I’ve once read that one cannot visit Lisbon without falling in love with this city. And it’s true, if you just let yourself wander the tiny streets, getting away from the crowded touristic places, it is hard not to fall in love with this city’s vibrant atmosphere and eclectic culture. Lisbon has embraced colour in its architecture and this is what I find very inspiring when exploring a new city. It’s probably because in Bucharest I’m used to seeing lots of grey buildings, so seeing something different just gives me a lot of positive energy 🙂
The tiles that decorate now the buildings, monuments or even the underground stations around Lisbon have hundreds of years of stories to tell. The azulejos, as the painted tin-glazed ceramic tileworks are known, are the sign of the Moorish influence in Europe. Even though they didn’t appear here for the first time, Portugal was the one that used it more than any other country in Europe and transformed the azulejos in a form of art to bring colour on the cities’ streets. And some would even call Lisbon as the European capital of tileworks.
The azulejos patterns and colours have changed throughout the years, from highly geometric designs with contrasting colours to other elements such as flowers or large murals portraying historical or religious scenes. Today, the mix you can find around the city is just impressive, that you may now be in front of a building that makes you think you are in an Arab country and a few steps away you may find yourself in front of a tilework that reminds you of the “Delft blue”.
Walking around Lisbon will make you realise that sometimes the buildings are not perfect, some are visibly old, some tileworks are completely broken and others just seem to look like a patchwork. But this imperfection makes you feel the stories and history behind. And without even realising, while exploring the city, I was making up scenarios in my mind about the people that were living in a certain building or the stories that the azulejos are telling us about the past, present and future.
So, if you happen to be in Lisbon looking for a place to get lost in thoughts, just go around Alfama or Bairro Alto quarters and let yourself discover the small steep streets and you will definitely find some hidden gems 🙂 These are also loaded with nice little restaurants and local shops and, even though there are lots of visitors, the area feels a bit less commercial and touristy.
And to feel better the story of azulejos, get yourselves comfortable with a cup of tea or coffee and enjoy this lovely video shot by Florian Lalanne! 🙂