Lisbon: National Azulejo Museum

Lisbon: National Azulejo Museum

When you come to Lisbon, you will notice that tiles or azulejos in Portuguese, are everywhere. It is part of the city image and you will find a hard time finding two identical designs.  If you are a graphic designer or even remotely interested in patterns and design, Lisbon should be a must-see place for you.

I was interested to learn about the history of the tiles in Portugal and see some examples, so one morning we headed to National Azulejo Museum. You can either take a local bus or a taxi, as museum is quite a distance from a nearest metro station. However, once inside it is great for buggies and have got plenty of lifts to transport you between the exhibition spaces.

The museum itself is located in a convent and there are a lot of material inside, much more than meets the eye at first. In fact, tile enthusiasts might want to come back to the museum the next day, as we certainly did not have enough time in 3 hours to see everything in detail. The building itself is lovely, with enclosed courtyard, and there is a small garden space immediately in front of the entrance to the museum.

On the first floor you will learn about the history and how the tiles are made with early examples of azulejos.  Upper floors display examples which are more recent and you would also be able to walk around a whole church inside with fantastic tiled interiors. And watch out for the crocodiles! 

The museum gets quite busy after midday, so if you want to have a bit more space to yourself I suggest to come to the opening time.

I also loved the fact, that the museum has the section on contemporary ceramics.

One of the museum highlights is the longest azulejo panel in the world, which stretches for 23 meters in a dedicated room. The panel was made before the devastating earthquake of 1755 and shows certain monuments and parts of town and how they looked at the time of the panel being made. Museum curators have done a fantastic job in identifying the elements, which you can still see in contemporary Lisbon, so you can visualize what the city looked like 300 years ago and now. 

There is an entertaining side to the museum as well, where you can take your pictures with kids. We had great fun trying to fit into the head holes!

Disclaimer: National Azulejo Museum hosted our visit, but all opinions are our own.

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