I went to the Quinta das Cruzes in February 2008. To get there from the centre of Funchal involves a little walk, ending with a rather steep hill, but you are rewarded for this, once you get up to the café balcony, by gorgeous views of the sparkling sea (on a sunny day!). You have to walk through the gardens to find the restaurant, and if you are not hugely interested in old houses or museums, you could go to have a look at the garden and stoneworks and then just enjoy a drink with the view. At the time I visited there was no entrance fee to the grounds; a ticket was needed only if you wanted to enter the museum/house.
The gardens are not extensive, but are shady and pleasant. The most interesting thing about them is that they are actually designated as an archaeological park because of the collection of stonework they contain. This includes early tombstones, the old town pillory, various carved coats-of-arms, and most intriguingly, two large Manueline window frames from the 15th/16th century.
The back of the garden is home to a large orchid conservatory, which may be of particular interest to keen horticulturists. Beside this you may spot some 18th century frescoes (although they probably wouldn't excite anyone but the very keen observer).
At the time of my visit the entrance fee for the Quinta was only EU 2.50, which is incredible value when compared with prices I have paid in other European countries for museums, but please do check more current price info.
The Quinta itself has lovely wooden floors, high ceilings, and full-length windows. It is rumoured to have been built on the site of Zarco's first house in Funchal, but in its current form it dates to the 18th century. I found much more inside the house than I was expecting. The period furniture includes both local, Portuguese, and English pieces (such as Chippendale), and is complemented by a host of intriguing artifacts from various countries, decorative pieces, paintings, Chinese porcelain, 17th-19th century jewellery, Madeiran clay Nativity figures, azulejos tiles, 19th century filigree work etc. etc.
There are staff on hand, though I suspect they are there to watch over everything rather than to offer you historical information, but you may as well try your luck if they look friendly, you never know what you may learn! Also, if my memory serves me well, I believe there are information cards for each room, which are printed out in (perhaps) 3 languages.
For me, it was well worth the effort and I happily spent about 3 hours here. But that time included the gardens, enjoying a snack at the café, and looking dreamily into the sea!
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