A First-Timer’s Guide to Madeira for Winter Sun

If you’re wondering Where to go for winter sun?’, we may just have the answer. Let us introduce you to the Portuguese island of Madeira, which reaches 20 degrees in November and is just a 4 hour flight from the UK.

Written by our Editor Jessica Ruth Gibson, this guide to Madeira is perfect for first-timer’s on the island and covers the best time to visit Madeira, 8 great things to do in Madeira and the best hotels in Madeira, including her base of the famous Belmond Reid’s Palace.

Index

  1. When is the best time to visit Madeira?
  2. Essential Things To Know About Madeira
  3. 8 Things To Do in Madeira
  4. Best Hotels in Madeira – Luxury to Budget

When is the best time to visit Madeira?

When I asked this question to our cab driver in Madeira (who was born and bred in Funchal) he told me that April and May are the best times to come. The weather is not too hot (18-20 degrees) and sunshine is guaranteed. However, Madeira really does have beautiful weather all year around and Madeira weather in November to January the temperature still ranges between 17-20 degrees. In the height of summer temperatures soar and prices increase too.

Browse cheap flights to Madiera.

Browse all hotels in Madeira

Essential Things To Know About Madeira

Madeira is a Portuguese island located 400km north of Tenerife. Think sparkling blue ocean, spectacular rugged coastlines and a balmy breeze. Think towns with cobbled streets, al fresco coffee shops and unmistakable European charm (It’s the closest thing you’ll find to the Amalfi Coast without the big price tag). Flights from the UK to Madeira take a maximum of 4 hours and direct flights are available from various regional airports.

Because of its Southern location, it’s one of the few European destinations where year-round sunshine is pretty much guaranteed (it’s closer to mainland Morocco than mainland Portugal). Because of the winter sun, visiting Madeira in November is a great option for plenty of sun. There’s plenty to do, you have the Madiera winter sun and flights from the UK to Madeira take a maximum of 4 hours, and direct flights go from various regional airports. I flew with British Airways from Gatwick Airport.

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10 Things to Do in Madeira in November and Year Round

1. Explore Funchal Old Town

Funchal’s quintessential Old Town has all the right ingredients for a bustling day out. It’s home to narrow alleyways, leafy piazzas, boutique shops and plenty of eateries. You can spend hours just getting lost amongst the streets and people-watching in one of the many cafes. The Central Market is a great place to pick up some local produce (passion-fruit seems to be all the rage) and it’s all a stone’s throw away from Funchal’s main harbour.

2. Ride The Funchal Cable Car

Funchal is connected to the hilltop town of Monte by the famous Cable Car. Take a ride up the Cable Car for an amazing panoramic view of Funchal and then spend a few hours exploring Monte.

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3. Visit The Small Town Of Monte For The Famous Toboggan Run

The small town of Monte overlooks Funchal and is best known for its bizarre but novel toboggan run. Before the cable car was built, the wicker toboggan run was a mode of transport to get back down to Funchal, but the tradition has stood the test of time and is now a popular (albeit overpriced) tourist activity. Monte is also popular for its beautiful gardens, including the Jardim do Monte (public gardens) and Jardim do Palacio do Monte (tropical gardens).

4. Walk Through The Nun’s Valley or Visit the Viewpoint

For some breathtaking scenery, venture inland and take a half-day excursion to the Nun’s Valley. This lush green valley acquired its name in the 16th century, when Nuns fled there to escape raiding pirates. The main viewpoint of Eira do Serrado is spectacular, so make sure your tour includes a stop there. You can also visit the villages at the bottom of the valley.

5. Indulge in Afternoon Tea at The Famous Reid’s Palace

For a break from sightseeing, head to Belmond Reid’s Palace in Madeira to experience the most famous Afternoon Tea on the island. The grand affair takes place on the hotel’s sun terrace, which overlooks the glittering ocean and the town of Funchal. I was lucky enough to sample the Afternoon Tea during my trip. Be sure to read my Belmond Reid’s Palace Review Post next.

6. Take In The Views at Picos dos Barcelos Viewpoint

The perfect place to begin your adventure in Madeira; this viewpoint gives you a panoramic perspective of Funchal and it’s mountainous surroundings. The street entertainers inject some atmosphere and the viewpoint looks over Santo Antonio Parish, the hometown of Cristiano Ronaldo.

7. Take a Dip in The Porto Moniz Sea Pools

The geography and volcanic terrain of Madeira means that coastlines are rugged and sandy beaches are non-existent. Some areas of sea can be too rough to swim in, but the sea pools of Porto Moniz allow you to get closer to the ocean. A series of man-made pools allow seawater in and keep the waves out – perfect for a bracing swim. Team up your trip to the sea pools with a wander through Porto Moniz village and lunch at one of the many cafes.

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8. Brave The Cabo Girao Glass Floor View Point 

In the south west of the Island is the popular Cabo Girao view point, which is best known for its glass bottom and spectaculcar views of the coast line. It’s a popular stop for tour groups, and you can visit independently too with a hire car.

9. Visit the CR7 Museum

Madeira is the home island of world-famous elite footballer Cristiano Ronaldo. Despite now being the world’s most famous footballer and most followed person on Instagram, he started with very humble beginnings on the island of Madeira. The CR7 Museum is located in Funchal and depicts the story of Cristiano’s career in an engaging and interactive way and displays over a hundred individual and collective trophies from his career.

9. Stroll Through Madeira’s Botanical Gardens

Spanning approximately 8 hectares, this lush green space has a wide variety of exotic plans, vibrant flowers and rare species unique to the island of Madeira. It also houses more than 2000 exotic plans from all continents of the world and also has a dedicated research and conservation area to preserve endangered species.

