A Pocket Guide to Madeira

Luring visitors back not only for its climate and namesake wine, but for the genuine warmth of its people and the beauty of its lush tropical vegetation, Madeira has a special ability to tug at the heartstrings. Here's our guide to the island.

Madeira is suddenly hot property, not due to its famously warm climate, or the mind-blowing chilli grown here, but thanks to its newfound status as the safest place in Europe. Quick to close its borders following the onset of Covid, it only reopened with strict controls, managing to keep travel open and attracting a host of nomads looking for a sunny escape. The Portuguese island is now home to an eclectic international mix of adventurers, remote workers and sun lovers who keep extending their stay, just one more week at a time.

Madeira has a special ability to tug at the heartstrings. It lures visitors back not only for its climate, sangria and moreish passionfruit poncha (punch), but for the genuine warmth of its people and the beauty of the lush tropical vegetation that grows wild in the mountains and tamed in the gardens of capital Funchal. The island is an ideal summer destination, with the Gulf Stream warming the sea for swimmers and thermometers never hitting the top notes, meaning that you can actually do things during the day. Winters are famously mild: while you might spot locals sporting the latest ski-resort fashions, Funchal rarely drops below 14C and days are long and sunshine-filled. The fun of Madeira is the sheer variety of activities on offer, all within easy reach, from the mountains to the sea, making it even more of a drawcard.

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hotel

Quinta da Casa Branca

An oasis in the city centre, this stylish 49-room boutique hotel is set in the manicured grounds of what used to be the Leacock family home, once considered the most lavish private house on the island. A contemporary glass structure, the property reflects the surrounding exotic plants and flowering trees, with a main Hollywood Regency-style building housing large suites and a fine-diner, The Dining Room. The restaurant’s terrace faces the riot of flowers in the garden, so eating alfresco is highly recommended. The gorgeous swimming pool is flanked with banana trees, meanwhile, adding to the totally tropical vibe. 

Address

Rùa da Casa Branca 7, 9000-088 Funchal

hotel

Les Suites at The Cliff Bay

One of Madeira´s newest hotels, with 23 luxurious suites set within what used to be a wine-producing estate, this city-centre haven is surrounded by gloriously well-stocked gardens. Out front, an infinity pool mirrors the Atlantic, from where you can enjoy prime views of the eminently photogenic Reid’s Palace palm trees, dotting the neighbouring sea cliff. When it comes to dining, Avista Restaurant is a huge asset, thanks to its expertly prepared grilled meat and fish dishes, while those wishing to swim in the sea can access the shore from next door The Cliff Bay, the five-star hotel belonging to the same group.

Address

Estrada Monumental 145, 9004-532 Funchal

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hotel

Pestana Carlton Madeira

Another offering with a plum central-Funchal location, the Pestana Carlton has an ample sunbathing deck, along with an on-site swimming pier and diving school. The five-star cliffside hotel has 296 rooms and 38 suites, and promises magnificent views over Reid´s Palace gardens and the port of Funchal. A good shopping and choice selection of restaurants can be found an easy stroll away – if you can tear yourself away. Book a room on as high a floor as possible – the sea views from your balcony will be simply spectacular.

Address

Largo António Nobre 1, 9004-531, Funchal

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Pirate House

Making an exotic change from a hotel stay, this seafront villa in Funchal’s historic Santa Maria district sleeps four guests and offers a private swimming pool and large garden. The traditional facade on Rùa Lazareto may look unassuming, but once through the door, you’ll discover a breathtakingly beautiful wild tropical oasis with uninterrupted sea views. This is the old town proper, with the house dating back to 1866, but renovated in a stylish and relaxed way. Expect all mod cons, including a concrete kitchen floor and modern poolside sunbathing area.

Address

Rùa do Lazareto 44, 9060-019 Funchal

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hotel

Quinta da Penha de França

With the legendary Muriel at the helm, this cosy, centrally located hotel offers real value for money. Guests can enjoy a large solarium, swimming pool and ocean access – perfect for that early-morning swim. Alongside the old house, higgledy-piggledy cobbled paths flanked by bougainvillea pergolas lead to the newer section of the hotel, built in a classic Madeira style with sea-facing balconies. The owners are keen big-game fishermen, so don’t be surprised if you bump into legends of the fishing world in the clubhouse. The fresh tuna served here in Joe´s Bar is also legendary.

Address

Rùa Imperatriz dª Amélia 85, 9000-018 Funchal

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hotel

Albergaria Dias

This warmly welcoming hotel has a secret gate that opens magically onto Funchal old town’s Rùa de Santa Maria, where all the restaurants of the historic Zona Velha area are to be found. There’s also easy access to the beach and to the cable car up to the mountains. Guests love it when the owner, Mr Dias, serves his homemade soup or whips up a batch of scrambled eggs for breakfast, as evidenced by the great reviews that just keep on coming, making it one of the most popular hotels on the island.

