General Information about Madeira
To make your holiday as smooth as possible, we’ve outlined some general information that may be helpful to you when planning your next getaway to Madeira.
Food & Drink
Madeirans are fiercely proud of their cuisine, and with good reason. When you take Madeira holidays, you can start with some grilled fresh scallops or tomate e cebola (tomato and onion soup). There are always succulent grilled beef dishes on the menu - don't miss the slow-cooked espetada cuts - as well as sharers to enjoy like Picado, which includes beef fried in garlic and served with plenty of fries.
If you love seafood, you'll be in heaven. The nearby seas teem with tuna, cod, and lesser known varieties like black scabbard fish, or gaiado. And, when the mains have been cleared, desserts like bolo de mel (honey bread) are the perfect coda to Madeiran dinners.
The Madeiran climate also serves up an appetising diet of consistently warm, but hardly ever scorchingly hot, days. August peaks with an average of around 23 degrees, while January is supposed to be the coldest month, but with an average temperature of 16 degrees, it hardly feels like winter at all.
History & Culture
How on earth did Portugal come to rule over little Madeira, a 309 square mile island in the middle of the Atlantic? Well, the answer lies in the Age of Exploration, when adventurers set out from Lisbon to discover new worlds. Madeira happened to be on the gulf stream, taking sailors straight to it, and in 1419, a couple of Portuguese navigators arrived (although its likely that plenty of people had wandered out on the winds in the previous few centuries).
Well before Columbus reached America, Madeira was a thriving Portuguese colony. The early prosperity of the region was largely built around industrial sugar factories which supplied the European mainland. That sugar production is why we still have Madeira cakes in supermarkets today.
After America took pole position in the sugar production scene, Madeira adapted and started to produce another iconic product: Madeira wine. By the 1700s, this sweet dessert wine had become familiar to drinkers all over Europe (helped along by Britain occupying the island in the 1800s during the Napoleonic Wars).
More recently, Madeira welcomed thousands of evacuees from Gibraltar during World War Two, a produce of Portugal's long alliance with Great Britain. Then they returned the favour, exporting one of the world's greatest footballing talents to Manchester in the from of Cristiano Ronaldo.