It owes its name to the little fennel plant, Funcho, which was very abundant in the region. Since the 19th century Funchal has been known as a therapeutic, tourist destination and was originally the main cause for tourism on the island. Now Funchal tourist industry is booming mainly because it has the most prestigious hotels and rental apartments of the Madeira Archipelago.
It is also in Funchal that you will find the main monuments, museums, churches, forts and buildings of public interest. The Cathedral, a national monument, built by Gil Enes in Manueline style, was the first episcopal cathedral in the Portuguese overseas territories. Among many other monuments, those that stand out are S. Lourenço Palace, The S.Tiago Fort, The Pico Fortress and the Baltazar Dias theatre.
Also not to be missed is a visit to Madeira’s Municipal Market and to some of the Madeira historic manor houses, which are dotted around the city. Some have now been turned into small hotels. The Old Town, now classified as a “Regional Valuable”, is a monument in itself. It has kept its original streets, alleys, squares and fountains. From here, two cable cars depart to Monte and to the Botanical Gardens from which the views of Funchal are simply breathtaking so it’s definitely worth the trip.
From Monte you can descend in the famous wicker sledge (toboggan) pulled by two men known as “carreiros” that push and cajole it down on two wooden skis back into Funchal. This is one of Madeira s iconic musts – Along with tasting the delicious Madeira Wine and Madeira Honey cake - The toboggan ride appeared way back in around 1850 so that shows how popular it is with tourists.
Last but not least the sea is, naturally, a great source of entertainment with a long list of activities. From a simple dive in one of its coastal swimming complexes, to organised boat trips, scuba diving, big game fishing and water skiing, … there are many activities based in the vibrant, Funchal Marina.
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