Funchal is a fascinating city and there is always lots of things to do regardless of the weather. In this article, you will find all the great things to do in Funchal when it rains – my favourite picks.
It is unquestionable that most folks come to Madeira for its year-round sun. Funchal being on the south coast of Madeira enjoys many days of sun a year. But being a subtropical island, you will also experience quite a bit of rain or showers.
I had three days of rain during my 20 days stay in Funchal, which didn’t stop me from doing things. Funchal is a fascinating city with a thriving culture. There is always something you can do regardless of the weather. On a sunny day make sure to take a famous Levada walk and explore the incredible nature of Madeira. But if the weather surprises you with a little drizzle, below you will find all the best things to do in Funchal when it rains.
8 Great Things to do in Funchal When it Rains:
1. Visit a Museum
This is a pretty obvious one, but don’t be fooled. Museums in Funchal are very interesting and often unusual so visiting a museum is one of the best things to do in Funchal when it rains. Here are my favourite:
Universe of Memories (Universo de Memórias João Carlos Abreu) is definitely one of the most interesting museums in Funchal.
“Universe of Memories João Carlos Abreu” is a storehouse of memories.
What I really like about this museum is how personal it feels. João Carlos Abreu is a former Regional Secretary for Tourism and Culture. But most of all, an avid traveller, poet, journalist, writer and actor. This collection is a representation of his memories. He started his collection at the age of 16 and continues collecting and donating articles to this museum until this day.
João Carlos Abreu acquired all the art pieces during his trips around the world, mainly as a Regional Secretary of Tourism and Culture in Madeira.
Collection of masks, all types of horse figures and statues, the most extensive collection of ties and cravats in the world, Buddhas, watches, samovars, books, paintings, sculptures, and millions of other objects. I was in awe at how many fascinating souvenirs this fascinating man gathered.
Rooms are themed, so you will have a kitchen filled with pots, pans and bowls, a games room with glass chess, a bedroom, a dining room with an exquisite collection of china and silver cutlery, a horse room and many more surprising rooms.
The museum is placed in a charming and elegant 19th-century villa surrounded by a lovely garden where also a tea house s located.
The tour is guided and costs €3.5. Check at the tea house as the last time I was there you could get a tour, tea and a cake for €5 🙂
Frederico de Freitas House Museum: This is a museum I stumbled upon by chance when I was looking for Universe of Memories. I loved the building and decided to visit. I was not disappointed.
Frederico de Freitas House Museum is a house that used to belong to Frederico de Freitas, lawyer, notary and collector from Madeira. The building is known as Casa da Calçada, the former residence of the Counts of Calçada. Their ancestors had been associated with it since its beginnings in the 17th century.
This museum’s collection includes remarkable collections of sculpture, painting, engraving, furniture, ceramics, crystals, and tin objects dating from the 17th to the 19th centuries. It is a fascinating tour as you walk from room to room and feel like being transported in time. As I walked into the tea room or a library, I could easily imagine people wearing historical clothing, sipping tea, smoking cigars and discussing politics.
Right next to the main house, you will also find Casa do Azzulejos museum, which displays a selection of tiles with oriental, Islamic, medieval, majolica pieces and a display of Dutch tiles. The Portuguese nucleus, which includes an important set of 17th-century patterns, evokes national production until today.
Museum of Photography in Funchal. I really liked the Photography Museum, which is based in the building of a former photography atelier – The Atelier Vicente’s. In addition to maintaining the memory of the original Atelier, the Madeira Museum of Photography is now the only national museum dedicated solely to photography, exhibiting Madeira’s photographic heritage and many of its unknown authors and works.
The studio was founded by Vicente Gomes da Silva in the 1850s and survived to this day, complete with equipment, sets, cameras, costumes and photographs. It’s a fascinating journey in time, and if, like me, you love photography, you will love this museum.
Vicente Gomes, the founder of the Atelier, build a wooden box of 40cm in length at the end of which he could slide the glass plate. This was Madeira’ first camera! It stands in the original studio with a podium and decors.
Apart from the photography equipment, you will also find an extensive collection of photographs, many of which were also taken outside and captured the essence of life on Madeira.
Madeira Story: The best thing about this museum is its rooftop restaurant and bar where you can have a drink after a day of sightseeing. I found the majority of guides recommending this museum as one of the best things to do in Funchal, but it wasn’t all that for me. Museum explains the story of Madeira in pictures, text with numerous props like interactive exhibits and statues. I visited after I have seen other museums and I felt slightly underwhelmed. Possibly, it’s a nice place to visit with kids, but it, in my opinion, overrated and overpriced for what it is.
