Friday, October 13, 2017

Azulejos -- Lisbon's signature

I had heard about Lisbon's tiles (or 'azulejos" in Portuguese) but I was unprepared for how much of the older parts city are covered with them. Even on the taxi ride in from the airport I was seeing buildings completely faced with gorgeous tiles.

In some cases, like this building, they're a decorative addition to a plastered wall. But other buildings are completely covered in tiles, generally all the same design.  It gives a designer look to everything.

This building is just around the corner from where we're staying on a pedestrian only street
We're staying in one of the old traditional parts of the city and we're still trying to figure out the neighbourhood.

Our street is taken over every evening by the families who live there. Old ladies sit outside on chairs knitting and teenagers rove up and down, dogs bark and kids play ball, while men stand around and smoke cigarettes. By 9:00 pm it's all over and people have headed off for dinner and then to bed. I thought maybe it was a poor area but we've seen very well dressed people walking by and there are trendy restaurants that open here at night.

But back to the tiles, here are a few of the tiled buildings we passed on our walk today.


Although many of them are blue, there are many different colours and designs.  The building below has cardboard signs on most of the balconies with words like "respect" "integrity" "inclusion" as well as other positive attributes. Not sure what it's about but the sentiment appeals.

We walked through an area where many of the gorgeous tiled buildings down towards the waterfront were dirty or in disrepair and in some cases abandoned. However we saw signs that some of these beauties are being restored to use.

We finished our day with a visit to the National Museum of Azulejos, which is in an ancient convent building dating back to the 1500s. This is the courtyard. the spire on the right is covered with pale green tiles. Below are some of the rooms in the convent decorated with tiles, and some of the exhibits that show the way tiles were made and all of the different styles from the Moorish through the European as well as contemporary exhibits. 

Even the sidewalks look like they're tiled. They use small blocks of light coloured polished stone.

It was a great first day in an amazing city. We have five more days to explore it before heading home.


  1. Almost too much tile on one building but very beautiful.
    I wonder if it was to help stabilize..
    When you get home you will need a month to rest.

    cheers, parsnip

  2. Beautiful tiles, as you expect from the country.


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