Walking around the cobbled streets of Portugal you can’t fail to noticed the famous azulejos. Brightly painted ceramic tiles adorn buildings and walls all around the country, and I became a little obsessed with photographing them at any opportunity.So much so, around 80% of all the photos I took in Portugal are of tiles.
Azulejos, a short history
Originally introduced by the invading Moors in the 13th century, Portugal’s azulejos started life as decoratively displayed polished stones. Later, painted ceramic tiles became popular and were used to cover large blank expanses of interior walls common in many Gothic buildings at the time. Whilst these tiles started with simple geometric patterns they evolved to become important canvases on which to relay Portugal’s rich history. By the 18th century painted ceramic tiles became an important part of the country’s architecture, and were commonly used for decorating the inside and outside of buildings. Today, you can spot tiles covering everything from churches and restaurants to homes and railway stations. And in some towns, you’ll even see them being used to display street names.
Whilst they were mostly blue and white, Portuguese tiles can be found in an incredible array of colours. From rich reds and golds, to pale blues and dusky corals, these beautifully painted tiles have become synonymous with Portugal over the last few centuries.
The perfect souvenir
These tiles also make a brilliant holiday gift. You can pick them up pretty reasonably and they’re a really beautiful reminder of days spent wandering down the streets of Portuguese towns. I bought a few tiles with my initials on to put in my study. Every time I look at them they remind me of my week in Portugal, and prompt me to keep planning my next trip abroad!
Since returning from Portugal, I can’t stop looking for tiles and am trying to find ways of integrating them into my house. So far I’m only using them to put under my houseplants in the living room, but I’m seriously considering tiling a kitchen wall!
Have you been taken in by the beauty of the azulejos? I’d love to see some of your favourite tiles, and if you have any other ideas on how I can incorporate a touch of Portugal into my home before I take to tiling every available space let me know!