Madeira is a small Portuguese island off the coast of Africa. The capital of Madeira is Funchal, which is on the main island which is where Belmond Reid’s Palace is located. Unfortunately it is difficult to capture the grandeur of the hotel from within. This photo is from Belmond and provides an aerial view of the hotel.
Source: Belmond Reid’s Palace.
The history of Reid’s Palace is an interesting one. William Reid, a Scotsman, arrived on Madeira at the tender age of 14. He was sent to Madeira for medical reasons in the hope that the warm climate would provide him better health. He decided to stay and made a fortune in merchant and wine trading. He then used his fortune to purchase the cliff-side property with the dream of building a grand hotel.
The building the hotel commenced in 1887. The lush gardens on the property are his key legacy; William Reid ordered tons of soil and the planting of the bougainvillea, geraniums, orchids and palm trees which line the hotel gardens. Sadly, William Reid died a year later, however his sons carried on their father’s work and the hotel opened in 1891.
His sons managed the hotel for decades until they sold it in 1925. Subsequently it was sold to the Blandy family, who were leading wine merchants. The East Wing of the hotel can be attributed to the Blandy family. Finally, the current owners, Belmond, acquired the hotel in 1996.
The hotel has had many famous guests, including almost all the crowned heads of Europe. Empress Elisabeth of Austria stayed at the hotel when it opened. The last Austrian Emperor, Charles I resided there post his exile. King Umberto of Italy enjoyed a leisurely stay post his abdication. Famed playwright, George Bernard Shaw had an extended stay at the hotel. Sir Winston Churchill stayed at Reid’s as he recovered from a minor stroke and continued to work on his memoirs. The former Cuban dictator General Batista stayed there with his family following his ousting from the Cuban Revolution in 1959. Other royalty such as King Edward VIII and Princess Stephanie of Monaco have also stayed there and it would remiss of me not to mention other non royal guests such as Gregory Peck, Roger Moore and Sir Ernest Shackleton.
Perched on the cliffs of the Portuguese island of Madeira overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the hotel provides direct private access to the ocean. The hotel exudes luxury with its traditional Edwardian interiors and an expansive lush gardens surrounding the buildings. There are three amazing swimming pools (two on the main deck and one on the sea level) which overlook the ocean and three amazing restaurants / bars which treat guests to a unique fine dining experience. An extensive breakfast buffet, served by the pool, greets the guests in the morning and there are extensive amenities which you’d expect from a hotel of this calibre.
The gardens are just magical. The tree lined paths along the cliff have the best views of the ocean and bring out the botanist inside all of us.
The lobby is grand with beautiful columns and large chandeliers and certainly makes and impression when I check in. The service begins as soon as you arrive with your bags whisked away and a dedicated check-in personnel provides a brief tour of the hotel before taking you to your room.
My rooms has view of the sea and is located in the newer part of the hotel. The room has a charming Edwardian feel. The décor is a mix of light blues and creams. The beds have beautiful floral prints with an expansive bed head with plush white linens. The bedside lamps have a soothing peach lamp shed on luxe marble tables with dark wooden stands. It’s a statesman like charm with a homely feel.
There is a widescreen TV and a large wooden desk which is suitable as a mini office for work (if that’s really what you want to do while you’re here). The mini lounge area has plush and comfortable dark blue chairs and a wooden table with some welcome Madeira desserts.
The bathrooms are a little old school and is big on light toned marble; the bench-top, the shower areas and tiles. There is both an expansive bathtub and shower. The bathroom is fully stocked with luxury bath amenities from Portuguese brand Claus Porto (their Banho – Citron Verdena line).
The balcony is pretty spacious with a lovely light blue cane chairs with nautical style cushions and a glass top table to enjoy the view.
There is nightly turn-down service which adds some charm and the mini bar is quite extensively and all non-alcoholic beverages are complimentary and are replenished daily.
Breakfast is not another meal but a rather civilised and charming affair here at Reid’s. Every morning an extensive buffet breakfast is served by the pool. I arrive early each morning to snare a table outside next to the pool.
There is an extensive selection of hot selection of savoury dishes (scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, roast tomatoes, baked beans, mushrooms and potatoes) and sweet dishes (crepes, waffles and pancakes).
If you’re into diary then there is a lovely selection of cheese and yoghurts.
There is a wonderful selection of cold cuts, boiled eggs and vegetables including some pretty amazing fish such as mackerel.
An extensive selection of bakery is available from freshly baked bread to pastries to dessert style Portuguese tarts and other local cakes.
Fresh fruit is also the order of the day.
In addition to the hot food selection, there is a daily egg dish. On the days I ordered it is was a poached egg with spinach and a prawn omelette.
There is a selection of freshly squeezed juices poured at the table and even complimentary sparkling wine.
Here are some snaps of my breakfast experience.
There is something so special about breakfast which I can’t describe. The leisurely morning, the tweets of the birds, the light summer air, the views of the ocean beyond and the lush imposing gardens above you. The summer sun paints the pools surface with a reflective glow as one enjoys the sustenance of the expansive breakfast spread. The endless gaze at the horizon are pierced with sips of the sparkling wine. The best thing is the day has just begun!
