Photographing the Colorful Tiles of Portugal in Aveiro
A cross between Burano and New Orleans
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. »
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.