Solar Antiques describes itself as the oldest and largest antique shop in Portugal and the world’s largest distributor of antique azulejos (Portuguese tiles).
When you enter the shop you immediately understand why they are the best azulejos distributors. The shop is one big exhibition of the most beautiful, oldest, and most special azulejos.
The philosophy of Solar
Around 1940 the Leitão family started trading azulejos, now three generations later the store is classified by The New York Times as one of the 12 Treasures of Europe (the only one in Portugal). Since 1957 the family has founded this shop at this location.
Their philosophy is to share knowledge about tiles and Portuguese decorative arts. During my meeting with the owner this philosophy came to life. When I told them that I used to live in Amsterdam he gave me an interesting history lesson and taught me the philosophy of Solar.
It turns out that the art of Dutch tiles has been reflected in the Portuguese streets since the seventeenth century. Dutch tile makers were known for their blue motifs against a white background, with one image per tile, the famous Delft blue. When they started producing large tableaus for the Portuguese market, they worked on a tile with several images and colours. When you talk to the owner, he can show you the different techniques in the shop.
Jan van Oort is a well-known tile maker of this time who received many orders from Portugal to make tableaus. In Convento dos Cardaes in the Príncipe Real district you will find a lot of work by Jan van Oort.
Solar’s philosophy is to save and preserve the Portuguese heritage of azulejos.
Forbidden to take photos
To prevent the owner from becoming an alternative to Museu do Azulejo, it is forbidden to take photographs in the shop. Very understandable, because there are very nice pictures in the shop that are worth it to feature in your holiday photo album.
We were not allowed to take photographs of the larger images – we were allowed to take pictures of the small tiles.
If you are looking for an original souvenir of good quality, you must set foot in this shop. It’s not cheap but it’s very cool to bring a tile home, especially since the owner will tell you where it came from originally. You can go completely overboard here though, for the hands of the antique experts will almost certainly start itching and it’s a struggle not to take a complete tableau with you.
If you flew into Lisbon, your thoughts of buying everything are quickly inhibited because the weight is many times higher than the 20 kilos on average you can bring.
Where to find Solar
Address: Rua Dom Pedro V 70, Príncipe Real
Opening hours: Monday to Friday: 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. and 2 – 7 p.m. | Saturday 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.| Closed on Sundays