Where to Stay in Madeira – Best Hotels in Madeira.

We’ve put together a collection of the very best hotels in Madeira, from 5 star luxury hotels to 4 star boutique and 3 star budget. Take a look and choose a hotel to suit your budget and holiday style. 

Belmond Reid’s Palace – 5 Star 

For a luxurious and central stay in Funchal, I can highly recommend Belmond Reid’s Palace. This was my base for 4 nights in Madeira and I was so impressed by the food, service, style and attention to detail in this hotel. Belmond Reid’s Palace is dramatically perched on a rugged cliff face and behind the pink walls the interiors ooze 1920’s glamour and timeless elegance.

Read our full review of Belmond Reid’s Palace.

The Vine Hotel – 5 Star 

If you prefer more contemporary luxury, The Vine Hotels offers a sleek and sophisticated hotel experience in the heart of Funchal. The hotel is designed by renowned Portuguese designer Ninh Andrade Silva and represents a modern aesthetic inspired by Madeira’s wine culture. Vibrant colours feature in the rooms and suites and the hotel’s rooftop infinity pool boasts spectacular panoramic views of the city and coastline. There’s also no shortage of fine dining cuisine paired with the best wines on the island. 

Quinta da Casa Branca – 4 Star Boutique

This beautiful boutique hotel is nestled amongst lush botanical gardens and offers guests a little oasis in the heart of bustling Funchal. Rooms and suites are elegantly designed have private balconies overlooking the botanical gardens or the Atlantic Ocean. Enjoy a poolside cocktail or dine on gourmet dishes at The Dining Room restaurant. Quinta da Casa Branca offers a boutique hotel experience with great attention to detail. 

The NEXT Hotel at Savoy Signature – 4 Star Boutique 

The NEXT at Savoy Signature is a blissful beachfront hotel designed with adventurous tech-savvy travellers in mind. The hotel has direct access to the ocean, luxury spa facilities, a pool with a unique underwater sound system and a chic rooftop bar and rooftop pool with beautiful coastline views. Wi-Fi is free throughout the hotel and everything is just a short walk from Funchal’s charming Old Town and scenic harbour. It’s also the winner of a Trip Advisor Traveller’s Choice Award for 2023. 

Hotel Madeira – 3 Star Budget

If you’re seeking comfort and affordability, Hotel Madeira is a great option providing really good value for money in Funchal. It’s located in the town centre and within talking distance of all the top attractions. Guests receive a complimentary breakfast buffet and access to the hotel’s rooftop pool. 

Browse all hotels in Madeira

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Madeira Nightlife

It’s important to know that there are no beaches in Madeira, and the nightlife and clubbing scene is minimal. Because of this, Madeira attracts an older demographic, which is immediately apparent when you travel there. So honestly speaking, if you’re dreaming of nightclubs and sandy beaches then it’s probably not the right destination for you. However, Madeira has so much to offer and if you’re looking for a relaxing, scenic and glamorous getaway with endless European charm, Madeira might just tick all of your boxes.

The Verdict on Madeira

The main thing that amazed me about Madeira was the weather. Madeira weather in November is gorgeous; we had bright blue skies and sunshine every day. You could sunbathe, swim in the sea and take a dip in the pool, so for that reason it truly is a winter sun destination. There are beautiful viewpoints, lush gardens, and towns to explore. Hiring a car for mini-road trips would be a great option if you’re visiting for a week or so.

What did you think of my Island Guide to Madeira? Have you considered going to Madeira before now or are you planning a trip? If you enjoyed this post or found it useful, please leave me a comment in the box below! If you’re looking for more travel inspo, make sure to check out our destination guides.

This post has been sponsored as part of collaboration with Classic Collection Holidays. All views are my own.

Jessica Ruth Gibson is the Founder and Editor of Travelista and an award-winning travel content creator of 10 years. She lives in York, UK with her son and has travelled to over 50 countries; her favourites being Italy, Canada and Vietnam.

12 Comments

  • Hi Jess,

    Thank you so much for sharing this! My husband and I are going to Madeira for the first time in March and so excited. Do you have links to your outfits or any packing tips for Madeira? Love all of your outfits!

  • After visiting Madeira, it is worth visiting the neighboring Porto Santo. 9 km of beautiful golden yellow beach is worth it

  • I would never have thought of visiting either but it’s truly beautiful!

    • Isn’t it just! It sounds like this post has made lots of people consider Madeira who would have never thought to go before. So pleased about that! 🙂 x

  • Ohhhhh, it looks so pretty! Also, I love all of your outfits in this post – it made me really miss summer and pretty dresses! x
    Sophie Cliff

    • Ahh thank you Sophie! You’re right, it’s so nice to just throw on a pretty dress and enjoy the sun. Now it’s back to lots of layers hats and scarfs for me! Hope to meet you soon xx 🙂

  • Madeira looks STUNNING, as do you btw! Love all the shots you’re in 🙂 Would love to visit here! Love AP xo

    Andrea’s Passions

    • Thanks so much Andrea! Make sure Madeira is on your list, it’s the perfect place for sunshine in springtime and winter. I couldn’t believe this was the weather in November. Happy Travels 🙂 xx

  • Really loved watching your video….it worked….you’ve made me want to visit Madeira now 🙂 xx

    • Hey love! Thank you for the feedback this is so great to hear! Make sure Madeira is firmly fixed on your list 🙂

  • Madeira looks stunning! Definitely type of place I’d love to visit. Thanks for sharing Jess xx

    • Hey Margita! Thanks for your comment. If you’re anything like me you will love Madeira 🙂 such an underrated little corner of Europe xx

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