Read this guide if you want the inside scoop on the best restaurants in Madeira and what to eat when you’re there.
Madeira is 35 miles long and 13 miles wide with 99 miles of coastline. The views are spectacular but it’s all rocks and cliffs, so you won’t find beaches. There are a few highways that run through the island, so it’s pretty easy to get around. But get a rental car or you’ll be paying a lot for taxis or spending all your time waiting for the bus.
Below is a list of tasty Madeira restaurants – some are good for a snack or drink before dinner while others we recommend as a meal. Except for the places we suggest for lunch or a snack, make reservations to be safe. If you want the full descriptions of the restaurants a day-by-day guide to best activities don’t forget to check out the Travel Honey Madeira itinerary. Also get a list of tips for each meal (like most restaurants are closed on Sundays) and must try dishes at the end of this guide.
BEST RESTAURANTS IN MADEIRA – FUNCHAL
Funchal is the largest city in Madeira and home to the majority of the best restaurants in Madeira, which is why we suggest staying at least a couple days in Funchal unless you really want to get away from people. Funchal’s charming streets are lined with historic 2-3 floor buildings. You’ll find the most variety and innovation at Funchal restaurants, so go there if you want to try different culinary styles.
The city center is divided by streets that make a V-shape. To the east of the V is Old Town, which has narrow cobblestone streets. To the west, you’ll also find older construction, but it’s not quite as charming and there’s a mix of modern buildings. It gets very steep as you go north, so you’ll find great views but expect tired legs if you decide to walk!
TIPS ON EATING & DRINKING IN THE BEST RESTAURANTS IN MADEIRA
Meals are a lot cheaper than in the U.S., especially wine.
Like at many European restaurants, meals in the best restaurants in Madeira are not a rushed affair. You may have to flag down your waiter to order another bottle of wine and you’ll likely not get the check without asking. Enjoy the slower pace and don’t be afraid to politely waive your hand and make a request.
A lot of places would automatically give you bottled water – if you want tap water, ask for agua de torneira (faucet water).
Like in most European countries, you’re typically served free snacks with your drinks (nuts, chips, etc.).
If you want tuna rare like in the U.S., your best best is showing a photo of what you want.
There are not many places to get take away coffee.
Madeira is very popular with older Europeans, who sometimes eat dinner early, so you may have better luck getting into a restaurant later in the evening.
WHAT TO EAT & DRINK IN THE BEST RESTAURANTS IN MADEIRA
Bola de Caco. A round loaf of bread made in part from sweet potatoes and cooked on a hot stone then slathered in garlic butter.
Octopus. Start with an octopus salad, but if you’re a little more adventurous, get it grilled as a main dish. So tasty slightly charred with some lemon!
Fish of the day. Restaurants typically list a variety of fish but may only have whatever they get fresh that day. Get it, it’s usually very good! If you’re cost conscious, though, ask the price because it may be more expensive than what’s on the menu. Also, tuna is not traditionally served rare (see above for tip on how to order).
Limpets. Clam-like mollusks that are usually served grilled but with a bit of a garlic sauce. They can be tough and if you don’t like too much of a seafood flavor, you might want to skip these.
Espetada. Meat, bay leaves, and garlic on a stick and grilled on an open fire.
Fruit. Lots of exotic fruit grow in Madeira, but try the little banana. The EU put a size requirement on bananas, so you can only find them on Madeira!
Poncha. A local drink made from aguardente de cana (a strong alcohol made from sugar cane), honey and different fruit juices.
Madeira wine. Sort of like a port; it can vary from sweet to a dry.
Portuguese wine. It’s great and very affordable, try the vinho verde!
We hope you’re now equipped to choose the best Funchal restaurant and find good options on the rest of Madeira island. If you want to see all these restaurants on a map, get a link to photos of the restaurant and menus, and more detailed lists on what to eat, it’s included with the Travel Honey Madeira itinerary. You’ll also get a day-by-day guide to the best activities.
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