Headed to Portugal and looking for the best azulejos in Porto?! You’re in luck! This guide showcases all my favorite spots to find those beautiful blue tiles in Porto. Keep on reading for all the azulejos in Porto you need to see on your next trip!
During my 3 days in Porto, I made it my mission to find as many colorful azulejos as I could find. I knew I would see a bunch of stunning blue tiles in Porto (the city is famous for them after all!), but I didn’t realize just how many there were. Every photographer’s dream!
This was my first time to Porto, and I fell in love with the city within minutes. While I loved the colorful waterfront, sipping on port wine in Gaia, stuffing my face silly with some of the best Portuguese egg tarts in Porto, and watching the sunset from the many viewpoints, one of my favorite things was searching for the best azulejos in Porto! They’re oh so gorgeous and super intricate – don’t miss them during our own trip to the city.
I’m kinda a color fanatic, so I fell in love with all the blue azulejos in Porto right away. They’re super iconic to the city, and you’ll find them on churches, in train stations and museums, and randomly covering houses and buildings (even schools)!
Read Next: The Ultimate 10 Day Portugal Itinerary (all my favorite spots and beaches!)
Introduction to Azulejos in Porto
What are Azulejos?!
This is a post on the best azulejos in Porto, but what are they exactly?! Good question! Azulejos are those famous ceramic tiles found in Portugal, and there’s lots of them in Porto specifically.
Most of them are blue and white, but azulejos can be a combination of colors as well (although those are not as popular, especially if you’re on the hunt for the best azulejos in Porto). They’re one of the most distinctive art forms in Portugal, and oh so gorgeous!
These square ceramic plates are painted and then glazed. You may have even seen them used in other countries (namely Italy, Spain, Turkey, Iran, The Netherlands, and Morocco), but they’re most well known and significant in Portugal for a plethora of reasons. Look closely, besides the patterned tiles and geometric shapes, azulejos tell stories, mostly about religion, hunting, war, mythology, and seafaring.
Porto is known as the Blue City of Portugal because, well, you guessed it – there’s all these beautiful blue and white azulejos in Porto! The use of azulejo tiles is one of the strongest cultural expressions in Portugal, and the country is proud to contribute these blue and white tiles to the world.
A Little History on Porto Tiles
Azulejo tiles have been a part of Portugal’s history for centuries. The word “azulejo” comes from the Arabic word “az-zulayj”, meaning “small polished stone”. These beautiful tiles were originally used in Moorish architecture but eventually made their way to Portugal. Azulejo tiles are now a staple of Portuguese culture and you can find them all over the country!
They were originally brought to Portugal by Moorish invaders from Seville (around the year 1500) and were used to decorate the interiors of mosques and palaces. Azulejos reached their height of popularity in the 18th century, when they were used to decorate walls of private homes. Imagine having your own stunning facade on your house!
Today, azulejos can be found all over Portugal (!!!), but they are most commonly associated with the city of Porto. Hence, why I’m so excited to show you all the best azulejos in Porto – they are downright beautiful and I honestly couldn’t get enough!
Where to Find Azulejos in Porto
While wandering around Porto, you’ll find these stunning blue tiles all over the city. They’re not just in one spot, but in many different neighborhoods and areas. The azulejos of Porto are found on plenty of churches around the city, facades of buildings, and even in the train stations! Literally everywhere and super easy to spot. I mean, why keep these little beauties hidden? That wouldn’t make much sense!
Honestly, it’s hard to find historical buildings without at least some azulejos – they’re so widespread that so many structures have at least one facade covered in these blue and white tiles in Porto. But not all facades are created equal, which is why I created this list of the best azulejos in Porto of course!
If you’d rather a guide show you around, book yourself on a walking tour! This 3-hour walking tour takes you to all the main monuments (like Sao Bento train station, Livraria Lello, Aliados Avenue, etc), while delving out SO MUCH interesting info about the famous Porto tiles and its history.
Where to Buy Azulejo Tiles in Porto
Hey, I get it! You want to bring home some of these stunning Porto tiles yourself! I don’t blame you. Here’s the best places in the city to shop for azulejos in Porto:
- Gazete Azulejos: This shop is easily the best spot to shop for tiles, and comes highly recommended. Not only is it a store, but also a workshop for the traditional hand-painted azulejos facade tiles. They run tours and even classes where you can paint your own azulejo in Porto and learn all about the history of these stunning Portuguese tiles.
- Banco de Materiais: Looking to buy some of the best azulejos in Porto? Head on over to The Materials Bank – they’ve got such an incredible collection of traditional Portuguese tiles.
- Azulima: Want to buy authentic Porto blue tiles in bulk? Azulima is your answer! While they primarily sell in large batches for restoring entire walls, you can also buy them individually as well.
- Prometeu Artesanato: This shop may look like your typical touristy souvenir store from the outside, but they’ve got so many gorgeous tiles I just had to put it on the list. Plus, they’re known for their hand painted azulejos and other traditional souvenirs that are much higher in quality than other souvenir shops.
