How to spend a week in Madeira: a 7-day itinerary without a car

Things to do in Funchal, Madeira, Portugal | PACK THE SUITCASES

If you’re spending a week in Madeira, there are so many things you can do on the island that it can be a nightmare picking which ones to add to your plan and in what order. I’ve put together this one-week Madeira itinerary based on what I’ve done on past trips (there have been a lot of them and I secretly like to think of myself as some sort of Madeira expert) to help you decide.

Madeira is totally doable without a car, so if like me you don’t drive, you’re going to be pleased with how decent the bus system is for seeing plenty of the island. For the bits that are harder to achieve by bus, there are plenty of minibus private tours, but more on that later..

Anyway, here are my tips for how to use your days to explore Funchal and further afield, where to eat and drink and various stuff to do on each day if you’re spending a whole week in Madeira…

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40 things to do in Funchal, Madeira, Portugal

Things to do in Funchal, Madeira, Portugal | PACK THE SUITCASES

Here are 40 of my favourite things to do in Funchal, Madeira. I’ve been there enough times now that I feel I can give plenty of tips on how best to spend your time in this beautiful island city.

I’ve tried to avoid anything too obvious like the Monte toboggans and I’ve only focused on the city of Funchal itself and day trips you can easily do from it without a car rather than looking at the entire island of Madeira… Otherwise, this will turn into 40 million things to do and no one will have the patience to read it. I’ll be impressed if anyone actually reads all 40 things to be honest…

Anyway, read on if you want some tips from a self-confessed Funchal addict. Enjoy.

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The best bars in Funchal, Madeira: in search of poncha and craft beer

The best bars in Funchal, Madeira: in search of poncha and craft beer | PACK THE SUITCASES

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…

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Where to eat in Madeira: 14 of the best restaurants and cafés

Where to eat in Madeira: 14 of the best restaurants and cafés | PACK THE SUITCASES

If you’re looking for where to eat in Madeira, you’re in for a treat. There is a real foodie scene on the island, with plenty of traditional places but also some cute hipster cafés, and most of it is delicious. Dig out all your clothes with elasticated waistbands.

I love Madeira and I love eating so this is my expert guide to combining the two: I’ve listed the best restaurants in Funchal, the best cafés/snack bars/food stalls in Funchal, and the best places I’ve eaten in other towns around the island that you might find handy on day trips. While Madeira is an island that everything grows well on due to its perfect climate, vegetarian and vegan food can be hard to find. It’s definitely a meat-heavy place, so if like us you don’t often eat meat, it’s worth doing a bit of planning ahead. Obviously, all this food needs washing down with some booze so keep an eye out for next week’s post on where to drink in Funchal.

Anyway, on to the eating…

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Funchal, Madeira travel guide: things to do, see and eat

Funchal, Madeira travel guide: things to do, see and eat | PACK THE SUITCASES

I’ve been meaning to write this for ages: my ultimate Funchal, Madeira travel guide. Madeira is a gorgeous island in Portugal and Funchal is its much-underrated capital. It’s one of the few places I keep returning to year after year. I first went for guaranteed winter sun in February and I’ve been back not just for the sun, but for the beautiful scenery, culture and food.

Funchal as a city is amazing and probably not at all what you’d expect. Sweeping boulevards, a harbour to stroll down, flowers everywhere. What more do you want? An airport that you land in over the sea and feel like you’re about to die? Got that covered, too.

It’s also deceptively large – almost an optical illusion, in that you can think something is fairly close by but actually takes ages to walk to because of the steep roads. It’s got some of the prettiest architecture I’ve seen, but never feels built up because you can always see the sea.

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