Funchal's Promenade & Marina, Madeira
Starting from the bottom of Santa Catarina Park, the promenade stretches passed the Marina all the way to the cable car terminal by the Jardim do Almirante Reis.
As you go, you will see many buildings of interest and plenty of distractions to lead you on a diversion.
Of course, Funchal is the Capital of Madeira and, as such, is a bustling city. However, along the tree-lined waterfront path, the pace of life is more relaxing and perfectly in tune with the needs of tourists.
Surely, there can not be a better way to spend a hot, sunny afternoon than casually wandering by the cool, clear blue waters of the Atlantic.
And, if you fancy some refreshments, why not spend a lazy 30 minutes or so sipping a cool drink in one of the many restaurants and cafés?
Along The Promenade Walk
Start from the bottom of Santa Catarina Park at the eastern end of the promenade.
If you are staying in accommodation in the hotel district, your natural route into Funchal is via Santa Catarina Park. At the Rotunda do Infante, the roundabout with the globe fountain as its centrepiece, walk downhill toward the sea and the Rotunda Sá Cameiro.
As of February 2010, the old harbour was in the midst of a major rebuilding development.
Commercial cargo and container freight is now handled by Madeira's new port to the east of the island. Today, only luxury cruise liners and tourist pleasure boats use Funchal's harbour.
When the redevelopment is complete, the harbour will become a leisure facility predominantly featuring restaurants and nightclubs.
This is the departure point for helicopter tourist trips. The company operating these tours is Heliatlantis, Estrada da Pontinha, Cais dos Contentores, Funchal.
The helicopter tours range from a 10 minute flight over Funchal Bay to 45 minute tours of the entire island. You can even book a flight to the nearby island of Porto Santo.
Your tour operator may offer to book a helicopter trip for you. However, remember, flights are subject to weather conditions.
Here you will be greeted with the aroma of grilled fish that constantly floats on the air from the seafood restaurants that face the sea. You can find these speciality restaurants situated just below the main promenade, adjoining the pier entrance.
The marina itself houses an assortment of commercial tourist boats and private yachts.
There are the usual tourist fishing trips along with the more ecological friendly dolphin watch excursions.
If you walk along the pier and around to the breakwater wall you will see a plethora emblems and remembrances painted here by the many transient seafarers who have stopped by.
The pier itself is rather bland, although it does have green benches were you can rest on a hot summer's day. Also, during the Christmas festive season, the pier boasts a huge, conical Christmas tree of lights.
The Palaçio de São Lourenço
This is a large whitewashed, military styled building.
The original fortification was built in the 1520s.
In 1566, French pirates raided Funchal and left the building in ruins.
By the 1640s, restoration work had been undertaken and the Palace served as the residence for the regional governors of Madeira.
A further setback occurred in 1699 when a fire partially destroyed the residential quarters and prompted further building work to be undertaken.
The Seafront Restaurants & Cafés
Although they are deemed floating restaurants they are actually set in concrete and, at low tide, are devoid of any surrounding seawater. The menus are also restricted to the usual tourist fare.
However, a small portion of pop history resides here.
The Vagrant restaurant is famous for the fact that it is situated on a boat once owned by The Beatles.
Have a meal here and you will undoubtedly be treated to background music consisting of Beatles' music and little else.
Children will surely love it as you try to explain to them exactly who the Fab Four were.
At this stage, if you are looking for the Madeira Balloon, look no further. The balloon that lifted tourist 100 metres or more up into the air to gain fabulous views of the capital city, has ceased to exist. On the platform that once served as a launch pad, there is now a tourist excursion kiosk and, of course, a seafront restaurant.
Most tourists pass the First World War Monument without realising what it is and without giving it a second glance.
In fact, Madeira did not escape unscathed from the First World War, Funchal being shelled twice. Look out for a mounted Iron cross with the Portuguese inscription bearing the words "Grande Guerra" meaning the Great War.
Further on, located in a side street set back a little from the seafront is the reconstructed Old Town Gate of Funchal.
Again, most tourist pass by this feature without ever realising that it exists. However, if you stop here long enough to read the information plaque you will gain another insight to Madeira's historical roots.
Onto the Zona Velha
Walking toward the end of the promenade you pass the the Praça da Autonomia. This rather uninspiring plaza celebrates Madeira's autonomy. Many yellow town buses start their routes from bus stops adjoining the square.
At this juncture there are also a few stone benches that look out to sea from the shade of palm trees. It is an ideal spot to sit and let the day drift by.
A little further on is the Teleféricos da Madeiras cable car terminal. Adjacent to the terminal is the Jardim do Almirante Reis public park. Here you can sit and watch as the cable cars start their 20 minute journey up to Monte.
Across the road is the Madeira Story Centre, a modern museum dedicated to the history and culture of the island.
Beyond the Jardim do Almirante Reis public park are numerous restaurants offering a variety of menus. This area comes to life in the evening as it is a major area for tourists after dusk and it marks the end of the promenade.
However, for those with an appetite for a little more history, you can the restaurant lined Rua de Santa Maria to the Fortaleza de São Tiago. This yellow fort not only houses a modern art exhibition and a speciality restaurant, but is also open to allow the public. Here, you wander around the battlements and gaze back across Funchal Bay and the promenade you have just come from.
Map of the Promenade
Here is a map of the promenade and its main features.
The walk along the promenade, as described, goes from left to right (i.e. west to east).
The map displays the location of the following features:
- Santa Catarina Park
- Rotunda do Infante
- Rotunda Sá Cameiro
- The Harbour
- The Marina
- First War Monument
- São Lourenço Palace
- The Vagrant - The Beatles' Boat Restaurant
- Funchal's Old City Gate
- Praça da Autonomia
- Madeira Story Museum
- Cable Car Terminal to Monte
- Jardim do Almirante Reis
- Fortaleza de São Tiago