for growing cereal crops to support the populations of Portugal. Today the area is known not only as a resort town, but also for its role in the sugar and banana industry.
All along the water front, you will find one luxurious hotel or resort after another. The bay is lined with them. The year round temperature is inviting and many visitors make their way to Funchal every single year; regardless of the season. In the surrounding countryside, you will find lush banana plantations. Plantations dot the countryside in every direction.
During the Christmas season, the entire bay is lit up with decorations and the New Years fireworks displays in the bay are considered to be some of the best in the world. But it is in the city where the real excitement begins. Most people opt to explore the city by foot and one of their first stops is Avenida Arriaga. Along Arriaga Avenue, one can see all of the major cultural attractions that the city has to offer.
As you make your way throughout the city, stop by and check out the 15th century Convento de Santa Clara. Nearby you will also find the 16th century Forte de São Lourenço which is all in ruins except for the North Bastion.
Once you get hungry, you can make your way to the Mercado dos Lavradores market where you can find all sorts of local vegetables and fruits. You will find many delicacies in the market and around the edge of the market, you will find a number of restaurants which offer the tastes of Portugal. Afterwards, head out of town and get some wine at the Blandy’s and Palheiro Gardens. For more of the beauty of Funchal, stop by and visit the Quinta do Bom Sucesso Botanical Gardens which is home to more than 2,000 species of plants. Next to the gardens one can find the aviary which is home to a wide assortment of colorful and exotic parrots.