VISITORS GUIDE: CULTURE OF MADEIRA
Madeira is more than just a beautiful island. The islands have a rich history and culture that visitors can explore while they’re there. A visit to the island can be about more than just canyons! Whether you’re interested in learning about the local wine production or checking out some of the unique architecture, Madeira has something for everyone.
ORIGINS AND DISCOVERY OF MADEIRA
The Madeiras are a Portuguese archipelago located in the North Atlantic Ocean, about 900 km west of Morocco. They are made up of the main island of Madeira, plus two other islands, Porto Santo and the Desertas.
The islands have a long and colorful history. They were first discovered by Portuguese explorers in 1419 and were soon after colonized by the Portuguese. The islands played a strategic role in the Age of Exploration and were a popular stop for sailors traveling to and from Africa and South America.
CULTURAL INFLUENCES ON THE ISLAND
The culture of Madeira has been heavily influenced by its geography. The island is isolated from the mainlands of Europe, Africa, and South America, which has resulted in a unique and distinct culture.
One of the most notable cultural influences on the island is the wine culture. Madeira is known for its wine, which is produced using unique methods that have been passed down for generations. The wine is heated and then stored in casks that are exposed to the sun. This process gives the wine its distinctive flavor and color.
LOCAL CUISINE: DELIGHTFUL DISHES FROM MADEIRA
The cuisine of Madeira is a delicious mix of European and African flavors, with a focus on fresh fruits and seafood. Many of the dishes are seasoned with locally grown herbs, and you’ll find a lot of traditional recipes that have been passed down through the generations.
One dish you’ll want to try is called caldeirada. It’s a Portuguese fish stew that typically includes a variety of seafood such as cod, monkfish, prawns, and clams. The stew is prepared with onions, garlic, tomatoes, green bell peppers, and white wine, and served with rice or potatoes.
Another popular dish is espetada. This is a type of kebab that’s made with cubes of beef or pork that are marinated in garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. The meat is then skewered and grilled and served with Madeira sauce (a type of gravy made with onions, garlic, tomatoes, white wine, and beef stock).
RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS AND BELIEFS
The most widespread practice is Catholicism. It’s a part of their culture and history which is evident in their churches; many of them are centuries old and filled with ornate artwork. Every district celebrates its patron saint, which is why pilgrimages are a part of everyday life here in Madeira.
The island also has strong ties to Judaism, with many synagogues scattered throughout. Here you can learn about the customs surrounding Passover as well as other traditions unique to this community. You can also see firsthand how different cultures mingle without conflict or judgment – a testament to harmony on the island.
ART AND ARCHITECTURE
A visit to Madeira wouldn’t be complete without exploring the island’s art and architecture. You won’t have to look too hard—it’s everywhere. From stunning churches and chapels to unique art galleries, there’s no shortage of eye-catching sights.
Funchal is known for its marvelous 18th-century architecture and is home to several churches, including the Church of Our Lady of the Monte and the Church of Santa Maria Madeira. You can also find a few unique art galleries throughout the city, like Casa das Mudas Arts Center, which features modern sculptures and artwork.
Elsewhere in Madeira, you can find traditional wood carvings and colorful tiles that are hand-painted with intricate designs. One of the best places to experience this type of artistry is in Santana, a small town nestled in the northeast corner of the island. Santana is known for its cobblestone streets lined with brightly-colored houses—and it’s a must-see spot during your visit.
NOTABLE ATTRACTIONS TO VISIT
Once you’ve had a chance to explore the capital, be sure not to miss out on some of the unique attractions the island has to offer. One of these is undoubtedly the Monte Palace Tropical Garden, an incredible botanical garden right above Funchal, which is home to thousands of species of plants and flowers from around the world. Then there’s Cabo Girão, a 550-meter high sea cliff offering breathtaking views of the nearby islands and ocean.
And don’t forget about Se Cathedral, one of Funchal’s most iconic churches which were built in 1493 in Gothic style. Alternatively, Pico does Arieiro is one of Madeira’s highest points offering amazing panoramic views that are well worth checking out. There’s also Porto Moniz where you can find natural pools full of fish and other marine pets carved from black volcanic rocks on the small beach with crystal clear waters perfect for swimming.
If you’re looking for an interesting and exotic destination to explore, why not consider Madeira? This beautiful island has a rich history and culture that is well worth discovering.