Here’s my pick of the best bars in Funchal, Madeira. The city is full of bars serving delicious poncha and even has an emerging craft beer scene (craft beer as in the hoppy American hipster kind). So while Madeira isn’t your place for crazy nightlife, there’s somewhere to get ratarsed round every corner.
Obviously, while in Madeira you’ll be wanting to knock back a poncha or ten. Poncha is a unique 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 lesser beings might enjoy the maracuja (passion fruit) one, which also seems to be pretty popular. Apparently, they (they being the locals) say that if you drink three poncha, you’ll be able to speak fluent Portuguese. I can confirm this is very much not true, but you will be far too confident in giving it a go.
You might die if you only drink poncha for your entire trip in Madeira, so hunting out some craft beer should also be on the agenda. Madeira is awash with the generic Coral lager, a Heineken brand. It’s not vile but it isn’t something you’d seek out. We were stuck with it when we first started going to Madeira a few years ago, but things are looking up now as Madeira seems to be growing its own little hipster craft beer scene. V exciting. More on this later.
So here’s our selection of where to get your drink on in Funchal… (and below is a photo of me about to deal with a poncha).
Mercearia Dona Mécia: for people watching
This is first because it’s my favourite (I’ve deliberated over this and am now certain it is, so there). I almost don’t want to share it to be honest. Please only go there if you’re not an idiot.
A drink at Mercearia Dona Mécia is now synonymous with an early evening in Funchal for us. It’s tucked away in a pretty little courtyard off a side road in the nicest area of Funchal, on the same road as my favourite shop and bakeries.
As well as being a proper bar at night, it’s a café bar in the day and serves a variety of nibbles. It has poncha and bottled craft beers, but we normally have a small generic cerveja (beer) and they always bring over some crisps or olives or something too.
The best time of day to go to MDM is for an early evening drink at about 16:30-17:00. It starts filling up about then but you can usually get a table and sit outside under the shade of trees to watch the world go by. Or more specifically, watch the well-dressed locals finishing work and heading home through the courtyard. It’s definitely the best place in Funchal for people watching and we’re usually the only tourists when we go, which is an added bonus.
Barreirinha Bar Café: for good music and sea views
Barreirinha Bar Cafe is also a strong contender for my favourite drinking spot. 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 #shamelessplug).
Although it’s a tiny bar, it has loads of outdoor seating. Oh and it happens to have the best location ever due to its amazing ocean views. You can sit outside of an evening, overlooking the sea and watching the sun go down, or find a shady table at lunch time to be dazzled by the too-blue waters. I’ve included photos of it in both day- and night-time guise.
Barreirinha is also really popular with locals. One of the things I love about Madeiran drinking culture if 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.
Bonus fact: Barreirinha has excellent music. The first time we went, they played an entire War On Drugs album. A bold move.
Madeira Rum House: for all the rum (and poncha)
Madeira Rum House is our new go-to for a poncha. They have all the usual flavours, but of course the lemon one is the connoisseur’s choice.
They also have a ridiculously large rum collection and 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).
Revolucion Bar: for good music and atmosphere
Revolucion is a new one to us but is now our go-to stop for a drink before we get the bus ‘home’ (our bus stop is just round the corner). Given the way the bus drivers drive in Madeira, you really are better off with a drink inside you before getting on.
Revolucion has cocktails as well as poncha, but most importantly it has a bit of a rock atmosphere. This isn’t the norm in Funchal so it was an interesting find. 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.
By day, Revolucion is hidden away behind a painted door with Che Guevara’s face on. You’ll see a lot of these amazing painted doors in Funchal, so keep an eye out for this one while you’re exploring so that you can return later on for a beverage.
FugaCidade: for the best selection of craft beer in Funchal
FugaCidade is a new one to us. It was recommended by the nice chap in the craft beer dealers (see further down this post) and we set off to find it straight from there, in a mildly drunk and fairly hangry state. It took far too long to find because of this situation, but we eventually hunted it down.
It’s a small and unassuming place from the outside. But when you go in, you’ll find an actual menu of craft beers (this is unheard of in Madeira!). They also do wine and cheese boards and all sorts, but the craft beers are the draw. The owner is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about them, too.
I think FugaCidade is going to become one of our regular haunts every time we’re in Funchal.
Local Shop, Monte: for a cable car craft beer stop
It’s about time there was a) somewhere serving craft beer and b) somewhere non-touristy to have lunch up in Monte by the cable car. Local Shop ticks both of these boxes. For the food side of things, you can read about what we ate here in my post about where to eat in Madeira (spoiler: the food was excellent).
In terms of craft beer, it turns out that Local Shop is supplied by Vilhoa, the aforementioned new craft beer dealers in Funchal. This is why they had a lovely little selection. The view when you’re drinking it is a delight too.
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…
Vilhoa Craft Beer Dealers: for picnics or to take home
I’ve mentioned this craft beer shop twice now so thought I’d crack it in here even though it isn’t technically a bar and nor do I have a photo of it. You can buy craft beer there though, 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, get Vilhoa on your shopping list.
It seems Vilhoa is the catalyst for the emerging craft beer scene in Funchal and beyond. We called in on our last night, so unfortunately couldn’t buy any beer due to a lack of time and suitcase space, but we got chatting to the owner. He was very keen on battling against the generic Coral lager everywhere and importing interesting bottles from Lisbon and Porto and beyond.
You wouldn’t have been able to find any real craft beer on Madeira a few years ago. Now, this is happening. A sign of the times if ever there was one. Saude!
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You might also like my other Madeira posts:
- Where to eat in Madeira – 14 of the best restaurants and cafés
- The complete Funchal, Madeira travel guide: what to see, do and eat.
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