The Best Places In The World To See Vibrant, Historic Tilework
Pattern, color, and unmatched craftsmanship: here are the top destinations around the world to see exquisite examples of handcrafted historic tile.
Sultanahmet Camii: Istanbul, Turkey
It’s impossible to talk about fine examples of historic tile without naming Sultanahmet Camii in Istanbul, known around the globe as Blue Mosque. One of Istanbul’s most important landmarks and tourist destinations, it houses 23,000 exquisite Iznik tiles painted with flowers, arabesques, and other patterns in every shade of blue and green.
This ancient style of tile is named for the Turkish town of Iznik, which became revered for its highly-skilled tilework during the Ottoman Empire.
The relatively plain fortress walls of the sprawling Alhambra compound in Granada disguise the explosion of colorful centuries-old tilework within.
The elaborate glazed tiles — which range from abstract geometric and floral patterns to Arabic calligraphy, and decorate everything from floors, walls, and ceilings to fountains and mirror pools — are considered to be some of the best-preserved examples of Moorish craftsmanship.
Jardin Majorelle: Marrakech, Morocco
This cobalt blue desert dreamscape in Marrakech was the passion project of French landscape painter Jacques Majorelle, who began building the home in 1924. The artist then spent four decades creating the lush gardens set against “Majorelle Blue” exteriors and intricate Moroccan tilework. Upon his death, the home fell into disrepair. But thankfully, it was rescued from a wrecking ball in the 1980s by fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent.
Vibrant glazed Moroccan tiles — mostly in the signature Majorelle color palette of blues and greens — were used to create fountains, pools, courtyards, and stairs throughout the property. But the pièce de résistance is the opulent grand salon covered with colorful, hand-cut zellige mosaics.
Museu Nacional do Azulejo: Lisbon, Portugal
In Portugal, you don’t have to look hard to find gorgeous examples of azulejos, the blue-and-white tiles that are practically synonymous with the country. But you can’t find a more comprehensive collection than this Lisbon museum that’s devoted solely to the art of azulejos.
Housed in the former Madre de Deus Convent, which was founded in 1509 by Queen D. Leonor, it takes visitors on a journey through the history of tile that spans the 15th century through current day.