| Hannah Grafton

Belmond Reid’s Palace, Madiera – One of a Kind

Belmond Reid’s Palace will remind you of Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, only that instead of the hotel being vastly outdated, it has managed to maintain its grandeur and exceptional service for the past one hundred years.

The hotel came into existence during the 19th century, when a young Scotsman by the name of William Reid left his homeland for Madeira in hopes of bettering his health and lifestyle. After settling for a time and becoming a successful businessman, Reid ventured into the world of the hotelier by purchasing his first piece of land set on the steep rocks of Salto do Cavalo, overlooking the mighty Atlantic Ocean. One of Reid’s first tasks was ordering large amounts of rich soil in order to protect and ensure the gardens, which bloomed healthily throughout the hotel. Therefore, you will notice that Reid’s Palace gardens are one of its most noticeable highlight, contributing to the hotel’s overall beauty and aesthetic.

The entrance to Reid’s Palace characterizes its personality. It’s almost a little shy, unwilling to show you it’s true history and glamour until you’ve stepped into its grand abode. The lobby and concierge area have been completely redecorated to look strikingly clean, contemporary and chic with an open veranda that looks out into Madiera’s archipelago. However, as soon as you’ve left the lobby and head straight for its corridors to the rooms, you’ll find you’re back in the 19th century where Winston Churchill once walked. You will witness posters dating back to the 1800’s advertising holidays by travel agencies recommending Belmond Reid’s Palace. You will notice a plethora of black and white photo’s locked in cabinets, showing decades old hotel guests looking serene during their time here. Perhaps the most apparent is the elevator; old school yet distinctive – signifying the Reid’s ultimate experience.

Of its 158 rooms and suites, we stayed in one of Reid’s junior suites – charming, spacious, comfortable and clean. We had two terraces overlooking the vast ocean and these rooms make it the perfect setting for in-room dining amidst the sound of the crashing waves or contentedly in the plush king-sized bed where you can also opt for a number of pillow options to suit your comfort level. We were just fine with ours but do recommend you take a look at their extensive pillow list. Room service was exceptional and the same can be said for their turn down service. Five-star service is what you receive at Reid’s Palace and nothing less. Although it isn’t a high-tech savvy five-star establishment, one does not expect to come to Funchal for those reasons. They come to Funchal for a change of scenery, complete serenity (as there are only about 150,000 inhabitants on the island) and the ability to bask in the island’s natural beauty, whether it be a storm, dolphin sightings, or the gardens.

Upon settling into the room, we decided to explore the hotel on our own accord; we do recommend this as you really do get to feel something quite extraordinary. Not many grand hotels maintain their old furnishings and interior décor, but Reid’s has and for good reason – to let its guests know that just because it’s a world-class hotel, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to re-do and completely modernise the premises, instead upholding its character, keeping it genuine for the next generation of guests so that they are able to feel the spirit of this beloved dwelling. One will, at first, find it a bit of a daunting task trying to locate its different areas as the hotel is quite spread out. We found various rooms for resting with no one really making use of it. To our delight we found a room just for playing pool and another room holding tables for mahjong which was perfectly quaint. The sight of the hotel’s two vast salt water swimming pools overlooking the ocean is an ideal retreat for those wanting to dip their toes in and indulge in pool-side feasting, or to simply float and let go for a moment. Or why not plunge directly into the ocean? With steps leading to the sea platform one couldn’t be more secluded.

During our stay we also tested out the Reid’s spa – the perfect accompaniment for a stay at Funchal, which is highly recommended. The spa is located across the swimming pool and near the tennis court, tucked away to one side. As you enter, you will notice that the spa is ocean-facing which already delivers a certain level of serenity. We tried out their ‘Layers of Luxury’, a 110-minute session that includes a luxurious body scrub of sea salt and green olive stone, coupled with layers of hydrating gels, nourishing oils and moisturising creams to leave the body nurtured, smooth and hydrated. Usually, one would expect a dim-lit to darkened room when experiencing their spa session however ‘Layers of Luxury’ allowed for natural daylight to be a part of this experience. To our surprise we found ourselves lulled into sleep – a testament to a truly skilled massage therapist.  

The Belmond Reid’s Palace also has great options when it comes to culinary feasting, of which they take seriously – their breakfast buffet is an experience in itself. There’s the William Restaurant named after the hotel’s founder which has earned a Michelin star for its local produce and innovative take on Madeiran cuisine. For a more glam fare, there’s the Dining Room offering a lavish champagne gala buffet each week where one can sample culinary delicacies. On this occasion, as we were travelling with a toddler we dined at Ristorante Villa Cipriani which cooks up wonderful Italian dishes reminiscent of a fine wholesome homemade Italian feast. With a curated selection of Italian dishes, one can’t go wrong – from classic antipasti dishes, minestrone, to meat and fish, this is an easy restaurant to head to when you crave something classic and wholesome in quality and quantity. For us, the meal that we looked forward to the most was breakfast, and you’ll want to skip in-room dining and head for the Reid’s Dining Room for a grand first meal of the day. ‘Among regal pillars, Murano glass chandeliers and luxurious Edwardian furnishings’ the buffet breakfast which is served daily is a real treat and one that shouldn’t be missed. A spread replete with pastries, cold cuts, and hot dishes set amongst a grand setting invigorated our relaxed state even further.

During our stay we soon realised that its guests don’t necessarily come to Funchal to be in Funchal, but that they actually come to stay and experience the Belmond Reid’s Palace. As there are only a handful of hotels on the island, Belmond Reid stands out amongst the rest. With a rich history of about one hundred years, five-star service and a great location, guests old and young come here for a European getaway that isn’t heavily populated with tourists. Visit for the one-of-a-kind charm and tranquillity, coupled with exceptional comfort and the care that is so unique to Reid’s Palace. What’s more, Reid’s is constantly updating their list of services to ensure that it sets the benchmark for a wide yet curated range of experiences – from mountain picnics, whale-watching, to enjoying a Michelin starred meal amongst a fashion collection, there are no boundaries for this old-world palace.  

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