Funchal Old Town and Inspiring Story of its Painted Doors

Funchal Old Town and Inspiring Story of its Painted Doors

Funchal Old Town Painted Doors on Rua de Santa Maria have a great story behind it. Here is why you should experience it during your travels to Madeira.

Funchal Old Town (Zona Velha) is not exactly a hidden gem, yet for many years it wasn’t on the traveller’s to-see list. In fact, it used to be a bad neighbourhood avoided by tourists. This changed when to revitalize the area, the local council organized an art project that was meant to “bring life” to this historical area. And it was a great success. Funchal Old Town Painted Doors on Rua de Santa Maria became one of the most visited attractions of Funchal, Madeira.

The Funchal Old Town is a place of great historical importance in Madeira as this is where one of the first settlements sprung up. Characterized by narrow cobblestone streets and featuring Corpo Santo Chapel, one of the few 15th-century buildings that have survived until today, Funchal Old Town was wasting away for many decades.

The project called “The Art of Open Doors”  (“Arte de Portas Abertas”) was initiated in 2010 by photographer José Maria Zyberchem in order to make Funchal Old Town a centre of art and as a result, the area became a hun for


Funchal Old Town
Funchal Old Town

Funchal Old Town
Funchal Old Town


Funchal Old Town Painted Doors


Many local artists were invited and asked to ‘do something nice’ with nearly 200 doors into houses, restaurants, shops and galleries. The idea was to create a piece of work that invites people into something deeper.  More and more artists signed up to be part of the project and the result was incredible.

Not only did Funchal Old Town Painted Doors become one of the best attractions of the city but new restaurants began to open and this once sleepy area became alive and vibrant.

You can read about the artists and see the map of the paintings on The arT of oPEn doORs website.

There are many other things to do and see in Funchal Old Town

Things to see in Funchal Old Town

These days, nightlife in the Funchal Old Town is a great attraction. Make sure you visit and take a stroll down the Rua de Santa Maria. Some of the best restaurants are located here and I absolutely loved the relaxed atmosphere of this cobblestone street. 

You can enjoy traditional Madeiran food like Filete de Espada (Scabbard Fish Filet often served with banana !!!) or Lapas (Limpets) or grilled tuna steak. This is also where you will find a few of the most popular sushi restaurants.

Once there, make sure to pop in for a drink at the very popular amongst locals Barreirinha Bar Café which is one of the best bars in Funchal for sea views. They serve a great selection of wine, and the food is also great. I was a regular visitor 🙂

You can take a walk down the nearby sea promenade and watch the sunset or simply chill on a beach. This promenade will take you all the way to the central part of the town.

Funchal Old Town is also where the Funchal Cable Car station is located. It will take you all the way to Monte Palace Tropical Garden – which is another must-see when in Funchal.

There are plenty of accommodation options in the area as well. I stayed in a great hostel located on Rua de Santa Maria but if you fancy a bit of luxury there are quite a few boutique hotels spread across the Old Town.

Still, please be aware that during busy times it can get noisy and bustling. But if you like to be close to the restaurants, and bars and don’t mind the noise – it’s a great area to stay.

Things to see in Funchal Old Town
Things to see in Funchal Old Town

You cannot say you have been to Funchal if you haven’t visited Funchal Old Town and didn’t see its Painted Doors. I bet, once you visit, you will keep coming back for more, just like I did.

Exploring more of Madeira?

If you are staying in Funchal, check out my article about the best day trips you can take from Funchal both by public transport and by car including one to Camara do Lobos!

If you are wondering where to stay in Madeira I have a complete overview of the best areas and accommodation recommendations for you.

And if you are planning on doing some hikes in Madeira you should check out my post listing all the best hikes in Madeira you can do without renting a car.

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