waterfront of Funchal

The islands were first discovered uninhabited by the Portuguese explorer João Gonçalves Zarco in 1418. Shortly thereafter, Prince Henry the Navigator began colonization of the islands and established sugar plantations. These plantations became the prototype for the plantation system developed for the Portuguese colonies in the Americas after 1550. The importance of Madeira wine to the local economy surpassed that of sugar beginning in the late 17th century. A British colony of merchants and entrepreneurs established themselves on Madeira around this time, and eventually came to dominate the islands' linen, wine, banking, export, and tourism industries. During the Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815), British forces occupied and administered the islands as part of the British Empire; the British later evacuated the islands. Large tourist hotels and other facilities have been constructed in or near Funchal in the latter half of the 20th century.




where tables are arranged in boats


a town square


an old administrative building
(15th century fort)


flower sellers


bananas from the countryside

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