The island of eternal spring has long been a secret whispered among well-heeled travelers and those seeking a rare escape, a little off kilter to the usual haunts of mainland Europe. Under the banner of Portugal, this stunning smidge of an island sits beneath a canopy of flowers, just off the coast of Northern Africa. Whipped by fresh Atlantic swells, doused in soft sunlight, and with a growing reputation for fine wines and 16th century sights, best get there quick as the secret of spring has been well and truly leaked. We explore the best places to lay your head, feast on finery and explore on foot in fabulous Funchal…
Where to Stay
The Grand Dame of Madeira’s bright capital is the Belmond Reid Palace, built back in the 19th century as an enchanting summer hideaway for famed aristocrats. It’s easy to imagine European royalty sipping expensive wine and laughing into the late hours beneath the Murano chandeliered dining room – which remains untouched to this day. Suites are dressed in local lace, boast doors that lead to the fairytale gardens, and serve cakes on silver trays in the languid air of late afternoon.
Playing a homage to the golden age, the Royal Savoy is another fine place to stay when visiting Madeira. Lining the promenade of Funchal, this is the spot for majestic ocean views, elegant spa weekends, and grazing lunches of fresh cheese, cured hams and fish overlooking the white capped waters. Suites are just the right amount of chintz with deep sunken carpets and beautiful balconies for sunset sighs.
When you are tired of traditional luxury and craving something with a modern twist, The Vine Hotel will leave you speechless. The dazzling duo of architectural charm Ricardo Bofill and João Francisco Caires come together with designer Nini Andrade Silva to create a space with muted seasonal colors, floor to ceiling windows for wonderful bay views, and notes of volcanic stone. Bath tubs sit sexily at the foots of beds, wine tasting sessions whisk away whole afternoons, and cooking lessons ensure perfect pairing becomes second nature.
Where to Dine
Moonlit suppers, Michelin stars and a menu that serves up seasonal produce with a creative flair – the William Restaurant at the Belmond Reid is nothing but pure delight. Start with scallop carpaccio, get weak kneed at the lobster ravioli, and let delicate flavors dance on the tongue as you watch the waters sparkle beneath the stars.
Another Reid Palace delight – the Villa Cipriani oozes Italian grace. Checked red and white tablecloths, unrivalled ocean views, and a well-executed extensive menu with a heavy emphasis on antipasti sharing plates invites romantic nibbling and long conversations perfectly punctuated with wine.
Where to Play
Hikers rejoice, in Madeira you will have certainly met your match. The hills beckon with endless trails that cut through flowering gardens and staggering peaks. Closer to Funchal you can meander the mini canals, known as Levadas that date all the way back to the 16th century. If you don’t feel like donning your hiking boots, then taking a jeep safari is another fine way of exploring the countryside without getting your feet dirty.
Take the cable car for striking views above Funchal in the morning and then spend the afternoon on a private whale and dolphin watching adventure.
If you are seeking spa rejuvenation, then the island will leave you very much spoilt for choice. The Melia Madeira Spa is a sublime delight – with thalassotherapy treatments, a Malo clinic, and seaside landscape for complementing a sense of divine wellness.