Defined by its striking black-and-white tiling, Funchal’s main square is surrounded by some of the city’s most interesting historic attractions.
Funchal’s Town Square is a bustling hub of activity, lined with beautiful checkered cobblestones and bordered by grand whitewashed buildings. In addition to being a lovely civic center, the square is an ideal starting point for visiting several attractions, including the Sacred Art Museum, City Hall and the former Jesuit College.
Notice the square’s distinctive black-and-white paving, a series of half-moon cobblestones made from lava rock. The pattern continues onto the black-stone-trimmed buildings that surround the square. Admire the prominent fountain that dominates the square’s center.
Look on the west side of the square to find Igreja do Colégio, the former Jesuit College and church. The Jesuits, a wealthy brotherhood of missionary priests, owned a number of wine estates in Madeira and managed the institution in the 17th century. Inside, look for frescos, ceramic tiles, beautiful 17th- and 18th-century paintings and an exquisite high altar, framed by carved wood overlaid with gold leaf.
Walk to the opposite side of the square to see the city’s stately town hall, Câmara Municipal. Built in the mid-18th century, this building originally served as the Count of Carvalhal’s residence. Explore the building’s central courtyard to find a marble statue depicting the Greek myth of Leda and the swan. The walls are lined with azulejos (traditional Portuguese tiles). Stop at the small museum inside the building, which examines the history of the city through a series of photographs.
Don’t miss the Sacred Art Museum and its impressive collection of sculptures, paintings and gold items dating from the 15th through 19th centuries. The museum is noted for its remarkable paintings by Flemish masters, which were commissioned by affluent merchants during the height of the 16th-century sugar trade between Funchal and Antwerp. The 15th-century gold-plated Processional Cross is particularly impressive.
Explore Funchal’s city center easily on foot. The Town Square is located off the northwestern corner of the lively local market at Praça do Comércio.