Having come under Portuguese occupation in the 15th century and remained part of Portugal till today, Madeira is truly European in character and social customs. Along with its essentially Portuguese culture, Madeira island has an old-fashioned and genteel feel, especially in the capital Funchal, with its colonial architecture, an ambience based on the time when it was seen as a retreat for retired nobility or those in ill health. This atmosphere is displayed in the love of traditional crafts like linen, tapestry, cake and pastry making, as well as numerous street and religious festivals celebrating saints and the annual harvest.
Known by the Romans as the Purple Islands, the islands were settled in the 15th century by the Portuguese who were drawn by the natural harbour and subtropical climate of what was to become the capital, Funchal. In 1425, the islands were declared a Portuguese province and the occupiers established vast sugar cane plantations, shipping in slaves from West Africa to work on the fields. In the 1600s, the production of Madeira wine - wine fortified with grape spirit - began to surpass sugar production and British merchants established a business community on the main island, leading to the growth of its linen, wine, banking, export and tourism industries. During the Napoleonic wars, British forces briefly occupied Madeira island, later returning the islands to the Portuguese.
The islands' predominant religion is Roman Catholic although also have a small Protestant community.
The Madeira islands have around 250,000 inhabitants, approximately 4,500 of whom live on Porto Santo, and who are descended from settlers originally from Portugal's Algarve and Minho regions. The main language is Portuguese although English is widely spoken.
Madeira holiday resorts
|Funchal Holidays||33 Hotels, Villas + Apartments|
|Machico Holidays||2 Hotels, Villas + Apartments|
|Ponta Delgada Holidays||1 Hotels, Villas + Apartments|
|Santa Cruz Holidays||1 Hotels, Villas + Apartments|
|Garajau Holidays||1 Hotels, Villas + Apartments|
|Canico Holidays||1 Hotels, Villas + Apartments|
|Calheta Holidays||1 Hotels, Villas + Apartments|