Best of Funchal in One Day: The Ultimate Guide for Cruise Ship Passengers (Including Map)

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Ahoy, travelers! Are you hopping on a cruise ship voyage that takes you to the Hawaii of Europe, Madeira? Then you would be docking in the port of Funchal, the capital city of Madeira. Although Madeira is huge and offers a lot of great things to do for everyone, Funchal would be the best place to start. Nestled among the cliffs, with the touch of the Atlantic breeze, Funchal offers many enjoyable experiences and gives you a taste of the rest of the island.

Is the Itinerary Suitable for Cruise Ship Passengers Only?

The answer is no. Although the itinerary is crafted with cruise ship passengers in mind, it works for all. Whether you come via a floating palace or fly in to explore the entire island, Funchal is worth visiting. I highly recommend spending a day in Funchal when visiting Madeira.

What to Expect in Funchal’s Port?

Although Funchal attracts many visitors, it is only possible to dock one ship at a time with the small harbor. The Cruise Terminal of Funchal is quite simple. However, Funchals port is conveniently situated just a stone’s throw away from the city center, making it possible for the visitors to quickly disembark and start their exploration right away.

Funchal is also perfect for visiting in a short time as its compact size and the strategic location of all the main attractions makes it easily accessible by foot or by using the city’s public transportation.

Best Things to Do in Funchal in One Day

You can choose all you want to do based on the time you have left to return to your ship. To make it easier for you, I have added a small section to indicate the average time needed to visit a place. Even better, I have also added the amount of time it would take for you to get back to the port, just in case you took too long in one spot and can’t continue forward with the itinerary, you will always know when to return or what your next stop can be. I have also added a map marking all the places of attraction listed in the post so you can plan your route accordingly.

How To Use The Map?

The orange suitcases are the locations from the post. If required, zoom in and click on a suitcase to view brief details about the location. Click ‘View in Google Maps’ to view the location’s complete details in Google Maps.

1. Roam in Funchal’s Old Town

The typical cobblestone streets filled with shops and restaurants with nice tables set up on their terraces are the first sight you will be treated to once you enter the city’s center. But the old town is much more than that. Wander into the narrow streets, which will take you back in time and captivate you with its allure.

The old town of Funchal, Zona Velha, is brimming with centuries-old architecture, quaint squares, and a vibrant atmosphere that seamlessly blends the old with the new.

The best way to explore the old town would be to take a walking tour. However, it might require you to pre-book your tour, and also it would take a few hours. I would recommend doing this if you have a lot of time in hand or are not keen on visiting many other places during the day.

Tip! Sit at an outdoor café, sip on a traditional Poncha cocktail, and enjoy the city’s rhythm.

Some Highly Rated Walking Tours

Psst! You could stroll around the old town center by yourself and still enjoy it. I have other places of interest from the old town listed separately, so you would not miss out on anything.

Average Time Spent

Typically 1 to 2 hours. But it mostly depends on how much you walk around and whether or not you visit a restaurant. I recommend spending some time here to enjoy the vibe.

Time to Reach Funchal’s Port

The Cruise terminal is just a 20 minutes walk from the city center. Based on your exact location, it might take you a little more or less.

2. Check Out Fresh Produce at the Farmer’s Market (Mercado Dos Lavradores)

I can hear you asking why should we visit the farmer’s market? We are not here to stay and especially not to buy veggies to cook, so why bother going to a market? The farmer’s market is set up in a commercial space within the center of the town, and it was inaugurated in 1940 and still retains the charm of the past. This lively marketplace, known as Mercado dos Lavradores, is a vibrant tapestry of colors, scents, and flavors and the best place to soak in the culture of this island.

As you meander through the market’s bustling aisles, your senses are tantalized by the vibrant hues of fresh fruits, exotic spices, and fragrant flowers. The air is filled with the invigorating aroma of ripe tropical fruits, mingling with the earthy scent of freshly harvested vegetables. Some of them you would have never seen before. The locals are friendly and welcoming and are very eager to share a story or two about the agricultural industry or the culture of the city and local insights. You could also learn about how to identify the best fruits to pick.

Delight in the ornate display of handmade wicker baskets, traditional handicrafts, and intricate embroidery, each piece reflecting Madeira’s rich cultural heritage.

Average Time Spent

Typically around an hour.

Time to Reach Funchal’s Port

The Cruise terminal is 30 minutes by walk from the Farmer’s Market. Based on your exact location, it might take you a little more or less. You could easily reach in under 10 minutes in a cab. The taxi in Madeira is very affordable.

