Funchal Painted Doors: Street Art In Madeira

Funchal Painted Doors
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I hadn’t really expected to find a lot of street art in Madeira, but when I walked through the old town of Funchal the art was everywhere, with eye-catching designs on seemingly every available door, wall or window. This is the work of the Funchal Painted Doors Project, an innovative attempt to revive a neglected part of the city.

What Is The Funchal Painted Doors Project?

Historically the old town (Zona Velha de Funchal) was where the merchants lived, in tall houses close to the seaport that handled the island’s Atlantic trade. However, by the beginning of the 21st century the area had become quite run down. Rents were low and landlords were reluctant to invest in improving or maintaining the properties. And, although it was close to the seafront, the old town tended to be ignored by tourists.

Road with old houses with their walls painted white and pictures painted on the doors. The end house has a picture of a woman with a lute
The Rua de Santa Maria in Funchal

This all began to change in 2010 when Jose Zyberchema launched the Funchal Painted Doors Project. His aim was to revitalise the Zone Velha by bringing art to the area. He contacted a number of artists and they set to work painting the doors of the houses with all manner of quirky designs.

The Zona Velha Today

You’ll find most of the painted doors in the Rua de Santa Maria. However there are also a few in the side streets and on the parallel Rua Dom Carlos, close to the seafront. There are no rules about what can be painted, or who can contribute to the project, meaning that there is a remarkable variety of subjects and styles. There are currently around 200 painted doors, transforming the area into a kind of outdoor art gallery.

Today there is no danger of the tourists staying away from the old town. Many of the houses have been fully renovated, and the Rua de Santa Maria is full of lively restaurants and other businesses. From lunch time onwards the narrow cobbled street is blocked by tables and chairs, with waiters trying to persuade passers-by to stop for a meal. For the best view of the street art, you may find it best to take a walk early in the morning, when the doors are closed and the tables have been packed away.

Pinnable image of Funchal Painted Doors, showing a door and wall with different animals; a night scene with fantastic animals; and the remains of paintings of planets and a mythical being
Pinnable image of the Funchal Painted Doors

An Evolving Project

The Funchal Painted Doors Project is very much a work in progress. If you look at the official website while visiting you will immediately note that some of the original paintings have disappeared and new ones have been added. And it is more than just painted doors: there are now murals and even poems added to the walls. To quote Jose Zyberchema, “the project is in continuous evolution, a cycle of being born-live-die-reborn ….”

Mural in Machico showing a dog, a globe, and hills and houses by the sea
Street art in Machico

Although the paintings are very much contained in one area of Funchal, Zyberchema hopes that the project will eventually spread to other parts of Madeira. His strategy seems to be working – I certainly saw a few examples of street art as I walked around Machico, the oldest town on the island.

Some Of My Favourite Pictures

These pictures were some of my favourites:

Painted doors with pictures of a cat and a dog coming through flaps in the door and a mouse in the corner

I particularly liked the mouse in the corner of this one!

Door painted yellow with text in red paint saying "Keep calm and drink Madeira rum"

Looks like good advice…

Painted doors showing a cook at work in the kitchen and diners at a table

Closed doors give some indication of activities later in the day.

A wall with two plaques showing poems and line drawings

It is good to see some poems among the art.

Decorated doorway leading to painted stairs and text on the wall saying "Art is like nature. If you do not let it in through a door it will enter through a window"

And this one seems to sum up the Funchal Painted Doors Project…

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Karen Warren

WorldWideWriter is owned and managed by Karen Warren.

I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 70 countries at the last count), and I’ve visited every continent except Antarctica. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way. Read more…

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