Madeira, voted island of the year, has quietly undergone a rejuvenation process.
All the traditional elements are still there: the levadas, home grown exotic fruits, the wines, embroderies and traditional design such as folk dancers and hand braided baskets. But everything is done with a modern twist, still rooted on the island.
The designer and Madeira born Nini Andrade Silva http://www.ninidesigncentre.com/pt has inspired a new generation of Madeira entrepreneurs, now opening boutique hostels, bars and restaurants.
Above, you see The Vine hotel and it’s roof top pool pool and bar, now with followers such as Castanheiro.
The trend with boutique hostels has resulted in cozy ans cool 29 Madeira Hostel as well as Hostel Santa Maria, pics below. http://www.santamariafunchal.com/ Here you will find traditional elements, but used in a new way, such as the hand made baskets used as lamps or around mirrors. Old furniture is often combined with high tech lighting.
The old part of Funchal, until recently slum, is now packed with restaurants, garden bars and trendy hangouts.
The indeed very traditional and absolutely magnificent hand made embroderies from Bordal were used for the Chanel haute couture collection not long ago.
I went for a workshop at Bordal, trying myself. A disaster, looking at my own performance, but it does create respect for those women, equally artists, behind each stitch. http://www.bordal.pt
The paths along the old irrigation channels, the levadas, are all but easy, if you choose so.
The mountains and valleys of Madeira are nowadays also filled with downhill cyclists, hikers, canyoning-youngsters and yoga-babes watching the sunrise.
Food and beverage has improved tremendously; there are several Guide Michelin-starred restaurants and an increasing interest in locally grown produce.
A favourite bar is Mercearia Dona Mecia with poncha and some beans in garlic and oil.
Don’t miss the passion fruit poncha and local passion fruit soda Brisa. The tasty meat sandwiches Prego are perfect after a hike in the mountains.
If you are celebrating or just want a smart and traditional five star experience with stunning botanic gardens around the quinta, have a look at http://www.jardins-lago.com
And finally, Belmond Reid’s Palace is still the grand old lady of Funchal, recently refurbished changing entrance and breakfast facilities. https://www.belmond.com/hotels/europe/portugal/madeira/belmond-reids-palace/
The Italian restaurant Cipriani, belonging to Reid’s but also bookable separately, is soooo romantic.