The best bars in Funchal and Madeira: from poncha to craft beer

The best bars in Madeira and Funchal | PACK THE SUITCASES

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Here’s my pick of the best bars in Madeira, mainly focusing on the bars in Funchal that I know really well and always recommend. The island is full of places serving the Madeiran national drink poncha but there’s also an emerging craft beer scene (craft beer as in the hoppy hipster kind). And while Madeira isn’t the go-to place for crazy nightlife, there’s still somewhere to drink around every corner.

Poncha is a delicious and rather strong alcoholic drink from Madeira, made with boozy sugar cane rum, honey, sugar, orange/lemon juice and other fruit juices. The traditional lemon one is my favourite because I’m all about that sour life. But if you’re not so sour, you might like the maracuja (passion fruit) or tangerine variants. Legend has it that if you drink three poncha, you’ll be able to speak fluent Portuguese. I can confirm this is very much not true. You’ll barely be able to speak. 

Madeira’s growing craft beer scene should also be on the agenda. I’ve found some brilliant bars serving local hoppy IPAs from Portugal. This type of beer seems to be catching on in a bid to escape the generic Coral lager everywhere (Portugal’s Heineken).

Please note: I update this post regularly so that all my recommendations are up to date. I remove any bars in Madeira that have closed. If you spot one I may have missed, please comment to let me know, and feel free to leave your own tips too.

If this all sounds up your street, you’ll like this list of the best bars in Funchal and other places to get your boozing on in Madeira…

The best bars in Funchal and the best bars Madeira more widely

Mercearia Dona Mécia: one of the best bars in Funchal for people-watching and relaxing

Rua Aranhas 26, Funchal

This list isn’t in any order but this one does happen to be first and my favourite. I almost don’t want to share it, to be honest. It’s a special place.

For me, sitting with a drink in hand and working my way through a bowl of olives and/or ready salted crisps at Mercearia Dona Mécia is synonymous with an early evening in Funchal. It’s a small outdoor bar tucked away in a courtyard, a step back from the hustle and bustle of the shopping area. Although it’s in a quieter spot, if you’re there in the early evening (around 5pm is best) you’ll see a steady stream of local business people leaving the nearby offices and heading home, usually very well dressed. I enjoy this. It’s a nice reminder that I’m on my hols and not in work. Ha.

As well as being a proper bar in the evenings, Mercearia Dona Mécia is a café in the day and serves a variety of small dishes for lunch. It has poncha, wine, generic beer etc to drink, but in the last few years has also started serving bottled craft beers.

The best bars in Madeira and Funchal | PACK THE SUITCASES

FugaCidade: the best of all the bars in Madeira for craft beer 

R. do Conde de Canavial 22, Funchal

FugaCidade is the best place to go in Madeira for craft beer, hands down. It’s a small and unassuming bar from the outside, hidden away behind a shopping centre. But when you go in, it’s craft beer heaven. 

You’ll find an extensive menu of craft beers to choose from, something that was unheard of in Madeira before Fugacidade opened. And if you’re not sure what to go for, you can ask the friendly and knowledgeable owner, Duate. He really knows his beer and will be able to give you a brilliant recommendation. Please let him know that you went there after reading Pack The Suitcases, too. I’ve chatted to him a few times over the years so he knows about this blog! And you wouldn’t believe how many messages and emails I’ve had from people who’ve hunted out Fugacidade based on my recommendation. It’s lovely to know that so many people have enjoyed my tip. If you go, please have an IPA or two for me.

I should add that even if you’re not into craft beer, Fugacidade is a great bar to pop into. It also does wine, homemade poncha, spirits and other drinks, as well as snacks like cheese boards.

