Madeira is undoubtedly one of Europe’s most underrated destinations to spend New Year. Sure, it’s a little more low key than some of Western Europe’s other capitals but it also boasts one of the best midnight firework displays in the world. Here’s a little taste of what it’s like to spend New Year in Maderia…
On 30 December, we arrived at our home for the week. The beautiful apartment in Machico, my dad’s birthplace and a town situated around 30 minutes from the capital Funchal, boasts a wraparound balcony perfect for catching some sun.
After a quick visit to my grandparents and some dinner, we all had a super early night so we were prepared for New Years Eve.
The next morning, I had my breath completely taken away by the incredible sunrise over the bay. After a quick breakfast of freshly baked bread rolls from the bakery underneath the apartment, we were headed back to Funchal to pick up my maternal grandma and her sister. When they heard we were going away for New Year, they booked a cruise which would take them to Madeira for two days.
Renting a car is one of the easiest ways to get around Madeira, although beware of some crazy driving, steep hills and hairpin bends! The beautiful but very quiet town of Canical is one of my favourite stops for its picturesque houses along the waterfront. It’s worth the drive winding roads along clifftops with barely-there safety barriers (if you’re lucky) to see this peaceful place.
After a long lazy lunch by the sea, we returned to walk along the pier in Funchal as they boarded their ship for dinner and to watch the fireworks from sea.
With hours remaining, we walked through the streets and felt quite festive – Christmas is in full swing here until 6 January. We watched a display of traditional dancers (and a drunk man on the sidelines joining in with every step), took a sneaky trip to H&M and sat down for a milkshake when our legs grew tired.
You might notice a slightly more unusual nativity scene in Madeira: their setups are based on the island with the one in the photo above featuring traditional dancers and oddly, a pig being hung and slaughtered. Festive, yes?
We met up with some family friends for dinner on the seafront which meant we were already in prime position for the fireworks. With massive portions of espetada to share (steak on a skewer) and a delicious chocolate mousse to finish, it was time to ring in the New Year.
The fireworks are set off from various points on the hills surrounding Funchal so if you’re standing on the pier, you get a completely panoramic view. What a beautiful way to say hello to a brand new year!