Lisbon’s Colorful Tiles – Azulejos

Lisbon’s colorful tiles on walls and facades of buildings and houses are bound to grab your attention even if you are there for a short time. These colorful tiles are not just in churches and palaces, even residents have these ‘blue and white’ and other colorful tiles for construction and decoration. And they were in use till early 20th century. After a brief lull Lisbon’s colorful tiles are back in use. When Lisbon was awarded Expo ‘98, the city authorities worked out plans to highlight this feature of Lisbon city. Today you will find newer wall designs with colorful tiles that have come up in subways and cafes.

During my walking tour of Alfama region of Lisbon I came across so many facades adorned with colorful Portuguese tiles. I clicked so may of them that I have now ended up making a post on it.

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Two Types of Colorful Tiles

Azulejos

These colorful tiles are called Azulejos. These have been in use in Portugal since 15th century. They stand out in the world cultural heritage for their special depth of design and color. Initially they were used to keep the houses cooler. But soon the practical purpose got replaced with aesthetic value. Each of the tiles then was hand painted. The oldest designs were mostly in 2 colors – blue and white. They often depict some story or scene. The blue and white ones are obviously much sober and soothing to eyes.

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Alicatado

Then there are geometric patterns on tiles. When placed one after another, the façade acquires a grand appearance. It seemed as if owners spent a lot on this for appearance alone. There is so much similarity with those found in mosques and palaces.

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Caution with Lisbon’s Colorful Tiles

Theft and vandalism of these antique colorful tiles is common. Local watch groups have documented these losses and many of them have been traced to flea markets. Before you make a purchase of Lisbon’s colorful tiles as souvenirs to take back home be sure of its authenticity.

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These pictures are from Lisbon, mostly from Alfama region. Various designs can be seen in other cities of Portugal too. I found similar examples during tour of Alhambra in Granada, Spain. Seeing the amazing varieties of designs with Lisbon’s colorful tiles I felt inspired. May be some day I will design a room with some colorful tiles!

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Portuguese Pavement Tile Patterns
Beware of Pickpocket in Lisbon, Portugal

60 Responses to “Lisbon’s Colorful Tiles – Azulejos

  • Wow.. they’re beautiful. The peacock is amazing and the vase of flowers must be on the same building since the flowers match the one the peacock has at its feet.

  • This is a great theme. So many wonderful photos featured around prettily painted tiles.

  • I love the beautifully painted tiles. I still cannot differentiate between Portuguese tiles, Mexican tiles, or Morrocan tiles.

  • A terrific post and photos for the day, Indrani!! Wonderful history! I have been there, thanks for the memories!! Have a lovely week!

  • Didn’t know the difference between azulejos. Would love to visit Lisbon to see the house facades. So sad to hear some people are into destructing these works of art.

  • I loved learning about the different styles of the tiles and getting to see the antique ones. This was a wonderful post. Thanks for sharing.

  • Fascinating arrangement of the tiles on the walls.

  • A small bit of Lisbon resides in Goa too, and seeing them Azulejos adorning pretty little villas in the Goan countryside is beautiful. Great post!

  • The tiles look beautiful. Thanks for bringing all these small details to us.

  • Amazing tile art work!

  • The tiles of Lisbon really are gorgeous!

  • Lovely tiles.BTW did you buy any tiles for souvenir?Love the peacock and flower tiles so much.We think that those are antique colorful tiles right?

    Cheers,
    Sriram & Krithiga

  • Nice designs. I’ve seen the use of such tiles in India too. But didn’t know that their use could be dated so back. Thanks for sharing!

  • Wow…. Awesome!! Loved the peacock one!!

  • Wow..so pretty pictures! 🙂

  • The Portuguese are truly masters of tiles, every way you walk there are tiles, tiles, tiles. I love them.

  • Hello, the tiles are colorful and so pretty. Love the different designs and the peacock. Great post, thanks for sharing. Enjoy your week!

  • Amazing pictures! I had been to Delft last weekend and the art looks so similar.. and the colours are the same too 🙂 love the blue and white combo !!! 🙂

  • Wow that all seem so exquisite and delightful.

  • The peacock is great. I’ve always loved the blue windmill tiles of Delph.

  • Beautiful! I have a thing for tiles, so really enjoyed this post. 🙂 That peacock is so gorgeous.

  • those are beautiful tiles … gorgeous

    Bikram’s

  • Really beautiful pieces of art! Very informative post on the tiles and their history in Portugal… Thanks for the share.. 🙂

  • Wow! So so beautiful. Thanks for this amazing post 🙂

  • I love tiles and your post was awesome! It’s rare to find them outdoors here.

