Tiles Galore: Lisbon’s Azulejos

I am fascinated by tiles.  If you were to go through photos of my travels, you’d soon see the pattern emerge. I take photos of floor tiles, bathroom tiles, the beautiful blue and yellow tiles that line the walls as you descend into Buenos Aires’ subterraneo, the colourful broken tiles that decorate the benches of Barcelona’s Parc Güell, the iconic black and white mosaics that make up Rio de Janeiro’s sidewalks…you get the idea.

The Tiles of Lisbon

Earlier this summer I got to spend a few days in Lisbon, and one of the first things I noticed was that Lisbon’s buildings are covered in tiles! That may just be my favourite thing about the city. Some exteriors match while others are a mishmash of ornate patterns and colour; but their purpose isn’t merely aesthetic. Tiles are used because they are a relatively inexpensive way of finishing off the facade, and they’re also a great cooling mechanism.

Needless to say, when I learned Lisbon had a museum dedicated to the azulejo; a blue and white tile that was introduced by the Moors, I simply had to visit! The Museu Nacional do Azulejo may not be the most popular tourist attraction; I only ran into a family with two sulking children and an older woman, but that does not make it any less fascinating! In my opinion anyway…

Entering the Museum

Inside the museum you can track the evolution of the azulejo from the 16th century, through the rococo period, to its contemporary style. And you can also get a peek at the people working behind the scenes to restore these tiles.

Inside the Museum

Learning a bit about the history of the azulejo and seeing the details up close helped me appreciate the work that went into creating the facades that adorn the churches, businesses and apartment buildings around the city.

Early Azulejos

So there you have it, I like tiles.

What subjects are you drawn to when you travel?


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