Monte Palace Tropical Garden in Funchal is at the top of must-see attractions in Madeira’s capital city. And as much as I am a big propagator of going off the beaten track, I will say that trip to Monte Palace Tropical Garden is something you should not skip whilst in Funchal.
I went to see Monte Palace, not expecting much more than just another architectural sight and a nice garden. I much more prefer seeing nature out on a trail rather than confined within the closed space, hence I was never a massive fan of city gardens. But what I encountered was a near cathartic experience and probably the best garden I have ever stepped into. No wonder! Monte Palace Tropical Garden in Funchal is said to be one of the most beautiful gardens in the world.
Located on top of a beautiful (and very steep!!) hill with breath-taking views of Funchal, Monte Palace was opened to the public in 1991.
Back in the 18th century, it was a luxury estate later called “Quinta do Prazer” (The Pleasure Estate), where many renowned guests used to stay. Later on, in 1897, Alfredo Guilherme Rodrigues acquired the estate and built a palace-like residence, later converted into a hotel. After Alfredo Guilherme Rodrigues passed away, the estate was taken over by a financial institution and the hotel was closed.
Luckily, in 1987 entrepreneur José Manuel Rodrigues Berardo purchased the Monte Palace and transformed this magnificent property into a museum and garden we can admire these days.
Monte Palace Tropical Garden in Funchal is more than just a garden – its the whole experience! So let me walk you on that journey to the most wonderful fairy tale!
How to get to Monte Palace Tropical Garden in Funchal
There are 2 best ways of getting to the Monte Palace Tropical Garden in Funchal. Either by Cable Car or local bus.
Cable Car is located in Funchal’s Old town area, right at the waterfront. Taking Cable Car to Monte is the best way to get to the Garden and admire the views of the city and the whole bay from up and above. The steep journey is around 3,200 metres long, climbing up a height of 560 metres and talking approximately 15 minutes. Taking the Cable car up to Monte is an experience in itself. Round trip costs around €11. For up to date information on current prices and timetable, visit the Madeira Cable Car website.
Another great way of getting up to the Monte Palace Tropical Garden in Funchal is by taking a local bus. Take bus number 20 or 21 from the bus station (located right in front of the Cable Car station), pay just under €2 and enjoy travelling up the narrow and winding streets like a local. Monte Is the last stop.
I like this way of getting there because this is where the actual journey around Monte starts for me. After getting off the bus, you can wander around the village of Monte and explore gardens and churches on the way to Monte Palace.
And of course – if you have a rental car, that is also a great and easy way to get to the Monte Palace. The car park is located 10 minutes walk from the North Entrance.
Visit Our Lady of Monte Church (Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Monte)
Before visiting the Monte Palace Tropical Garden, I recommend taking a stroll around the village and see Our Lady of Monte Church. This is how my experience started as the church is on the way from the bus stop. The whole area is full of lush greenery, gardens and winding park alleys. The church itself was built on the foundations of a primitive 15th-century chapel and, after being destroyed by the earthquake, rebuilt in 1818.
Our Lady of Monte Church is the most important pilgrimage site in Madeira.
The whole area is magical with lush greenery, winding garden valleys and incredible views over the Funchal Bay. Take a jacket or sweater though, being up high, the weather can change quickly, and I felt a bit cold once I got off the bus.
Step into the fairytale – Monte Palace Tropical Garden in Funchal
The entrance to Monte Palace Tropical Garden in Funchal is 5 minutes walk from the Cable Car station or 10 minutes walk from the bus stop. The entry is €12.5 but check the Monte Palace website for up-to-date opening hours and current price tickets.
Monte Palace Tropical Garden in Funchal occupies 70,000 square meters. It is spread across various levels with multiple hidden alleys and paths. You can spend hours wandering around and discover its deferent faces. When buying a ticket, you will be given a map with all the noteworthy points clearly marked on it.
You don’t want to miss any of them! Exotic Orchids from the Himalayas, thousand-year-old Olive Trees, Cycads, Acacias from Australia and many more amazing plants and trees are elegantly grown and meticulously taken care of. You can find swans and Koi Fish in the lakes, and you might also come across and Peacocks, Fighting Roosters from Indonesia, or other colourful birds.
The lanes and paths are connected by picturesque bridges, decorated with niches, gates, arches, pagodas, Buddhas, lanterns and sculptures. This is a true feast to your senses. I would think that such a combination of different styles together with fauna and flora from all over the world would create a strange mishmash – yet this only adds to the magnificent charm of this garden!
Jose Bernardo became fascinated with Oriental culture and way of living during his trip to Japan and China. This is the reason for the existence of two oriental gardens decorated with two ‘Fó’ dogs in marble, several Buddhist sculptures, a dragon surrounded by children representing fertility and numerous stone lanterns used in Japan to light the way to the tea house.
While walking through the garden, you can also admire the renowned ceramic tile collection portraying the history of Portugal that are dating from the 15th to 20th centuries as well as a panel of 166 terracotta glazed tiles entitled “The adventure of the Portuguese in Japan”. This collection forms one of the largest and richest collections of Portuguese tiles.
This garden just keeps on giving!
Admire the exhibitions in Monte Palace Tropical Garden Museum
Monte Palace, Tropical Garden Museum, is a three-storey exhibition centre located next to the Northern entrance. On the first and second floor, you will find a collection of contemporary stone sculptures from Zimbabwe. The bottom floor houses a collection of around 700 different specimens of minerals. Yet again, even the museum will surprise your senses.
Contemporary Zimbabwean stone sculpture collection is from the period 1966 to 1969, and more than 1000 sculptures are spread on two floors of the museum.
The collection of minerals called “Secrets of Mother Nature” includes around 700 samples of semi-precious stones and minerals from Brazil, Portugal, South Africa, Zambia, Peru, Argentina and North America and is the finest privately-owned mineral collections.
Take a rest and try some Madeira wine
After exploring the whole of Monte Palace Tropical Garden, you can try a small glass of Madeira wine (sweet or dry) and relax at the Terrace Café. One small glass is included in the price. The terrace overlooks the bay of Funchal, and you can purchase food or drink at the cafe, so this is an excellent way to rest after exploring the garden.
Take the Toboggan Ride down back to Funchal
What is Madeira Toboggan Ride?
It is a ride in Madeira’s wicker sledges (Monte Baskets Cars), taking you down from the Monte all the way to Funchal.
Baskets are pushed by two runners, who use their boots rubber soles as brakes. Those gentlemen are dressed in white and wearing the typical hats known as straw boaters. You will literally slide down in the basket, at the speed of between 15 km and 38 km an hour. It’s a 2 km journey and lasts around 10 minutes. It is a fun experience and one of must-do’s while in Funchal, Madeira.
Madeiran Tobogganing was invented as a form of transportation in the 19th century. This attraction is very unique to the are and is the only one like this in the world. It’s a great way to finish your Monte Palace Tropical Garden visit.
Monte Palace Tropical Garden is one of the most beautiful gardens in the world and definitely the most beautiful garden I have seen so far. There are so many things to see and do in Madeira, but visiting and exploring Monte Palace Tropical Garden in Funchal must be on your list! Enjoy and if you visit, let me know in the comments below what were your thoughts 🙂