5 things to do in... Madeira

Madeira, Night, Sunset, Lido,
You may have seen my previous updates over the last month, on our family holiday to Madeira. If you’re planning a holiday there, you will love my Exploring East and Wandering West escorted tour posts. But if you’re short on things to do and places to visit on your next trip to the Pearl of the Atlantic, read on...

1.   Explore the island by hop-on hop-off bus
I’ve said it before, I love exploring new cities by sightseeing bus. It’s a great way of seeing all the major sights and attractions in one (or two) days, at your own leisure. There are three coloured lines on the hop-on hop-off bus route and these can be bought as a single (red), double (red and blue) or treble (red, blue and green) ticket. There’s also a purple line on the map, but this is on a smaller shuttle bus. 

We booked tickets for the red and blue lines and we were picked up outside our hotel. We took the bus to the marina, up to Monte (although we rode the cable car), back to the city centre and then to a place called Pico dos Barcelos. We only got off a handful of times, but it worked a lot cheaper than riding taxis and we saw everything during the day that we wanted to.
Madeira, Landscape, Nature,
2.   Tour the island independently or as part of an escorted tour
If you enjoy exploring independently, you are in luck, as there is so much to see and do. If you’re into nature and flora, there are many signposted walking tours, which can be taken independently or as part of a group. The landscapes are particularly beautiful and walks can be anything from a couple of hours, to half a day – or longer!

If you much prefer the social element of touring as a group, as I mentioned in my tour posts (linked above), there are many different tours to choose from. Again, these can range from half a day to a full day tour and are priced reasonably. Whether you wish to explore the north, south, east or west of the island, there will be a tour for you. Visit nearby island, Porto Santo; go whale or dolphin watching (sightings obviously not guaranteed); or embark on a gastronomic adventure.

Having booked two tours, I’d thoroughly recommend them and it’s a great way to spend the day.
Madeira, Cable Car, Furnicular,
Monte, Monte Palace Gardens, Lake, Madeira,
3.   Ride the cable car and visit the Monte Palace Gardens
The cable car is a must-do experience. The views are unrivalled as you ascend and descend and it’s certainly much better than going up by bus or taxi. At the top, you’ll find the Monte Palace Gardens, although there is another cable car which can take you down to the Botanical Garden (famed for its purple jacaranda). Tickets to Monte cost 11 for a one-way ride or 16 for a roundtrip.

The Monte Palace Gardens are beautiful and extensive. We only spent a few hours there, but you could easily make a day of it, as there are two cafes. There’s an accessible route, but it’s suited more to pushchairs than wheelchairs or mobility scooters. Included in the admission is a Madeira wine sample, which can be collected from the smaller cafe inside the gardens (as opposed to the one at the entrance) – it was great to try it over lunch.

Particular highlights of the gardens include the lake, which has fish and terrapins and is a lovely place to sit and watch the world go by. The oriental gardens are beautiful and the museum near the entrance (called ‘African Passion’ and houses African art) is worth visiting. 
CR7, Cristiano Ronaldo, Museum, Funchal,
4.   Visit the Cristiano Ronaldo Museum
Football fans will love this little museum, if only to see the numerous dodgy statues of CR7. The bronze statue outside the museum is pretty unrealistic, although rumour has it, the one at the airport is worse (we weren’t able to find that one). Entrance is only 5 for an adult, which is cheap considering other similar attractions. 

The museum itself is housed on a single floor, so it doesn’t take long to look around – it all depends on how long you wish to take looking at everything. I spent most of the time at the fans section, which displayed some of Ronaldo’s fan mail, models and drawings – in numerous languages. As you’d expect, there were plenty of trophies, shirts and footballs.

5.   Be sure to try the traditional drinks
Between us (Ash and I, I mean), we must have tried most of the traditional drinks. Every night at the hotel with dinner, we’d have local beer and wine. We sampled both dry and sweet varieties of Madeiran wine – the first was at the Monte Gardens and the second, as an aperitif at O Dragoeiro. There was also a popular digestif called Poncha, made from rum, sugar and lemon juice. It was served as a shot, but definitely couldn’t be necked – we bought a few bottles back from Duty Free in a variety of flavours including lemon, orange and passion fruit (Madeirenses love passion fruit!). But my favourite was a cocktail called Nikita. It looked like a piña colada at first glance, but contained white wine, beer, ice cream, pineapple juice and pineapple flesh – all blended up. It might sound a strange combination but it was delicious and went down too easily!

There are so many things we didn’t do, which would be on any other list, including ride one of the tradition wicker toboggans, visit the Valley of the Nuns and go to Blandy’s Wine Lodge. But we packed so much in during our week and I’m honestly still dreaming of the holiday.

Love, Lucy xx

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