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Plan Your Funchal Holiday: Best of Funchal

By joberti

Explore Funchal

Funchal, the capital of the Madeira archipelago, was declared a city in the 1500s and became an important point between the old and new worlds. The laidback city became a fixture on the global scene thanks to Madeiran sugar, nicknamed "white gold.” Today, Funchal is known for its gorgeous weather, local wine, and pretty handicrafts. Top spots to visit include the open Worker's Market, Blandy's Wine Lodge, and the Sacred Art Museum with works dating between the 15th and 19th centuries. Don’t miss the historical farmers market for fruit, flowers, and fish. The Monte Cable Car makes a climb of over 1900 feet for impressive views. Friendly locals, walkable streets, and cheap taxis make the city easy to get around. Inspired? We’ve got more recs below.
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How to do Funchal in 3 days

A palace garden, scenic swimming pools, and plenty of Madeira wine
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The best places to try poncha in Funchal

When you’re trying your first poncha—the blend of rum, honey, and orange or lemon juice that’s found everywhere on Madeira—how it’s made is the key. When I’m in Funchal, the island’s capital city, I make sure mine is fresh, frothy, and made with a wooden tool called a caralhinho. (Trust me, it matters.) Here are my favourite places to drink poncha in Funchal.
  • Venda Velha
    On the corner of a narrow cobblestone street, Venda Velha calls to mind the vendas where people socialized a century ago. Try the poncha tomatillo, made with the tomate inglès that grows in Madeira. It’s slightly sweet and vegetal, but definitely not the tomato you have in mind. Venda Velha often has a DJ, so if you’re looking for a party, this is your spot.
  • Pub Number Two
    I stopped by this relaxed pub while visiting two nearby spots, Quinta Magnólia Garden and the Modern Museum Art of Madeira. Not to be confused with Bar Number 2, this is the one that’s preferred by locals. Besides the made-from-scratch ponchas, don’t pass up the bolo do caco (a circular flatbread made with garlic butter). The interior can be a bit dark, so nab a table on the outdoor patio.
  • Sete Mares Funchal
    Locals flock to this bar for its unbeatable view of the harbour. From one of the umbrella-shaded tables on the deck you can watch the cruise ships as they sail past. Fans also appreciate the wide range of seafood dishes, especially the limpets, a type of mollusk that is common in the tidepools around Madeira. The bartenders make an array of ponchas, including passion fruit—always my favourite flavour.
  • Bar Number Two - Zona Velha
    This spot near the waterfront is crammed between many other establishments vying for your attention, but it should be the one you hit first. Tables are scattered around the cobblestone street outside. This is the best spot to try a poncha à pescador, or fisherman’s poncha. (The drink is said to have been created by fishermen trying to stay warm.) The most traditional type of poncha, it’s made with rum, sugar, and lemon juice.
  • Poncha Da Imperatriz - Wine & Food
    If you’re looking for more than just a quick drink, the elegant Poncha da Imperatriz is the place to go for a satisfying meal. It’s open, airy, and has a show-stopping carriage suspended above the dining room. Located in the Galerias do Savoy, it’s the ideal spot to lounge around. Try the tangerine poncha, one of several different flavours on offer.
  • Rei Da Poncha
    Another local favourite, Rei da Poncha sits on a quiet street in the centre of Funchal’s Old Town. You can’t do better than a table in the cobblestone courtyard. The ponchas here are fresh, fruity, and strong, served with peanuts in the shell or tremoços (a bean that’s probably the region’s favourite bar snack). The average poncha is just a couple of bucks, so you can sample several until you find your favourite.