If you're doing your research on things to do in Funchal, Madeira, you may have seen the Mercado dos Lavradores. It's a visual feast, but most people advise against purchasing fruit here. Read on for my experience and why I think it might be a good idea to shop at the Farmers Market.

How to get the most out of the Funchal Farmers market

To buy fruit or not to buy fruit....that is the question. And I have a few thoughts on the subject, read on for my opinion.

When I started planning our trip to Madeira I hit all the usual review sites to see what the best attractions were.  As soon as I saw that there is a farmers/fruit market in Funchal I knew that would be on our list of activities.  Not only to stock up on local grown product but for the colorful pictures that I knew I could take.  But it was strange.  All, literally every single review, I read of the market flat out said not to buy any fruit there.  The problem wasn’t the quality of the produce, it was the cost.  Everyone who had made a purchase immediately had buyers remorse after realizing what they had paid.  So I felt justified in all of my research, I just saved us a lot of money because of course I would have bought the fruit at the market.

Piles of colorful tropical fruit in baskets at the farmers market

I made sure that were in Funchal when the market would be open (closed on Sundays).  I went first thing in the morning to get some photos before the crowds gathered.  I explored a bit, grabbed some shots of the perfectly arranged fruit, and found two restaurants on the top floor of the market, a great place for breakfast.  Before going to pick my husband up from the hotel where he was sleeping in I wandered through the art project of Santa Maria Street, just around the corner from the market.  (You can see the a video slide show of the images here).

A fruit market vendor wearing the traditional Madeira patterned apron shows tourists a selection of tropical fruits.

With my husband in tow I headed back to the fruit market.  The place was much busier now, with lots of tourists.  I looked at them in pity, thinking that they probably wouldn’t know any better and buy the fruit.  We decided to have breakfast, one of the yummiest fruit smoothies and some toast.  It seemed appropriate.  My husband was enjoying his book in the sunshine while finishing his smoothie so I went to get more photos of the market.

A menu board at the front of the restaurant Macaronesia in the Funchal farmers market
Two tropical fruit smoothies with fruit garnish on an outdoor patio table

This time, besides the piles of fruit I noticed that the fruit vendors were giving out samples of the fruit.  I watched some families trying a fruit that I didn’t recognize.  To be honest, I didn’t recognize a lot of the fruits and it suddenly dawned on me….I could buy these at a grocery store, maybe at a significantly lower price, but I didn’t even know what part of the fruit to eat on some of them!  And I might buy one of each different fruit but I would probably get some that I didn’t like at all.  So maybe buying fruit at this market isn’t such a bad value after all.

A fruit market vendor wearing the traditional Madeira patterned apron demonstrates how to eat one of the local banana varieties.
A man uses a knife to carve a sample of fruit at the Funchal farmers market

I went to tell my husband that I had changed my mind.  He thought I was kidding at first, but when I explained my thoughts he was on board.  So we went to the stalls to buy some fruit.  The fruit vendor that we went to could have improved on his people skills, but we got to try about 6 different passion fruits, some bananas, mango, and more.  We learned that you eat the inside seeds and goop of the passionfruit, you can cut the top off and use a spoon to scoop it out.  It doesn’t look the most appealing but it is delicious.  We picked a few of the items that we liked the most, they bagged them up, and we went to check out.

Unusual green bananas at the Funchal Farmers Market

When they handed me the bag and told me the price I nearly dropped the bag.  It was ridiculously expensive, something like $26 for the 6 pieces of fruit I had picked out.  I argued that it seemed higher than what the individual prices indicated but they insisted.  At that point I shrugged my shoulders and reminded myself that I was paying for the tasting opportunity, the photo opps, and the fruit.  We took our bag of fruit back to the hotel and discovered that there were four or five other pieces of fruit, a melon of some kind that had been added to the bag….adding weight and increasing the cost.  I should have looked at the contents of the bag when I was disputing the price and maybe could have knocked some of the cost down.  The melons weren’t bad but we wouldn’t have bought so many of them.

mercado dos lavradores, farmers, market, fruit, Funchal, Madeira, Portugal, exotic, food, tourist, tropical
Every time I buy a passion fruit at the grocery store now I look back and laugh at our experience.  I’m still glad that we purchased fruit at the market and I recommend that you do the same.  We could have just walked through and looked at the pretty fruit, but we wouldn’t have had the full experience.  And isn’t that what travel is about?  Get your money’s worth…learn about the fruits and try anything that you don’t recognize.  Take lots of photos.  And always check your bag before they weigh it!  If you found this post to be helpful please share it! You can also read more about Madeira and our horseback adventure here  


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