When Portuguese navigators set foot on the island of Madeira in 1419, they were convinced that they had arrived at the Garden of Eden. Today, the experience is no different for cruise passengers docking in Funchal, Madeira’s largest city and the capital of a namesake autonomous region. Madeira’s consistently warm weather and volcanic mountains lush with tropical flowers and gardens drew European settlers whose influence gave rise to much of what it’s known for: Madeira wine, poncha (a traditional drink made of distilled sugarcane, honey and lemon) and handiwork such as embroidery.
Wander cosmopolitan Funchal’s streets paved with black and white mosaics, a grand seafront promenade and old-fashioned shops, restaurants and cafés housed in terra-cotta-roofed buildings.
Although the majority of places of interest are close to the Atlantic Ocean’s pebbled shore, some of the city’s most worthwhile attractions are situated above sea level; take a cable car to the peaks that rise over the harbor for a bird’s-eye perspective of an island as much a paradise from above as it is from below.