Pro Tip! Make sure to install the Uber and Bolt apps. Set up your payment method beforehand to quickly book a taxi if necessary. You can also compare prices on both apps and book your best choice.

3. Walk Through Rua de Santa Maria

Walking through this road should be a must-do activity if you are visiting Funchal. This narrow road is filled with bars and restaurants on either side and is always vibrant and lively. But what makes it unique is the door art on the doors of the houses, shops, or any buildings in this alley. This area was completely ruined due to floods and was not the same that you see now.

The “The Art of Open Doors” project started in 2014, inviting artists to unleash their creativity and make it a public art space. Hundreds of doors were painted as part of this project. This small effort turned this run-down alley into a tourist attraction. The street is definitely one of my favorite places in Funchal, and I haven’t seen a more vibrant street.

Average Time Spent

Typically, it should just take you about 15 to 20 minutes to walk past this road. Still, since it is filled with bars and restaurants, it is too difficult not to stop by to enjoy a drink at the minimum.

Time to Reach Funchal’s Port

Walking takes about 30 minutes to reach the port.

4. Experience Dolphin and Whale Watching

If you are a fan of dolphins and whales, Madeira is an excellent place to go on a dolphin and whale watching tour. The tours start at the Marina of Funchal, close to the boat. Many species of dolphins and whales swim in the Madeiran waters; some are local to the region, and some are migratory species. Depending on the season and a little bit of luck, you will see quite some amazing varieties, some more common than others.

If you plan to go on a dolphin and whale watching tour, you should book your tour beforehand. I have written a complete guide about dolphin and whale watching in Madeira, which has everything you need to know to plan your perfect trip.

After reading countless reviews and spending many long hours on the research, we decided to take this dolphin and whale watching experience.

Average Time Spent

The tour takes 2 hours, and you would need an additional 30 minutes for the instructions and putting on your safety jacket.

Time to Reach Funchal’s Port

The Cruise terminal is just 15 minutes walk from the Marina, where the dolphin and whale watching tours start.

5. Ride Funchal’s Cable Car

While in Funchal, riding the cable car is a must-do. As the cable car ascends, it reveals the panoramic views of Funchal’s charming rooftops, sparkling blue coastline, and lush green landscapes. The view constantly changes from the packed rooftops of Funchal to spotting fewer and fewer houses nestled in the emerald hills on one side. On the other side, you can witness the harbor from where you started the journey vanishing into the horizon. It is just so beautiful. This cable car ride offers a unique vantage point unlike any other viewpoint.

The smaller car ensures that you are not packed among many other tourists. Usually, each car takes only 4 – 6 ideally. If you are lucky and there are fewer crowds, you could take an entire car for yourself. We were able to enjoy this on our way back down.

Good to Know! Before purchasing your tickets, I highly recommend deciding whether you will take the cable car ride while returning.

Well, What Are the Other Options?

You could go on the famous Toboggan ride from the top, taking you halfway down. From there, you could hike down for about 20 minutes to reach Funchal or take a bus instead. (The taxi could also be an option as it is affordable too.)

Tickets for Funchal’s Cable Car

One way costs €12.50 for adults and €6.50 for a child. A round trip costs €18 per adult and €9 per child. (Deciding your return could save you some money and time from standing in any queue to purchase your return ticket on the way back.)

You can also buy your tickets online from the official website.

Opening Hours for Funchal’s Cable Car

9:00 am to 5:45 pm

Average Time Spent

One-way ride to Monte from Funchal takes 15-20 minutes. The waiting time to get into a car depends on the season and the time of the day. Also, there are some points of attractions to see at the top, so excluding that, I would set aside an hour for a round trip in the cable car.

Time to Reach Funchal’s Port

The Cruise terminal is 30 minutes by walk from the Funchal Cable Car Station at Funchal (not including the ride from Monte).

6. Discover Paradise at the Monte Palace Tropical Garden

I am usually not a fan of botanical gardens, but this one just blew my mind and took my breath away. It is safe to say that it is one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in the world. Oh, wait! It is not just my point of view. It is indeed one of the 13 most beautiful botanical gardens to visit in the world, according to Condé Nast Traveller.

This enchanting haven atop Monte Hill offers a captivating escape into a world of exotic flora, stunning landscapes, and mesmerizing art. You can find the entrance to this garden as soon as you walk out of the cable car station in Monte. Sometimes there are two entrances, but you will be redirected to the garden’s other entrance, which is just a 100m to 200m walk from the cable car station.

