Porto’s Tiled Buildings

Something that makes Porto unique is its tiled facades and walls which are everywhere, from iconic buildings to train stations. Most churches are embellished with blue and white tiles showing specific parts of Portuguese life or loral themes.

How it all began 

The history of Azulejo production dates back to 13th century when much of Portugal was under Moorish rule. It was they who introduced the production of tiles to embellish their houses and Alcazaba. Looking at the semantics, Azulejo originates from the Arabic word ”az-zulayj, which might mean “small polished stone”. However, many believe that the name comes from the Portuguese Azul, which means “light blue”.

There are just so many to see in the Old Town, such as :-

Se do Porto (Porto Cathedral)

The real beauty of the cathedral lies in its cloister walls which feature some of the best azulejos, depicting scenes from ‘The Metamorphosis’ along with the life of the Madonna. The dark interior provides a beautiful contrast to the very bright blue and white tiles on the cloister walls.

Capela das Almas

This 18th century chapel is famous for being literally covered in blue and white tiles, designed by potter Eduardo Leite, depicting scenes from the lives of saints. While the architecture of the chapel is relatively simple, the fact that it’s covered with 15,947 tiles (can you imagine the amount of work?)is what makes it stand out. It’s no surprise that this is one of the most photographed landmarks in Porto.

Igreja de Santo Ildefonso

A baroque 18th-century church, close to São Bento Train Station, at the top of a hill in the Old Town. It was built in 1739 and features an 11,000 tile façade of azulejo tile work so elaborate it was only completed in 1932! Designed by Jorge Colaco, who also designed São Bento below, the tiles depict the life of St. Ildefonso, as well as the allegories from the Eucharist.

Igreja dos Carmelitas and Igreja do Carmo

Eglise du Carmo - Igreja do Carmo, Porto ⋆ Portugal en français

These two connected 16 – 17th century lavish Baroque and Rococo style churches feature orate granite facades with beautiful tiled walls.

Igreja do Carmo, one of the better examples of azulejos in Portugal. The exterior of the church was completed in 1878 but the interior was completed over a century and a half later in 1910 and pays tribute to Nossa Senhora.

Casa da Musica

Casa da musica, Porto Portugal - OMA | Iwan Baan

This is a contemporary music hall, finished in 2005, exclusively dedicated to music – for artistic training, creation, and public performances. The beautiful hand-painted white and blue tiles are in the VIP hall and provide a stunning contrast to the modernism of the rest of the building.

São Bento Train Station

The São Bento station is probably the most beautiful one in Portugal. First opened in 1916, the tile work began five years after the station was built. And although it might look ordinary from the outside, the real beauty lies within. The main hall features 20,000 tiles telling the history of Portugal, including the Battle of Valdevez and the Conquest of Ceuta, and many other important events in history. A must-see!

Banco de Materiais

Banco de Materiais

This was set up in 2010 to preserve and display the tile’s designs. It’s a great spot for building owners to get inspiration to decorate their facades with the beautiful azulejos, and anyone can deposit or borrow tiles.

To be honest, there are examples of these gorgeous pretty much everywhere in Porto and the surrounding towns!

39 Comments on “Porto’s Tiled Buildings

  1. Oh my, I just love those blue and white tiles! I would be spending most of my time taking pictures of those tiled buildings! Wish I was there right now. Thanks for showing those beautiful photos Sheree!😊😻📷🌞

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I adore these beautiful tiles. We managed to visit all but one of the places you listed. Just missed out on the Casa da Musica which may not have been open as we visited in COVID.

    Liked by 1 person

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