Funchal, the capital of Portugal's Madeiran archipelago, has a timeless old-world charm. Enhanced by a subtropical climate that fills this 'floating garden' with the year-round colours and perfumes of flowers and fruit, Funchal was a favourite of Sir Winston Churchill. His praise of the city has ensured British visitors always receive a warm welcome from locals.
Backed by rolling hills, the town is famous for its harbour, the 17th century São Tiago Fortress (now the Contemporary Art Museum) and world renowned Madeiran wine cellars. Funchal’s parks and gardens are a delight, and a hike through the Laurel Forest nearby is highly recommended. The ancient Funchal Cathedral mixes Gothic and Romanesque architecture, and is noted for its impressive carved wooden ceiling.
Cabo Girão is one of the highest sea cliffs in the world, standing at a height of 580 metres (1,900 feet) above sea level. This area along the southern coast is popular for its magnificent panoramas, and in 2012, a skywalk (glass-floored viewing platform) was installed here, jutting out over the cliffs and offering visitors the opportunity to view the cliff face directly beneath their feet.
Madeira is renowned for its gardens, and is often referred to as the ‘floating garden of the Atlantic.’ No visit here would be complete without a visit to Monte Palace Tropical Garden, considered one of the most beautiful on the island. The garden, which opened to the public in 1991, is located on the hilltop of Monte and home to a huge collection of exotic flora from around the world, which thrive thanks to Madeira’s climate. Some of the plants and flowers found here include azaleas, ferns, heathers and one of the largest collections of cycads in the world.
The islands of Madeira have a long winemaking history, dating back to the Age of Exploration when Madeira was a standard port of call for ships heading to the New World or East Indies. These fortified wines are produced in a variety of styles ranging from dry wines, which can be enjoyed on their own as an aperitif to sweet wines, often paired with desserts.