Do you want to know what the best things to do in Madeira are on a short break? Well, of course, doesn’t everyone hehe. If you’re planning a short break to Madeira then be warned the chances are that you’ll fall in love with this little island and want to go back for longer, like me!
But for your first visit to Madeira if you are limited on time or if you want to ‘try before you buy’ a two week holiday then here are a few fun things you can do on a short break to Madeira in Portugal.
My 4-night Madeira short break was fantastic, it also went way too quickly, as usual. The trip was sponsored by Jet2 Holidays and Madeira Tourism but after four days enjoying the island’s abundance of green nature and wildlife it left me wanting more.
Firstly, I’m guessing if you’re reading this then you’ll know where Madeira is! But if not, then Madeira is a small but amazingly beautiful Portuguese island off the coast of Africa. Unbelievably, it was only discovered 600 years ago, so this idyllic treasure has allowed time for nature to take over the island.
This was the first thing I noticed looking out the aeroplane window (on a bumpy but perfectly normal landing), was now green the island was. In fact, a few of Madeira’s nicknames are ‘Pearl of the Atlantic’ and the ‘islands of eternal spring’. You can totally see why once you arrive.
How to Get to Madeira?
If you’re planning a short break to Madeira, then the fastest route is flying! Although, if you prefer a more leisurely approach you can catch the ferry from Portugal, over two hours on the ferry, oh and you have to get to Portugal mainland first. Anyway, as I suggested, the quickest option is flying!
I flew from Manchester Airport with Jet2.com, UK’s third-largest airline, but they also fly from eight other UK airports, Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow Birmingham, Newcastle, Birmingham Stanstead, and of course, my local East Midlands.
Jet2.com is a low-cost airline, they fly to over 60 airports in 21 countries, including Budapest, Dubrovnik, Kos, Rhodes and Malta. They also offer seasonal special flights to Berlin, Iceland and New York!
They have great flight times, so no early morning wake up calls!. My flight was 10.15 departure from Manchester, arriving in Madeira at 14.15. The return flight was 11.45 am from Madeira, arriving in Manchester at 15.40.
Flight costs: £167 return*
Price includes 22 kg bag allowance (extra charge), allocated seats and 10 kg hand luggage.
Where to Stay in Madeira?
Funchal is a great location to base yourselves for your trip. The accommodation I stayed at was The Vine Hotel, one of Jet2holidays 5 Star Hotels. Based in the city and about 45-minute drive from Madiera Airport.
The Vine Hotel is incredibly inviting and if you visit the restaurant at Nini Design Centre you may notice a few similarities as the hotel is created by the same designer. The bedrooms are elegant, with my favourite feature being a lovely deep bath, perfect to relax after a busy day wandering the streets of Madeira or maybe taking part in some of the adventurous activities.
However, the bath is not the only place you can relax after an action-packed day exploring beautiful Madeira. The Vine Hotel has a Spa where you can treat yourself to a massage or treatment. Or there’s the most amazing rooftop pool, jacuzzi and bar which has the best views during both day and night.
More information about Madeira, including the best places to eat, is at the bottom (scroll down). Feel free to ask me any more questions about my Madeira trip in the comments below.
10 Awesome Things to do in Madeira
Below are the activities and tours I did on my Madeira trip with a few other suggestions for things I didn’t get a chance to do but want to do when I go back. Yes, I’m definitely going back, it’s too gorgeous not to!
How to spend a short break in Madeira? Here’s what you can do:
Try Canyoning in Madeira
Tour company: EPIC Madeira
Have you heard of canyoning?
In Madeira, it’s one of the top things to do! Why? Because, it’s awesome and there are so many different canyoning trips for all levels, including a beginner like me!
Our canyoning experience was with EPIC Madeira, now if the name doesn’t tempt you then let me tell you all about it. Canyoning involves walking, climbing, abseiling and even jumping down waterfalls in between the canyons.
The trip I took was a beginner level, so nothing too scary apart from the 4-metre jumps into the water, that absolutely terrified me, I’m clearly turned into a wuss as I get older haha. In our group of eight, there were two of us that decided the jumps were not for us, but luckily there was a plan B option. Great if you’re not that confident in the water, it means you can still enjoy the adventure without the jumps.
You’ll also abseil down sections of the canyon, which is covered in bright green moss and looks like something from another planet.
