Funchal is the gem in Madeira island’s crown, a shopper’s paradise and home to some of the island’s most exciting attractions and museums.
Capital of the autonomous region of Madeira, Funchal is a top Portuguese destination surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and full of charm. It isn’t the biggest of capital cities, but this only lends itself to the smaller town feel, which is inviting and makes a difference from some of the more touristy destinations like Lisbon and the Algarve region of Portugal. The city acquired its name after the wild fennel that grew all over the island, as the Portuguese word for fennel is ‘funcho.’The location of the capital is unique, as it is nestled in a valley, sheltered by tall hills and mountains which made it a great strategic location for defending when raids from the sea were a very real possibility. The climate is subtropical Mediterranean, which means for most of the year, you’ll be able to enjoy mild temperatures and warm weather.
Where to live in Funchal
There are several great districts in Funchal, each offering something unique. One of the best parts about living in Funchal is the sea views, which should play a big role in your decision-making process if views of the Atlantic Ocean are high up on your priority list. As a smaller city, you won’t come across ugly skyscrapers or unsightly apartment blocks ruining perfectly good views of the water either, and there are many charming villa-style properties in the city.
Best Neighborhoods in Funchal
The best neighborhoods to live in are the Zona Velha or old center, Lido, Monte, and Sao Martinho. The Zona Velha of Funchal is the heart of the city, and it’s here you’ll find most of what the city has to offer in the way of attractions and the best spots to eat and drink. Lido is most noteworthy for its huge Bathing Complex, which offers up great facilities right next to the ocean. Monte and Sao Martinho are both popular neighborhoods too. One is in the hills above the city and the other right on the coast.
Quick Facts About FunchalFunchal seems like it has it all, with its sheltered location, pleasant Mediterranean climate, and Portuguese culture. But even so, there’s more to it than meets the eye. Here are some quick facts about the city to help you get to know it better:
The Quinta da Boa Vista has a large number of orchidsThe Quinta da Boa Vista is a 19th century estate high up in the hills of Funchal, and it’s noteworthy for more than just its historic exterior and interior. There are a huge number of orchids in the grounds of the estate, and they are shown off during the Madeira Flower Festival in May.
The Atlantic Festival is a huge annual celebrationThere is cause for celebration every June in Funchal and the island of Madeira with the Atlantic Festival. During this festival, fireworks illuminate the sky high above the Bay of Funchal, making for a real spectacle.
It’s famous for its Madeira winesMadeira was first exported in the 18th century and remains a popular Portuguese wine today. The wine is made with grapes grown at a low altitude, and it has a sweet character to it.
You can visit the ‘mini Galapagos’ islandsOne of the best parts about Funchal is that it is a port city, meaning it’s relatively easy to jump on a boat and travel to nearby islands. Of particular note are the Desertas Islands, which have been described as ‘mini Galapagos.’
It’s home to the Atlantic submarine cable systemThis cable system, which is also referred to as undersea or marine cable, was used to relay messages. The first undersea telegraph of this kind was sent in 1850 between the countries of France and England.
Mountains of up to 1,200 meters surround itThe city of Funchal is surrounded by slopes and mountains, some of which are as high as 1,200 meters. The district of Monte is up in the hills, in case you were interested in residing high above the city and ocean.
There was a project to give the city a splash of colorThe project, called ‘Projecto arte portas abertas’ or the Painted Doors Project to you and I, was an initiative to paint doors in the old center of Funchal. Several doorways on the main streets Rua de Santa Maria have vibrant stories painted on them, which makes for an impressive sight.
Founded in 1421The city of Funchal was founded in 1421 by a Portuguese navigator called João Gonçalves Zarco. Following this, it was a Spanish settlement for a brief spell in the 16th and 17th centuries and then a British one in the 19th century.
Work in Funchal
Funchal isn’t a huge hub of industry or business, so jobs can be hard to come by unless you’re interested in teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) or working in the tourism sector. However, with that being said, there are some large companies that have branches in Funchal or job opportunities there. These include the huge retailer H&M, electronics manufacturer ams, and accounting firm Deloitte.
How good is Funchal for Digital Nomads or Remote Work
Remote work is changing how the global workspace operates. In a trend that is showing no signs of slowing down, remote work is rapidly on the increase all around the world—especially in a place like Funchal. And about 25% of remote workers describe themselves as digital nomads—those who like to travel or stay in cities around the world while they work. So, how good is Funchal for both of these growing movements?