Tip! The garden has an adorable cafe very close to the entrance. It looks so beautiful and would also look super cool on your Instagram page.

Psst! Follow me on Instagram for unique travel content and amazing pictures.

Oh, wait! Talking about Instagram made me realize that not just the cafe but the entire garden is filled with perfect photo nooks for your Gram. The garden’s centerpiece is the striking Oriental Garden, inspired by the tranquil landscapes of Eastern cultures. Serene koi ponds, pagodas, and meticulously crafted stone pathways transport you to a realm of peace and serenity.

I would just sit there and spend the whole day relaxing in the different sitting areas of the gardens, especially under the pagodas.

Tip! If you are spending a lot of days in Madeira, I highly recommend spending a day here relaxing amidst nature if that’s your thing. Trust me, you will definitely love it.

I could keep telling you a lot about this place, but what I want to insist on is especially for cruise ship passengers who have little time in hand. Be quick here as the garden is massive, and you could keep walking and walking and lose track of time. As you explore the garden, you will be walking downwards, which means you will have to walk all the way up when you want to leave, so include some time for it.

For people who cannot walk long distances, you could also take a tour on their electric vintage car, which gives you a small tour of the garden for a price.

Good to Know! Although you can walk around the Monte Palace, you cannot enter it.

Tickets for Monte Palace Tropical Garden

€12.50 per adult, including museum visits. Children under the age of 15 are admitted free.

Opening Hours for Monte Palace Tropical Garden

Garden Visiting Hours: 9:30 am till 6:00 pm

Museum Visiting Hours: 10:00 am till 4:30 pm

Average Time Spent

Typically 1 to 2 hours. But it mostly depends on how much you explore the place. It is even possible to spend half a day here, which we did.

Time to Reach Funchal’s Port

The Cruise terminal is 5 mins ride away from the cable car station at Funchal. It will take around 30 minutes to go down from Monte to Funchal via cable car. You could also take a taxi directly from the Garden entrance, which should take about 20 minutes.

7. Enjoy the Botanical Garden of Madeira

If you love plants and flowers and enjoy seeing and knowing about exotic species, this is a must-visit place for you. Spread across 8 hectares, this botanical garden houses more than 2000 varieties of exotic plants. Most of the park is landscaped, and it is such a pleasant sight.

Some plants are even known to be extinct in their country of origin but are preserved here. There is also a research and conservation area to preserve the endangered species.

Opening Hours for Botanical Garden of Madeira

9:00 am to 6:00pm

How to Reach Botanical Garden of Madeira?

If you are not driving, which makes more sense if you are visiting from a cruise ship. The best way to visit this garden is to take the cable car. It could be a little confusing, but at least it was for us. So I have tried to explain it more clearly.

To reach the Botanical Garden of Madeira, you must take 2 cable cars. The first cable car goes from Funchal to Monte (where the Monte Palace Garden is located).

After getting down at Monte, you need to walk around 300m to the next cable car station, which will take you to the Botanical Gardens.

Tickets for Botanical Garden of Madeira

The entrance to the park is €8.75 per person. But if you are not visiting by car and are taking cable cars both ways, I would recommend buying the combo ticket. It costs €35 per person and includes all the below:

Cable car Funchal -> Monte + Cable Car Monte -> Botanical Garden + Botanical Garden Entry Fee + Return to Funchal (Both cable car rides)

(Phew! Hope it all makes sense.)

Average Time Spent

Typically 1 to 2 hours. But it mostly depends on how much you explore the place.

Time to Reach Funchal’s Port

The Cruise terminal is 5 mins ride away from the cable car station at Funchal. It will take 30 – 45 minutes to go down from Botanical Garden to Funchal via 2 cable cars. You could also take a taxi directly from the Garden entrance, which should take around 20 minutes.

Tip! For cruise ship passengers, I recommend getting individual one-way cable car tickets for the experience and returning via taxi to save time, as it will only take 15 minutes to reach the port from the Botanical Garden.

Pro Tip! If you are running short of time, I recommend visiting only one of the two gardens as they could take much of your time. If you ask me to choose, I recommend visiting the Monte Palace Garden.

8. Go on a Toboggan Ride

This is a popular tourist activity and an enjoyable ride in this area. Toboggan was traditionally used as a means of transport to commute downhill. But, in recent years, it has become more like a fun ride for tourists. The sledge is made of wicker baskets, and two sledge drivers will take you on a 2 km adventure-packed ride down the hill up to Livramento, a small town located very close to Funchal.