What to wear Canyoning in Madeira?
All the equipment, hiking boots, wetsuits, neoprene socks, harness and helmet are provided by EPIC Madeira, in fact, it was all beautifully laid out for us in piles with our names on!
Remember your swimming costume, a towel and underwear for afterwards (yes, one of our group forgot both!) Note that although there are changing rooms at the start, at the end of the tour you’re on the side on the road. I’d recommend a big towel if you have one 🙂
I’d also recommend giving your shoe size in the European sizes, I’m a UK size 7 but ended up with a pair of boots two sizes too small, luckily, there were a few spares available.
How to book?
- Book online at EPIC Adventure
- Cost: Adults €60 + Children €40
Go Walking alongside Madeira’s Levadas
Tour company: Madeira Adventure Kingdom
With over 2,500 km of Levadas in Madeira, you are really spoilt for choice which walks to pick! As a huge hiking lover, I enjoyed a lovely day exploring the Levada do Rei, one of the easier Levada walks you can do.
The Levadas are like mini-canals carrying water effortlessly around the island, transporting it from the rainy north side to the sunny south side. But it means they also make for some wonderful walks on the island and if you’re visiting on a short break then be sure to try at least one.
You can read all about the Levada do Rei (or Kings Levada) walk that I did here, with all my top tips for the hike.
How to book?
- Book online at the Madeira Adventure Kingdom
- Available every Saturday
- Cost: €36 per person
Explore the Streets of Funchal
Funchal is Madeira’s capital equivalent, of course, Madeira isn’t a country but it kind of has that vibe, especially as it’s so far away from mainland Portugal.
Staying at The Vine Hotel, it was a perfect location as it was right in the city centre, a short walk from both the harbour and the old town. Madeira’s streets are perfect for exploring and getting lost, my favourite thing about travelling to new places. It’s also an incredibly safe place to explore. Even our transfer driver left his keys in the van as he got out and walked us to the hotel entrance.
A few of my favourite things to do in Funchal included, walking alongside the harbour and boat spotting, you might even see the 15th-century replica Santa Maria, that was built in 1998. And you can also gaze at the gorgeous views back to the city, with mountains towering behind them.
Then there’s all the amazing street art dotted around the city, especially all the painted doors in the old town of Madeira. You’ll need plenty of time to explore as there are lots of doors to see!
Indulge on the Amazing Wine + Food Tour
Tour company: Wine Tours Madeira
This was one of my highlights of exploring Funchal. I’ve not done many wine and food tours but this one is certainly top of my list now. And when I say indulge, I really mean it!
Our tour was lead by a lady called Sofia, a wonderful storyteller and tour guide in one. Her knowledge of Maderia was fantastic and she had so many interesting things to tell us about the wine and food we were trying it really made such a difference, taking it from an average to amazing tour.
Top tip – don’t eat a big breakfast, you need some space in your tummy before starting this tour!
In total, the tour stops at nine, yes nine different places. From traditional Madeira wine and beer, delicious chocolate, the famous scabbard fish (ugly but delicious), local markets and finally a good piece of cake and a cup of fennel tea to finish. Your taste sensations are in for a treat!
How to book?
- Book online at Wine Tours Madeira
- Tours on Tuesdays & Thursdays (10.30 am & 1.30 pm)
- Cost: €60 per person
Go Mountain Biking
Tour company: Madeira Experience Tours
Madeira is a wonderful place to try mountain biking for the first (or second) time. After my almost disastrous mountain biking experience in the Brecon Beacons, I felt that it was time to redeem myself.
The tour includes bikes, helmets and also the all-important transport vehicle, which means you get to downhill and not uphill! The tour started on slightly rough terrain, well I guess, that was part of the challenge. Nerves got the better of me and I walked a few bumpy sections but then managed to get back on my bike!
The tour took us through clouds in the mountains and alongside Levadas, where there were many obstacles, including the odd puddle (check out the video on my Instagram post) and a few fallen tree trunks to negotiate.
Top tip – Take a waterproof/windproof jacket with you as it can get cold on some of the sections.
One of the fascinating things about Madeira is that they have over 20 micro-climates, which meant during the bike ride we went through pockets of humid sections, (a warm welcome from the rain clouds)
The mountain biking tour turned out to be one of my favourite things to do in Madeira. Once I’d gained my confidence, and got wet in the puddle, it was all downhill, literally from there! It is a fantastic way to see more of the island in a short time, including riding along another Levada trail.
