Portugal is a pattern-lover’s wet dream.

In Porto, a small city in the North of the country, rich colors and intricately patterned tiles cover the facades of otherwise grey, dreary, concrete buildings. Inside these buildings, shop owners sell goods with traditional Portuguese flair; never dwelling, but always aware that subtle reminders of their country’s history are displayed through the designs on the tiles just outside.

Azulejos (In Arabic meaning ‘small polished stone’) are tiles that were originally brought to Portugal in the 13th century by the Moors during the invasion. The tiles at this time were simple colors featuring geometric and floral designs and, as in keeping with Islamic law, not displaying human subjects.

However, although they date back to this time, the Portuguese didn’t adopt the tiles as a design and cultural staple until the 16th and 17th centuries, when King Manuel I went to Seville and felt inspired by the Spanish take on tile art. Because of this, the simple geometric tiles were replaced with more detailed, ornate ones. Through these tiles, the Portuguese tell stories about their history and culture.

The tiles and colors are displayed in Porto today as proud pieces of art, and make the city a vibrant, lively place to see.

During my stay in Porto, I hit up all of the major tourist attracts and then some (which will be a separate post altogether). But when I was going from site to site, or just out for an evening stroll, I paid attention to these tiles, colors, and patterns.

Here are my favorite patterns of Porto:

Porto

Teals, greys, and fuchsias along the Rua das Carmelitas. Laundry blowing in the breeze.

The view from Centro Portugues de Fotografia (Portuguese Centre for Photography). The building, which was once the Relação Prison – hence the bars – now houses a free museum dedicated to photography and the evolution of the camera.

Porto

Rua das Carmelitas. A reminder of a more vibrant time.

Porto

Contrast along the banks of the Douro River.

Porto Patterns

To keep someone in, or to keep everyone out; black & white.

Porto Patterns

Future interior door design inspiration.

Porto Patterns

Blue, yellow, and white azulejos.

Porto Patterns

Everything comes in three’s.

Porto Patterns

The colorful outside decor of a daycare.

Porto Patterns

More traditional azulejos.

Porto Patterns

Teal and grey, complicated tic-tac-toe dreams.

Porto Patterns

Love can be found even in the dooriest of places.

Patterns of Porto

Blue & white intricate tile vibes.

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Patterns of Porto

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