Funchal Old Town and Inspiring Story of its Painted Doors

Funchal Old Town Painted Doors on Rua de Santa Maria have a great story behind it. Here is why you should experience it during your travels to Madeira.

Funchal Old Town (Zona Velha) is not exactly a hidden gem, yet for many years it wasn’t on the traveler’s to-see list. In fact, it used to be a bad neighborhood avoided by tourists. This changed when to revitalize the area, the local council has organized an art project that was meant to “bring life” to this historical area. And it was a great success. Funchal Old Town Painted Doors on Rua de Santa Maria became one of the most visited attractions of Funchal, Madeira.

The Funchal Old Town is a place of great historical importance in Madeira as this is where one of the first settlements sprung up. Characterized by narrow cobblestone streets and featuring Corpo Santo Chapel, one of the few 15th-century buildings that have survived until today, Funchal Old Town was wasting away for many decades.

The project called “The Art of Open Doors”  (“Arte de Portas Abertas”) was initiated in 2010 by photographer José Maria Zyberchem in order to make Funchal Old Town a center of art and as a result, the area became a hun for

Funchal Old Town
Funchal Old Town
Funchal Old Town
Funchal Old Town
Funchal Old Town Painted Doors
Funchal Old Town Painted Doors

Many local artists were invited and asked to ‘do something nice’ with nearly 200 doors into houses, restaurants, shops and galleries. The idea was to create a piece of work that invites people into something deeper.  More and more artists signed up to be part of the project and the result was incredible.

Not only Funchal Old Town Painted Doors became one of the best attractions of the city but new restaurants and began to open and this once sleepy area became alive and vibrant.

You can read about the artists and see the map of the paintings on The arT of oPEn doORs website.

There are many other things to do and see in Funchal Old Town

Things to see in Funchal Old Town

These days, nightlife in the Funchal Old Town is a great attraction. Make sure you visit and take a stroll down the Rua de Santa Maria. Some of the best restaurants are located here and I absolutely loved the relaxed atmosphere of this cobblestone street. 

You can enjoy traditional Madeiran food like Filete de Espada (Scabbard Fish Filet often served with banana !!!) or Lapas (Limpets) or grilled tuna steak. This is also where you will find few of the most popular sushi restaurants.

Once there, make sure to pop in for a drink to very popular amongst locals Barreirinha Bar Café which is one of the best bars in Funchal for sea views. They serve a great selection of wine, and the food is also great. I was a regular visitor 🙂

You can take a walk down the nearby sea promenade and watch the sunset or simply chill on a beach. This promenade will take you all the way to the central part of the town.

Funchal Old Town is also where the Funchal Cable Car station is located. It will take you all the way to Monte Palace Tropical Garden – which is another must-see when in Funchal.

There is plenty of accommodation options in the area as well. I stayed in a great hostel located on Rua de Santa Maria but if you fancy a bit of luxury there are quite a few boutique hotels spread across the Old Town.

Still, please be aware that during the busy time it can get noisy and bustling. But if you like to be close to the restaurants, bars and don’t mind the noise – it’s a great area to stay.

Things to see in Funchal Old Town
Things to see in Funchal Old Town

You cannot say you have been to Funchal if you haven’t visited Funchal Old Town and didn’t see its Painted Doors. I bet, once you visit, you will keep coming back for more, just like I did.


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Pati's Journey Within

Hi, I’m Pati. A traveller, photographer (aspiring), dreamer and hopeless believer in magic. I have caught the travel bug in my forties – and not planning to look back any time soon. I travel solo and on a budget and try to spend as much time and effort to truly immerse myself in the country I am visiting.

Whether you are like me and decided to change your life around a new dream or just wandering (because not all who wander are lost) – I am here to tell you that everything is possible. 


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