With a mild climate throughout the year, Madeira Island is an excellent option for winter holidays with the young ones. In addition to the well-known levadas, there is much to discover in the “floating garden of the Atlantic”. Visit parks or museums or take a toboggan ride in the traditional wicker basket sledges - we bet these will be the kids' favourites! Here are some suggestions of what to do during the coldest months on this beautiful island, in this itinerary designed for two days. And don’t forget to venture through the alleys, local markets and restaurants filled with regional delicacies. If you are lucky enough to be visiting in December, delight in the Christmas lighting that gives the island an extra charm, not to mention the world-famous New Year's Eve fireworks.
Discover the City Park
Swings, lakes and swans are enough to make any child happy, that's why we started this road trip at Santa Catarina Park, also known as the city park. In its more than 36,000 m2 you can find a lagoon with a small island, where ducks and swans live, a playground, a café and even a toy library. As backdrop, the most amazing views of Funchal and its bay, setting the tone for the days ahead.
Immerse yourself in the magical world of toys
After the lively walk through the park, we proceed to a calmer activity, at the Toy Museum. Among miniature cars, dolls, superheroes, board games and many others, there are more than 20,000 items from different countries in display. Take the opportunity to visit Armazém do Mercado, where the museum is located, with its shops, art gallery and restaurants.
Stroll in the most flowery garden on the island
If you haven’t rented a car at the airport, this is a good time to do so, since the Botanical Garden is located three kilometres from the centre. As the name implies, here you can admire 2,000 species of plants, some exclusive to Madeira and other Atlantic islands, such as the Azores, the Canaries and Cape Verde, which harmoniously coexist with 300 exotic birds. Inserted in Quinta do Bom Sucesso, it also has a Natural History Museum and a cable car that connects it to Freguesia do Monte.
Take a ride in the Traditional Basket Sledges
The famous Carreiros do Monte are located in the parish of Monte, at the highest point of the island. This tradition, which dates back to 1849, translates into a toboggan ride in basket sledges, pushed by the “Carreiros”, two runners dressed in typical costumes from the region. A unique tour with some adrenaline to the mix that you will certainly not forget. One of its crown jewels, we bet that this will undoubtedly be the kids’ favourite attraction.
Discover Madeira's history and traditions
Now head to Santana, about 30 kilometres from Funchal, to the enchanted world of the Theme Park. Here, kids and adults can learn about the history of Madeira over four multimedia pavilions. The various replicas, from the Monte train or the ox carts, to the typical houses or the windmill, provide hours of fun. The lake with paddle boats, the playground and the maze complete this magical scenario.
A live Madeira postcard
Very close to the theme park, we find the typical houses of Santana. These little houses, with a triangular shape and covered with thatch, draw attention due to their peculiar shape. It is also possible to purchase a wide variety of local, handmade and traditional products. The perfect way to end the first day of this itinerary.
Visit the fish at the Madeira Aquarium
The next day, head to Porto Moniz, about 60 kilometres from Funchal, where we find the Madeira Aquarium, installed in the replica of the Fort of São João Baptista. With its twelve exhibition tanks, it depicts the different aquatic habitats and vast marine diversity of this archipelago, leaving both kids and grown-ups amazed, in awe and excited.
Take a stroll in Port of Calheta Recreational
Halfway to Funchal, it is worth stopping for a visit at the Port of Calheta Recreational, a wide and pleasant area, with an amazing 1.5-hectares garden, as well as great restaurants that serve regional specialties, always with the sea as backdrop. What child doesn’t like seeing the boats at anchor?
Climb the highest cape in Europe
On our way back to Funchal there is one more stop to make, this time at the unmissable Viewpoint of Cape Girão. Reaching 580 impressive meters in height, it is the tallest cape in Europe and the second tallest in the world, famous also for its Skywalk, a glass platform suspended over the cliff. Dare to climb it?
Enjoy the best views of the island, from the air
We end up on a high note, literally, by taking a cable car ride at Funchal. Say farewell to the “floating garden of the Atlantic” hovering over hills and gardens, with the city and the sea as backdrop, in a superb mixture of blue and green tones. Or maybe, it is just a “see you later”, since whoever visits Madeira promises to always come back.