How to book?
- Go online at Madeira Experience Tours
- Cost: Half-day €60 or €48 (if book direct)
Climb Aboard a Catamaran to See Dolphins + Whales
Tour company: VMT Madeira, Marina do Funchal Loja 09, 9000-024 Funchal
This was my first time on a Catamaran and as someone who struggles with motion sickness, I was intrigued by how I’d be. I opted to sit on the netting at the front of the boat. Good views and of course, it meant I could keep my eye on the horizon.
Although it also meant two hours into the trip three of us got soaked by a rogue wave, you’ve been warned haha! But apart from that, it was very relaxing!
After setting sail about 3 pm, we sailed for approximately 50 minutes before seeing our first pod of Pilot Whales, then shortly after we were joined by a playful group of Bottlenose Dolphins.
The dolphins seemed to be enjoying themselves, even jumping out of the water a few times, which is pretty hard to photograph. The conservation rules mean that each boat is only allowed to stay with a pod for 10 minutes, even though it felt like longer. We then when in search of another pod, but on our trip, they were the only groups we saw.
During the summer months, there’s also the option to go swimming below one of the highest cliffs in Europe, Cabo Girão at 570 metres high is certainly very impressive looking up. I can imagine it’s equally as amazing looking down too, if not, a lot scarier!
How to book?
- Go online at vmtmadeira.com or visit VMT Madeira on the harbour
- Morning tour 10.30 am or afternoon tour 3 pm (3 hours)
- Cost: €35, Children (5-12 years) – €17.50, Children (0-4 years) – Free
More Things to do in Madeira
Of course, you know what it’s like when you first visit a new destination, you can never see and do everything you want. Madeira is no different, even though it seems to be a relatively small island compared to mainland Portugal.
- Here are a few things that I ran out of time to do in Funchal (but looked awesome) and the rest of Madeira.
During my visit to Madeira, the beautiful flower festival had just begun in Funchal City. It was a real treat, with flowers literally everywhere, in huge displays, painted on wooden cabins and even the stunning flower girls that seemed to spend most of their time spinning in brightly coloured dresses.
I would have loved to spend more time immersing myself with all the wonderful events and parades that were happening.
Read more about Madeira’s festivals here (including a Madeira Wine festival, now that sounds like fun!)
Take the cable car to Monte + Visit the Botanic Gardens
From Madeira old town, you can take a cable car all the way up the mountain to Monte for beautiful views over Funchal City and the sea. At the top, you have a choice of a couple of activities, including visiting the Botanic Gardens. If you like the Municipal Garden in Funchal City then the chances are you’ll love this too.
Ride the Toboggan
Why ride the cable car when you take Toboggan back down. I didn’t make it back up to the top, as you can see from this photo!
But this is one of the toboggans that you can ride back down on. As you can see it’s very comfy :). And next time it will be on my list of must-do activities to do in Madeira.
More Hiking in Madeira + Climb Pico Ruivo
As you might know, if you follow me on Instagram (@beckythetraveller) I love hiking, in fact, in I’m about to set off on a 2-month hike across Britain!
For a return visit to Madeira, I’d certainly want to do some more hiking. Exploring a small section of the island made me want to add lots more hiking to my list of things to do when I return! And of course, there’s the highest peak on the island to conquer, Pico Ruivo is Madeira’s highest mountain at 1,862 m/6,100 ft high.
Who knows if my hike across Britain goes well, maybe Madeira will be next on my list to walk across…although at 35 miles long and 13 miles wide it probably won’t take as long!
Have you visited Madeira yet? Do you have any more awesome things to do that I should add to my list for next time?
Madeira Further Information
Where to Eat in Madeira?
These are the restaurants I tried on my short break to Madeira, the majority are in Funchal, however, on the day I went canyoning and mountain biking I had lunch at a restaurant near the activities, as you can see from the map it’s a bit further out of the city.
Address: Estrada Monumental, n.º 238, 9000-100 Funchal
A lovely warm and welcoming restaurant in Madeira. From outside it looks like a cute cottage and once you’re through the gates a beautifully decorated courtyard becomes the restaurant complete with an old retro car, pretty flowers and traditional painted Madeiran plates on the walls.
