The capital of Madeira is named after the fennel (funcha) that once flowered there in profusion. The largest island in the Madeira Archipelago was discovered in 1419 by Portuguese explorers venturing south into the Atlantic. The island is nearly equidistant from Lisbon and the African coast, and its unique geographical position allowed
They opened typical restaurants and people of all ages are now able to enjoy the freshness of a large garden and can take a cable car ride providing a very scenic trip. St. James Fort, built in the first half of the seventeenth century, during the Spanish occupation (1580-1640), currently houses the Contemporary Art Museum.
The Farmers Market is two steps away from the historic area and was designed by architect Edmundo Tavares in a style between the art deco of the 30s and modernism. The main door opens onto a patio, animated daily by sales of fruits and vegetables. All are exposed in elegant stands and ready to be seen, smelled and tasted. Countertops made of flowers are a color world apart, loaded with camellias, proteas, strelitzias, and orchids. Florists don colorful costumes that remind you of the colors seen around the island. Upstairs, the arcades surrounding the courtyard are reminiscent of an oriental market. At one end of the building is the fish market, exposing all that the richest Atlantic waters have to offer in Madeira.
The heart of the Madeira stands next to the Cathedral and almost all public buildings that surround it have kept their original design. The construction of the Cathedral in 1485 was ordered by King Manuel who gave precise instructions for its location and funding. The construction was completed in 1514 Madeira.
If we use the Cathedral as a starting point, there are dozens of streets and squares to visit all around, all lined with traditional Portuguese sidewalks. Madeira has created its own version of the sidewalk using small pebbles and cobblestones. It is also widely used in gardens and the exteriors of farms in Madeira.
The Sacred Art Museum is housed in the former Bishop’s Palace. The museum has a rich collection of Flemish paintings, the evocative splendor of the sugar trade. Many of the paintings were purchased by merchants of the sixteenth century. One of the museum’s façades is facing the Town Hall Square. At the center is a fountain designed by architect Raul Lino in 1942. At one of the tops of the square is the Town Hall, and the block to the north is occupied by the St. John the Evangelist School Church which belonged to the Jesuits.
Climbing Pretas Street we come to the area of São Pedro and Santa Clara. Since the beginning of settlement, it was in this place that the most important families resided. Pursuing the steep walk of Rua Santa Clara the Casa Museu Frederico de Freitas can be found, which depicts the lifestyle and living arrangements of well-off families at the time. In the spaces surrounding the main building, we can find a copy of a house, which the locals call “houses of pleasure.”
Continuing uphill, there are the Santa Clara Convent and Santa Clara Church. The convent was founded by the son of João Gonçalves Zarco. Both are buried here. Across the João Carlos Abreu Universe of Memories museum, showcasing sculptures, paintings, and a library. Across the street is another museum, the Quinta das Cruzes. This is the house where João Gonçalves Zarco lived. It is surrounded by lush gardens where we can see an archaeological park, lapidary stones and Orquideary.
Back to Arriaga Avenue, we can visit the San Francisco cellars, also known as Old Blandy Wine Lodges. The facilities of the former San Francisco Convent have exceptional conditions to house the Madeira Wine Company’s old wines. The wine stores hundreds of vintage bottles that are over a hundred years old, and ready to sell to the public. Between wineries and aging facilities here we can find stored 800,000 liters of wine.
Across the street is the fortress and St. Lawrence palace, a beautiful example of seventeenth-century military architecture and the residence of the island’s governors between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, this site is classified as a national monument. Adjacent to the palace we can find the splendid Baltazar Dias Municipal Theatre, built between 1884 and 1887 and inspired by the famous “La Scala” in Milan.
The village of Monte is located 600 meters above sea level, which gives you a cooler climate and a green landscape. Here, on 15th August, the largest procession of the island is held, the Senhora do Monte. It is in this church that the former emperor of Austria is buried, Charles I, in exile in Madeira. It is also near this church that the famous toboggans wait for their clients. The descent is an adventure not to be missed. Ernest Hemingway described it as “One of the most exhilarating experiences of my life.”