the typical Madeiran houses

Thatched houses are one of Madeira's most famous attractions. Photographed thousands of times and inseparable from the Flower Island, find out everything there is to know about these colourful little houses and where to find them.

Typical Madeira house in Santana
« L'une des maisons typique de Madère qui accueille des touristes »

What are the characteristics of these houses?

Called "palheiros" by the locals of the island, which could be translated here as "barn" or "hayloft", Madeira's traditional houses have now almost all disappeared. They appeared in the 16th century on the island. A few still exist in Santana. The best known ones are used as tourist houses or small shops, whose particularities we will discover here.

The walls

Made of wood or stone: the houses were built with local materials.

The size

They are quite small and without floor, they are often compared to small houses or doll houses with their roof.
The architecture is very particular with a very pronounced triangular shape. They have 2 rooms on the floor and an attic.

Santana house - Madeira
« Il existe encore quelques maisons traditionnelles à Santana »

The thatched roof

The roof goes down on two sides of the house quite steeply, almost to the ground.

Thatch is a combination of straw, broom and heather. It is very common in Europe because of its low cost and good thermal insulation, but it has a short lifespan (20-30 years) and is more susceptible to fire.

The colours of the houses

2 colours predominate: red and white.
The façade is white, except at ground level where it is red. The door is also usually red, as well as the small opening just above it that used to store hay.

A third colour, blue, covers the door and window frames.
The window shutters, and sometimes the door, are black.

How to visit these traditional houses?

To discover them, you have to go to the small town of Santana, in the north of the island. It takes about 45 minutes from Funchal. These traditional houses are a reminder of the rural world as it was in the past. For a long time the north of the island was quite isolated from the rest of the island. These houses have thus persisted for a long time.

Several houses still exist in the village. Some of them are there for commercial or tourist purposes and are not inhabited. The discovery of these houses, as well as the visit, is therefore free. The best known are located along Avenida 25 de Maio, at the entrance to the town centre. The setting is particularly suitable for photographs, with a landscaped floor and decorations around it, including small flower gardens. What is less known is that there are other typical Madeira houses throughout the village. Some of them don't fully respect the construction characteristics, but you can discover them by walking around the village and avoiding the too many tourists queuing up in front of the 3 most famous houses.

Traditional Madeira houses: shop and tourist office
« Maisons traditionnelles de Madère : boutique et office du tourisme »

The tourist office and the craft shop

Crowded with tourists, it is difficult to be properly informed at this place! No matter, it allows you to discover these houses very closely and to enter one of them without being embarrassed by a possible purchase. Right next to the tourist office, there is a small shop where you can buy handicrafts. If you don't want to play the average tourist, run away.

La Casas das Flores

In this first traditional house, it is a small flower shop where you can buy plants, bulbs or cuttings.

Other lesser known houses

If you want to discover other traditional houses in Madeira, I refer you to the map at the bottom of this article. There are other typical houses in Santana, less prestigious, as they are often not colourful, but worth seeing for their more authentic side, and which may attract less tourist hordes. You can see various huts throughout the village. Sometimes it is just the roof that has been replaced, but the architecture of the house is recognisable. Other times, you will find houses with thatched roofs only... You will have to stroll around the town to see all these typical Madeira houses.

Thatched house, Santana MadeiraMaisonette with V-shaped thatched roof
« Maison au toit de chaume et à l'architecture des Pailheros de Santana »

The street leading to the cable car, north of the village: Rua da Igreja will show you 3 of them. Finally, there is another very nice house, a bit out of town, on the caminho de Simao Alves.

Madeira Theme Park

To complete your visit you can go a few steps south to the Madeira Theme Park, where you can learn more about Madeira's history. A rather family friendly park with many attractions for children. You will also find several traditional Madeira houses and other small thatched buildings. There is a charge for the visit, starting at €10 per adult, then a sliding scale for children, groups etc. Access to the gardens is free.

Are there any other typical houses on the island?

If you look carefully, you should find thatched houses here and there, especially in the Queimadas Forest Park. However, they do not have the same architecture at all. To find exactly the same characteristics, it will be complicated. Sometimes you can see some pailheros near the crops. They are usually not inhabited and are useful for the farmers, so they are not particularly colourful, more in keeping with the specific triangular shape of traditional Madeiran houses.

Is it really necessary to visit these houses?

Typical private house in Santana
« Maison typique avec jardin à Santana »

A real attraction in Santana, and as well known as Madeira's natural swimming pools, the typical houses are very popular with tourists. However, if you drive 50 minutes just to see the typical houses of Madeira, you might be disappointed, or at least left wanting more. Take the opportunity to visit Santana and its surroundings. The nature is particularly green with the primary forest at the gates of the village and the mountains, there are beautiful levadas to do and also the whole north coast to visit with beautiful villages and valleys.

In any case, if you pass by Santana, don't miss them, it would be a shame!

Carte interactive de the typical Madeiran houses

Légende de la carte :

Musées et visites
Eglises et Chapelles
Point de Vue
Maisons de Santana


No comments actually

Add a comment :