National Tile Museum (Museu Nacional do Azulejo)
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National Tile Museum (Museu Nacional do Azulejo)

The National Tile Museum (Museu Nacional do Azulejo) in Lisbon offers visitors a captivating journey through the artistic heritage of Portuguese tiles, known as azulejos. Located in the charming district of Xabregas, the museum is housed in the beautifully restored 16th-century Madre de Deus Convent, a historic architectural gem in its own right.

The museum showcases an impressive collection of azulejos spanning several centuries, from the 15th century to contemporary works. Explore the rich history and evolution of this distinctive art form, including traditional blue-and-white patterns and vibrant modern designs. The collection highlights various styles and techniques, offering insight into the cultural significance of azulejos in Portugal's artistic and architectural heritage.

Besides the extensive tile collection, visitors can admire the stunning Baroque church of Madre de Deus incorporated within the museum. Don't miss the beautiful cloister adorned with exquisite tile panels depicting scenes from the life of St. Francis.

The National Tile Museum provides a unique and immersive experience for art enthusiasts and history lovers alike. It's a must-visit destination for anyone looking to explore Lisbon's cultural treasures and understand the timeless appeal of azulejos in Portuguese culture.


National Tile Museum (Museu Nacional do Azulejo)

National Tile Museum (Museu Nacional do Azulejo)

The convent was chosen as the location of the museum because of its splendid baroque architecture with gilded and carved wood, paintings and fine tiled panels. One of the highlights of the museum is a blue and white 23 metre (75ft) long arrangement consisting of over 1300 tiles depicting Lisbon's cityscape that dates from 1738. It is an interesting insight into how Lisbon looked before the great earthquake. Besides tiles, it includes ceramics, porcelain and faience from the 19th to the 20th century. Its permanent exhibition starts with a display of the materials and techniques used for manufacturing tiles. After this brief introduction, the exhibition route follows a chronological order. The Museum went through different building campaigns that involved transformations such as in its 16th-century mannerist cloister; the church which is decorated with remarkable sets of paintings and tiles; the sacristy featuring a Brazilian wood display cabinet and carved wood frames with paintings; the high choir with rich carved giltwood embellishments; the Chapel of Saint Anthony with an 18th-century Baroque decoration and a significant number of canvases by the painter André Gonçalves. Some noteworthy pieces are gilt-framed ceiling panels inlaid with portraits, including those of King João III and his queen, Catherine of Austria. The National Tile Museum is well worth the trip out from the centre of Lisbon and when put together with a nice lunch at the Doca do Jardim do Tobaco not so far away makes for a great half days excursion.

Tuesday - Sunday 10h00 - 18h00, Monday CLOSED
Adult: €5.00, Concessionary: €2.50 Child: FREE. Lisbon Card Lisbon Card: FREE

National Tile Museum (Museu Nacional do Azulejo): Skip the line tickets

National Tile Museum (Museu Nacional do Azulejo)

With this entrance ticket you can gain entry to the National Tile Museum (Museu Nacional do Azulejo) at your leisure. Book with confidence with FREE CANCELLATION Buy online before you arrive to avoid queues and have the convenience of the e-ticket on your phone…

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• Admission to National Tile Museum

Mad About Lisbon

Getting to the Tile Museum

In front of the Museum: 718, 742, 794, 759
Avenida Infante D.Henrique (5 minute walk to the museum): 728, 759
Santa Apolonia Station 20 m. walk), connection by bus 794

Trains of Portugal Website
Santa Apolonia Station, connection by bus 794 on Blue line.
Contact Details
4 Rua da Madre de Deus, 1900-312, Lisbon, Portugal.
38° 43' 29.1"N | 09° 06' 52.0"W | +351 218 100 340 |  Website
National Tile Museum (Museu Nacional do Azulejo)

National Tile Museum (Madre de Deus Convent)

History of Azulejo tiles

Arabic Room - National Palace, Sintra

Arabic Room - National Palace, Sintra

For a long time, I was under the miscomprehension "Azulejo" was derived from the Portuguese word Azul, meaning "blue", because the majority of these tile designs are blue and white. The word comes from the Arabic "Al Zellige" meaning "polished stone". It was the Moors who first introduced the art to the Iberian Peninsula who acquired the craft from Byzantium. Although they add beauty to the surfaces they cover they also serve a very practical role of moderating a building's temperature. The earliest designs reflect the Arabic obsession with geometry decorated with mathematical patterns and glazed with a single colour.

Andalusia became a major centre for Azulejo tile production during the 14th Century and you can find fine examples of this simplest forms of ceramic art in the Alhambra of Granada. It wasn't until Portugal's King Manuel I brought the idea back from Seville that Portugal truly adopted the tradition. He applied tilling to the National Palace in Sintra during restoration work from 1497 to 1530. Over a period of time, the simple geometric shapes became more ornate. During the age of discovery, the designs of Azulejo tiles became picturesque depicting scenes or stories, quite often biblical in nature. The style of using a duotone of blue and white is thought to have been influenced by Chinese pottery. Other colours were used later, notably gold/yellows and greens.
During the rebuilding of Lisbon after the 1755 earthquake, there was a move away from the Manueline Gothic and Baroque styles of architecture to a more pragmatic neoclassical style which became known as Pombaline. Buildings were prefabricated and erected quickly using a never seen before method of making the structures capable of withstanding any future seismic shocks. The practice of facing exterior walls in Azulejos fell out of fashion for a few decades. The Alfama district survived the earthquake relatively unscathed and remains the best place to see tile faced buildings.

However, Azulejos popularity eventually returned and ever since have been used adorning the interiors and exteriors of churches, monasteries, restaurants, bars, railway and metro stations, palaces, public spaces and ordinary homes. If one legacy inherited from the Moorish times continues it would be Portugal's "horror vacui", that is a fear of empty space.

Yellow Bus Tour
Contempory Tile Art - Lisbon Metro

Contempory Tile Art - Lisbon Metro

Examples of Azulejos in Lisbon