Quinta das Cruzes

Top choice in Funchal

Now a museum, the Quinta das Cruzes is a quintessential old Madeiran manor house complete with gardens and a private chapel. Originally the home of João Gonçalves Zarco, the Portuguese captain who discovered Madeira, it was remodelled in the 18th century into a stylish home by the wealthy Lomelino family. The exhibits here examine the life of Madeira's well-to-do from the 15th to the 19th century in an aptly aristocratic environment, the high-ceilinged mansion packed with priceless antiques from across the globe.

Pleasant to explore before or after a tour of the museum, the grounds are a typically exotic example of the type of garden created by the wealthy in the late 19th century. It's a romantically tranquil oasis of mature trees, pebble-patterned pathways, old-fashioned park benches and beds of sub-tropical plants, many of them labelled. Potted orchids grow against the west wall, while on the south side stands a tiny chapel that is normally closed to the public.

The 11 rooms on the building's top floor make up the bulk of the collection. Here room after room filled with fine furniture, ceramics, tapestry, engravings, oil paintings and jewellery from Europe and beyond give some idea of just how rich the merchant classes of Madeira had become by the 18th and 19th centuries. Highlights include the 19th-century oils of Madeira, the glyptic collection, some from Roman times, a typical Madeiran quinta bedroom and a fascinating section dedicated to Emperor Karl I of Austria, including his priceless Breguet watch.

Things get a bit chunkier downstairs, with massive wood and hunks of silver replacing the curvaceous Chippendale and gentle fans of the upper floor. Top billing here goes to the Caixa de Açucar, literally 'sugar boxes' – hefty cupboards made from the Brazilian hardwood in which sugar imported to Madeira was packed – a fine example of 16th-century recycling. Other high points include items from Portugal's far-flung Asian colonies, a collection of sedan chairs – once the way to get around the roadless island in comfort – and a huge assemblage of Portuguese silverware.

The museum was closed for building work in early 2019 and was expected to reopen later that year.

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