From The Madeira Island Web Site

Funchal - A short Introduction
By Jorge Barbosa
Apr 29, 2007 - 3:27:08 PM

Funchal is the capital of Madeira is situated in a bay area that is surrounded by jagged mountains some 1200 meters high, making it look like a natural amphitheater. Funchal had gotten its name from the Portuguese word for fennel which is “funcho” a plant that Zarco and his explorers found when they had first arrived here in 1419.

It is now Madeira´s largest town due to its location and generally good climate all year around. Funchal is appealing to tourists and locals alike because of its exotic gardens, shopping streets, historic buildings and restaurants. The main area of interest is the sea front –The Avenida Do Mar, starting at the Old Town or “Zona Velha” all the way to the large harbour and marina.

The earliest settlement was what is now called the “Zona Velha” or old town. You may still find some 15th century buildings here. Funchal became the Capital of the island when Manuel I unified the three regions of the island. At the turn of the century the city began to flourish as the sugar trade grew and attracted merchants from all over Europe . As the town became very wealthy it too became very vulnerable to pirate attacks. The “Fortaleza de São Tiago” was built to protect the town from these pirate attacks; it may now be visited as a modern art museum.

One of the landmarks of Funchal is the “Sé” Cathedral which stands in the center of the town. This is one of the Manueline style buildings still left. It was built between 1485 and 1514.

Funchal celebrates many festivities throughout the year some that should not be given a miss are the following: Carnival in February; Flower Festival in April; Atlantic Festival in June, Wine Festival in September and the New Years Eve celebrations and Fireworks display.

A view of central Funchal over the marina from the pier

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