Discovering Porto’s azulejos

There are so many azulejos delights in Porto it is more challenging to decide where to start than actually to find them! If you are after something unusual begin with the Cathedral terraces which means you will also enjoy the beautiful cloisters. You may though prefer to begin on the streets of Porto and you certainly won’t be disappointed by the many you will find there. Alternatively you could do what we did which is arrive by train and immediately be overwhelmed by more than 20,000 azulejos in the central hall of Estação Ferroviária de São Bento. The vestibule in this railway station is extraordinary, and like Palácio da Bolsa, São Bento was one of the highlights of our Porto visit.

São Bento

The tiles date from the turn of the last century, and it took over a decade for Jorge Colaço, one of Portugal’s leading tile painters, to create them all. In fact the whole station and railway line took a while to complete. Work on the tunnel you can see in some of the pictures began in 1890 and was not completed until 1893. Work on the station began after completion of the tunnel, however a major landslide at the tunnel entrance in 1897 delayed matters. And so it was not until 1915 that the railway station was finished and inaugurated.

This was not the first time we had seen one of Jorge Colaço incredible creations, in fact we had only been appreciating his work the day before when we visited the Carlos Lopes pavilion in Lisboa. Like his work in Lisboa the tile panels in Porto depict great moments in Portugal’s history, including the Battle of Valdevez (1140) and the Conquest of Ceuta (1415). And it these panels that most of the other blog posts and websites I’ve been reading in preparation for this post focus on as well as his panels of every day life in Portugal. Both sets are incredibly beautiful however it was the friezes right at the top which caught my eye and that of MrB’s.

The friezes are a stunning portrayal of the history of transport up to the 20th century. They are so colourful, and we thought where better than a vibrant transportation terminus to record the history of transport. So much better than a museum. I just wish we could have got closer to them to appreciate. Hopefully though there are enough here for Nancy Merrill’s photo-of-week history challenge!

I took all of these pictures on a Sunday morning in the hope it would be really really quiet. However it turned out 8:30am on a Sunday is not quite early enough!


I was quite surprised by the number of people milling around, however perhaps I shouldn’t have been as Porto is Portugal’s second largest city and São Bento is Porto’s main terminus for the suburban railways. It was from here we caught our train the following day for our day out in Aveiro, which reminds me Aveiro also has some wonderful tiles at the railway station. I will share those ones for my next post, for now though let me finish with the fourth panel type at São Bento.

Author: BeckyB

It had been a good life walking, cooking, photographing, volunteering, blogging, and best of all spending time with MrB, family, & friends. Sadly it no longer is. Suddenly and unexpectedly I have become a widow.

23 thoughts

    1. Thank you so so much . . . and I agree with you about Portugal. One of Europe’s incredible hidden secrets – love the food, love the weather, love the azulejos, love the people and love the country!

  1. I am ashamed to say that I’ve never visited Porto, although I’ve been to many other places in Portugal. Now I can’t think why. I shall really have to make a super effort to include it next year, as this year is already full up and the coffers empty. These tiles are magnificent, absolutely stunning, and your photography does them justice. Keep on showing us lovely aspects of your travels, and thanks.

    1. Thank you so much and don’t feel guilty. Portugal is such an amazing country that it is impossible to visit it all quickly…it takes time to fully enjoy 😊 so many places I’ve yet to go!

    1. Thank you so much Nancy. Do hope you are able to visit one day it is such an incredible ciry. It’s on my bucket list to return!!

    1. I am so envious of you both. We don’t have a return date yet, so much to sort here still that we are not sure when we are going to be able to return. Are you going to be able to squeeze in a trip to centro Portugal during your October visit?

      1. I don’t have a plan as yet. Life here seems to’ve kept us busy enough 🙂 🙂 Mick just said today that we’ll have to give thought to getting to the airport, as we obviously won’t want to leave the car parked for 5 weeks. I’ll start thinking next month 🙂 🙂

        1. Leeds Bradford and yes, I expect so. We might have to coach to Leeds and rely on the young un to do the airport run. I don’t even remember the flight time 🙂

    1. I so agree . . .really hope they continue to keep them in good shape. I will be sharing more this week from another railway station and unfortunately whilst just as beautiful they are not in good shape.

    1. We did!! When we caught the train the following day we got their early so we could spend more time just enjoying them. Such an amazing railway station.

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