A Photo Journey Along a Trail of Portuguese Tiles

Remodeling & Design, Travel / Monday, October 8th, 2018

One of the first thing you notice in Portugal, whether you’re in Lisbon or the Algarve or anywhere else in this wonderful country, is the tile work. While not necessarily unique to Portugal, the extent to which the Portuguese use tile as an integral feature of their architecture is, at least in our experience, unmatched. Today’s post is a photo journey along a trail of Portuguese tiles (not too many words but LOTS of pictures – the way Debra likes it!). We’re so glad you’ve decided to join us!

Building clad in blue tileThe cladding shown on this building is typical, reflecting an attitude of “Why paint when you can tile?”It’s clear that this is not a new phenomenon.

Older brown-tiled building
Note the tile juxtaposed to the ubiquitous Portuguese black-and-white cobbles.

While tile obviously isn’t immune to the effects of the elements

Missing tiles from black and blue tiled wallit’s also clear that the preferred repair is also tile, even if the match isn’t exact.

Blue tile repairSometimes, the effect of aging can actually enhance the artistic appeal (at least, in my opinion).

Yellow and red tile wall deteriorationTiling, rather than painting is everywhere- and certainly not reserved for higher-rent buildings.

Tile clad buildings on ordinary streetThe effect in a courtyard can be quite elegant.

Looking through to tile on the walls of courtyardEven if the entire building is not clad with tile, the Portuguese preference for tile as at least some part of the exterior surface is unmistakable.

Tile adorning wall surrounding a porchThe next picture is a typical street scene in Lisbon. Note the tile work on the buildings at the intersection.

Tile work at Lisbon intersectionThe presence of other decorative elements doesn’t diminish the use of tile.

Lion sculpture with tile backgroundThe next two pictures show differing effects of sunlight and water on tile cladding.

Sun-faded tile claddingDeterioration between balconiesThe Portuguese use tile on all exterior surfaces, including entryways and alcoves. The handsome fellow in the next picture compliments the tile work in the entryway he’s guarding quite well.

Dog in blue-tiled entryway(This was close to the apartment we rented in the Algarve, so we had the opportunity to pass him several times during our stay. I never tested his protective resolve.)

Lisbon is the birthplace of St. Anthony (the patron saint of lost things). This lovely wall is behind the altar shrine commemorating his birth.

Altar shrine at St. AntonioAnd these tiles adorn a ceiling in one of the palaces we visited; I apologize that I didn’t note which one. But the work is lovely, don’t you agree?

Ceiling tilesOn our way up to Saint George Castle in Lisbon, we encountered this lovely townhouse with tile panels by the top-floor window

Tile panels by upper-floor windowsas well as several other examples of beautiful exterior Portuguese tiles:

Green filigree tileGreen geometric wall tilesAntique ocher tiles as well as this spectacular detail:

Detail of fancy border with blue geometric tileLisbon has a tile museum that is well worth the time and effort.

Tile-clad conical roof feature
Pretty impressive cladding on the roof turret of the tile museum
Debra touching tile exhibit
Debra loved that she got to touch!
Silly selfie at the tile museum
Silly selfie at the tile museum

This doorway was not at the tile museum, but I thought it was museum-quality work.

Tile flanking a doorwayAnd the juxtaposition of the spectacular colors in the tile trompe l’oeil with the concrete building structure was striking.

tile trompe l'oeilThe next picture shows a small section of tile on a wall near an archeological dig in downtown Lisbon. I don’t recall seeing anything like it any where else.

Unusual green-on-white patternNext, we travel to two palaces outside Lisbon. The first, the Palace of Queluz, sits roughly 16 kilometers from both Lisbon and Sintra. The second, Pena Palace, is in Sintra. Both are spectacular in completely different ways.

The thing that they have in common is the extravagant use of tile – again, in completely different ways.

First – the Palace of Queluz:

Interior at Queluz with carriageInterior tile panel at Queluz2nd interior tile panel at QueluzWe were a bit in awe of the workmanship of the tile panels at Queluz. Until we went outside. Then, we were simply stunned.

Tiled exterior walls of an outbuilding at Queluz
Just an outbuilding beside the creek.
Wall of the drainage channel - palace in the background
Wall of the drainage channel – palace in the background
Another view of the drainage channel with the palace in the background
Another view of the drainage channel with the palace in the background
Outside wall of the drainage channel facing the palace
Outside wall of the drainage channel facing the palace

Interior of drainage channel

Detail of bridge over drainage channel at Queluz
Detail of bridge over drainage channel at Queluz

Moving another 16 or so kilometers down the road, you come to the lovely town of Sintra, which deserves at least a whole post of its own. Today, however, we’ll just admire a small fountain courtyard with tile accents

Tile accents on fountainbefore heading up the hill to Pena Palace. On the walk, we see that tile accents on fountains take other shapes.

Tile accent on moss-covered drinking water fountain
Tile accent on moss-covered drinking water fountain

Pena Palace is a true story-book place. We’ll spend the day there in a future post, but for now, just a few pictures to illustrate that the tile work, both outside

Blue tile exterior wall at Pena Palaceand in

Interior courtyard tile work at Pena Palaceis something to behold.

Here are a couple more shots of Pena Palace, just to whet your appetite for a full tour. Please note the spectacular tile work.

Second blue tile wall at Pena Palace

Blue tile offsetting yellow and red pigments on walls at Pena Palace
Note the tile-clad conical turret, similar to the Lisbon Tile Museum

We’ve come to the end of our photo journey along a trail of Portuguese tiles. I hope that you’ve enjoyed the trip. Please share with loved ones and neighbors, friends and family. We love the company!

Until the next sojourn With the Barretts, be well but push your limits. Travel a bit beyond  your comfort zone, both literally and figuratively – in terms of both geography and style.

Best –


2 Replies to “A Photo Journey Along a Trail of Portuguese Tiles”

  1. I am so impressed with both Portugal’s love of tiles, and your eye for art being expressed in architecture
    and tiles. i love Europe and have never been to Portugal and seeing it thru your eyes, now I have! Please put me on you “share with” list.

    1. Thanks, so much, for the feedback! We really appreciate it. You’re on the list now, as requested. There will be more Portugal posts (probably many more); it’s a lovely country.
      Please forward our blog to others – we really do love company.

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