  • Wow, they are exquisite! It’s a shame that people steal them.

  • So sad to read about the theft of these wonderful pieces of art. Beautiful post and most informative!

  • Yogi saraswat
    2 years ago

    What a beautiful place to visit . your pictures are saying lot of words specially first one of Peacock is really fantastic.

  • Beautiful patterns and colours on the tiles.

  • Beautiful tiles-just like jigsaw puzzles.

  • Really wonderful to know this colorful facade of Lisbon’s tiles! The white and blue color tiles look elegant, though I liked the cutting work on the first two colorful tiles work peacock and fruit vase. The extension of balconies in front of doors also impresses me.

  • The Great Artistic Expression.. Truly eye capturing!

  • Interesting. We have tiles with images in India but the trrend never caught up, I guess. Have seen them in pooja rooms where a few tiles create an image of a God.

  • beautiful tile work. Wow

  • Looking Beautiful Arts.. Awesome I am Impressing Thanks.

  • Esa fachada de la foto 7 es un clásico … Los azulejos típicos de todo Portugal:)
    Besos.

  • The colourful tiles sure add a lot of character to the place. And I’m guessing the paint on the tiles lasts for a long time, so it doesn’t need to be touched up from time to time.

  • Love the Alicatado style with the geometric patterns. Interesting to note how precious these tiles are why preserving them is so important, I’m glad to see more culture preserve elements of their heritage.

  • Such lovely architectural details! Now I wish I can visit Lisbon! #photofriday

  • Loved the tiles!
    The peacock one is my favourite and the blue/white color is quite common in Europe. Saw many in Spain.

  • Chrysoula
    1 year ago

    I love the tiles. They looks so beautiful on those buildings! I would love to visit LIsbon and see them in person

  • I too love the tiles of Portugal – I’ve just come back from Porto and the North. Did you know they originated from when the Moors tried to invade Portugal!

  • I love the colorful tiles of Lisbon. I am now researching about it as we are going next year. I am really excited about it.

  • Wow–these tiles are all gorgeous! I love that they use the tiles to create art like that. The simple blue and white tiles are really pretty, but I love the peacock, too! Would love to wander around and look at the tiles in Lisbon sometime!

  • The Portuguese certainly spread their influence far and wide. I came across some of those Azulejos tiles in Macao, which is a former Portuguese colony. It’s interesting to see the differences between the tiles in Macao and the ones in Lisbon.

  • How gorgeous. I love tiles, especially hand painted ones and the azulejos look totally unique. I’d be so tempted to take some home as a souvenir but not if they’re stolen! That tiled peacock is stunning.

  • Gorgeous! Gorgeous! Gorgeous! I often find that tiles often reflect so much about the place . You’ve definitely captured this!

  • Gorgeous! I hear that is the thing to purchase when visiting. You found some beautiful ones.

  • These designs are incredible! I would love to see the place personally. It would definitely a perfect place to take photos as your background. Thanks for sharing this article. Very Interesting!

  • These tiles just do so much to lift the appearance of the buildings and really look beautiful. Such a shame about the theft and vandalism but I suppose you get that in virtually every big city. I love the photos you took, the tiles really do look so good.

  • I’ve read a bit about the churches of Lisbon and their blue and white tiles! Didn’t know that they were common in other buildings too all over the city! The hydrangea are so pretty!

  • These are really cool ! I did not know these existed in Lisbon. They look to be in great condition still. I saw something like this on my trip to Barcelona

  • I remember the story about the fake tiles when in Lisbon too! As a traveller, you wouldn’t know the difference unless a local guide told you! Such a wonderful place in general, Portugal is always one of my favourite places to visit. Thanks for sharing

  • I’m visiting Portugal in a couple of weeks, I’m glad I read this before going as you’ve given me some photographing inspiration! It’s an awful story that people steal these tiles and resell them in markets. Thanks for teaching me how to name them, Azulejos! I’m going to Porto so I expect the tile designs will be slightly different.

  • Your pictures are really pretty 🙂 I didn’t know there were 2 kinds of tiles. I’ve to Lisbon quite some time ago, would love to visit back!

  • Wow. So beautiful. I am most delighted to see the peacock. This part of Lisbon is often not documented. It is so unfortunate that such tiles are stolen. I thought Europe was better when it comes in such petty crimes.

  • I have seen similar tiles somewhere but can’t remember where. Now I know there’s a name to them. I particularly love the blue and white azulejos – like you said, they are soothing to the eyes!

  • I love the mosaic tiles architecture of Europe. Loved it in Italy too. And I had no clue that Azulejos tiles have been in use in Portugal since 15th century. That’s brand new info for me. Thanks for sharing.

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