The Farmer’s Market is considered to be the ex-libris of Funchal.
It opened its doors on November 24th 1940 (I was born on the same day, 47 years later!), during the Portuguese Dictatorship. It gathered all the little stands and markets that were spread around the city and it was meant to supply Funchal with products produced in Madeira. It served this purpose for decades.
My mom used to tell me stories of when my grandmother went to the Farmer’s Market to buy her groceries.
She would tell me how they would bargen sometimes or how a younger brother tried to keep the change my grandmother left for the bucher!
Until a few years ago, even my mum still got her fruits, vegetables and fish from the Market.
The reputation the Market has gained in these last few years is well known.
Unfortunately, it has become way too touristy. The fruit prices skyrocketed and now it is just too pricey for locals and even for most tourists! Which is a shame, because everybody that works in the Farmer’s Market ends up “paying the price” and locals can’t “enjoy it” as much as before.
We all know that it’s almost impossible to buy fruits in the Market without being ripped off, however, not everything in the market is expensive. It is still the best place to buy flower seeds to take back home. The bars, cafes and bakeries are varied and inexpensive.
It is also a great place to buy local souvenirs. There are a few stands where you can get all sorts of magnets, hats, t-shirts, ceramics and post-cards for a very reasonable price.
If I had to recommend one, I would recommend you Stand nr. 42, on the second floor. The vendor is very welcoming, helpful and he isn’t pushy.
As long as you know that you should be careful with the fruit prices, the Farmer’s Market is still a great place to visit in Funchal.It has beautiful tiles, portraying the daily life of madeirans of decades ago, the ladies selling the flowers still use the traditional clothes, all the colours, smells and sounds are just amazing.
The City Hall sometimes organizes fairs on special occasions. This Easter, local chocolatiers were invited to go to the Market to show and sell their products.
The Farmer’s Market is still the “centre” of the Noite do Mercado (Market’s Night), one of the longest nights in Funchal.
It (normally) happens on the night of the 23rd to the 24th of December. The city gets full of stands selling drinks, traditional Christmas food, near the market some sellers still sell fruits (the smell of tangerines is still the best thing about this night, for me!).
Choirs gather in the Fish Market’s stairs to sing Christmas songs.I remember the first time I went to Noite do Mercado with my parents ( I was around 15 at the time). I remember seeing people selling toys, fruits, warm drinks and sandwiches.
As everything else, this festivity has changed a lot in the last few years. Now, the fruit sellers are restrained to the Farmer’s Market area and about 40.000 people go to Funchal to party all night long, drink, eat and socialize.
As a local, I would love the Market to be the place it was for Madeirans decades ago, a place to buy and sell our products for reasonable prices, a place to be proud of!
Nevertheless, it is still worth the visit!