Address

Rùa Bela São Tiago 44B, 9060-400, Funchal

hotel

Porto Santa Maria Hotel

This popular PortoBay group property sits right on the seafront of the old town. A comfortable four-star, it has sunbathing areas aplenty, indoor and outdoor pools and a spa. All rooms come equipped with a balcony and a kitchenette, which is a real bonus, considering that the local food market is located just across the street, selling all manner of fresh island produce, from cold cuts to honey. The hotel’s over-16s-only policy makes it an appealing proposition for an older clientele, with returning guests who seek total tranquillity knowing to request a room on the opposite side of the building to the adjacent municipal gardens.

Address

Avenida do Mar e das Comunidades Madeirenses 50, 9060-190 Funchal

hotel

The Vine Hotel

This award-winning design hotel is located in a building conceived by Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill Leví, with moody, dark decor courtesy of superstar interior designer Nini Andrade Silva. The dramatic colour palette and divine spa are inspired by Madeira wine, with sculptural installations of vines catching the eye at every turn. The central-Funchal property is housed within a shopping centre – so that’s the gifts to take home sorted. A rooftop pool and 360-degree views of the tiled houses of the São Pedro neighbourhood make for great photos, and even more so at night, when framed by the towering mountains in the distance. There’s a tempting in-house restaurant and the whole ambience here is generally a bit more hip, minimalist and modern than that of many other hotels in the city. 

Address

Rùa dos Aranhas 27, 9000-044 Funchal

hotel

Madeira Island Glamping, Canto das Fontes

Perched above a beach in sunny Ponta do Sol (‘Tip of Sunshine’), this back-to-nature spot benefits from a soothing soundtrack of waves lapping against the shore below. Tepees and yurts are set within a natural oasis of tropical vegetation and banana trees, deep in the countryside. Water is a constant calming presence, as the property also has a natural spring and rock pool, where guests can swim.

Address

Caminho das Fontes, Anjos, Ponta do Sol, 9360-355 Canhas

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hotel

Estalagem Ponta do Sol

The sleepy, 500-year-old village of Ponta do Sol – just a 40-minute drive from the airport on the southern coast – is also home to this modern design hotel, whose 54 rooms feature a minimalist design and natural colour palette. The clifftop location makes for spectacular Atlantic Ocean views, beyond the rugged cliffs and banana plantations below. A great time to visit and catch some winter sun is late-November, during the Maderiadig festival, a music and digital arts weeklong extravaganza that attracts participants from all over the world. 

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hotel

Quinta do Furão

This plantation-style hotel is set within an expanse of vineyards on the island’s north-east coast. It’s a good base from which to explore the many levada (loosely translated as ‘carriageway’) walks that Santana offers, as well as the famous hike between Madeira’s two highest mountain peaks, Pico do Arieiro and Pico Ruivo. Rest tired legs on the hotel’s magnificent terrace, which overlooks the dark waves crashing onto the rocks below. A wine cellar and vegetable garden are the icing on the cake.

Address

Estrada da Quinta do Furão 6, 9230-082 Santana

hotel

Belmond Reid's Palace

Evil under the Sun should have been set here – Poirot would have loved it. It’s the quintessential grand hotel, and the address with which Madeira set the bar for luxury travel over 150 years ago – dictators, royals and Winston Churchill have all enjoyed a sundowner on the terrace. But despite its advanced age, the hotel sparkles with contemporary cool, laying on aromatherapy spa treatments, DJ sunset sessions and stand-up paddleboard lessons. The natural rock pool and direct sea access, meanwhile, are Instagram gold. Two further swimming pools, tropical seafront garden and views, views, views complete the sublime picture. Hungry? The hotel has three restaurants, including the Michelin-starred William, and is renowned for its sumptuous afternoon tea and breakfast plates bursting with local fruits. With the purchase of Belmond Reid´s Palace by the Louis Vuitton group, the future looks exciting for the hotel shop, too. 

Address

Estrada Monumental 139, 9000-098 Funchal

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hotel

Quinta da Casa Branca

An oasis in the city centre, this stylish 49-room boutique hotel is set in the manicured grounds of what used to be the Leacock family home, once considered the most lavish private house on the island. A contemporary glass structure, the property reflects the surrounding exotic plants and flowering trees, with a main Hollywood Regency-style building housing large suites and a fine-diner, The Dining Room. The restaurant’s terrace faces the riot of flowers in the garden, so eating alfresco is highly recommended. The gorgeous swimming pool is flanked with banana trees, meanwhile, adding to the totally tropical vibe. 

Address

Rùa da Casa Branca 7, 9000-088 Funchal

hotel

Okulus

Perfectly positioned in the city centre, this is one of Funchal’s most iconic houses, a newly opened architectural and engineering feat designed to dazzle the senses. The private four-bedroom barefoot luxury house is set within a century-old warehouse on its own sea cliff in the old town, overlooking the bobbing boats in the harbour. Snaring a booking over New Year here is like winning the lottery, as guests get a front row seat to the capital’s epic fireworks display from the elegant seafront rooftop. Throw in an infinity pool, hanging garden, plus tranquil beach attached to the house, and you’re probably already checking your calendar for dates to book a stay.

