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Top 15 Things to Buy in Funchal

When you take a European cruise, you’ll also have the opportunity to cruise to Funchal, a gorgeous city in Portugal. Funchal is the capital city of Portugal’s autonomous region of Madeira, which means this region has political and administrative freedom from other parts of Portugal.

Your day-long stop in Funchal will include time to stroll the town, see the region and purchase some keepsakes.

Portugal might be well-known for its port wine, but it’s also known for many other souvenirs and gifts that you can take home for yourself, family and friends.

From its towns filled with ornate, fairytale architecture to its colorful, lush gardens, Portugal showcases a rustic charm where you’ll find hidden gems and off-the-beaten path treasures you’ll want to take home.

Here are 15 ideas for things you can find and buy in Funchal’s small shops and open-air markets.

a fishing village near funchal, portugal

1. Madeiran Traditional Boots

If you’d like to go home with a pair of boots that’ll last you forever, seek out a pair of traditional Madeiran boots while you’re in Funchal. Traditional boots also come in updated and more contemporary designs that you can wear daily. These boots are sturdy, waterproof and highly durable, and comfortable enough to walk extra-long distances. These boots are a must-buy!

2. Cork

Though many wineries around the world are switching from real cork to cork-free alternatives, that’s not so in Portugal. Known as the world’s top cork producer, thanks to its abundant cork forests, Portuguese wineries cork all their wines produced in the region with real cork.

Over the years, Portuguese artisans have also become more creative using cork in everyday items besides wine bottles. Given cork’s versatility as a material — it is lightweight, flexible and waterproof — modern products made from real Portuguese cork range from handbags, wallets, tablet covers, shoes and even umbrellas.

cork backpacks for sale at a portuguese market


3. Dried Flower Jewelry

Funchal is a city filled with the vividly-colored flowers and gardens. A lovely way to bring home a piece of the island’s beauty is with dried flower jewelry.

This jewelry is made by drying and preserving the flower and then finishing it with resin so it lasts. You can find dried flower necklaces in Funchal’s jewelry stores around the town.

4. Wicker in Camacha

You’ll find plenty of wicker baskets, exquisite furniture and other decorative wicker items in Funchal. To buy wicker directly from where it is grown, head to the small village of Camacha outside Funchal to see the willow-growing capital of the world.

Camacha is a short bus or taxi ride from Funchal and it is well worth the trip.  Here, you’ll see how artisans transform a willow rod into a functional object of beauty. If you plan on purchasing a large item, many sellers will ship a piece directly to your home.

a basket weaver in camacha

5. Beauty Products and Soaps

Portuguese beauty products and soaps tend to be made of all-natural ingredients. If you love French products, you’ll see similarities in the quality of Portuguese beauty products and soaps, all of which you can buy in Funchal. Fragrant beauty bars and soaps come wrapped in lovely, ornamental papers and are ideal for gift-giving.

6. Decorative Ceramics

Funchal’s ceramic stores and potteries are filled with decorative ceramic items from ornately carved plates to handcrafted and hand-painted pitchers. If you love to collect ceramics, you’ve come to the right place. Also, many of the sellers will ship your items directly to your home so you don’t need to lug them back to your ship, so be sure to ask.

colorful, ceramic, terracotta plates at a market in portugal

7. Artisanal Chocolates

Pairing Funchal’s artisanal chocolates and port wine together make a most memorable gourmet treat for you, your friends and family back home. Funchal has numerous chocolate shops in town, and artisans even offer personalized gifts. Just ask the chocolatiers to engrave chocolates with a personalized design.

Also, Make sure you purchase chocolates that are pre-packaged and unopened for the safety of all guests.

8. Embroidery

Shops in Funchal are known for high-quality embroidered goods, crafted by skilled artisans who diligently work out of their homes to create masterpieces of all kinds. From intricately, embroidered tablecloths to napkins, you’ll find stylish and practical gifts you can take home and dine with whenever the occasion calls for it.

Authentic Portuguese embroidery sold in Funchal will have a label verifying its quality. Funchal’s embroidered goods will be one of the best luxury splurges you’ve ever made.

monogramed handkerchiefs that were found in portugal

9. Sugar Cane Honey Cookies

A gift of Madeiran sugar cane honey cookies symbolizes the giving and receiving of good memories. Though it’s a simple cookie made of wheat flour, eggs and honey, it can be customized with distinctive spices such as anise or fennel. Every bakery in Funchal has its specialty version.

Make sure you purchase cookies that are pre-packaged and unopened so you can bring them aboard the ship.

10. Music

No matter the occasion or location, Funchal is filled with music of all kinds. You might catch street musicians playing live music or traditional folklore dancers twirling about in town. Or, you might stumble across a band playing in one of Funchal’s Old Town restaurants, or see Fado singers in music bars.

You can recreate the musical vibe of Funchal back home when you grab a CD of traditional folk or famous melancholic Fado music while you’re in town.

a fado musician playing a portuguese guitar

11. Drink Sticks

To make poncha, the traditional, drink of Portugal, you’ll need the right drink stick to stir all that sugar cane around before you start sipping.

Poncha is actually an old-time drink that fishermen created to warm them up on cold days on the coast. The original drink is made with sugar cane aguardente, or firewater, white rum, lemon and honey.

Today’s rendition uses fruit juices instead of lemon. Natives say that the magic of the drink is in the “pau de poncha,” a carved stick made from the wood of orange trees used to blend and flavor the drink.

Pick up a pack of pau de ponchas for your next cocktail party, and don’t forget the recipe for poncha — it’ll wow the socks off your guests back home.

12. Azulejos

Colorfully-painted Portuguese ceramic tile, known as azulejos, can be found throughout Funchal on exterior facades of buildings and interior flooring. You can also find shops that sell new, replica or antique tiles in various forms, from single tiles for home use to azulejos jewelry.

Azulejos, often with Madeira-themed scenes, are also fashioned into Christmas ornaments and make lovely mementos and gifts.

azulejo tiles on display with ceramic pottery


13. Portuguese Shoes

If boots aren’t your style, maybe a pair of classic yet sophisticated Portuguese leather shoes will wow you. Rivaling Italian footwear in quality, these shoes are crafted from famous Portuguese leather and will last you almost forever.

Portuguese shoes are cut larger than Italian styles, which is good news for those with hard-to-fit feet. If you’d like to invest in a pair, look for hand-sewn shoes in one of the many shoe shops in Funchal.

14. Wine

If you still aren’t sure what to take home from Funchal to your friends and family, there’s always the famed port wines of Madeira. Carnival allows you to bring one 750-ml bottle per adult if you’re over 21 years of age, but check with the cruise staff just to make sure.

Loved Portugal so much after visiting Funchal that you want to see more of Portugal? Beyond Funchal, you can take a European Carnival cruise to the cosmopolitan city of Lisbon, the historic seaport of Leixões (Porto) or the volcanic marvel of Ponta Delgada (Azores).

an old fashioned porto wine cell in portugal

15. Portuguese Preserves

Bring home a taste of Funchal with sweet Portuguese preserves. Look for pumpkin, fig and tomato jams, which are popular Portuguese favorites.

Make sure you purchase preserves that are pre-packaged and unopened. You’ll be able to open them once you reach your home port.

At the end of the day, whichever part of Portugal you decided to visit, feel free to shop till you drop, then treat yourself to a freshly baked Portuguese pastel de natas before boarding for the next leg of your cruise.