The menu is huge, be prepared it might take a while for you to decide, part of that reason is that they have the menu in various languages, including French, Swedish and English, you’ll be pleased to know.
Read the Trip Advisor reviews here.
Nini Design Centre
Address: Estrada da Pontinha, Forte de Nossa Senhora da Conceição 9000 Funchal
One of my favourite locations for a restaurant, from across the water you might not realise that this quirky art centre is also, in fact, a restaurant, serving the most beautifully presented meals with epic 360-degree views.
The clever theme of the restaurant starts before you even walk into the building, following the black and white lines, synonymous with the interior decor.
Read Trip Advisor reviews here
Risottoria del Mundo
Address: Rua de Santa Maria 274, 9050-040 Funchal
A restaurant all about the rice, so if you’re not a rice fan, then maybe go somewhere else haha! The menu has a rice theme throughout, from starter to the main course, but there are options if you don’t want a full rice meal.
I had soup, followed by a yummy risotto for my main meal, unfortunately, we ran out of time so didn’t get a chance to try the rice puddings, which I’m sure would have been delicious!
My favourite thing about this restaurant is the location, sat directly above the sea you have the most epic views as you dine for the evening. A wonderful way to finish your day.
Read Trip Advisor reviews here
Abrigo do Pastor
Address: 9050, Portugal
This was a lunch stop, so although they offered a full menu, I opted for a tuna steak as a lighter meal, which turned out to be incredibly filling but equally delicious. The main meals (and portions) in here are in keeping with the decor, to be honest, it wasn’t to my taste, with trophy heads appearing all around the restaurant but I guess as a meat-eater, it’s a little hypocritical!
As we stopped here on a Portuguese Bank Holiday the restaurant was completely full, but even so, we were served food and drinks quickly.
Read Trip Advisor reviews here
Forte Sao Tiago
Address: Tv. do Forte 8, 9060-123 Funchal
This amazing location was the restaurant for our last night in Madeira and what a wonderful place to finish my first trip to Madeira.
Set in a real fort, you can dine with views over the sea, or in a private dining room. The food here was simply delicious and beautifully presented too.
From tender escalopes to start, a wonderful surf and turf for main and the ooziest chocolate dessert. I was in food heaven. This is certainly a restaurant to treat yourself in if you can fit it into your short break!
Read Trip Advisor reviews here
Venda Da Donna Maria
Address: Rua de Santa Maria 51, 9060-291 Funchal
Only a short visit to this restaurant as it was included as part of the Food + Wine Tour (mentioned above). But it’s a lovely restaurant, you can sit outside on the cobbled streets with street art all around you.
Here we had the opportunity to try some local Madeiran beer and food, Coral beer and some traditional bread called Bolo do Caco (highly recommended).
Read Trip Advisor reviews here.
What Currency is Accepted in Madeira?
As Maderia is part of Portugal, the EURO is the accepted currency on the island.
What Language do they Speak in Madeira?
The local language in Madeira is Portuguese, it has similarities to Spanish but with more of a nasal tone. For example, the word ‘please’, is por favor in both Spanish and Portuguese; however Yes is Sim and No is Nao, similar to Spanish but not the same.
Am I confusing you yet, hehe!
Oh, and two words I always like to learn are hello and thank you.
Hello is ola and thank you is obrigado/a (for females it’s obrigada).
When is the Best Time to go to Madeira?
Choosing when to visit Madeira is relatively easy, similar to its Spanish neighbouring islands, the Canary Islands the weather is pretty good all year round.
The main difference in visiting Madeira is up in the mountains it can get cooler. But that’s the same with any mountain, whether you’re in Madeira or the UK, it can be colder at the top, for example, Ben Nevis is up to 9 degrees colder on the summit. If you’re planning on exploring and hiking up high, make sure you bring some layers and a warm jacket and you’ll be fine.
Has that tempted you to check out flights to Madeira? Let me know if you have any more questions about things to do in Madeira or any more tips for your trip in the comments below?
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*This Madeira trip was sponsored by Jet2.com & Jet2Holidays and Madeira Promotion Bureau. However, all thoughts and opinions on Madeira and the activities undertaken are my own.
*Becky the Traveller participates in the Amazon Services Associates Programme, as well as other affiliate programmes. If you make a purchase through these, I earn from the qualifying links. This is at no extra cost to you.