Calçada portuguesa

Discover fascinating facts about the Portuguese pavement

See the original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine November 2016

Picture by Andreas Manessinger


Street mosaic

  • Many pedestrian areas in Portugal consist of calçada portuguesa, a traditional style pavement. Small flat pieces of different stones, usually a combination of white limestone and dark basalt, are arranged in a pattern or picture.
  • These patterns include geometrical shapes and all sorts of images; from fish and sea horses (which can be found on the waterfront of many Algarve cities) to the face of Fado singer Amália Rodrigues (which is displayed on Rua de São Tomé in Lisbon). The latter is very much like street mosaic.


Made by hand

  • Laying a Portuguese pavement is hard work. So-called calceteiros prepare and sort out the stones before spending hours and hours manually fitting the pieces together on a bedding of gravel on the street. It’s finished by spreading a cement mix on top.
  • The legend goes that the first calçadas were laid by prisoners in Lisbon, back in 1842. They created a wavy mosaic in the capital’s Rossio square (aka Praça Dom Pedro IV), passing pedestrians liked what they saw, and soon people came from all over the world to admire the pavement – a new trend was born.


Slippery when wet

  • Pedestrians take care: when wet, the cobblestones become very slippery. Another hazard is when individual stones come loose, making the uneven surface even less suitable for wearing high heels.
  • Seeing as the stones have to be laid by hand, the cost is higher than that of a normal concrete pavement, which is also more durable. Then again: it doesn’t look as pretty, whereas some calçadas are true works of art.


Calçada QR code

  • No matter how small, nearly every town in Portugal has at least a couple of metres of calçadas. The pavement is also common in Portuguese speaking countries such as Brazil (see it on Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beachfront) and Macau.
  • In Faro, almost the entire pedestrian zone consists of calçadas. In Lisbon, the Largo do Chiado (near Rua Garrett 104 to be precise) boasts a square metre QR code made of cobblestones; scan it with your smartphone and it provides touristic info about the region.


See the original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine November 2016

Posted in Typical Portugal.