Funchal marked our second city to visit in Portugal after Ponta Delgada in the Azores. I happened to wake early enough this morning to be greeted by an awesome Funchal sunrise.
- Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour Funchal
- Toboggan Run
- Flora and Fauna of Funchal
- La Contega
- Len and JJ’s Overall Rating:
We were admittedly a bit under-researched for this port, but were still able to note the stark contrast between the island of Madeira vs. Sao Miguel and the Azores. Funchal was much more developed and modern, while Ponta Delgada was more rolling hills and farmland with a very interesting climate (where it can be warm and tropical down at the seaside but very cold and windy at the hilltops).
Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour Funchal
We ended up doing the Hop on Hop Off Bus Tour which was Free through Norwegian Epic because we had a $50 excursion credit per port. This is admittedly one of the most touristy things you can do in any city, but when it’s your first time visiting somewhere, there is no shame in admitting that you are absolutely a tourist. These bus tours give you a quick overview of any new city to help give you the lay of the land, and hopefully recognize a few stops or areas you would like to go back and explore on foot.
The yellow Hop on Hop Off bus had 3 total routes and lines which seemed to be far superior to the regular City Sightseeing bus tours which are all red buses. The WiFi actually worked on our yellow buses as well which was surprising (it never seems to work on the red buses in any city that I’ve tried including Chicago, Athens, and Havana).
These tours always include free headphones to plug into the buses audio system with pre-recorded information being narrated as you drive past various historical sights and areas of the city.
There is a cable car that takes you to the top of one of the hills where you can ride the “toboggan run”. This is basically a wooden sled pushed down the hill by enthusiastic Portuguese men. We did not do this, but it seems to be a main tourist attraction of Funchal (which is also precisely why we avoided it, preferring to get a better feel for actual local life in the area). We did hear from plenty of people on our ship that this was a very fun and worthwhile activity to explore if you had more time in Funchal.
Flora and Fauna of Funchal
The first thing we noticed about Funchal were all the beautiful species of flowers. They were even setting up for some sort of 2019 flower festival and parade with chairs lining the streets.
While on the Hop On Hop Off Bus, we chose to take the blue line to the west to a little fishing village called La Contega. It seemed much less crowded and a little less touristy with many local cafes and shops almost all featuring water views.
We had a little work to catch up on so we ended up finding a very small cafe close to our bus stop that had no one from the ship and no tourists at all that we could see or hear. Everyone in the place spoke Portuguese, and we of course spoke none. But we were greeted with smiles and good service. They wrote down the WiFi password for us, and pointed out where the electrical outlets were by our small table. We ended up spending the better portion of 3 hours there. It was a little longer than JJ would have liked, but gave us both a chance to get caught up on things with my work and with our blog, and with friends and family back home.
Len and JJ’s Overall Rating:
Not Worth Your Time
We think there is certainly more to explore in Funchal, but with limited time and a limited bus route, it’s hard to venture further out of the main town which you would undoubtedly need to do to find nicer beaches or quieter areas. We liked that everything was inexpensive, and that people waived to us from their balconies while on the bus. The flora and fauna were certainly exotic and beautiful as well. Overall though, we were a little underwhelmed by Funchal as a whole and honestly would not recommend it as a worthwhile destination to those with limited travel time.