One of the things we love to do when travelling is visit art galleries. In Lisboa you don’t need to go inside to walk around an art gallery. Their streets are art galleries filled with tile panels, sculptures, tiled houses and of course street art. You never quite know what you might come across as you turn a corner, and of course never forget to look up!
Azulejos really are the art of Lisboa if not Portugal itself. They are an essential part of the architecture, turning plain buildings and boring alleys into art galleries. We found them irresistible and even brought one home. We would have bought more but restricted by the airline weight limits. Next time we just might have to drive to Portugal!
Whilst some of the panels look as fresh as when they were first tiled, others show their age and a distinct lack of tender loving care. Lisboa is no different to the Algarve; well-maintained buildings rub shoulders with those in urgent need of a lick of paint or something more substantial. Close up you realise there is huge variation in the tile design reflecting perhaps the personality of the original building owners. There are flowers, animals, people, and geometric shapes galore as well as historical tales. Most in blue but there are also many in colour. Some of the factories that began production in the mid 18th century still exist in Lisbon, and we passed more than one on our explorations. We also stumbled across tile artists painting in small shops in the back streets, and it was from one of these that we bought our one tile.
If you love tiles as much as we do then you might like my post on the superb tile museum or you could visit The Best of Lisbon. If you are in Lisboa then here’s a great list of the top ten places to indulge yourself in tiles, alternatively you could do what we did and simply explore Lisboa’s glorious open air art galleries.
Few, if any, of the tiles in my photographs will be from the early 18th century as much of Lisboa was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake and the fires that followed. It is known as The Great Lisbon Earthquake but in fact its epicentre was off the coast of the Algarve, and the shocks were felt as far away as Caribbean. It took nearly a year to clear the debris from the streets of Lisboa, followed by decades of rebuilding. Part of the reconstruction where there are few tiles is Pombaline Baixa. It is however a stunning square and also one of the first examples of earthquake-resistant construction. I’ll return to this part of Lisboa in a future post. For now though and to finish here’s a birds eye view of the cidade de azulejos. Lisboa is beautiful city and we have such happy memories of our stay there. We will return but for now I hope you’ve enjoyed this virtual visit to Lisboa as part of Monday Escapes.