Madeira Island is a tourist destination rich in culture, with over 600 years of history, which is reflected in its identity, the archipelago’s heritage and the unique arts and traditions of its inhabitants.
Art and tradition are fundamental elements of Madeira’s culture, which are expressed in various forms. One of the best known is Madeira embroidery, a centuries-old art that consists of decorating fabrics with floral, geometric or figurative motifs, using threads of varying colors. This ativity dates back to the 17th century and has become a symbol of quality and elegance, internationally recognized for its quality and beauty, and is one of the island’s main export products. Madeira embroidery is handmade by specialized embroiderers who follow strict quality and authenticity criteria. Madeira embroidery can be found on items such as towels, sheets, napkins, shirts, dresses and accessories, which are sold in stores certified by the Madeira Embroidery, Tapestry and Handicrafts Institute.
Another art form typical of Madeira is handicrafts, which include wickerwork, wood, clay, straw, leather, wool and shells. Madeiran artisans produce utilitarian or decorative objects, such as baskets, furniture, dolls, hats, rugs or costume jewelry.
Handicrafts are one of the most genuine forms of expression of Madeira’s popular culture, reflecting the creativity, skill and identity of its inhabitants. Among the most typical and appreciated items are wooden toys, wicker baskets, straw hats, embroidery and tapestries, wood and whalebone sculptures, hand-painted ceramics, leatherwork and traditional musical instruments. These products can be found at fairs, markets, stores and workshops all over the island, where you can watch the artisans at work and even take part in workshops.
Folklore is another expression of Madeira’s popular culture, which manifests itself through music, dance and festivals. Traditional Madeiran music is characterized by the use of instruments such as the brinquinho, the machete, the rajão, the violin or the accordion. Typical dances are the bailinho da Madeira, the chamarrita and the pezinho. Popular festivals are moments of celebration and conviviality, involving religious processions, festivals, fireworks and regional cuisine. Some of the most important festivals are the Festas do Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres, in May; the Festas de São João, in June; the Festas do Santíssimo Sacramento, in July; the Festas da Nossa Senhora do Monte, in August; and the Christmas and New Year’s festivals, which light up and fill the island with magic between December and January.
> Find out more about the Christmas and New Year festivities in Madeira here.
Madeira’s culture is a living and dynamic heritage, which renews itself and adapts to modern times. The island has several cultural venues, such as museums, cultural centers, concert halls and historical monuments. Some of the most interesting museums are the Madeira Museum of Contemporary Art (MUDAS), in Calheta; the Quinta das Cruzes Museum, in Funchal; the Madeira Ethnographic Museum, in Ribeira Brava; or the John dos Passos Cultural Center, in Ponta do Sol. The most active cultural centers are the Centro Cultural de Congressos do Porto Santo; the Fórum Machico; the Centro de Congressos da Madeira; or the Teatro Municipal Baltazar Dias. Some of the most emblematic historical monuments are the Cathedral of Funchal; the Fort of São Tiago; the Church of the College; or the Palace of São Lourenço.
Madeira Island has much more to offer than stunning landscapes and a mild climate, as it is undoubtedly a cultural destination of excellence, inviting you to discover its history, art and tradition. Its culture is rich and diverse, the result of centuries of history and the influences of various peoples. Visiting Madeira is also an opportunity to get to know and appreciate its intangible cultural heritage, which is a living and dynamic treasure. Visit Madeira and be enchanted by its culture!