Funchal is a fascinating city to explore – even with new hotels springing up it still hasn’t lost its traditional charm. Walking down from our hotel we went through Santa Caterina Park and along the attractive mosaic-tiled pavements. Iconic buildings include the Cathedral and the Sao Tiago Fortress, which houses the Contemporary Art Museum and for football fans there is the Cristiano Ronaldo Museum. In the older part of town is a narrow street Rua de Santa Maria with small artisan shops and cafes, where most of the old doors have been painted with some clever street art. At the end of this street is the Mercado dos Lavradores (market) selling flowers, fish and exotic fruit. We visited the small Optica Museum, which has about 2000 objects on display ranging from telescopes, binoculars, cameras, microscopes etc. The curator made us coffee so we sat down while he gave us a history of the collection. We also visited Frederico de Freitas House Museum with its lovely collection of sculptures, paintings, engravings, furniture, crystals and ceramics.
No visit to Funchal is complete without taking the cable car up to Monte. While up there we visited the Botanical Gardens with its indigenous species, arboretum, aromatic plants and much more. There is also a bird park, a natural history museum and not forgetting the small lizards peeping out from the old stonework. We also visited Quinta do Monte gardens, which were very peaceful because, being off season, the hotel seemed to be unoccupied. This area suffered greatly in previous years from wildfires and is still regenerating. While up in that vicinity we went into a charming restaurant Pa’tio Das Babosas with a lovely panoramic view all around. Spoilt for choice, I opted for a passionfruit, banans and ice cream confection -mmmm.
Then there was a novel transport back into the city – the 2km ride in a basket-weave sledge! I was a bit wary at first thinking that the ride would be bumpy, but it was anything but. The road down into town was shiny smooth and the baskets were controlled by two men holding on to ropes. Quite an experience! If you do decide to take this ride, keep a tip handy to give to the men at the journey’s end as they have your life in their hands!
So, there is so much to see and do in Funchal City – I recommend it.