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Preserving the Legacy of Portuguese Azulejos Tiles: A Journey Through Time

Portuguese Azulejos tiles have a rich history that dates back to the 15th century. Azulejos, which means "polished stone" in Portuguese, are hand-painted or hand-glazed ceramic tiles that have been used for centuries as a decorative element in Portuguese architecture.

The use of Azulejos tiles became particularly popular during the 16th century when Portuguese traders and explorers brought back new ideas and styles from their travels to the East.

One of the most iconic uses of Azulejos tiles can be found in Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal. In Lisbon, Azulejos tiles cover the walls of many buildings, creating a unique and colorful landscape that is characteristic of the city. The tiles are often used to depict scenes from everyday life, religious themes, and landscapes, giving them a historical and cultural significance that is unmatched.

floor tiles and wall tiles building house

The unique light of Lisbon

What sets Azulejos tiles apart from other forms of tilework is the way they interact with light. Throughout history, the light of Lisbon has been celebrated by poets and writers, painters, and other artists, as well as captured by photographers and filmmakers of the highest caliber. What is it about this light that makes it so unique?

There are a lot of things that make Lisbon's light beautiful: from the number of hours of sunshine to the clarity of the days due to dominant winds; from the construction materials to the very geography of the city, opening to the Tagus river that reflects light all day long

In Lisbon, tiles are often used to cover large surfaces, such as walls and facades. The flat, smooth surface of the tiles reflects light in a way that is unique and beautiful, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere in the city. The intricate patterns and designs on the tiles also help to create a sense of depth and movement. The use of these tiles on facades, and buildings in Lisbon has created a unique and beautiful light effect in the city, adding to its visual appeal and atmosphere.


Despite the popularity of Azulejos tiles, the tradition of making them is in danger of being lost. As the world becomes more modern and commercialized, many young people are turning away from traditional crafts and choosing more modern forms of expression.

This has led to a decline in the number of people who are learning the skills of Azulejos tile making, and a decline in the quality of the products being produced.

In order to keep this tradition alive, it is important to support the artists and artisans who are dedicated to preserving the Azulejos tile tradition. This can be done by purchasing their products, attending their exhibitions, and spreading the word about this unique and important craft.


Surrealejos represents a younger generation that is striving to preserve and enhance this cultural heritage, while at the same time promoting innovation and renewal of the craft.

Established in May 2014 by Italian designer Luca Colapietro, Surrealejos is creating Azulejos, tiles, interior home decor, and contemporary art. The founder has always been deeply influenced by the abundant and beautiful tiles used throughout Portuguese cities, and you can clearly see this in his interior design projects! Incorporating a surrealist vision, the brand reinterprets this characteristic of Portuguese architecture in a contemporary manner.

wall tiles backpack tiles in open closet toilet bowls

Left: Surrealejos tiles on the street. Right: Inside Cortiço & Netos

Cortiço & Netos

The four brothers who run the business showcase vintage tiles across simple pine shelves in their shop in Lisbon. In Lisbon's historic Mouraria district, the Cortiço brothers have inherited their grandfather's Cortiço & Netos business.

Using tall wood shelves, they displayed his 30-year-old stockpile, which comprises discontinued lines from the 1960s to today's products. Also, the brothers have started making tiled homewares as part of the family business.

Taking advantage of the high ceilings in the shop, they showcase the new items alongside the tiles, which provide the only color in the otherwise minimal décor.

As there are hundreds of different tile patterns and a wide range of color palettes, the store does not require much decoration - the tiles themselves should stand proudly on display.

On top of the wooden shelving, you will find an array of unusual ceramic glazings, including a set of brightly colored toilet bowls.

Lisbon skyline painting tiles


Portuguese Azulejos tiles have a rich history and cultural significance that makes them an important part of Portugal's heritage. Learning and practicing this craft not only helps you develop new skills and broaden your knowledge in a particular field, but it also helps to preserve traditions and keep them alive for future generations.

Due to this, some knowledgeable Lisboetas of the area have offered their expertise and are happy to pass on their knowledge to anyone interested in learning more about the craft and its history. By supporting the artists and artisans who are dedicated to preserving this tradition, we can help to ensure that this rich and vibrant part of Portugal's cultural identity is not lost.

Flea market

Oh, and while you're there, don't forget to check out the big open flea market Mercado de Santa Clara to hunt for bargains and curiosities! Read more about this local flea market tip here!

eye pillows serving tray with candles glasses of water flower strawberries and beaded earrings

Cake is a lifestyle brand offering unique homewares and accessories that celebrate culture and individuality. Founder Laurine Brugman designs products that withstand trends and fads - creating timeless pieces that you’ll treasure forever.

We’re passionate about preserving traditional crafts and passing on a little bit of love with our hand-made items. All of our items are produced in limited runs to eliminate waste and ensure quality.


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