Photographing the Colorful Tiles of Portugal in Aveiro

A cross between Burano and New Orleans


The tiles on the facade of this building match the café chairs and tables.

Are you familiar with Aveiro in Portugal? If not, you are not alone. We had never heard of this over-the-top charming small city either until we decided to research a Portugal Photo Tour a few years ago and found it to be a paradise for photographing the famous colorful tiles of Portugal.


Beautiful art nouveau tile pattern in Aveiro

In the north of Portugal, less than one hour south of Porto, Aveiro is a small city of 80,000 inhabitants. Known as the Venice of Portugal because of its network of canals, Aveiro is connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Aveiro Lagoon. The waters of the Aveiro Lagoon also extend to other small villages that offer great photo opportunities with more art nouveau architecture and very colorful traditional fishing boats.


Many of the old buildings in Aveiro are decorated with beautiful tiles and rusty balconies.

colorful-tiles-of-portugal-3- windows-aveiro

An ornate balcony framed by simple green/yellow tiles.

With its narrow canals, interesting art nouveau buildings, and grid-like layout Aveiro reminds us of a cross between Burano in Italy and New Orleans, two places that we absolutely love for architectural photography.


The house facades in Aveiro lend themselves to fun detail photography and close-ups.

Azulejos, the Colorful Portugese Tiles

What is so uniquely interesting about Aveiro and makes it so attractive and colorful is that most of the tiny narrow 1 to 2 story houses in the residential area are entirely covered with Azulejos, the Portuguese tiles.


Tile patterns from different eras. Your grandmother’s yellow bathroom tiles on the right?

The word Azulejos derives from azul, the Portuguese word for blue but it has its origin in the Arabic word for a small, smooth polished stone.


A fun modern twist on the tile theme

You can find decorative glazed ceramic tiles, the azulejos, instead of paint on building facades all over Portugal. The tiles were historically influenced by intricate Moorish designs and later in the mid-16th century by  Italian and Flemish artisans who settled in Lisbon and introduced a new technique called majolica. This technique made it possible to paint directly on the tiles. 


Tiles from the 50s behind a blue and white painted bench

In Aveiro, each house is tiled in a different style and color. You’ll find beautiful historic crumbling tiles next to tile patterns from the 50s or 60s that look like they came right out of your grandmother’s bathroom. It’s the juxtaposition of the old and new, the elegant and the gaudy that makes this town so much fun to explore and photograph.


Lots of photogenic texture and color in a back alley in Aveiro

The Best Time to Photograph Colorful Tiles in Aveiro

In Aveiro, you can spend a whole day (or more) photographing the facades and tile details. Follow the Open Shade on the street side that is not directly illuminated by the sun for the richest color and to avoid distracting glare or shadows and then walk down the other side of the street when the angle of the sun changes. Handholding works quite well for this kind of photography but do use your tripod if that feels more comfortable. Especially in the cobblestone-covered back alleys, you won’t be disturbed and you’ll have the place mostly to yourself.

If you’d like to read more about the best locations to photograph in Portugal, click here. »


Windows and tiles galore!

As we’ve mentioned above, you can also find charming small fishing villages in the Aveiro Lagoon where you’ll have fun photographing traditional wooden boats. Stay tuned for our next blog post with some of our favorite images of these colorful fishing boats.


Symmetrical compositions work well for windows surrounded by tiles.

Join us to photograph the uniquely colorful tiles of Portugal in Aveiro in June of 2022!

For more information, click here. »

We love Aveiro and we love Portugal. We will return in June of 2022 for our Portugal Photo Tour. In addition to Aveiro, we stay in Porto, the Douro Valley, Obidos, and Lisbon. This tour is limited to 12 participants. It’s not too early to dream and secure your spot.