Average Internet SpeedThe average internet speed in Funchal is 50.4 Mbps download and 45.2 Mbps upload. This compares favorably with the world averages, and in fact, exceeds them on both counts so you should be fine for most internet-related tasks.
Work-friendly Coffee ShopsWe all love to get some work done in a coffee shop from time to time, especially those of us who enjoy the digital nomad lifestyle but need a change of environment every now and again. Here are the top spots for working in Funchal: Greenhouse Coffee Roaster: The Greenhouse Coffee Roaster in Funchal is a spacious coffee shop that’s a breath of fresh air - mainly due to the plants and outdoor seating. Legs Eleven Coffee: Legs Eleven Coffee in Funchal is a cozy spot to get some work done. Here you’ll find cute coffee mugs, delicious breakfast options, and a comfortable atmosphere conducive to work. Barreirinha Bar Cafe: Barreirinha Bar Cafe is a top spot for relaxing in some outdoor seating with an ocean view. If you just need to get some light work done, it’s a great place for it.
Coworking SpacesAs a small city, Funchal doesn’t have a large variety of coworking spaces to choose from, but it does have a couple. Here are the coworking options in the city: Cowork Funchal: Cowork Funchal is an excellent modern option in the heart of the city. It has several options for work including different types of desks, shared spaces, and office rooms. Matika Funchal: Matika Funchal is a comfortable and airy space with modern facilities. It’s designed to help you get your work done with minimal distractions. While unfortunately there are just two coworking spaces in the city of Funchal, they are both high-quality, so you should be fine.
Suitable Level for Digital NomadsFunchal is an idyllic island capital, with plenty to offer the passing tourist and the digital nomad alike. If you’re looking for great shopping, fine dining, and spectacular ocean views, you won’t be disappointed staying here. Plus, as the capital of the island, Funchal is a convenient base to travel from if you want to explore Madeira and the nearby Portuguese islands. You can travel by boat, take up water sports, go on hikes in the surrounding hills and mountains or simply lay on one of the beaches soaking up the warm Mediterranean sun.
Visa RequirementsEU nationals don’t require a visa to enter Portugal, as their identity cards will suffice. Everyone else visiting from a foreign country will need a passport and probably a visa, too. If you’re from the EU, you’ll have three months to find a job or set up a business, after which point you can start working and living in the country legally. If you’re from the US, Australia, Canada, or New Zealand, you‘ll be able to stay in the country for 90 days without a visa. To extend your stay, you’ll need to apply for a Portuguese residency visa or a long-term visa in advance of your arrival.
Food and Drink in Funchal
Funchal is home to some top-notch restaurants and bars, some of which overlook the Atlantic Ocean and the Bay of Funchal. In terms of drink, you’ll want to get acquainted with Madeira wine, as it’s produced locally on the island. Restaurante Goya is a restaurant for those who appreciate the finer things in life, with gourmet dishes and grand decor. The food is exquisite and the surroundings sublime, so for an unforgettable dining experience, it’s a no-brainer. Ilhakaffe is a meat-lover’s dream, with an array of mouthwatering meat and fish dishes, though there are some excellent vegetarian options too. For those who love nothing more than a craft beer and an outdoor terrace, head to FugaCidade. For your glass of Madeira and excellent ocean views, Barreirinha Bar Cafe (also a coffee shop) is the place to go. If you’re looking for something a little stronger, though, it might be worth checking out the Madeira Rum House. This is the bar the locals go to for their fix of poncha, which is a popular alcoholic drink on the island made with Madeira. Finally, if it’s music you’re seeking, try out Revolucion Rock Bar for some live performances and top cocktails.
Top 6 Things To Do in Funchal
One of the first things you should do when you get to Funchal is pay a visit to the Se Cathedral, which is a real Gothic work of art and one of the city’s main landmarks. While you’re in the center, explore the Zona Velha taking time to stop off at one of the many bars for a Madeira wine or two, so you can soak up the surroundings and ocean views. It’s also worth seeking out the painted street art on Rua da Santa Maria, which provides a welcome splash of color to the historic center. Aside from the town itself, you have surrounding hills and mountains for hiking, the port for boat trips, and nearby islands such as the ‘mini Galapagos’ to go and explore.
Sacred Art Museum of Funchal
R. do Bpo. 21, Funchal
OceanSee Whale Watching
Marina do Funchal, Funchal
Casino da Madeira
Av. do Infante, Funchal
Rota dos Cetáceos
Av. Arriaga 75, Funchal
Praça do Povo
Av. Do Mar 4, Funchal
Museu de Historia Natural do Funchal
R. da Mouraria 31, Funchal