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Weekend Getaway in Madeira Island

Marta Vieira

Know as the Pearl of the Atlantic, Madeira is an island you definitely must visit! After its second nomination as World’s Leading Island Destination attributed by World Travel Awards, we think you’d be curious to find out what everyone is talking about. We put together every place you cannot miss when spending a 3-day weekend in Madeira Island.

Day 1: The Capital

This is the day to explore Funchal. After dropping your luggage, it’s time to view the sea in Avenida do Mar. This is the main avenue that extends for 1.3 km. Here you can see the São Tiago Fort and even one of Cristiano Ronaldo’s infamous statues. If you’re a football fan, check out the museum of the best football player in the world.

Next up is Mercado dos Lavradores. The local market reunites the traditional flavors and senses of the island.  Here you can find fruits, vegetables, fish and colourful flowers. If you can’t resist, ask one of the sellers to give you a taste of the local fruits.

If you’re not full after this visit, we suggest visiting Penha d’Águia to taste the local queijadas made out of cottage cheese.

After tasting some of the island’s best flavours, it’s time to continue exploring Madeira; this time by air. A 15-minute journey in the cable cars with a breathtaking view over Funchal takes you to our next destination — the Monte Palace Tropical Garden. The garden has 70.000 square meters of exotic plants coming from all over the world. Among the beauty of the gardens it’s possible to see sculptures and tile panels in a true fusion among nature and art. There are two ways of getting down: you can use the cable cars again or try the Wicker Baskets, where two man slide the basket down a hill.

Back to Funchal, go for a walk around Zona Velha. Here, every door has a different drawing and art galleries are open to visitors. If you want to know more about Madeira’s history, visit Madeira Story Centre. This museum takes you on a journey from the island’s volcanic origins up to its development.

Zona Velha

Stick around until night time and see the artsy street become the centre of the nightlife. There are many options for dinner and there are always musicians on the streets. If you can’t pick a dish, try the tuna or the swordfish; these fishes are the island kings. After dinner, don’t forget to try Madeira’s classic alcoholic drink, poncha. There are different flavour variations from which you can choose, but we recommend passionfruit.

Madeira's traditional drink: Poncha

Madeira’s traditional drink, the poncha

Day 2 – A Day to Walk

A photo on the Madeira typical houses is a must, so we suggest you head to Santana. The triangular houses are an icon of the island.

There’s no better way to experience the island than a walk through the mountains surrounded by waterfalls, vegetation and tunnels, so let’s go on a Levada. Levadas were artificial waterways created to carry the rain water to the agricultural fields of the whole island. Get your flashlight out and the comfortable trainers to do the 11km path that connects Ribeiro Frio to Portela.

For a late lunch, head to Porto da Cruz, a small village where you can eat at great prices. If the weather is nice, go for a swim in the local pools with a view to the ocean.

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Next stop: Cabo Girão. It’s the tallest cape in Europe — 580m above sea level to be exact — and it’s known for its suspended glass platform. We dare you to step on it and take your best photo!

To end the day, head to Câmara de Lobos, a fishermen village painted by Sir Winston Churchill, who used to take refugee here on his vacations. This is a great place to eat fresh fish while seeing the sunset.

Câmara de Lobos

Câmara de Lobos

At sundown try Nikita at the Farol Verde bar. The drink made out of pineapple, vanilla ice-cream and bear is served with popcorn and peanuts to eat aside.

Day 3 – Up and East

The viewpoint of Pico do Areeiro, 1818m high, gives us an amazing view of the central vegetation of the Island of Madeira. When the weather is nice, it’s possible to see the island of Porto Santo; however during the winter it’s possible to spot snow too.

Ponta de São Lourenço is the most Eastern point of Madeira. It’s a natural reserve with a panoramic view over the Atlantic Ocean. Leave your mark in this place by building a small rock sculpture.

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As the day ends, have a meal at Caniçal. In this fishing village, seafood features menus with inviting prices.

Madeira Island Course

Madeira Island 3-day Tour (Click to zoom in)

We gave you a peek of what this beautiful island has to offer. But one thing is to read about it; now you have to live it. What are you waiting for? Run to your computer and start scavenging the web for the best prices!


Tips and Tricks

What to pack for the weekend getaway in Madeira

There are no certainties when it comes to Madeira’s weather; it’s a constant surprise. You can find yourself going to the beach in the middle of October or seeing snow in the coldest months. Whether you go in winter or in summer, make sure your clothing covers all weather possibilities. Don’t forget your pair of comfortable trainers and your phone to make sure your like count keeps growing on Instagram.

Local food you cannot miss:

This is our favorite part: the local specialties! You have to try:

  1. Lapas
  2. Bolo do Caco
  3. Poncha
  4. Maracujá

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What other things would you recommend doing in Madeira? Let us know in the comments. And remember: if you need student accommodation, you’ll find the perfect student home you’re looking for on Uniplaces.

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