Good to Know!

  • This is a popular tourist attraction, so be prepared for crowds. You might not get to take the ride right away. The ride only takes 10 minutes.
  • The ride alone won’t take you to Funchal, but only up to Livramento. Funchal’s city center is about a 2 km steep downhill walk from here, which should take around 30 minutes.
  • Although taxis are affordable when you book through Bolt or Uber, since this is a popular tourist attraction, you may have to negotiate a little with the taxi drivers to get a reasonable fare.
  • You could also take the public transport bus 19, which runs every hour, or there are other bus options, but the stops are a short walk from the ending point of the ride.

Price for the Toboggan Ride in Madeira

For a single person, they take €25.

2 People per sledge costs €15 per person (€30 in total for the ride). Only 3 people can go on a single sledge, costing the same €15 per person.

Suppose you are someone who does not want to take the cable car but wants to try the Toboggan rides. In that case, you can go for a tour that provides pick-up and drop-off from the hotel or any main location (could be next to the harbor).

Average Time Spent

The ride takes only 10 minutes, but you can expect a considerable waiting time. It is wise to have an hour for the ride and the waiting time, excluding the time to reach the starting point.

Time to Reach Funchal’s Port

It takes about 30 minutes to reach Funchal Center. To reach the cruise terminal, the best option would be to take a taxi which should take around 20 mins, or a bus to the center and walk to the port, which is not the most time-friendly option.

9. Explore Funchal’s Waterfront

Funchal’s waterfront, Praça do Povo, is a perfect place for people to watch and enjoy the city’s views as well as the boats and the ships on the water. You can see the city filled with houses perched on the cliff and the small boats sailing past in the water. This view always gets to me. It is so pleasant to see them all at once. The golden hour looks even more spectacular.

Do not just stop there. Continue walking along the coast towards Forte de São Tiago, which is closed. Still, the yellow fort along the shore looks wonderful, and along the way, you can see great spots from where you can enjoy the view.

There is a small viewpoint a little past the fort called the Miradouro do Socorro. It is an excellent place to relax and watch the waterfront. The church Igreja de Santa Maria Maior is opposite the viewpoint. It looks quite mysterious when it is dark and the lamps are on.

If you want to take a dip in the water, you could swim in Praia de São Tiago. As the sun goes down, you will see many people going for a swim here.

Average Time Spent

Typically, 1 hour should be sufficient to enjoy a walk along the waterfront. But it could take a bit longer if you go for a swim.

Time to Reach Funchal’s Port

You should be able to return to the cruise in around 20 minutes. You could see your ship all the way while you were walking.

10. Visit the Sé Catedral do Funchal (Funchal Cathedral)

This cathedral, located in the old town of Funchal, was built during the 15th century and is one of the city’s significant landmarks. This catholic church displays features of the Manueline and Gothic periods. The church’s interior has a stunning altarpiece consisting of gilded wood carvings, sculptures, and oil paintings, which is also said to be an example of Mudéjar decoration based on a form of Islamic artistic tradition.

This church is definitely a must-visit; you can easily spot its tower from a distance while entering Funchal from the waters.

Average Time Spent

Typically 30 minutes. 

Time to Reach Funchal’s Port

You should be able to return to the cruise in around 25 minutes.

Final Thoughts

It might be a little difficult to rush to all these places in a single day, especially if you must return to the cruise at a set time. Based on your interest and available time, I think you could cover most of these places and also have a fun day in Funchal.

I hope you enjoyed reading about everything you can do while docking in Funchal during your cruise ship trip. If you have more questions, feel free to reach out in the comments. I would also love to hear about your visit to Funchal. If you ever get a chance, come back to Madeira and explore the island for a much longer time. You can take a guided tour and explore some gems in northwest Madeira or east Madeira. Also, you can go on the best levada walk (25 Fontes & Risco waterfall hike) in Madeira or experience the beautiful Ponta de São Lourenço hike. Madeira is truly a paradise!

Kiki from RooKiExplorers posing in a field of pink hyacinths in the Netherlands.
The Face Behind the Post

Hey, I am Kiki! A full-time software developer and hardcore travel enthusiast who is always up for a new adventure and the author of RooKiExplorers. I love to travel the world and enjoy talking about it, helping everyone around me plan their trips, and avoiding making the mistakes I made.

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