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An island bursting with nature, stunning walks and unforgettable sunsets…

The picturesque island of Madeira is a haven for nature lovers. Lovingly nicknamed ‘the floating garden’, this Portuguese island off the north west coast of Africa is gorgeously decorated with bright and colourful flowers.

You can indulge your green-fingered side by discovering the native plants at one of the island’s many public gardens, where you can also spot birds unique to Madeira. Or you can stick to Funchal’s modern cafes and restaurants for a city break atmosphere.

Madeira’s weather is often warm enough to sit outside with a meal or a coffee and enjoy the island’s views. Sparkling seas, bursting colours and faraway sailing boats are typical sights. The island’s landscape is best appreciated whilst relaxing with a glass of local wine at sundown, so why not take a holiday in Madeira and experience her beautiful sunsets for yourself?

 

Sorrento, Amalfi Coast, Italy

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Beach chairs set on golden sands with blue sea and sky

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Culture and history

Madeira is home to a small community of Protestants, but the majority (over 80%!) of Madeirans are Roman Catholic. Madeirans are particularly proud of their religious heritage and hold many religious festivals throughout the year.

One of the biggest, most popular celebrations is the Monte festival in August. The festival is held at a small church in Monte which is beautifully decorated with flowers for the weekend of celebrations. You can join in with the fun and watch the street parade, dig into some hot food or listen to talented local musicians!

Madeira is renowned for the famous Madeira wine, so it comes as no surprise that wine is widely loved and celebrated on the island. There’s even a Madeira wine and harvest festival, which takes place during August and September, to celebrate one of the island’s greatest products.

Another traditional drink on the island is poncha, which is made with aguardente de cana, lemon, honey, sugar and fruit juice. It’s very sweet and very alcoholic, so take small sips!

Things to do

Visit this Portuguese island on holiday and you’ll get the opportunity to visit Madeira’s public gardens, including the Botanical Gardens of Madeira, Ribeiro Frio and the Monte Palace Tropical Garden – so you’ll be spoilt for choice! Alternatively, you can choose from guided tours of the island’s west and east coast, and jeep safaris for the adventurers.

Funchal Old Town

Funchal has been the capital of Madeira for more than five centuries, and it’s a city teeming with old-fashioned charm. The Old Town is a particular highlight for history lovers, and it’s just one of many jewels in Madeira’s crown. Funchal’s Old Town is packed with cosy side streets and impressive architecture, such as the Sé cathedral, and features an original outdoor art project called Arte de Portas Abertas (the Art of Open Doors). The project aims to create a permanent outdoor art gallery and revitalise old, abandoned doorways by encouraging artists to make art out of them.

At weekends, market sellers line the Old Town’s streets with boxes full of enticing fruits, flowers and fish. Live like one of the Funchal locals while you’re on your holidays in Madeira and spend a warm morning browsing the local produce before stopping off at a nearby cafe for a traditional Madeiran breakfast of bread, ham and cheese, with a hot cup of coffee.

Curral das Freiras 

Curral das Freiras (Nuns Valley) is a tiny village in the centre of Madeira. The village sits between two gigantic mountains in a small valley – believed to have been formed by a volcanic eruption. The valley became a home to nuns in 1566, after a pirate attack on Funchal caused them to flee from their Santa Clara convent.

Visit the valley by taking a tour or catching a local bus. You can get a bird’s eye view of the village from Eira do Serrado before you make your way down to the village itself to explore local shops and learn about the village’s intriguing history.

The Botanical Gardens of Madeira

Madeira’s Botanical Gardens are located about 3 kilometres from the centre of Funchal, just a short bus ride away. When you arrive, you will be mesmerised by the views of north Madeira’s mountains, south Madeira’s waters and the 2, 500 different types of plants and flowers in the gardens. The luscious Botanical Gardens are the perfect spot to take in Madeira’s superlative landscape.

The Botanical Gardens were created in 1960 to help to preserve indigenous Madeiran plants, some of which are very rare in the wild. During your visit, you’ll be able to explore areas of the garden dedicated to different types of plants, like indigenous, succulents and tropical. There are plants at Madeira’s Botanical Gardens that don’t exist anywhere else in the world, no matter how much you may want to plant them in your garden!

Flight time

You can fly from London to Madeira directly in just under 4 hours – enough time to catch up on your favourite weekly soaps!

Currency

Euro - Like many other places in Europe, Madeira uses the euro.

You can change money at exchange kiosks when you arrive in Portugal if you don’t want to carry cash on your journey.

Passports and visas

As long as you’re a British citizen and your stay in Portugal doesn’t exceed 3 months, you won’t need a visa. All you’ll need to do is double-check that your passport is valid for your full stay – it’s that easy!

Phrases

Try out some of these handy Portuguese phrases on your Madeira holiday:

Olá – hello

Adeus – goodbye

Por favor – please

Obrigado or obrigada – thank you

Ó, desculpe! Or com licença! – excuse me

Fala inglês? – do you speak English?

Quanto custa? – how much is it?

Vai mais uma? – one more?

Viva! – cheers!

Timezone

Madeira is on Western European Time, which is the same as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). When summer arrives, it moves onto Western European Summer Time, which is basically the same as British Summer Time (BST).

Essentially, Madeira is in the same time zone, under a different name which means no battling with jet lag – hooray!

Electricity

Madeira uses Type C and F two-pin sockets, which is the same as most of Europe. If you’ve got an EU adaptor from a previous stay in a continental hotel, remember to look it out before you fly.

Language

Portuguese -

The national language of Madeira is Portuguese, although English is also widely spoken. Locals will appreciate any efforts you make to speak the language, so try to learn a few basic phrases before you go on your Madeira holidays.

Tipping

Tips aren’t expected in Portugal, but they are always appreciated. Most customers will round up their bill to the nearest Euro.

If you’ve received particularly good service in a restaurant, a 10% tip is reasonable. At the hotels in Madeira, it’s normal to tip bellboys €2 per bag for helping you with your luggage.

However, it is not as common to tip hotel maids, unless they bring something to you from downstairs.

Climate

The warmest and driest months in Madeira are normally May to August, with average temperatures sitting comfortably around 20-24 Celsius.

The sea temperature stays high over the summer months, so whether you’re just dipping your toes in or braving a waist-deep swim, you’ll have a pleasant experience.

The northern coast of Madeira tends to be a little cooler than the rest of the main island, so choose your destination according to your preferred weather conditions.

Health

As health information can change at any time, we’d advise you to consult your GP at least 12 weeks before departure.

Country-specific information and advice on possible health risks is also published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre, and The British Foreign and Commonwealth Travel Advice Unit provides important health and safety information for British nationals travelling abroad.

Population and size

Madeira is an archipelago that belongs to Portugal and consists of two islands and two groups of islands – Madeira, Porto Santo, Desertas Islands and Savage Islands.

Only Madeira and Porto Santo are inhabited, and they have a combined population of over 260,000 people. Nearly half of the total population lives in Madeira’s capital city, Funchal, which is the largest city in the archipelago.

Smoking

Smoking and e-cigarette use is banned in most indoor public places such as restaurants, cinemas and casinos. Some restaurants and bars have indoor smoking licences, but these are quite rare.

Pick an outside seat if you’d like to smoke with your meal or coffee, or stay inside for a smoke-free environment.


Places in Madeira

Funchal

This charming and cosmopolitan capital city lies on the south coast of Madeira, backed by hills and mountains

The Botanical Gardens

A colourful garden of conservation


Climate

Discover Madeira

Tradition, culture and good times in Madeira

The Botanical Gardens of Madeira