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Azulejos in Lisbon, Portugal: Souvenir shopping antique tiles at bargain prices

Azulejos– the Colors of Portugal

In some cities, great art is hidden away in its museums and cathedrals.  But In Lisbon, great art is out in the open for all to enjoy–  just walk through Lisbon’s winding streets and look all around you at the facades of colorfully tiled buildings. lisbon tile buildingPainted and glazed ceramic tiles, known as “azulejos” in Portugal, have been produced here for over five centuries.

antique tile lisbon

These tiles are not only mesmerizing, but also practical– they moderate temperature and keep out humidity.

Azulejo designs have been influenced by different cultures over the years, starting with the Moors in the 15th century then continuing with the Dutch, Spanish and Brazilians, among others.  For a detailed history of azulejo styles and influences, check out this comprehensive Wikipedia article.

tile lisbon portugalExploring the shops of the Rua Dom Pedro V

Just outside the Central Barrio Alto lies the Rua Dom Pedro V, a steep street known for its antique shops, boutiques and galleries.  Near the top of the hill you’ll find Solar, one of the best azulejo dealers in Lisbon. Solar can be confusing to navigate– as you walk through the store, you’ll find rickety staircases leading down to a maze of low-ceilinged, cubbyhole rooms.  If you are an expert in antique tiles, you don’t need my shopping tips.  But for the casual shopper who just wants to bring a great souvenir home, here are my recommendations for azulejos shopping at Solar:

  • Solar carries both new and antique azulejos.  If you’re looking for a matching group of mint condition azulejos for a project, you are better off going with new (unless you are prepared to spend a small fortune on matching antique tiles).
  • One-off antique azulejos here are the best bargain.  If you need more than one tile look for similar coordinating azulejos (more cost-effective than an exact match).
  • Solar stacks the azulejos by both century and condition, so you might be able to buy a roughed-up 17th century azulejo for the same price as a better condition 19th century azulejo.  If cost is an issue, you can decide which factor is most important to you– age or condition.
  • If you don’t mind an imperfect azulejos, it’s worthwhile to hunt through the more damaged piles of 17th century tiles for the chance to buy a piece of history at a bargain price.

DSCF1512My 17th century azulejo (60 euros, plucked from the roughed-up stacks) is such an intense blue that it’s hard to believe it’s already survived nearly 400 years. DSCF1515Solar will bubble wrap your azulejos purchases and provide a signed certificate of authenticity.  I accidentally dropped my bag with my bubble-wrapped azulejo inside, but was relieved to find it unharmed.  Considering the azulejo had already survived 400 years and a major earthquake, a three-foot drop was nothing to worry about. Safe at home now, my Portuguese azulejos brightens a bare spot in my bookcase, but it could also make a great trivet in the kitchen.

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Have you bought azulejos in Portugal?  Tell us about it in the comment below! 

Want to read more Portugal posts? Read about our favorite hat shop in Lisbon here

Souvenir Shopping in Lisbon, Portugal Details:

Solar, Rua D. Pedro V 70 1250-094 Lisbon, Portugal

All Photos by Souvenir Finder, copyright 2013 all rights reserved and may not be reused without express permission.

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12 Responses to Azulejos in Lisbon, Portugal: Souvenir shopping antique tiles at bargain prices

  1. Just Add Attitude 01/03/2014 at 1:32 pm #

    What a beautiful blue-hued antique tile and how wonderful to be able to buy something from the 17th Century at an affordable price. 😉

    • Kristin Francis 01/03/2014 at 7:28 pm #

      Thanks for commenting! Yes, I hadn’t set out to buy one but they were so appealing in person.

  2. MIRROR MIROIR 01/03/2014 at 7:19 pm #

    This is just what I need because I am a female geek who has been engrossed in writing graphic novels and clueless about the reality of shopping. And yet I have to draw clothes and all on my characters that I need to turn to shops for ideas. Shop assistants scare me. Thank you for finding me on twitter.

    • Kristin Francis 01/03/2014 at 7:25 pm #

      I feel honored I am possibly converting a non-shopper! I do have a post coming up about a great comic book shop– all are welcome here!

      • MIRROR MIROIR 01/04/2014 at 6:25 am #

        Really? What a great timing because I used to be a paid illustrator so at least the art work of my graphic novel is up to a certain standard. As for the story, it is a graphic novel for women who have many questions. I will look up to your blog as my bible for women in the real world.

  3. MIRROR MIROIR 01/04/2014 at 10:05 pm #

    Reblogged this on The Third Red Apple and commented:
    I have never done reblogging using WordPress feature. I hope it works.

  4. sueslaght 01/05/2014 at 9:15 pm #

    Kristin we loved Lisbon and the fabulous tiles…everywhere!

    • Kristin Francis 01/07/2014 at 4:56 pm #

      Hi Sue– I love that I didn’t know about them really before I arrived so it was a nice surprise to see how the tiles were incorporated into the architecture. So many different designs!

  5. David Hurst 01/08/2014 at 4:34 pm #

    They make lovely tiles using great colours

  6. rowenamaxwell 01/25/2014 at 4:24 pm #

    Ohhhh, these satisfy my antique tile fettish. Thank you.
    Row

  7. Escape Hunter 04/08/2014 at 7:57 am #

    Very interesting idea to collect old tiles… It looks wonderful.
    I hope there aren’t too many “fake old tiles” out there…

    • Kristin Francis 04/09/2014 at 8:46 am #

      Thanks for stopping by. Solar at least is very reputable. Because I’m not an antique tile expert, I personally wouldn’t spend a ton of money on them (or any antique) unless I knew more about them– I think of them as decorative and not as an investment.

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