boy walking on lisbon mosaic tile sidewalk

Strolling the mosaic sidewalks of Lisbon in search of pastel de nata

by Larissa on January 21, 2013

Tiles are everywhere in Lisbon.  They flank windows and doorways, and in some cases even cover the fronts of entire buildings.  But I was captivated by the tiles under my feet.  Particularly since they were all around, transforming otherwise mundane sidewalks into masterpieces.

These artworks-under-foot were typically black and white mosaics, with designs that varied from street to street, and block to block.  Known as Calçada Portuguesa, or “Portuguese Pavement” these mosaic sidewalks are a signature style that can be found wherever the Portuguese settled, from Macau and Malacca in Asia to Rio de Janiero in Brazil. But it is in Lisbon where they are so ubiquitous they simply become part of the street scape.

Technically the designs are made of paving stones, not tiles. Chunky cubes of sturdy basalt and limestone form the mosaic squares, sturdy enough for thousands of feet and durable enough to last centuries. Here are a few of my favorites:

This simple ribbon design highlights the rustic basalt and limestone pavers. . .

mosaic sidewalks of lisbon


The leaf in this corner alcove is offset by a more simple diamond border.  Note the bright blue and yellow tiles that adorn the walls. . .

mosaic sidewalks of lisbon


This open and airy lattice design somehow makes walking down the street more fun. It’s sort of like playing Hop-Scotch!

mosaic sidewalks lisbon


Dappled sunlight seems to tickle the simple scallops here . . .

tiled sidewalks of lisbon


The upscale boulevard of Avenue Liberdade is enhanced by elaborate medallions.

sidewalks of lisbon


While the entrance to the Mercado da Ribeira showcases the sailing ship, the official emblem of Lisbon. . .

ship emblem lisbon


But my personal favorite (and is there any doubt it’s Michael’s favorite as well?), is this sidewalk outside Pasteis de Belém. In artfully wrought gothic letters the pavers announce to all the world that “herein lies the pastry shop where the world-famous pastels de nata were invented.” And after all that exercise walking over all these historic and beautiful pavers, don’t you deserve a little treat of a custard tart (or two)?

Pasteis de belem lisbon


And here is the famous Portuguese treat, pastel de nata, as served warm at Pasteis de Belem. Make sure to sprinkle cinnamon and powdered sugar on top for the full experience.

Pastel de nata belem lisbon

Cat of Sunshine and Siestas January 21, 2013 at 7:26 am

Lisbon, since it’s so close to Seville, is a place I’ve returned to several times. The city center is gorgeous, but I really just go back to the Pastéis ñum ñum!

Steve January 21, 2013 at 10:41 am

I’d walk anywhere for some of that pastry!

Barb January 23, 2013 at 2:56 am

Hi Larissa & Michael,
How fabulous! I think that Lisbon must be a very photogenic city. I can’t forget from my trip the Isiaiah Zager mosaics in Philly’s South street and around town. Art is everywhere in the world if you just open your eyes.
Cheers to you, my friends!

Charles at The Barefoot Nomad February 6, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Larissa, this post is proof positive that sometimes the road we trudge upon is reason enough to travel. However those pastries might have just cemented our plans to check out Lisbon later this month! Looking forward to the walk up just as much as the final destination!

Larissa February 6, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Both are worth it. . . and don’t be discouraged if you see a crowd outside Belem–it is much larger inside than it appears from the street 🙂

Irene S. Levine August 8, 2015 at 11:17 pm

Those Portuguese tarts look mouth-watering!
Sign me up!

Larissa September 1, 2015 at 10:15 am

And they really are super-yummy when they’re still warm, Irene 🙂

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