For over 125 years, this legendary hotel has welcomed the worlds elite while overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and the city of Madeira. Reid’s Palace has become one of the most famous hotels. Its walls tell the story of the glamour of ancient times, the founder of the hotel William Reid and his illustrious guests, for example the Austrian Empress “Sissi” and Sir Winston Churchill, who joined legendary evenings or the iconic tea parties at the terrace. But besides its historical, luxurious glamour, the hotel now boasts a Michelin star restaurant, “William Restaurant”.
Before we start telling you why Reid’s Palace should be on every travelers list, we need make a short detour to the history. The Scotsman William Reid first visited Madeira in 1836 and ordered the construction of the hotel in 1886 after finding wealth in the wine import-export business. In the mid-19th century, Madeira had established itself as a popular winter destination for visitors who wanted to escape the cold and damp climate in Northern Europe.
FROM SISSI TO WINSTON CHURCHILL
The great poet Rainer Maria Rilke was there, as was the writer Marguerite Yourcenar and the Hungarian Nobel Prize winner for literature Imre Kertèsz. And of course, actresses came to relax, such as Geraldine Chaplin, Bette Midler or Claudia Cardinale. Not to mention the large number of crowned heads of state and uncrowned nobles. Reading the guest list, one gets the impression that the Habsburgs, Mounbattens or Grimaldis once went in and out of Reid’s. The influence of those visitors from former times is what makes the atmosphere at this luxurious haven so special.
Even if you can’t stay the night, you should take part in the famous tea time set on the terrace above the botanical gardens and enjoy your time amidst traditional British decor. This is your chance to travel back in time with a 5-star-hotel as a door into the old world. In those times like today this idea sounds even more appealing, after the turbulent year we all had to face. Reid’s palace isn’t cutting-edge with its design or concept, but it perfected creating exceptional memories and giving you the feeling of elegance like rarely any other hotel in the world.
If there wasn’t an automatic thermal temperature screening due to COVID-19-regulations, you couldn’t guess which decade you are in, when you enter the hotel. Amidst the elegant columns and crystal chandeliers of the 19th-century foyer, you also find the old revolving door which was the original entrance of the hotel.
A DREAM-LIKE INTERIOR
The 158-room hotel is nothing if not smothered in historical grandeur—some of which meets retro design in a delightful and the most elegant manner. Rooms are charmingly old fashioned with colors in powder green, light blue and cream hues. You find large beds in every room with exquisite linen, fresh flowers and a Madeiran wine with sweets to welcome you.
Hand-painted wallpaper are found in the Presidential Suite at Belmond Reid’s Palace and delicate white-blue tiles or marble in every bathroom. The tiles with floral motifs look as if they have been painted, Portuguese azulejos in fact, little works of art themselves. Even if you are on a tighter budget, don’t worry. All rooms come with sea or garden view and at least with a small balcony or a small terrace. Double rooms start from €315 in low season and from €335 in high.
BREAKFAST, TEA TIME TO MICHELIN STAR-DINNER
You should start with the delicious breakfast at the Pool Terrace Restaurant, where you have a view on the ocean and the two pools while drinking freshly-squeezed juices and sparkling wine. Normally, there is a buffet to choose from, but in times of COVID-19 it is replaced by an a la carte service. A dish, sounding so simple by just naming it “hash browns, poached egg and mushrooms” was a surprise in taste. Not only because of the incredible fresh ingredients, also because of the outstanding herbs.
The Afternoon Tea at Reid’s is an institution that you should not miss. A popular choice with guests, you better should book a slot in advance. You can’t have been to Madeira and didn’t experience this spectacle. You should take advantage of their selection of traditional scones, delicate finger sandwiches freshly baked pastries – all complimented by the finest selection of 24 teas. In a classy way, add a glass of Champagne, take in the views from the splendid terrace and listen to the pianist, while overlooking the ocean. Of course, there is a dress code to follow. Not to strict, but rather avoid flip-flops and sportswear if you want to fit in.
In the evening, you have to face the decision between three dining options. At Reid’s Palace, Executive Chef Luis Pestana offers a seasonal cuisine with a mix of French, Italian, local and international dishes. Either you choose the exquisite Italian cuisine made with the best local products at Ristorante Villa Cipriani. The Italian specialties are a nod to owning group Belmond’s Venetian hotel and we suggest to try the Carpaccio. Or you eat at the cocktail bar, where the menu is inspired by the Mediterranean while you enjoy a stunning view over Funchal’s Bay. Please step by there anyway to try one of barman Luis drinks, who has been at the helm for decades. Try one of his signature cocktails like the Fine Poncha, which is an outstanding interpretation of the traditional drink from Madeira.
A NIGHT AT WILLIAM RESTAURANT
The most extravagant option to dine is to book a table the Michelin-Star awarded “William Restaurant”. It offers modern seasonal cuisine inspired by local ingredients, which is an important factor to Pestana. If you fancy a duo of lobster, Scallop carpaccio or suckling pig with caviar and cauliflower, this is your place to go. Every dish, no matter how well known or previously eaten, tastes different than before. Thanks to the special Funchal flavours and spices. Our recommendation is to go with the wine accompaniment for every dish, because the variety chosen by the sommelier will blow your mind.
WHAT TO DO AT REID’S PALACE
It is impossible to get bored at Reid’s Palace. Madeira is famous for its plants and flowers, and so is the botanical garden of Reid’s Palace with more than 500 species of flora and fauna. You can book a tour and will be surprised how interesting it could be to learn more about flowers and their history. Also, there is a modern high-class-spa offering massages and facial treatments. For those with more sensitive skin, there is good news: They use Natura Bissé and Aromatherapy Associates products. Pilates is offered every Tuesday and Friday at Reid’s Palace, too.
Also, you can book from a variety of activities including whale watching or a tour called ‘sunrise above the clouds’, where a jeep will take you before dawn breaks up to one of the island’s highest peaks to watch the sunrise. For those who want to be more in motion, there are two tennis courts with a coach available on the premises, if you want to take lessons. If you want to go for a swim, you have to choose between a heated seawater pool or a freshwater swimming pool or you climb down the stairs to the direct access to the sea.
WHAT IS “BETTER” ABOUT THIS PLACE?
You are well aware that we always try to find those hotels, that are also doing something good and keep a focus in sustainability. In times of COVID-19 and regulations to keep everyone safe, it isn’t the easiest time to keep up with sustainable and green requirements of travelers. But Reid’s Palace is doing a great job by focussing on local production when it comes to ingredients, handcraft, textiles and beauty products. It surprised us with which emphasis this focus on locally produced goods was maintained by the whole team. Which makes your stay even more relaxing and makes you leave with a good feeling. You’re at the edge of the world, but the hotel provides iconic old-world sophistication within an island oasis and a new approach to sustainable, local thinking.
Altogether, Reid’s Palace shouldn’t be missed by any traveler who comes to Madeira.
Address: Estrada Monumental 139, 9000-098 Funchal, Madeira, Portugal
More information: belmond.com