Barceló Funchal Oldtown, an urban oasis where you can discover the traditions of Madeira’s culture

From gastronomy to the art of embroidery: we unravel all the experiences that this hotel has to offer from the heart of Madeira.

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We became guests of the Barceló Funchal Oldtown hotel for a weekend to explore the grandeur of the island from the historic centre of Funchal. A privileged enclave surrounded by nature, monuments and beauty represented from the ocean to historic buildings such as the Funchal Cathedral and the Avenida do Mar. There we were able to experience the holiday spirit that extends throughout the year, not only because of its mild climate, but also because of the energy and hedonistic spirit that connects its citizens and tourists.

A former embroidery factory

An old embroidery factory An aesthetic that is interwoven with the tradition of embroidery through historical objects integrated into its decoration; an identity expanded through all its spaces and restaurants in which references to the centuries-old technique and the island’s wickerwork are served.

All these elements harmonise with one purpose: to keep alive the essence of its past through Madeiran craftsmanship and traditional architecture. The hotel’s infrastructure is based on six 17th century buildings, one of which was the headquarters of the Oliveira Bordados Enmaderienses factory. Another of them belonged to the Blandy’s family, the main pioneer of the Madeira wine trade and one of the largest producers in the world today.

These traditions and influences would be channelled into an elegant hotel with a rooftop terrace with panoramic views of the Atlantic: the so-called B-Heaven, or its own conceived paradise with a heated infinity pool in which to enjoy the sun, its Balinese sunbeds and views of all of Funchal.

Gastronomy ‘Made in Madeira’

The Atlantic can be drunk and tasted from the tables of its restaurant Noz Café. A space with a tropical interior design that bases its gastronomic proposal on the concept of ‘all day dining’ through a menu that offers healthy dishes in slow mode.

Diners can sit at one of its tables and enjoy its ode to Madeiran gastronomy at any time of the day. A tribute that materialises in the form of innovative and original dishes such as their cauliflower popcorn with sirasha mayonnaise or their creamed corn in which local flavours and ingredients are mixed. A fusion that is also transferred to meats such as the Iberian pluma prego marinated with Japanese spices or the beef cheeks marinated in Madeira wine and shisho.

Fish such as its ceviche with market products or its delicious red tuna with mango sauce and soy mayonnaise also dazzle in its menu along with other proposals with which to discover the essence of the island’s typical dishes with KM0 ingredients.

The hotel also has another gastronomic space called ‘A Bordadeira‘, where you can enjoy its fresh breakfasts framed under the B-LikEat concept: an organic buffet of seasonal and local food that displays tropical fruits, local sausages, pastries or typical products such as its ‘broas de Madeira’ honey biscuits.

The art of embroidery

The reinvention of traditional Madeiran embroidery has become one of the great challenges for contemporary ‘bordadeiras’. Embroidery, which is woven into the walls of the hotel to be immortalised as one of its identifying signs, is also extolled by one of the most renowned embroidery factories on the island: Bordal, which, having been founded in 1962, continues to this day to be the main manufacturer and exporter of Madeira’s famous embroidery.

At its headquarters, located very close to the hotel, the tourist or local has the option of scheduling a visit to its ‘historical route of Madeira embroidery’ which traces the different stages of Madeira embroidery production. There you can witness the whole process of handicraft production live.

At the same time, the updating of traditional embroidery is presented as a concept that the Portuguese firm BEHÉN has brought to the stage of high fashion. Its creative director, Joana Duarte, has managed to connect the art of embroidery with the new generations through her upcycling projects and designs that address the new dynamics demanded of the clothing business.

Based on this identity connection with embroidery, BEHÉN joined forces with Barceló Funchal Oldtown to create a capsule collection consisting of shopping bags made with old fabrics from old edrovons rescued from markets in Portugal. This is available in a permanent pop up inside the hotel for guests and clients.

Madeira Guide: the essentials

In addition to all the hedonistic experiences that the hotel has to offer, one of the typical Madeiran products that you must try is, without a doubt, poncha: a drink that dilutes sugar cane spirit, molasses, cane sugar and lemon juice.

Among the highlights of Madeira, surrounded by a natural landscape of forests and cliffs, is the cable car ride to Funchal, where you can enjoy a panoramic view of the entire ‘garden city’ and the symbiosis between the rural environment and the city through its houses, orchards, gardens and the bay that surrounds it.

From the top of the hill in Funchal, another must-see is Madeira’s Monte Palace Tropical Garden, an enclave where you can escape into exotic nature and discover the island’s architecture, art and flora fused with oriental-inspired elements. In addition, this botanical garden has a collection of tiles and a large number of fauna with majestic swans, peacocks and Asian koi fish.

Just a few metres away, you can also enjoy a unique experience: the Carreiros do Monte. Another of the island’s traditions that continues to this day, with which you can glide down steep slopes in a frenzied manner on basket carts driven by the ‘carreiros’. These historic characters, who used the carts to transport food and other objects quickly to Funchal since 1849, have become one of Madeira’s main attractions.

Descending from the heights to a more earthly plane, the Lavradores Market is another key tourist spot for food lovers. A project by Edmundo Tavares that surprises with its eclecticism, tiles and two floors where you can find all the typical Madeira products, charcuterie, fish, fruit and vegetables with all the flavours and colours of Madeira.

The experiential icing on the cake of this trip is provided by GAZEBO, one of the island’s authentic culinary places to be. This is the island’s trendiest restaurant, which started out by organising clandestine dinners for friends in an evocative house decorated in a minimalist style.

At GAZEBO Experience’s house, located in the centre of Funchal, they have fruit trees, vegetables, herbs, edible flowers and even coffee plants that they transfer to their dishes. From the garden to the table. An eco-sustainable philosophy with which its chef Felipe Janeiro creates a seasonal tasting menu of 6 to 9 dishes that pays tribute to regional products.