I can’t begin to describe how much I love these colorful tiles. Similar styles exist in Mexico, and as I was growing up, my mother would buy pots, tiles, and other ceramics with a very similar aesthetic, really bringing the designs near and dear to my heart. Portugal is very proud of their tiling traditions, and I was able to get an eyeful while walking the streets of Lisbon.
The Alfama Neighborhood
Here is the grand-daddy of Lisbon, quite literally! It’s the oldest neighborhood and has some of the most stunning building, narrow staircases, and enticing Fado music you can find in the city. The area used to be a bath district, its name coming from the Arabic “Al-hamma,” meaning “hot fountains” or “baths.” If you go to Casa de Fados, part of their building used to be one such bath!
The neighborhood is also known for its buildings with plentiful azulejos on their exteriors. Just wandering and getting lost in the neighborhood will yield more than a few remarkable sights for the color-craving tile enthusiast!
It would come as no surprise, then, that there is an entire museum dedicated to these tile titans just up the road from Alfama.
Inside, you can find tiles to your heart’s content! The first floor has a beautiful garden area with exhibits showcasing the different eras of azulejos history: Moving from the 17th century through to the 19th century. You can see and feel different patterns, carving techniques, and colors used to make these wonderful ceramic tiles.
Of note on the first floor as well is the Santo Antonio Chapel and Church area, which hosts a wide variety of stunning azulejos murals lining the pews. This was our main draw for coming here and it did not disappoint!
You can also watch as expert restorers work on tile restoration through a glass showcase. You can see the myriad stacks of tiles, dusty workbenches, and countless tiny drawers of tools, notes, and other documents.
I can’t wait until we have a place where we can decorate and go crazy! I loved the azulejos of the 19th century with their three-dimensional patterns, much like the ones the decorate the exteriors of many buildings in Alfama. What do you think? Is there a favorite style of azulejo you enjoy? Where else can I find jaw-dropping ceramic tiles around the world? Let me know in the comments!