If you’ve seen pictures of Portugal you’ve seen the beautiful, blue and white or coloured tiles that adorn the buildings in cities like Lisbon and Porto. Those traditional tiles are called azulejos and you are very correct for thinking they’re magical. Naturally if you’re heading to the sunny shores of Portugal you’ll want to score a picture of the stunning works of art. Here’s exactly where to find the best Portuguese tiles so you can spend the rest of your time eating and drinking Port wine.
Carmo and Carmelitas churches
These twin churches may look like one building but they’re actually two (built a century apart so the monks and nuns couldn’t have contact), however they share a bell tower so there’s a super narrow house built in between connecting them so the bells can be rung. While you puzzle over the sense in it all, take a picture at the epic azulejos wall on the side of the Carmo church.
São Bento Railway Station
This is probably one of the prettiest train stations in the world thanks to its vestibule being adorned with azulejos tiles covering every wall that shows important historical events in Portuguese history. There’s about 20,000 tiles making up the entire timeline and it took almost 15 years to lay them all.
Church of Saint Ildefonso
This 18th century church is the main feature of Batalha Square and it’s hard to miss alright. The stunning proto-Baroque church is completely covered in the traditional tiles showing scenes from the life of Saint Ildefonso and figurative imagery from the Gospels. The church has seen a lot of damage over the ears from storms to battles, so much has been repaired or replaced. You can’t actually go up to the church and take pictures though; this is one best snapped from a distance.
The imposing Porto Cathedral offers great views of Porto from atop its hill but there’s plenty to love about the building itself. Outside you’ll find some azulejos, like the Church of Saint Ildefonso. The precious Portuguese tiles are protected behind a fence, but you can admire from a distance.
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Possibly the most stunning church in Portugal, or maybe the world, is the 18th century Chapel of Souls. Its exterior is covered in the famous blue and white tiles showing important life moments of Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Catherine. Seriously, bring your camera.
This is one of those hidden gems outside the city centre that’s worth the trip. The Palácio de Fronteira is in the Benfica area and has hedge mazes, stunning hardens, romantic fountains, priceless art and of course, azulejos. The 18th century tiles are wonderfully preserved and add an extra depth to the already beautiful gardens.
Fabrica Viúva Lamego
Of course a tile shop has some of the best Portuguese tiles! The craftsmen at Fabrica Viúva Lamego adorned the façade of their shop with beautifully detailed azulejos to show off their work. The shop is still open today despite first opening it’s doors in the mid-1800s. If you want to buy traditional tiles (or more modern ones), this is the place.
Monastery of São Vicente de Fora
The 17th century monastery is considered one of the most beautiful buildings in Lisbon and with it’s marble interiors and jaw-dropping azulejos, it’s no surprise. The tiles here depict historical events from the 12th century, which may seem a bit before this monastery’s time, but it was to honour an older monastery that one stood there.
The André Saraiva mural
Once you’re done in the Monastery of São Vicente de For a, head down the road toward the National Pantheon and you’ll see the André Saraiva mural. It’s a modern interpretation of the traditional tile art and instead of being in blues, yellows and whites, it’s a riot of colour. The mural wraps itself down one side of the city’s oldest flea market, Feira da Ladra, and has over 52,000 hand painted tiles in it.
National Azulejo Museum
Another off the beaten track jewel, the National Azulejo Museum is obviously one of the top places to see azulejos. Besides getting a good insight into the history of the Portuguese art, the building is a 16th century convent and has plenty of breathtaking tiles for you to see. Plus, tickets are only 5 euro!
Bairro Alto streets
If you’re ready to hit the streets to go azulejos hunting, head to the Bairro Alto neighbourhood. Its one of the cities most colourful neighbourhoods and you’ll be sure to spot some epic tiles presented in modern ways. That said, the whole city is covered in Portuguese tiles so just remember to look up!
Jardim da Quinta dos Azulejos
Lisbon’s ‘secret garden’ is heaven on earth for Instagrammers. It’s literally known as the Estate of Azulejos and is worth the trip outside the city. Every inch of this garden is covered in beautiful tiles. From the benches to the columns, it’s all just so pretty.
National Palace of Sintra
The Palace is in itself a very interesting building with it’s mix of Gothic-Renaissance and Islamic influence, but the crowning jewel for us is the polychrome azulejos. King Manuel had these Portuguese tiles specially made in Seville and they cover many rooms inside the building.
Find out which places you can visit on our Portugal City & Surf Trip