As you stroll amongst the architecture while taking in the sites of Portugal, take in the impressive examples of intricate tile work. Azulejos are not only artistically pleasing; they’re a glimpse into the rich history of design that has progressed in Portugal over the past few centuries. Whether you choose to search for these tiles on your own or visit one of the museums that display their history – they are a must see when visiting Portugal’s towns and cities.
Why are they called azulejos?
The term azulejo is derived from the Arabic term az-zulayj which translates to “polished stone.” You will find them everywhere – from the walls of churches to palaces – and in homes, fountains, and railway stations. They are sometimes geometrically patterned, and may also portray elaborate scenes. Many azulejo tiles are blue and white, which was popular during the 17th century and was influenced by the look of Chinese porcelain. While the use of glazed tiles initially began in Egypt, Portuguese artisans can be credited with the progression that makes the azulejos as well-known as they are today.
Lisbon is an excellent place to see the different styles of azulejos – both out and about, as well as in the Tile Museum, which exhibits five centuries of the history and progression of their design. Or you can walk around on your own and find hidden gems around the city.
Azulejos are a part of Portuguese heritage, and in turn – became an important art form reflective of the creative nature of the country’s artists and designers. No other European country can rival the production of azulejos compared to Portugal, and we are proud of this heritage. While they are not a highly requested design here, or in the U.S. in general, the azulejo tile is a proud piece of culture from Portugal – a beautiful example of the tile design that comes from centuries of fine-tuning and craftsmanship.