The Bar and Terrace
The bar has an exquisite tiled feature on the entry wall, beautiful wooden flooring and marble steps which lead to a sitting area with expansive views of the Atlantic Ocean.
There is a Manager’s weekly cocktail reception, where complimentary champagne, cocktails and canapes are served where you get to meet the staff and socialise with other guests. You can order some snacks or more substantial bites and drinks. Drinks arrive with complimentary snacks and canapes.
The bar connects with the elegant terrace area which overlooks the ocean and the pool area. The terrace has between light coloured furniture and chessboard tiles and issued for the hotel’s famed afternoon tea service. The terrace also connects to lobby with the grand columns and crystal chandeliers and acts as a bit of an overflow area.
I spend most of my afternoons on the terrace enjoying a burger with some of the beautiful wines from the cellar. The coastal breeze from the Atlantic flutters through the balcony as the sun’s glamourous rays shimmers along the ocean surface. The moment is timeless as I nibble on the canapes and enjoy the idyllic setting. The exquisite Reid’s Palace Burger arrives and sits with radiant contrast to the pure white linen which covers the table. It’s aesthetics are seductive in every way.
I sip gently on a velvety Portuguese wine and gaze the vista before me. The tender beef sits on a lovely piece of lettuce and is melded to a beautiful fried egg as a gentle flowy sauce melds the two together. The plush milky bun encases the burger with elegance while the fries, dipped into the petit pots of ketchup and mustard, are the epitome of indulgence. I struggle to think of better way to spend the afternoon.
On one day I did swap the Reid’s Palace Burger for the Club Sandwich.
There are two main swimming pools on the main deck, one with seawater (heated) and the other freshwater. I do enjoy my morning dip in the pools and there are plenty of pool chairs around and you can easily order cocktails and food during the day without leaving your chair.
There’s something so special about the pool. It’s a time where mornings of sunshine, the pool and ocean vistas while the sun glows on your skin, the atmospheric salinity massages your face and the sea breeze strokes your hair. You just don’t want to leave!
The hotel is perched directly on the cliff face, if you look beyond the two main pools below you can see the waves of the Atlantic Ocean crashing onto the cliff face below. Below the two main pools is the sea deck.
A long set of stairs take you right down to the ocean level where on the rock-face there are a number of deck chairs and beds and a sea pool. The ocean’s waves slash into the sea pool and it means you can swim in the ocean without having to. You can also order some food and wine / cocktails if you’d like and the waiters will bring them to you all the way from the top of the cliff.
Ristorante Villa Cipriani
Perched on the cliffs in the adjacent building to the main hotel is the fine Italian restaurant Villa Cipriani. The sea breeze sneaks on the terrace to moderate the glow of the summer sun’s radiance. The charm of the chequered table cloths as I leisurely sip on the Villa Antinori to lose myself after a long day.
The first dish is a delicate pasta of lobster and prawns with a lovely bisque reduction. A pure delight.
Beef tagliata with rocket and parmesan slices
For the next dish I enjoy the succulent Beef Tagliata. It is a treat with the harmonious accord of the peppery rocket and rustic Mediterranean vegetables. I sit back in awe of the cliff face as the sun escapes over the horizon to usher in the night and the stars.
Apple pie with vanilla and tonka bean ice-cream
I sign-off the dinner with a lovely apple pie with ice cream.
The night lights on the terrace prove to be quite a charm as I finish dinner.
The hotel has a range of amenities for its guests including a full spa, hair salon, gift shop, games room and billiard room. There is even a private tennis court and coach for the tennis aficionados.
This is a hotel full of history, the walls, desks and tables have photos, letters and guest books of the hotel’s famed guests. There are also a range of original antique furniture which provide a comfortable resting spot or for one to admire the aesthetics.
It’s a little hard to show the full extent of the hotel just given its grandeur, location and size, so I’ve compiled a little video diary of some of the highlights of the hotel. Hope you enjoy it.
Background Tune is: Final Song by MØ. I do not own the rights to this song.
This would have to be one of my favourite hotels of all time. The breakfast is such an experience, the relaxed nature of dining by the pool in the morning with such an extensive selection of food and then having a leisurely swim simply can’t be beat. The staff and service are first class and highly personalised. When I met the staff the cocktail reception many of them had worked with the hotel for decades.
There’s a spa, tennis court and extensive fitness centre to suit the active or leisurely traveller and walking through the extensive gardens are almost an activity in itself. The sea deck and pool is quite something, you have the option of a quick dip in the Atlantic ocean or staying in the pool with a cocktail in hand. The hotel organises activities such as hiking, boating trips and almost anything you could imagine.
From a dining perspective, the hotel’s bar provides a sufficient range of wines and cocktails to suit most customers. A leisurely evening dinner on the terrace is the perfect way to sign-off the day or if you’re into something more fancy there’s William (Michelin Star restaurant) or Villa Cipriani (Italian restaurant which I went to). Even the poolside menu has quality dining options.
Then there’s the location, perched on the cliff on the Atlantic Ocean – the views and the climate can’t be beaten. It’s little wonder that this place is a magnet for royalty, celebrities and captains of industry.