2. Taste Madeira Wine in Funchal
Madeira wine is a fortified wine available in a variety of dry, medium and sweet styles. Its unique taste comes from repeatedly heating and cooling the wine.
This is because Madeira wine was born at sea.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, wine often spoiled and needed to be fortified by adding a dash of brandy for the wine to last during the long trip at sea. Back then, Madeira was a vital provisioning point for journeys to the Americas and merchants would load up on Madeira wine on their way. During those long journeys, barrels of Madeira wine would be heated and cooled naturally, as the ships passed through the tropics. Shippers noticed how the wine’s flavour developed and called this sea-ageing “Vinho da Roda.”
There are many ways you can taste Madeira wine if you wish to buy it. There is a number of wine companies and stores in Funchal where you can taste the wine, learn about the production process and the history of Madeira wine. It’s a great way to spend a rainy afternoon.
One of them is Blandy’s Wine Lodge, where you can book a tour and taste the wine. I also recommend HM Borges where you can have a free wine tasting experience.
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3. Have a Warming Poncha
Sipping on Poncha is one of the best things to do in Funchal when it rains. But really, anywhere in Madeira.
“If you have a cold, a fever, a broken heart… Poncha is the medicine,”
Poncha is a traditional drink from Madeira made of local rum, lemons, sugar and honey. This potent and delicious drink is said to be a remedy for literally anything 🙂 You cannot visit Madeira and not have a taste of this rum drink. It tastes spectacular after a long day of hiking – I tested it myself.
The traditional Poncha is made of lemon, but these days you can also have passion fruit, orange or mandarin variations. All wonderful!
Be aware that not all Poncha is the same as many restaurants and bars don’t always follow the traditional recipe.
The best places in Funchal to have a warming Poncha are Rei da Poncha in the town centre and Pub Number Two and Barreirinha Bar Cafe in the Funchal Old Town.
4. Try local specialities
Another great thing to do in Funchal when it rains is visiting one of many great restaurants and trying local specialities. Funchal has a pretty much endless number of restaurants, with few of them appearing in the Michelin Guide. If fine dining is what you are after, you have to visit The Wanderer – one of the best restaurants on the whole of Madeira.
I, however, like to visit local restaurants where I can get the taste of the culture as well as the local food. You have to try Espada fish when in Madeira. Often served with banana or passion fruit – this dish is divine. Other local specialities include Limpets, Octopus and you can get spectacular Tuna Steak as well! Madeira is a paradise for fish lovers.
But really, Madeira is a paradise for all food lovers! Food is always fresh and very well seasoned. I have never had a bland dish, even if it was just an empanada.
You can also take one of many Food and Wine Tours. This is a great way to taste all the local specialities and meet some local travellers at the same time. Here are few of my personal recommendations when it comes to local food and snack restaurants.
5. Have Some Tea in a Charming Teahouse
There is nothing better than a cup of warm herbal tea on a rainy day. And Funchal offers a great selection of charming teahouses so enjoying an aromatic tea is another one of the great things to do in Funchal when it rains.
There is few really nice tea shops and tea houses in Funchal. If drinking tea surrounded in a charming environment is your thing – this is another one of the great things to do in Funchal when it rains.
Loja do Chá is an excellent and very cute tea house located right in the town’s centre. They serve a variety of tea infusions but also some good wine and snacks. Another fantastic tea house is Chocolate e Menta located in The Old Town of Funchal.
And of course, I need to mention an Afternoon Tea at Reid’s Palace. Although it is not my type of experience, it is highly rated, and Reid’s Palace is beautifully located overlooking the ocean.
6. Visit Funchal’s Historical Sights
Funchal is Madeira’s capital city and, as such, is an excellent representation of Madeira’s history. You can spend days wandering around the town and exploring its historical sights, monuments and palaces and learn about the country’s past. I loved strolling down Funchal’s streets and admired its colonial architecture.
Cathedral Se Funchal is probably one of the most important historical sights in Funchal. In the 15th century, Manuel 1st sent his architect to work on the design of the cathedral and created this Gothic-style church which has been classified as a National Monument since 1910. Funchal’s Cathedral (Sé) also features one of Portugal’s most beautiful ceilings, made with wood from the island and the stalls of the chancel built in the Flemish style.
If it doesn’t rain too much, make a way to Old Town (Zona Velha) and visit Fortaleza de Santiago. This ochre and dark-pink fortress that sits at the top of Old Town’s seafront was built in the first half of the 17th century when Funchal was vulnerable to pirate attacks. The Fortaleza de Santiago was totally restored and opened to the public in July 2014.
