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One of the things that stood out for us in Lisbon, that we haven’t come across elsewhere, is the use of tiles to decorate houses. They add colour to an already vibrant city and discovering them around every corner as we wandered the maze of streets was one of our Lisbon Highlights.
The Portuguese tiles are called azulejos and were introduced by the Moors in the 15th century—their influence is shown in the geometric patterns of many of the designs,
Tiles come in all colours and patterns.
The Portuguese later moved away from solely geometric designs and used tiles to portray religious imagery, historic events, flowers and birds.
Tiles aren’t just used to decorate the exterior of buildings—they also appear inside churches, palaces and even the most humble homes.
National Tile Museum
You can learn more about Portugal’s tiles at the Museu Nacional do Azulejo (National Tile Museum). We went on a Sunday morning when entrance was free and although we didn’t expect much it surprised us with an extensive display of stunning tiles through the ages in a beautiful converted covent which still features an opulent chapel.
The museum takes you through the history of tiles from the 15th century up until contemporary tiles.
One of the most impressive tile displays is the 23 metre long Great View of Lisbon with its panoramic view of the cityscape before the devastating earthquake of 1755.
If you love the tiles in Lisbon as much as we do then the tile museum is worth a visit. It’s located at Rua Madre de Deus, 4. We walked there from Alfama but it is quite far out so you can also take bus 794 from Praca do Comercio. It’s open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 6pm and entrance is €5 or free on Sundays before 2pm.
For more of our favourite things to do in Lisbon see our Lisbon Highlights and our introduction to the Alfama neighbourhood where many of these photos of tiles on the streets were taken.
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I’ve grown to love tiles as a flooring choice in Asia, but it makes for a highly decorative touch on a house anywhere. Thanks for this unique look into Portuguese culture!
Do you have any pictures of tile painting by Battistini de Maria de portugal?
I’m afraid we don’t.
I ‘di like to be in contact with Joanie that is searching about Battistini’s painting……
For Daniela who wanted to be in touch with me
Beautiful and interesting photos! I can’t wait to go to Portugal. With my husband being from Brazil and much of his family (and the country’s culture) coming from Portugal, I’ve heard so much about it.
We had the same response when we arrived in the Algarve 8 years ago. Aren’t they fabulous? We’ve spent 2 weekends in Lisbon but never yet made it to the Tile Museum, so tied up were we in seeing everything else. (Sintra for example!) It was on the list though and now it definitely is, so thanks for this.
We were surprised by how wonderful the tile museum is and how much there is to see so it’s definitely worth visiting. We are in Porto now and happy to see they have lovely tiles here too.