The Best Azulejos in Porto: The Most Stunning Locations
Let’s get to it – the best places to see those stunning blue Porto tiles! You don’t need to go to every single location, but I highly recommend you pick at least a few so you can see the differences in style and stories they tell!
Chapel of Souls
You’re in Porto – you’re gonna see lots and lots of beautiful tilework (hence my reasonings to write this entire post)! But the Chapel of Souls is by far superior – there’s a reason it’s famous for its magnificent exterior of 16,000(!!!) blue & white tiles. It’s just so, so pretty! Look at it!
The tiles depict the death of St Francis of Assisi and the martyrdom of Santa Catarina. You can look inside if you want, but in my opinion, the real beauty is on the outside.
My hotel in Porto was literally down the block from the Chapel of Souls, so I found myself walking past it a few times a day! What a dream!
I really wanted to capture a photo of myself against the long wall of azulejos on the side of the church, but that proved difficult due to all the people. We finally got it, but it definitely took some patience and a whole bunch of silly (err, unflattering) candids.
Photo tip: Have your photographer stand on the other side of the street and wait for a clearing – in both cars and people (easier said than done). The Chapel of Souls is located in the middle of Ruа dе Sаntа Саtаrinа, one of the busiest shopping streets in all of Porto, so getting the wall all to yourself may be hard! Or just take photos close up – they both make for stunning portrait shots and totally say you’re in Porto.
Sao Bento Train Station
Wait, what?! A train station on this list of best azulejos in Porto?! Yup! Bet you didn’t expect that. It’s actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site, that’s how spectacular the train station is!
Sao Bento Train Station is easily one of the most beautiful train stations in the world, and it’s all thanks to – you guessed it – the stunning azulejo tiles and its French architectural style!
I’m sure the best azulejos in Porto don’t come to mind when you think of a train station, but after visiting yourself, you’ll see exactly what I mean. Tons of walking tours visiting the best spots in the city include Sao Bento on their route. It’s that spectacular. And you don’t even need a train ticket!
Most visitors headed to Porto pass through Sao Bento at least a few times – first right upon entering the city (after transferring from Campanhã)! This means you’ll see one of the best spots for tiles in Porto automatically – before you even head out and explore.
There’s over 22,000 azulejos covering every inch of the station, from the floor to the ceiling! Told ya it was quite impressive! All thanks to Jorge Colaco who designed the station’s tiling way back when in 1916.
With SO many tiles here, there are just so many stories. The tiles depict scenes from Portuguese history like the Battle of Valdevez and the Battle of Aljubarrota, as well the country’s landscapes and transport history. There’s also hints of daily life from northern Portugal, and Colaco really nails down the people’s expressions (way harder than it looks on tile).
The more you look at the tiles the more you’ll see. Book a walking tour with a local if you really wanna understand the significance of each panel – there’s a lot to learn!
Psst – the station will likely be busy at almost all times of day. Remember — this is a fully functioning train station and the cities most popular. If you’re not on a guided tour, stay a few moments after they leave to really feel the ambiance. Taking photos may be difficult, but be patient and you’ll eventually get a few seconds for your shot!
Tripods are not allowed – I found this out the hard way, haha. The guard was very polite and I think he actually waited a while to tell me this in order for me to take a few pictures.
And just remember – if you’ve got a train to catch, make sure you’re keeping an eye on the time. You don’t wanna miss your train because you were staring at the gorgeous blue tiles for too long!
Sé do Porto
Sé do Porto (more commonly known as the Porto Cathedral) is a must-visit for anyone interested in the city’s history and culture. And yes, the cathedrals got some truly awesome azulejos as well.
While the exterior of the cathedral is downright impressive, don’t miss the interior with the gorgeous gothic cloisters. This is where those famous blue tiles are – easily some of the best azulejos in Porto! Well worth the few euros.
Besides all the stunning blue tiles over here, the Porto Cathedral has gorgeous views of the city since it’s built high up on a hill. And it totally looks like a fort or castle from the outside. My kinda place, haha!
Construction of the cathedral took place in the 12th century and has been renovated a couple of times since then. Thankfully the azulejos stayed put!
It’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city, and rightfully so. Make sure to come early enough, as it was closed later on when I attempted to visit so I could only see the outside and not many of those famous Porto blue tiles I was after! Put peep the back of the photo — you can still see a few!
Igreja de Santo Ildefonso
The Saint Ildefonso Church is known for having some of the best azulejos in Porto. I mean, just look at it! There’s over 11,000 tiles over here!
If you’re on the hunt for classic blue and white azulejos in Porto (like I was!), don’t miss this 18th century church. It’s not hard to find; just down the street from the Majestic Cafe (a super popular cafe where J.K. Rowling apparently hung out and wrote part of Harry Potter).
There are plenty of photography angles here, but the most popular one is from straight on. You’ll undoubtedly need a wide-angle lens to capture the whole building! Since there’s not a ton of foot traffic here (the church kinda sits between two streets), it’s pretty easy to capture a photo without other people in it.
I mean, just look at the front of that church – those tiles are absolutely striking! And even designed by the same artist who completed The Sao Bento Station. You can take a peek inside but you’ll need to pay a few euros to properly explore the interior.
