You haven’t been to Porto, if you haven’t seen Azulejos. In fact, you can’t miss it ! It is everywhere, on houses, churches, train station etc.
Azulejos, are basically painted tiles, very common in Portugal and Spain. They are usually in blue and white colour, but nowadays you can find many variations, and even some really original and colourful hand painted ones.
Where to see
Capela Das Almas
Location : Rua de Santa Catarina
Tile work completed 1929 by Eduardo Leite
15,947 tiles covering area of 360 m2
Opening hours : Mon-Sat: 7:30am-1pm / 3:30pm-7pm; Sun: 7:30am-1pm / 6-7pm
Literally translated as Chapel of Souls, this is one of the first we saw as we were strolling along the busy shopping street of Rua de Santa Catarina. I love how it almost covers the entire church building !
And if you are impressed by the exterior, you must check out the interior !
Igreja Paroquial de Santo Ildefonso
Location : Rua de Santa Ildefonso
Tile work completed 1931 by Jorge Colaço, however the church dates back to the 18th Century
Opening hours : Mon: 3pm-6:30pm; Tue-Sat: 9am-12pm / 3pm-6:30pm; Sun: 9am-1pm / 6pm-8pm
The Parish Church of Santo Ildefonso is probably my favourite of all the Azulejos I have seen in this trip. Although the sides of the church are not tiled, I like that the church is a standalone building, the facade is grander and taller, and that the crowd here is much lesser compared to Capela Das Almas.
Igreja de Santo António dos Congregados
Location : R. de Sá da Bandeira
Church of Saint Anthony’s Congregation dates back to the 17th Century ! We walked past this while getting to Sao Bento train station. The tile work is of a much smaller area but I like how it is used more like detailing addition around the window frames.
Sao Bento train station
Location : Av. Dom Afonso Henriques
Tile work completed 1903 by Jorge Colaço (same who did Santo Idefonso)
~20,000 tiles covering area of 551 m2
Opening hours : 24/7
This is a rather unique one, cause there is not one Azulejos on the exterior of Sao Bento train station, but the moment you walk in the station, the entire wall inside is covered with Azulejos ! It is really impressive !
Igreja da Ordem de terço
Location : Tv. Cimo de Vila
Tile work completed in the 18th Century by Joao Joaquim Alao
Adjacent to the Church of the Order of the Rosary is the Hospital da Ordem do Terço (Hospital of the Order of the Rosary), where many pioneering surgery took place here. This facade was a bit rundown, and hopefully it gets some maintenance and restoration. I like the large oval central window, shaped like a monstrance !
How to get there
I have to say Porto’s public transportation is pristine ! That said, I think the best way to check out these Azulejos is by foot ! It is an easy 1.5 km walk, you can take your time, eat at least two Pastel de Natas in between, or every time you pass by a cafe / bakery.
Other notable Azulejos
Sé do Porto
Location : Terreiro da Sé
Tile work completed in early 18th century by Valentim de Almeida
Tiles covering area of 19.5 m2
Opening hours : 9am-12:30pm / 2:30pm-6pm
Porto Cathedral is probably the oldest monument in Porto, with construction of the church started back as early as 1110 !
Rua da Ribeira Negra
Location : Rua da Ribeira Negra
Tile work completed 1987 by Júlio Resende
This very modern work can be found at the entrance of the Rua da Ribeira Negra tunnel. The tile work extends along 40 m.
Casa da Música
Location : Av. da Boavista
Opening hours : Mon-Sat: 10am-7pm; Sun: 10am-6pm
Not sure if you can get into this VIP room, but I thought the designer very smartly integrated the old (Azulejos) and the new (modern architecture) !
Where to buy Azulejos
Now, after seeing all these beautiful Azulejos, you definitely want to bring some back home ! It can be for a decoration piece in your own home, or a souvenir for your friends and family.
If you just want something simple and more budget friendly, you can get hold of them, in the forms of magnets, coasters, trays etc. in the many souvenir shops around Rua da Santa Catarina.
A 2″ X 2″ magnet will cost around 1.50 to 2 EUR. The cheapest we found (1 EUR) is this store next to our favourite Pastel de Nata bakery (Manteigaria).
Tip : You really must try their Pastel da Nata ! We had two each EVERY SINGLE DAY !
If you are looking for something more refined and original, you must check out Prometeu Artesanto !
This is a two storey shop with in house painters selling only hand painted Azulejos, and it comes it all sizes ! You can even commission them to draw whatever you want, but I’m not sure how much it will cost.
A small magnet will cost you around 3 to 4 EUR.
A 5″ X 5″ tile (only) costs about 8 to 10 EUR.
Don’t bother finding elsewhere, and just go to Prometeu Artesanto !
Tip : Alternatively, you can also register yourself in a Azulejos workshop, and make your own in 2 hours.