Barreirinha Bar Café: one of the best bars in Funchal for sea views

Largo do Socorro, 9060-291 Santa Maria Maior, Funchal

Barreirinha Bar Cafe is an outdoor drinking spot with a brilliant atmosphere. It’s 100% the best place for a caipirinha or a mojito before heading over to a nearby restaurant to eat (more on that in my post about where to eat in Madeira… shameless plug!). It happens to have the best location ever due to its amazing ocean views. You can sit overlooking the sea and watching the sun go down in the evening, or find a shady table at lunchtime to be dazzled by the too-blue waters. I’ve included photos of it in both day- and night-time guise.

Barreirinha is really popular with locals. One of the things I love about Madeiran drinking culture is that you don’t get bars filled with just one demographic/age group. Everyone is mixed in together everywhere and there’s always a good atmosphere because of it. There’s definitely an extra buzz in this bar though. And the later you go, the busier it is. That’s Madeiran nightlife for you. If you can’t get a table, you can perch on the wall, which is just as enjoyable. They do really good toasties by day, so it’s a nice place to stop for brunch too. 

Bonus fact: Barreirinha has excellent music. The first time I went, they played an entire War On Drugs album. An unusual and bold move, but it works.

The best bars in Madeira and Funchal | PACK THE SUITCASES

Madeira Rum House: one of the best bars in Funchal for trying poncha

Rua Portão de São Tiago, 19c, Funchal

Madeira Rum House is my go-to for a poncha. They have all the usual flavours, but of course the lemon one is the connoisseur’s choice. Although this bar is in Funchal old town, where a lot of the overly touristy places are, it’s really not a tourist trap one bit. You’ll find proper, authentic homemade poncha and groups of locals enjoying the massive selection of rum.

Unsurprisingly given its name, Madeira Rum House is home to a ridiculously large rum collection. In fact, it’s almost like a mini rum museum inside. I’m much more of a gin lover to be honest, but when in Rome Madeira, it would be rude not to at least sample some ‘full-on’ rums (as well as the kind nicely diluted in poncha, I mean). 

Unfortunately, I don’t have any decent photographs of this bar because I’ve only ever been at night and it has very cosy and low lighting, which means I haven’t managed to capture it well at all. But imagine a little cavern filled with stools and tables made from rum barrels and the walls lined with various rum-related things. I’ll have to call in in the day next time I’m on Madeira so that I can get a nice well-lit shot of it, but until then here’s me about to polish off a lemon poncha somewhere else.

Madeira Beer Lab: Funchal’s only rooftop bar (possibly)

Madeira Beer Lab is a fairly new bar on the Funchal drinking scene. It’s situated on top of the market, Mercado dos Lavradores, and I think it’s Madeira’s only rooftop bar. Or it’s certainly the only one I’ve found – I don’t know the hotel zone of Funchal well at all though so perhaps there are rooftop bars lurking up there? I’m sure some smartypants will correct me in the comments if I’m wrong.

Anyway, Madeira Beer Lab is a brilliant little bar, surrounded by flowers, serving a small selection of beer (not craft, but more choice than most). My favourite thing about it is the view. If you manage to get one of the tables next to the wall, you have a lovely outlook down the road next to the market, featuring this lovely pink apartment block that I’m sure Barbie must live in.

If you’re going to go there for a drink, you must call in at the market below too. More on that in my things to do in Madeira post.

The best bars in Madeira and Funchal | PACK THE SUITCASES

Revolucion Rock Bar: one of the best bars in Funchal for good music and even better cocktails

Rua de Santa Maria 136-170, Funchal

Revolucion Rock Bar is another gem of Funchal old town. Surrounded by heavily tourist-orientated places, it stands out for its brilliant music and delicious cocktail menu. I’ve been calling in for a few years now on various trips to Madeira, and have followed it from its old home further out in the old town to where it lives now. The music and cocktails have only improved over the years. The staff are really friendly and will chat away, giving you tips on where’s new in Funchal since you last visited, while they make your cocktails. I’m usually partial to the more fruity cocktails like a margarita, pornstar martini, or daiquiri.  But I have to say, the espresso martini here is unbeatable.

