Car rental in Funchal
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The subtropical island of Madeira is known for its rugged landscapes, green interior, and year-round pleasant climate. Rent a car at Funchal airport when you arrive on the island for ultimate flexibility in where you go and what you see, both in Funchal and beyond. While many visitors flock to Madeira for the climate and beaches, this Portuguese outpost also offers beautiful historic buildings, hiking, and some of Europe's best wildlife experiences. Renting a car in Funchal allows you to see Madeira at your own pace.

It's your choice: Where to go in Funchal

Funchal, Madeira's main city, developed as a prosperous port in the 16th century. The oldest part of town, and the starting point for many visitors, is the tangle of narrow streets and palm-lined squares of the Zona Velha, or Old Town, ideal for shopping, grabbing a bite to eat, or just watching the world go by from a pavement café. If your goals of visiting Madeira include relaxing in the sun, head to the most popular beaches along the stretch of coast to the west of the city centre. Madeira's mountainous interior is easily accessible from Funchal. A good starting point is the Funchal Ecological Park, comprising over 1,000 acres of protected mountain and parkland. Most of the city's museums and historic buildings are in the narrow streets close to the sea.

What to do in Funchal

One of Funchal's most popular attractions is its cable car. Board the gondola on the seafront for a 20-minute ride over the city's rooftops up to the Monte area and the city's botanic garden. Another green space worth exploring is the Santa Catarina Park, which has subtropical plants, ponds with fountains, and great views over the Old Town and port. Funchal's most interesting museum is the Frederico de Freitas House, which showcases the prominent 19th-century merchant's sculpture, painting, and ceramic collection. A 21st-century museum worth seeing is the CR7, dedicated to the life and career of Madeira's most famous footballing hero, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Important info about Funchal

Funchal is the largest city on Madeira, and the sixth-largest city in Portugal. Rent a car in Funchal from one of the many city centre depots, or collect it on arrival at the airport, 20 miles to the east. Funchal is a popular destination at any time of year – even in mid-winter, temperatures rarely drop below 19°C. The interior of Madeira is hilly, and Funchal spreads along the coast from the oldest part around the port. Unsurprisingly for an island, Madeira's cuisine is fish-based, with swordfish, tuna, clams, and octopus featuring on the menus of many local restaurants. The waters off Funchal are rich with wildlife, and whale- or dolphin-watching cruises depart from all over the island. Madeira is compact at only 35 miles long. Having access to car hire in Funchal means you can escape to a deserted beach or out into the mountains.

Weather in Funchal
Country Portugal
Language Portuguese
Currency Euro
Time-Zones Western European Time
Country Code +351

Good to know

Although Madeira's mountainous interior has restricted road building, it's still easy for visitors renting a car in Funchal to explore the island. The main road runs around the edge of Madeira, while a few roads cross the mountains. The VE3 motorway is modern and speedy, but has many tunnels, which makes it less than ideal for sightseeing. Driving regulations are similar to the UK's, in that drivers and all passengers must wear seatbelts, and children under 12 are not allowed to sit in the front of the car. Speed limits in built-up areas vary between 40km and 50km per hour, with higher limits of 90km per hour on the motorway. Blood-alcohol limits in Madeira are lower than in the UK, and fines can be as high as 600 euros for using your mobile behind the wheel. Although most visitors arrive on Madeira by air, there's also a monthly ferry service between the Portuguese mainland, Tenerife, and Funchal.

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What to taste in Funchal

Fish of all types is definitely the speciality in Funchal, and you'll find tuna, sardines, and other seafood prepared in all sorts of ways on local menus. Most Funchal fish dishes are simple, designed to showcase the freshness of the food, with barbecued fish served with a simple tomato sauce or salad. If fish isn't your thing, try prego no bolo do caco, a grilled steak sandwich served on traditional bread with salad garnish. It's the perfect choice for a quick lunch while out sightseeing. Portugal's famous little egg custard tarts, found all over Funchal, make a great mid-morning snack with coffee. Madeira is also where the fortified wine of the same name is produced, and it is served neat or mixed into a range of innovative cocktails. The Mercado dos Lavradores in the old part of town, the city's bustling food market, is the perfect place to pick up ingredients for a picnic lunch or simple dinner.

What to bring to your friends from Funchal

There's no shortage of shopping opportunities in Funchal, and the best shopping is in the narrow streets around the cathedral and port. Whereas a bottle of Madeira wine is perhaps the most obvious thing to bring back home, Madeira's thriving arts scene means you won't have to look far to find something a bit more individual. Funchal's narrow streets are home to many artisan potteries, producing everything from painted tiles to tea sets. Their products make the perfect gift. Madeira is also well known for embroidery, and shops stock both traditionally styled tablecloths and napkins through to modern designs on cushions and homewares. Pick up some leather goods or wickerwork, also staples of Madeira craftwork, or an original watercolour painting, soap, or local honey. Don't miss the Saturday craft market in the Municipal Gardens, where you can meet the craftspeople, sample the goods, and hear about how the items are made.