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Fábrica Sant'Anna, Lisbon, Portugal - Photo by Andrew Harper

Shopping for Azulejos in Lisbon

April 2017 Hideaway Report | By Andrew Harper

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The Moors introduced elaborate geometric tile work to Portugal when they ruled the Iberian Peninsula. But after the Reconquista, the Portuguese — no longer bound by Muslim laws against depicting figures — developed their own style of hand-painted tiles called azulejos. Lisbon façades frequently have expanses of colorful identical azulejos. But the art reaches its highest expression in mural-like compositions, usually done in blue and white (the Igreja de São Vicente de Fora in the Alfama has a particularly rich azulejo mural collection).

Numerous stores in Lisbon sell azulejos, both hand-painted and factory-made. Here is a selection of the best places to purchase the tiles, whether you seek just a single antique piece for a bookshelf or an entire mural to decorate your bath.

Fábrica Sant’Anna

Carlos of Fábrica Sant’Anna in Lisbon Photo by Andrew Harper

With a pretty storefront in Chiado, this azulejo manufacturer is the oldest in Lisbon, dating to the 18th century. The company still uses traditional methods and classic patterns, but it happily accepts custom commissions (tiles shipped out of the country avoid the 23 percent VAT). The showroom displays mostly new hand-painted tiles, but it also has a small selection of antique pieces.

Fábrica Sant’Anna
Rua do Alecrim 95. Tel. (351) 21-342-2537

Solar Antiques

Verónica, part of the third-generation family that owns Solar in Lisbon Photo by Andrew Harper

No other shop has such an impressive selection of antique tiles, ranging from 15th-century geometric Moorish pieces to 20th-century azulejos, with both individual tiles and murals in various sizes for sale. Browsing the rambling, historic space is a delight. We came away with a charming blue-and-white 18th-century tile depicting a dog.

Solar Antiques
Rua Dom Pedro V 70. Tel. (351) 21-346-5522

Loja dos Descobrimentos

Josefa of Loja dos Descobrimentos in Lisbon Photo by Andrew Harper

On the edge of the Alfama, this bright shop has hand-painted azulejos and azulejo murals with more-contemporary designs, in addition to antique reproductions. It also stocks a tempting selection of ceramics from around Portugal. I was particularly taken with the colorful and intricately decorated serving dishes made near Coimbra.

Loja dos Descobrimentos
Rua dos Bacalhoeiros 14B. Tel. (351) 21-886-5563

Andrew Harper Photo Andrew Harper is the editor of the Hideaway Report, a luxury travel newsletter that first appeared in 1979. He travels anonymously and pays his own expenses in pursuit of unique properties that offer unusually high levels of personal service. Hotels have no idea who he is, so he is treated exactly as you might be.

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