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:
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.
Rua das Carmelitas. A reminder of a more vibrant time.
Contrast along the banks of the Douro River.
To keep someone in, or to keep everyone out; black & white.
Future interior door design inspiration.
Blue, yellow, and white azulejos.
Everything comes in three’s.
The colorful outside decor of a daycare.
More traditional azulejos.
Teal and grey, complicated tic-tac-toe dreams.
Love can be found even in the dooriest of places.
Blue & white intricate tile vibes.
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