As the name suggests, Revolucion Rock Bar has a bit of a rock atmosphere and plays excellent music. This isn’t the norm for bars in Funchal at all and I was thrilled when I first found it. We ended up having a long debate about ranking all the bands listed on their wall. I’m sorry but Blink 182 should definitely be in the top five. No, you’re stuck in the noughties.

Unfortunately (like with the Rum House) my only photos from here are very dark so I’ve had to use a random cocktail picture for now. Something to correct on my next trip!

Local Shop, Monte: the best bar in Madeira for a craft beer with a view

Outside the cable car stop, Monte

Local Shop (which sadly has no website for me to link to) is a great little bar/café up in Monte. It serves local craft beer and amazingly, given its location right outside the Monte cable car (more on that here), isn’t expensive or touristy. It’s all outside seating, although it does have a roof over it, and is ideally located for some stunning views down the valley from all of the tables. Perfect for admiring the scenery with a beer. It does food too, but more on that over in my Madeira restaurants post.

The general atmosphere of Local Shop is lovely and they get a 10/10 on the wallpaper front. It’s all top quality in a very trendy way (dare I say a bit hipster?), which is a nice contrast to the usual touristy stuff round there.

The beer is supplied by Vilhoa, in Funchal, which is why it’s so good. I wouldn’t recommend more than one if you’re planning on going back down into Funchal centre via one of those little toboggans though…

The best bars in Madeira and Funchal | PACK THE SUITCASES

Rei da Poncha: a great bar in Funchal for laid-back vibes and poncha

Rei da Poncha was the first bar I ever went to in Madeira, years back. I think a friendly taxi driver recommended it to us on our way into Funchal from the airport, while trying to explain to me what poncha was. And we’ve been back on every visit since. Needless to say, I know so much more about poncha these days.

Speaking of which, there’s a big selection of poncha flavours here, even some really unusual ones like tomato (worth a try TBH).

Rei da Poncha is one of those fabulous little corner bars that you just don’t get at home in the UK. It has a great atmosphere and is always busy. There are usually a few tourists but you do get locals too, perched on the outdoor seating chatting to passers-by (everyone knows everyone in Funchal). 

The best bars in Madeira and Funchal | PACK THE SUITCASES

MadCuba: more of a restaurant but great for cheap and delicious Cuban cocktails

R. da Cadeia Velha 3, 9050-025, Funchal

Is it cheating if I include something that’s more of a restaurant in a list of bars in Madeira? I’ve included MadCuba with a big write up about their lovely Cuban food over on my list of the best restaurants in Madeira, but I feel it’s also good just for a drink. So I’m putting it here too. You could go for a meal there and then stay and work your way through their drinks menu quite happily. Having plenty of food in you will soak up the alcohol so it doesn’t count, right?

MadCuba has a very laid back and cool vibe, with really lovely staff. But most importantly, it does some of the best cocktails in Funchal (and believe me, I’ve sampled quite a few) at great prices. The margaritas, caipirinhas and pina coladas are all brilliant.

Happy hour is two for 4€. You’ve been warned. 

The best bars in Madeira and Funchal | PACK THE SUITCASES

Vilhoa Craft Beer Dealers: not actually a bar but go here for take-away craft beer

R. da Conceição 111, Funchal

I’ve mentioned Vilhoa throughout this post as being the supplier for all of the great bars in Funchal (and Madeira in general) that serve craft beer. It’s not a bar in itself, but I thought I’d crack it in here anyway. You can buy craft beer there to take away, as the name would suggest, so if you’re doing a picnic or you’re going to get provisions for your hotel room or to take home in your luggage, get Vilhoa on your shopping list.

Vilhoa has been the catalyst for the emerging craft beer scene in Madeira. It began its battle against the generic Coral lager a few years ago and now look how many bars around the island are serving delicious craft beer. You wouldn’t have been able to find any real craft beer on Madeira until it came on the scene. Now, craft beer is popping up everywhere. A sign of the times if ever there was one. 

