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Madeira boasts a subtropical climate, thanks to its location just off the African coast. Throw in a history of trading with both Europe and Africa and you get a truly unique mix of flowers from across the world. Madeira’s climate produces a staggering array of flora throughout the year. When spring is in the air and flowers are at their fullest bloom, the Portuguese island celebrates this abundance of colour and natural perfume with the vibrant Madeira Flower Festival, centered around the Portuguese city of Funchal. The festival is one of the island's major celebrations and attractions, as tourists and locals alike join in with this enchanting event to honour the birth of spring.
The flower festival lasts for a week and kicks off with thousands of local children flocking to the city to build what becomes a vast mural of flowers – the Wall of Hope. Throughout the rest of the week there are parades of floats, groups dancing in colourful floral costumes and the decoration of streets and the adornment of shops with floral carpets. It all combines to create an almost fairytale atmosphere across Funchal, and one of the most colourful places you will ever visit!
Russell's verdict on the Madeira Flower Festival
When to go.
The festival dates change a little every year as it is always held just after Easter. You can find this year's dates at VisitMadeira
The production of flower carpets is a local art form that has survived for centuries, and owes it origins to celebrating religious holidays. Watch out for the intricate designs and detail as they adorn the city during this week.
Madeira is world famous for its wine and any trip here wouldn’t be complete without sampling some. Try the dry wines, great as an aperitif, or sweet wines, a perfect accompaniment to dessert.
Russell's guide to the Madeira Flower Festival
Madeira Flower Festival: Wall of Hope
For over 30 years the festival has opened on Saturday morning with what has been called a display of “childhood innocence and delicacy of flowers” – the Wall of Hope. It is built by over a thousand local children, who each carry a flower in a procession from Avenida Arriaga to Praça do Município, before placing the flower in a wall. The ceremony calls for world peace, something as important today as it was back in the 1970s. Once all the flowers have been placed there is a children's show and release of doves. If you are bringing the family, it’s a great morning out for the kids.
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Madeira Flower Festival: flower parade
Sunday morning sees one of the festival highlights: the flower parade through the streets of Funchal, finishing up in Municipio square. Since it was first performed in 1979 the parade has become famous for its strikingly colourful costumes decorated in vibrant local flower species. It’s easy to get caught up in the music and dance of the parade, just don’t try to join in with the choreographed routines and instead enjoy the elegant floats and complex dances. 2014’s theme is “Madeira - the route of flowers” celebrating the island's unique ecology with plant species from across the world.
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Madeira Flower Festival: flower markets
Holland may have Amsterdam and its tulip markets but for this week the place to get your flowers and plants is definitely Madeira. The flower markets were added to the festival in 2007 and have proven a great way for visitors to really engage with the flora of Madeira, raising awareness of their many ornamental species. It’s also a fun way to buy your souvenirs as the florists dress up in regional costumes for a more traditional experience. Once you have loaded up on plants to take home, visit the Floral Show located at Largo da Restauração where you’ll see all kinds of flowers cultivated on the island.
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Madeira Flower Festival: history and traditions
The flower festival first ran in 1954 and was known as the “Festival of Roses”. It was a great success and gradually expanded until in 1979 is was renamed the “Flower Festival”. Over the years, more events – such as the flower exhibition and competitions – were added, and today you can see shops competing for best-decorated floral display and various flowering gardens. There is also a strong cultural vibe with folk music, dance and floral carpet making playing a central role in the festivities.
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Madeira Flower Festival: Funchal & Madeira
Whilst here for the flower festival, take time out to explore Funchal itself and see as much of Madeira as you can. The archipelago is a rich tropical land, home to luxurious blue seas and skies as well as stunning mountains and valleys; it’s no wonder Madeira has been called a floating garden. Explore Madeira’s history at the interactive Madeira Story Centre in Funchal before riding the Monte cable car to get a great view of the city on your way to the Monte Gardens. Lastly, sit back and enjoy a beautiful sunset with a glass of Madeira's famous wine. Perfect.
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Wall of Hope by Porto Bay Events
Flower parade by Valter Gouveia
History and traditions by Porto Bay Events
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