Travel Guide: Madeira Best Attractions: Funchal and São Martinho

Dear Alice,

Today I would like to start sharing with you yet another great traveling experience concerning my last summer holidays this year in Madeira, Portugal. So let’s start our journey today with the beautiful city of São Martinho in Madeira and all its unimagined wonders.

If you did not visit yet Madeira, I would highly recommend you to start planning your next visit to this magnificent island 🙂 . You will be part of a unique experience, that will definitely soon not be forgotten (I can assure you of this).

Often called “the floating flower island” or the “Pearl of the Atlantic”, Madeira will take your breath away not only by its wonderful landscape and its panoramic views but also by the enchanting mentality, the spirit of freedom and of well-being of its locals and its inhabitants.

So let’s start with the beginning: Madeira is an archipelago situated in the north of the Atlantic Ocean, and belonging to Portugal. The official language is Portuguese, but I can assure you that almost anyone anywhere speaks English (and I mean very good English), so you do not have to be afraid that you will need to learn Portuguese or to carry your dictionary around in Madeira. The island has an impressive history as well, which I learned during my stay in the beautiful island: I will definitely not remind it here, but I will only shortly add here that it was very obvious to me that over the years the French and the English influences remained a vivid part of Madeira’s true spirit.

There are a lot of reasons why you should choose Madeira as your holiday destination, in our case it was the long summer that you can still enjoy on the island even in the middle of September till the end of the month, and the various landscape that offers you both a wide variety of beautiful beaches and also a wide variety of hiking paths in the dominant mountains of the island.  We spend 10 days in Madeira beginning in the middle of September, and I was more than amazed by this beautiful island and all its facets. The weather was amazing with sunny days and warm to very warm and to hot temperatures during the day that allowed us to enjoy the warm water of the ocean as well. We booked our accommodation next to Funchal (the capital of Madeira), in the beautiful parish of São Martinho. A very good choice I must say, since the region has a very long promenade on which you can stroll and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

So here are my recommendations concerning your next trip to Madeira and its beautiful parish of São Martinho:

  1. Best period to visit Madeira: July-August (if you also want a bathing holiday by the ocean), or the whole year (if you only want to visit the island). The best period to visit Madeira depends on what exactly do you want to do during your holiday of course. I would say the best period to visit the island is between July-September, and this if you want to also enjoy the waves and the ocean for swimming. The air and the water temperatures during this period are great for a bathing holiday, you can definitely have a lot of sun bathing and swimming during this time. If you only want to visit the island and to discover its hidden secrets, than you can do this in any month of the year: Madeira is known for its spring-like temperatures during the whole year. From my point of view, september was the best choice! Great temperatures to get a great taint and to swim in the ocean enjoying the powerful waves, great temperatures to hike and to enjoy the wonderful scenery. As I experienced it in September, the weather was extremely warm and sunny, but not extremely hot or dry, and this due to the spontaneous winds on the islands.
  2. South or north of the island: that is the question? Whether you choose south or north of the island as your accommodation, depends exclusively on you and your preferences. Usually the south represents more the touristic part of the island (offering you some opportunities to swim and to bath), whereas the north represents more the savage part of the island (where you will definitely see more of flora and fauna as in the south, and probably swimming will be quite restrictive, due to the weather conditions). Anyway in both cases, you have to imagine that Madeira is not a tremendous big island, you can travel over the whole island in one day with the car, if you want to. For me, south was the best choice for my first visit to Madeira: I definitely like swimming!
  3. Choose an accommodation with a swimming pool or a spa resort or even both (if possible). Yes the weather in Madeira is definitely warm and sunny, but it is very unpredictable. And even now and then, there can be spontaneous powerful winds, rains or even storms. So for this it is a good practice to book your accommodation with a swimming pool (both outside and inside) and/or a spa resort. Actually this is a practice I try to apply in most of my summer holidays. You never know what the weather did reserve for you, and in case of bad weather conditions you have the chance to enjoy the outdoor or the indoor pool. We book the Pestana Promenade Hotel and it was a great choice: the location and the facility as well, since the hotel is also a spa resort.
  4. Landing/taking off to/from the airport of Madeira is definitely a unique experience. Landing and taking off to and from the airport of Madeira are definitely some unique experiences. This because of the weather conditions (extremely windy and sometimes foggy), and due to the construction of airport itself. Still, I can assure you these are some great experiences, they will definitely bring a dose of adrenaline to your holiday from the beginning. I would recommend you to choose Lufthansa for your flying company (just as in our case) since I am quite fond of Lufthansa in general, but I am sure that any company flying to Madeira will handle this very professionally. In our case, Lufthansa had the best flights from Graz, so this is why it won the jack pot.
  5. São Martinho parish offers you a great alternative for accommodation in south of Madeira. Since Funchal is the capital of Madeira, you can imagine it is extremely crowded and occupied. So São Martinho is a good alternative, since it is situated like 3 to 4 km away from Funchal, and it is located next to the shore, offering you thus the best scenery.
    • São Martinho Forum Madeira Shopping Center:  Situated in the middle of São Martinho, you can enjoy here a delicious dinner, and the magnificent architecture of the forum shopping center itself, so do pass by if you have the time (or if you are hungry: at H3 Hamburgology they have some of the most delicious burgers I ever had). You do not need to go shopping to visit the shopping center. In fact, you can find here also pharmacies and supermarkets which can be quite useful.
    • São Martinho Promenade: The parish has a long promenade, where you can enjoy during the day the wonderful pools or beaches, and during the evenings the wonderful restaurants with delicious food and incredible atmosphere. The area is quite populated by locals as well, so you will not feel like in an exclusive touristic summer destination. I love this about my holiday: to get to know the locals and their mentality, and to try to assimilate new things. In fact Madeira and its locals are some unforgettable companions: friendly, full of treasures and of magic you can hardly wait to discover on your own. Thank you Madeira for being such a wonderful host! Looking forward to meet you again!

This would be my first recommendations concerning Madeira. More are about to come. So till then, I leave you enjoying the beautiful pictures of the island and its facets.
Sincerely yours,

View from our room, in the Pestana Promenade Hotel. Loved the view from the ground floor apartment. It was also a great place to train in the morning: with such a view I would probably train very often 🙂 .

Outdoor pool of the Pestana Promenade Hotel: Another great view: directly on the ocean 🙂

Our Hotel’s Jacuzzi Pool

I definitely understood the “floating flower island” name of Madeira 🙂

Stroll along the promenade

Evening panoramic views were as beautiful during the evening as during the day.

Me with my space buns enjoying the magnificent evening views!

Definitely windy on the island.