If you go in, the friendly owners will be happy to help you pick out some interesting bottles from Lisbon, Porto and beyond. Saude!

Madeira: useful information for your trip

How to get there (and away)

Getting into Funchal city centre from the airport is easiest by taxi. They’re yellow so hard to miss. Thus far, I’ve never been ripped off by a taxi driver in Funchal, unlike in many cities round Europe. It should cost about 25€ from the airport to Funchal. If you stay at the place I always stay at (see below), they’ll sort you out with a pre-booked one. He’ll be waiting to greet you off the flight.

On the way home, Madeira airport is about a million times better than it used to be. It now has a Parfois shop, which is excellent for bags and accessories. There’s also a bit more choice in places to eat. Flights can often be delayed due to winds because the airport is basically in the sea. And sometimes they have to land on neighbouring Porto Santo island. So brace yourself for a bit of a wait if it’s blowing a gale. Make sure a book or your Kindle is at the top of your carry-on so you can easily dig it out.

Where to stay

There are SO many places to stay in and around Funchal, but I really recommend my all-time favourite, Quinta Sao Goncalo. It’s a pink and beautiful mansion, located in a residential area to the east of the old town, and is an absolute bargain (about £75 a night). Even if it doesn’t take your fancy I’d recommend staying in Funchal itself rather than in the hotel zone (see point #34 on my list of things to do in Funchal). At the time of writing, Quinta Sao Goncalo doesn’t seem to be taking bookings; the property is for sale so I’ve got a horrible feeling they may have accepted an offer on it! It may be worth checking back just in case, but in the meantime some other lovely options are:

All three of those are on the ‘good’ side of town, away from the built-up hotel area.

How to get around

Most places in Funchal are walkable. To get further afield, the buses are great and really cheap. You can get a rechargeable bus card from a GIRO machine; the easiest one to find is just by the cable car station. All the bus info is on the three main bus company sites: Horarios, SAM and Rodoeste.

When to go

I always go in January and February. It tends to be warm, even if you don’t get full-on sunshine every day. When the sun does come out, it’s proper sun so your Vitamin D levels will thank you. I’ve never been at any other time of year but I have heard spring is great. I don’t think the height of summer even would be a problem because a) they don’t get unbearable heat and b) it’s not a child-centred city (probably the main reason why I love it, being allergic to children) so you won’t be surrounded by summer holiday families. New Year is also a good time to go because they go ALL OUT for it with fireworks.

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  1. Your are absolutely right about FugaCidade, but even as a hardcore craftbeer enthusiast I have to mention that the poncha there is outstanding. Especially if you’re are into the sour lemon version of it, please try to squeeze a poncha between your craftbeers the next you’re there. The owner will be happy to show how he does his version of poncha and you won’t want it to be done different after you drunk it

  2. Hello! We’ve just booked to go to Funchal for the first time in August and this guide is fab, especially as my husband is a craft beer monster! Are the bars and restaurants you recommend generally family friendly? We have a 6 year old who will eat pretty much anything! Thank you x

  3. Thank you for this. Heading to Madeira Saturday as a craft beer lover from California and excited to hear there’s ‘some’ appreciation for it there. Will check out the cocktail bars as well.

  4. Fewer tables at Barrerhina, one of the big trees blew down during Christmas day storms and big area blocked off.
    Even more fun than usual waiting for a table to become available. Love the blog, cheers.

  5. I have fond memories of visiting Funchal. I recall that poncha being enjoyable to drink while grog hit pretty hard. You’ve left me dreaming of returning!

  6. I haven’t been to Madeira but when I do I now know all the best bars to visit. Love the rooftop bar and some of the pretty courtyards where you had some of these drinks. Anything with a view will always be on my list, but I love craft beer and cocktails so these are incredible suggestions.

  7. THANK YOU FOR THIS LIST!!!! It made our time in Funchal amazing and we visited a couple of the places twice! Keep up the good work!

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