Why do some European kitchens use tile on the entire wall, not just the backsplash?
This modern kitchen eschews wall paint for a mix of cherry red and white wall tiles.
David Portales, Spanish Tile Association: Greatly influenced by this European design, ceramic tile is typically installed on floors and all walls to ceiling height prior to cabinet installation. The reasons are practical: ceramic tile is the most hygienic surface; it is a natural fire retardant; it doesn't absorb odors; is easily cleaned and sanitized and is a permanent aesthetic finish with no introduction of VOC's from glues, paints etc.
Verdict: If you're looking for an alternative to painted kitchen walls, wall tile can provide a European look as well as hygienic surface.