Funchal’s Jesuit Church (Igreja do Colégio) located on Praça do Município b squere is famous for its baroque interior covered with azulejo tiles, painted arches and trompe l’oeil ceiling. The tower of the church can be climbed for great city views.
7. Play an Escape Game
Who doesn’t like a good Escape Game! The BreakOut has two different escape rooms and offers a great fun game and fantastic things to do in Funchal when it rains.
You will have to solve a series of logical puzzles, use your wit and solve a mystery thriller from the time of the Madeira discoverer Zarco and his secret mission.
If that doesn’t sound like fun, I don’t know what!
8. Madeira film experience
Madeira Film Experience offers a great way to learn about Madeira history. Madeira Film Experience is a 30-minute audiovisual journey covering the 600 years of the history and culture of Madeira island. A unique audiovisual production showing people’s lives that faced wars, revolutions, famine, and isolation though still managed to thrive. Madeira Film Experience is screened continuously every day of the year. It is, however, closed on Christmas Day and the first day of each calendar year. The room is equipped with a simultaneous translation system into five languages (Portuguese, Dutch, English, German and French).
Whatever your interests and regardless of what type of traveller you are, there are loads of fantastic things to do in Funchal when it rains. From sightseeing and culinary experience to fun games, interactive museums and wine tasting – you will be entertained no matter the weather.
I hope you will enjoy my list of the best things to do in Funchal when it rains. But if you think I might have missed some essential activities – make sure to mention those in the comment. I will gladly add them to the list.
Madeira Know before You Go – Important Information and Travel Tips
- Currency – Euro
- Language – Portuguese but English is widely spoken (don’t take it for granted though, it’s always good to learn few basic terms)
- Power plugs and sockets – Type F (European). The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.
- Driving – on the right-hand side. Watch this video before renting a car
- Climate and Weather – Madeira is called the island of eternal spring. It enjoys a subtropical climate with mild weather all year round. It is never too cold nor too hot. The temperature hardly ever falls below 15 degrees in the winter or exceeds 25 degrees in the summer. Sea temperature varies between 17 and 21 degrees throughout the whole year. Expect more humidity and rainfall at the North of the island. For lounging by the pool, visit between April and October.
- What to pack -Hiking trousers and shorts, rain jacket, walking shoes, one warm sweater or hoodie, one pair of sandals, some light summer clothing, warm dawn jacket if you go up the mountains, camera (you won’t forgive yourself if you don’t!), adventurous spirit.
- Most popular supermarkets – Continente Modelo and Pingo Doce. Pingo Doce in Madeira has a great restaurant section as well. Much better than in mainland Portugal. You have to try the Octopus!
- Remember Trave Insurance. I recommend SafetyWing especially for those nomads and long term travellers among us. No need to specify the destination not the duration of travel. And you can cancel at any time.
- For accommodation search, I recommend Bookings.com and Hostel World. Although a dorm room is not always the option especially these days, however, I still prefer to stay in a hostel as I get to meet and befriend other travellers. Most of the time I book a small private room in a hostel. This is my preferred form of accommodation. But on both websites, you will be able to find anything from a dorm room bed to a self-catering apartment for the best prices.
- You cannot say you have visited Madeira if You didn’t try Poncha, Espada or Lapas. Check this article for the dishes you need to try in Madeira.
My favourite Travel Resources
- For most of my accommodation management, I use Bookings.com and Hostel World. With both booking platforms, you will often get free cancellation and access to tones of reviews. Read them! You will also get the most extensive selection of all types of accommodation. I hardly ever look elsewhere. If you are travelling in Asia – Agoda is definitely worth checking out!
- Make sure you download Google Maps and, on the first day, download an offline map of your location. This way, even without the internet or Wi-Fi, you will be able to get to your destination.
Moovit is also an excellent and very underrated travel and journey planning app. It works great in many countries and will show you all possible routes by public transport, including the timetables.
12Go — Great for tickets for trains, buses, ferries and charters in Southeast Asia! The best way to buy your ticket for overnight Bangkok train! Rome2rio – Another great journey planning app. If your way of travel is mainly public transport – you will use this app for sure!
- I carry two debit cards with me. Given I don’t have a permanent country of residence, Revolut and TransferWise work fantastic. In case one gets frozen, stolen or simply lost, I have a backup. The great thing about both cards is that you can freeze them straight from your phone and transfer money between them in case you need to. You will also get a great exchange rate and create separate foreign currency accounts.
- I booked most my tours via either Get Your Guide or Viator. I also use TripAdvisor when I spot a good deal. You can also book locally, but I advise you to ask around and follow the local recommendations. For cooking classes and workshops, consider checking out Eatwith.
For more travel tips and recourses, visit Pati’s Travel Tips page!
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