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Ponta Delgada began as a simple fishing village whose fishermen were once attracted by its safe coves, but soon began to play the role of main port of the São Miguel Island.
The city grew and in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the convents, churches and manor houses flourished and still today they integrate the historic centre.
Ponta Delgada is today a cosmopolitan city, outward looking, with a lively economic and cultural life. The extensive coastline road, which borders the harbour and the sea outlining the city, is the expression of its dynamism, adapting to new times and also the access road to the city.
Boasting a history of over five centuries and precious testimonies of the past, Ponta Delgada is a multifaceted city where tradition lives hand-in-hand with the present cosmopolitanism and the wholesome tranquility of the Azorean life.
Sao Miguel is the largest island, known for its lush vegetation, its quiet countryside and the flowering shorelines of its lakes.
This island features two excellent 18 hole golf courses with all modern facilities and is becoming increasingly popular with golf buffs.
When in Ponta Delgada be sure to visit the Igreja de São Sebastião, the Igreja de São Pedro and Igreja São José, the Convent and Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Esperança, the Tesouro do Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres, the Carlos Machado Museum, the City Gates and the Jose do Canto Garden.
At whatever time of year, its mild climate makes Funchal the ideal destination for a short break. There are many places to visit in this 500-year old city, several that cannot be missed.
Funchal, the capital of the Madeira archipelago, was declared a city in the 1500s, and became an important point between the old and new worlds. The laid-back city owes much of its historical prominence to the white gold, the Madeiran sugar.
Today Funchal is known for its appealing temperatures, wine and crafts. Top spots to visit include the open Worker’s Market, Blandy’s Wine Lodge and the Sacred Art Museum. Friendly locals, walkable streets and cheap taxis make the city easy to get around.
The best way to visit the Funchal’s historic city centre is to do it by foot. The tour begins at the Gothic Cathedral, built in the 16th century. Upon entering, look up to admire the precious alfarge ceiling (an Iberian decorative multiform style) in cedar wood carved in the Mudejar style. Also visit the Collegiate Church, whose sober facade hides an interior rich in 17th century gilt woodwork, altar pieces and tile panels.
On the opposite side of the Largo do Município, in the former Bishop’s Palace, is the Museum of Sacred Art, the core of whose collection is Flemish art of the 15th and 16th centuries, evidence of the trade contacts with Flanders, to which sugar cane grown on the island was sold. Tasting this and other local flavours at the Farmers’ Market provides plenty to occupy the senses: from exotic fruits to traditional delights such as bolo de mel (honey cake), you mustn’t forget also the craft shops, the flower sellers wearing traditional costumes and the lively fishmongers’ stalls.
Go on to the old town, to the São Tiago Fort, which houses the Museum of Contemporary Art. Find out the most appreciated products in the region in the Embroidery and Wine Museums. Here you can learn all about the beautiful pieces of delicate lace, and the fortified wine that gained fame in the 17th and 18th centuries, when it was highly appreciated in the European courts.
Be sure to visit to the village of Camacha, just nine kilometres from Funchal, well known for its wicker crafts and folklore.
A highlight is the traditional dance of the region – the animated “Bailinho da Madeira”, whose rhythm is marked by the “brinquinho”, a curious piece of handicrafts made of castanets, ribbons and wooden figures. You can see a live performance while you have dinner in a typical restaurant, savouring specialties like kebabs on bay sticks with fried maize.
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