Discover fascinating facts about these square tin-glazed painted ceramic tiles.

See original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine July 2015


  • Originally, azulejos came from Egypt. In 1503 the tiles were introduced into Portugal, (King Manuel I used them for his palace in Sintra), where they soon became part of the culture.
  • In the 17th and 18th century the mass-produced azulejos became the face of Portuguese architecture. There were many large buildings in need of interior decoration, and the ceramic glazed tiles proved to be a popular solution for empty spaces.



  • Contrary to what many people think, the word ‘azulejo’ isn’t related to ‘azul’, the Portuguese word for ‘blue’.
  • Although the square tiles often have a blue colour, they are named after the Arabic word ‘zellige’ or ‘al zuleycha’, meaning ‘little polished stone’.


Temperature control:

  • Next to their decorative purpose, azulejos also had a more practical function in the 17th century. They helped to control the temperature in rooms and protected against damp, heat and noise.
  • Currently they still can be seen everywhere, covering the walls (and sometimes even floor and ceiling) of palaces, convents, churches, and railway stations. Styles range from geometric and biblical to art deco and contemporary.



  • Want to see the largest collection of azulejos in the world? It’s in the Museu Nacional do Azulejo in Lisbon.
  • As for azulejos in the Algarve, go to Almancil and visit the São Lourenço church. Its interior is totally covered with 17th century tiles. Also the inside of the cathedral in Faro is largely decorated with azulejos.


See original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine July 2015

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