Guide: Winter in Madeira

Words by Belmond Editors

Guide: Winter in Madeira

For the discerning traveller, the mountains of Funchal make the perfect backdrop for the festive season – paired with, of course, a stunning finale at Reid’s Palace.

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Festive Delicacies

Warming, hearty treats are on the island’s menus in the cooler months. Keep an eye out for ‘Carne Vinha d’Alhos,’ a festive speciality made with garlic, wine and pork. A spicy honey cake, ‘Bolo de mel,’ is also a seasonal favourite.

Don’t miss the 'Cozido à Portuguesa'. This stew is one of Portugal’s most famous, featuring meats, sausages and vegetables slow cooked to perfection. Why not wash your meal down with homemade liqueur, such as the wine-based ‘tin tan tum’?

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Local Christmas Celebrations

Madeira’s markets have an extra-special festive charm in the winter months. Head to Avenida Arriaga, which is decked out in lights and decorations for a truly magical atmosphere in December. You’ll also find many traditional ‘lapinha’ dotted around the island in the winter months. These special nativity scenes show baby Jesus on top of a flight of steps, decorated with fruit.

Thousands of shining lights will make the streets of Funchal sparkle. Even the mountains are home to creative light displays that twinkle in the distance.

A simple and tasteful Christmas wreath made with latticed wood, fir sprigs and gold and red baubles, tied with red ribbon.

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Rare Wildlife

The waters around Madeira are teeming with life all year, but between November and February some especially rare cetacean species can be spotted. Short-beaked common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and short-finned pilot whales can be found breaking through the waves. The mild ocean temperatures also make diving a popular sport at any time of year.

View from across the water of a pod of dolphins leaping above the waves

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Celebrations at Reid’s Palace

Festivities at Reid's are taken seriously. From mid-December, the hotel magically transforms into an authentic Christmas wonderland. Every day there's reason to cheer with Christmas carols, story time under the tree for little ones and cookie-making classes to give guests some festive spirit.

Discover Reid's Palace
A tall Christmas tree, with baubles and tinsel in red and gold, creates a true festive splash in the white marble lobby.

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A Dazzling New Year’s Eve

Funchal’s mountainous setting provides the perfect stage for one of the most beautiful fireworks displays in the world. The pyrotechnic show lasts for about eight minutes, with fireworks being set off from several points in the city. This magnificent spectacle was internationally recognised in 2006 by the Guinness Book of Records as "the largest fireworks show in the world".

A collection of fireworks lighting up the night sky over Funchal Bay

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