Azulejo tiles in Porto are one of the city’s most unique attractions. This article tells you where to see the best blue and white Porto tiles and has a helpful map to pinpoint the exact address locations of the most important azulejos in Porto.
Azulejos are one of Porto’s unique attractions and were among the first things I noticed during my three-night city break in Porto.
Portuguese wall tiles are hard to miss, whether clinging to the facade of a building or making an interior look like something from an art gallery; it’s fun finding all the different blue and white azulejo wall panels.
Porto azulejos are more than just tiles; they’re living history, vibrant art, and a window into the soul of this enchanting city.
As you explore Porto, scenes from Portugal’s history pop out from the beautiful glazed ceramic azulejo murals. The azulejo style reflects religious events and stories of Portuguese exploration, historic battles, animals, and daily life.
Most of the Porto blue tiles you will see are centuries old. In contrast, modern azulejo tile panels painted by contemporary artists with geometric patterns and intricate designs can be seen in the Ribeiro district.
Map of Porto Azulejos Tiles
Why are there so many blue tiles in Porto?
Intriguingly, Portugal’s fascination with azulejo tiles can be traced back to distant influences, with Spain, Italy, and Holland playing pivotal roles in the tiles’ early history.
Azulejos were already making their mark in the Iberian Peninsula during the Middle Ages, mainly through the hands of the Moors.
It wasn’t until the 15th century, after Portuguese King Manuel I visited Seville in Spain, that the notion of colourful glazed tiles was brought to Portugal. This encounter marked a turning point in the artistic landscape of the entire country.
Early Portuguese azulejos were initially imported from the Netherlands, where they bore a striking resemblance to the renowned Dutch Delftware.
Remarkably, it wasn’t until the 16th century that the Portuguese fully embraced and mastered the production of azulejos. As if discovering a hidden treasure, they unlocked the true potential of azulejo tiles, allowing them to flourish into a form of expression.
The allure of these tiles was irresistible, especially to Portugal’s affluent residents, who favoured the enchanting blue hues. Over time, azulejo tiles transcended from mere decoration, transforming into an extraordinary art form that spread like wildfire across the country. They found their place adorning the facades of buildings, where they highlighted bible stories and tales of historical events.
Indeed, the evolution of azulejo tiles in Portugal is a remarkable journey that reflects the nation’s enduring passion for art and creativity.
From distant lands to their very own masterpieces, these tiles have weaved themselves into the fabric of Portuguese culture, leaving an indelible mark on the country’s rich heritage.
Here are some exact places where you can see Portuguese azulejos
São Bento Railway Station
The iconic São Bento railway station is known for its grand entrance hall adorned with over 20,000 20th-century Portuguese azulejo tiles depicting scenes from Portugal’s history. It’s unusual to see such beautiful artwork on the walls of train stations, but in Porto, it is the norm.
Address: Praça Almeida Garrett, 4000-069 Porto, Portugal
The Battle of São Mamede (celebrated with the hoisted flag) is pictured in azulejo tiles at the train station. This historical scene is detailed at great length in these Portuguese tiles, showing the battle in which Portugal conquered independence.
Igreja do Carmo
The exterior of this church showcases an ornate blue and white tile composition depicting the founding of the Carmelite Order and scenes from the life of Saint Teresa; the tiles date from the early 20th century.
Approaching the church from the front, you won’t see anything to differentiate it from churches in other European countries until you turn the corner, and then the blue ceramic tiles appear.
Address: Largo do Carmo, 4050-164 Porto, Portugal
Palácio da Bolsa (Stock Exchange Palace)
Inside the palace, you can find the Arab Room, featuring intricate Moorish-style azulejo panels.
Address: R. de Ferreira Borges, 4050-253 Porto, Portugal
While primarily known as a bookstore, its entrance hallway is adorned with beautiful azulejo work.
Address: Rua das Carmelitas, 144, 4050-161 Porto, Portugal
Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis
This museum houses a collection of decorative tiles, including examples from different periods and styles.
Address: Rua Dom Manuel II, 44, 4050-343 Porto, Portugal
Porto Cathedral (Sé do Porto)
Porto Cathedral is the place to find some of the first tiles that appeared in Porto.
Biblical figures and scenes are commonplace in Portugal, and Porto’s cathedral cloister is one of the finest examples. It features religious themes in blue and white azulejos depicting the Passion of Christ. These azulejo wall tiles date to the 18th century.
Address: Terreiro da Sé, 4050-573 Porto, Portugal
Casa da Música
This modern, contemporary, designed 21st-century concert hall incorporates azulejo tiles painted to resemble 16th century Portuguese tile art.
Check out the Casa da Musica website for details of live shows.
Address: Avenida da Boavista, 604-610, 4149-071 Porto, Portugal
Capela das Almas (Chapel of Souls)
Located in the Ribeira district, this chapel has almost 16,000 azulejo tiles on its exterior, illustrating the life of Saint Francis of Assisi and scenes from the Gospels. It is one of the most photographed buildings in Porto due to the number of azulejos that cover it.
Address: Rua de Santa Catarina, 428, 4000-442 Porto, Portugal
Igreja de Santo Clara
The interior of this church boasts stunning azulejo panels depicting the life of Saint Clara.
Address: Rua do Bonjardim, 670, 4000-119 Porto, Portugal
Igreja de Santo Ildefonso
This church features a façade covered in blue and white azulejo tiles depicting religious scenes and biblical figures.
Address: Rua de Santo Ildefonso, 4000-542 Porto, Portugal
Mercado do Bolhão
This traditional market has azulejo ceramic tiles on its exterior walls.
Address: Rua Formosa, 4000-214 Porto, Portugal
Palácio dos Carrancas / Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis
The facade of this 18th century national palace, now housing a museum, showcases elegant azulejo designs.
The museum has an extensive azulejo tile collection and exhibits of decorative arts, paintings, and sculptures.
Address: Rua do Bolhão, 305, 4000-112 Porto, Portugal
FAQ’s about Azulejos
Where can azulejo tiles be seen in Portugal?
Porto is full of them, and if you are visiting Lisbon, you will see many azulejos in the capital on public buildings and private homes. To see even more tiles, head to the National Azulejo Museum (National Tile Museum) in Lisbon, which has tiles ranging from the 13th century to the 20th century.
What does the word azulejo mean in English?
The term “azulejo” itself comes from the Arabic word “azzelij”, meaning “small polished stone.” These decorative tiles made their way to Portugal through the Moors and quickly became a symbol of artistic expression.
Can I buy an azulejo tile?
Yes. Many modern artists and designers create contemporary interpretations, blending tradition with innovation. You can buy some beautiful azulejo souvenirs as a piece of Porto’s artistic heritage from many shops, galleries and museums.
Can I learn about azulejos on a Porto Tour?
If you want to visit one of Porto’s azulejo factories and see how the Portuguese painters still use the traditional way of making and decorating handmade pieces, the good news is that you can book a Private Portuguese Tiles and Wine Tour.
Remember that the places mentioned in this article may have specific opening hours or entry fees, so checking ahead of your visit is a good idea.
And there you have it. The best places in Porto to see Portuguese blue tiles. Enjoy exploring the rich history and artistry of azulejo tiles in Porto!
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