Address

Rùa do Lazareto 14, 9060-019 Funchal

hotel

Les Suites at The Cliff Bay

One of Madeira´s newest hotels, with 23 luxurious suites set within what used to be a wine-producing estate, this city-centre haven is surrounded by gloriously well-stocked gardens. Out front, an infinity pool mirrors the Atlantic, from where you can enjoy prime views of the eminently photogenic Reid’s Palace palm trees, dotting the neighbouring sea cliff. When it comes to dining, Avista Restaurant is a huge asset, thanks to its expertly prepared grilled meat and fish dishes, while those wishing to swim in the sea can access the shore from next door The Cliff Bay, the five-star hotel belonging to the same group.

Address

Estrada Monumental 145, 9004-532 Funchal

This image is on holiday

hotel

Pestana Carlton Madeira

Another offering with a plum central-Funchal location, the Pestana Carlton has an ample sunbathing deck, along with an on-site swimming pier and diving school. The five-star cliffside hotel has 296 rooms and 38 suites, and promises magnificent views over Reid´s Palace gardens and the port of Funchal. A good shopping and choice selection of restaurants can be found an easy stroll away – if you can tear yourself away. Book a room on as high a floor as possible – the sea views from your balcony will be simply spectacular.

Address

Largo António Nobre 1, 9004-531, Funchal

This image is on holiday

hotel

Quinta da Penha de França

With the legendary Muriel at the helm, this cosy, centrally located hotel offers real value for money. Guests can enjoy a large solarium, swimming pool and ocean access – perfect for that early-morning swim. Alongside the old house, higgledy-piggledy cobbled paths flanked by bougainvillea pergolas lead to the newer section of the hotel, built in a classic Madeira style with sea-facing balconies. The owners are keen big-game fishermen, so don’t be surprised if you bump into legends of the fishing world in the clubhouse. The fresh tuna served here in Joe´s Bar is also legendary.

Address

Rùa Imperatriz dª Amélia 85, 9000-018 Funchal

This image is on holiday

hotel

Albergaria Dias

This warmly welcoming hotel has a secret gate that opens magically onto Funchal old town’s Rùa de Santa Maria, where all the restaurants of the historic Zona Velha area are to be found. There’s also easy access to the beach and to the cable car up to the mountains. Guests love it when the owner, Mr Dias, serves his homemade soup or whips up a batch of scrambled eggs for breakfast, as evidenced by the great reviews that just keep on coming, making it one of the most popular hotels on the island.

Address

Rùa Bela São Tiago 44B, 9060-400, Funchal

hotel

Porto Santa Maria Hotel

This popular PortoBay group property sits right on the seafront of the old town. A comfortable four-star, it has sunbathing areas aplenty, indoor and outdoor pools and a spa. All rooms come equipped with a balcony and a kitchenette, which is a real bonus, considering that the local food market is located just across the street, selling all manner of fresh island produce, from cold cuts to honey. The hotel’s over-16s-only policy makes it an appealing proposition for an older clientele, with returning guests who seek total tranquillity knowing to request a room on the opposite side of the building to the adjacent municipal gardens.

Address

Avenida do Mar e das Comunidades Madeirenses 50, 9060-190 Funchal

hotel

The Vine Hotel

This award-winning design hotel is located in a building conceived by Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill Leví, with moody, dark decor courtesy of superstar interior designer Nini Andrade Silva. The dramatic colour palette and divine spa are inspired by Madeira wine, with sculptural installations of vines catching the eye at every turn. The central-Funchal property is housed within a shopping centre – so that’s the gifts to take home sorted. A rooftop pool and 360-degree views of the tiled houses of the São Pedro neighbourhood make for great photos, and even more so at night, when framed by the towering mountains in the distance. There’s a tempting in-house restaurant and the whole ambience here is generally a bit more hip, minimalist and modern than that of many other hotels in the city. 

Address

Rùa dos Aranhas 27, 9000-044 Funchal

hotel

Madeira Island Glamping, Canto das Fontes

Perched above a beach in sunny Ponta do Sol (‘Tip of Sunshine’), this back-to-nature spot benefits from a soothing soundtrack of waves lapping against the shore below. Tepees and yurts are set within a natural oasis of tropical vegetation and banana trees, deep in the countryside. Water is a constant calming presence, as the property also has a natural spring and rock pool, where guests can swim.

Address

Caminho das Fontes, Anjos, Ponta do Sol, 9360-355 Canhas

This image is on holiday

hotel

Quinta do Furão

This plantation-style hotel is set within an expanse of vineyards on the island’s north-east coast. It’s a good base from which to explore the many levada (loosely translated as ‘carriageway’) walks that Santana offers, as well as the famous hike between Madeira’s two highest mountain peaks, Pico do Arieiro and Pico Ruivo. Rest tired legs on the hotel’s magnificent terrace, which overlooks the dark waves crashing onto the rocks below. A wine cellar and vegetable garden are the icing on the cake.

Address

Estrada da Quinta do Furão 6, 9230-082 Santana