Igreja do Carmo
The second you walk over to Igreja do Carmo (it’s not far from the popular Clérigos Bell Tower and Livraria Lello bookshop), you’ll see those famous blue and white tiles Porto is so famous for!
This 18th century baroque-rococo twin-church is one of the oldest buildings in the historic part of Porto, and I just loved it – the exterior at least.
Many people don’t realize that there’s actually two churches right next to each other over here – Igreja do Carmo (which we’re talking about right now) and Igreja dos Carmelitas (it’s twin)!
These two churches are divided by a tiny secret house, not much wider than 1 meter, which was built to separate the monks and nuns earlier on. They weren’t allowed to share a wall! You can actually visit the house, known as Casa Escondia do Porto – it’s one of the narrowest houses in all of Portugal and super interesting if you’re into history.
But enough about that – on to the tiles (because let’s face it, Igreja do Carmo has some of the best azulejos in Porto). Just look at that facade and all the azulejos, designed by Silvestro Silvestri.
The tiles were added to the exterior in 1912 (way after the church was built in the mid 1700s), and are absolutely outstanding. The tiles tell the story of the church foundation, and if you look closely, you’ll see tons and tons of detail.
I think of all the blue tiles in Porto, I enjoyed photographing this one the most! I mean – that facade is just outstanding. Hard to take a bad photo here!
Ribeira is easily Porto’s prettiest waterfront neighborhood with fantastic views of Dom Luís I Bridge and Vila Nova de Gaia. It’s known for its 18th-century townhouses lining the cobblestoned streets (full of azulejos!) and tiny, windy alleyways all leading to the Douro River. It’s by far my favorite place to explore in Porto – there’s always something new to see!
Expect tons of charm and interesting corners, and plan to get lost a bit – there’s no escaping it! There’s a reason it’s the most popular neighborhood to stay in Porto. It’s one of the most authentic and liveliest areas of the city, with tons of waterfront restaurants serving grilled sardines and tiny wine bars with great views of the bridge and river.
AND some of the best azulejos in Porto! Look up, down and all around – I found azulejos in all sizes and colors here – my favorites being the tons of colorful geometric patterns. I’d love a house covered in tiles, and that’s the norm over here! Guess I should move to Porto, haha.
Stroll down both Rua das Flores (a 500 year old street lined with chic cafes, souvenir shops, hip boutiques, and tasty restaurants) and Rua da Bainharia (another very pretty street in the Ribeira area of Porto).
Casa da Musica
If you’re looking for the best azulejos in Porto, you’ll definitely want to check out this concert hall in Porto. Honestly, it kinda looks like a spacecraft! Not sure if that was architect Rem Koolhaas’ intention though, haha.
Newly opened in 2005, it’s the home of the National Orchestra of Porto. And you can actually see concerts and performances here (peep the schedule here). You can also take a guided tour of the building if the calendar doesn’t match your schedule!
The blue azulejos against the floor-to-ceiling windows create such a contrast – I’m so sad I missed a visit here!
If you get a chance, head up to the roof terrace as well. It’s patterned with geometric black and white tiles and looks super cool as well. Way different than the other Porto tiles, that’s for sure.
Igreja dos Congregados
While not as famous as the more popular churches of Igreja do Carmo and Igreja de Santo Ildefonso, Igreja dos Congregados is still worth a visit! And it’s super easy to check out since it’s so close to Sao Bento station (another spot with some of the best azulejos in Porto). I almost didn’t realize just how special this church was because the others are so crazy popular.
This church, built in the 17th century, has quite a history. It was built on the site of a previous chapel dedicated to Saint Anthony (since destroyed), and then restored in the 19th century. The classic blue azulejo tiles depicting the life of Saint Anthony (created by Jorge Colaco again!) weren’t added until the 20th century. And boy are they gorgeous! Especially those yellow tiles surrounding the three windows.
Pinhao Train Station
Yes! Another train station on this list of the best azulejos in Porto!
While it’s not as impressive as Sao Bento (not many train stations are…), the Pinhao Train Station is worth a quick visit, especially if you’re headed to the Douro Wine Region.
Why? Because it’s decorated in those classic blue and white tiles!
And since the line runs straight to the wine region, it only makes sense that the tiles depict the harvesting of port wine from the Douro Valley. From a few centuries ago, of course! You’ll see the grape harvest, treading, and the transport of wine in boats to the Vila Nova de Gaia cellars. Quite impressive.
Not planning to visit the Douro Valley? Some people even visit the station if they’re not spending a day in the wine region. However, I honestly don’t think it’s worth the trek, especially since it’s 2 ½ hours away, and there are far better places to see blue tiles in Porto itself. Up to you, but I’d spend that time exploring Porto and eating a francesinha (a famous Portuguese sandwich) instead.
So there ya have it – all the best places to find azulejos in Porto (in my opinion)! Are you planning a trip to Portugal anytime soon?! Don’t forget to check out all the gorgeous blue tiles in Porto – they’re absolutely spectacular!