Here is a guide to Lisbon’s great square – the Praça do Comércio. It includes everything you need to know.
Praça do Comércio, Lisbon
Praça do Comércio, Lisbon’s majestic, riverfront square is one of the largest public squares in Europe.
Located in the central Baixa neighborhood, Lisbon’s downtown – Baixa: Everything you need to know the beautiful square is surrounded on the north, west, and east sides by massive bright yellow buildings. The ground floor of each building features an arcade of white arches.
The south side of the square has a set of stairs that descend into the Tejo River.
Paço da Ribeira and the 1755 earthquake
The square is also known as Terreiro do Paço, the Palace Yard. In the 16th century, Dom Manuel moved his royal palace down from the Castelo de São Jorge to this riverside space.
He oversaw the Portuguese empire from his riverside palace (Paço da Ribeira) until just after the November 1, 1755 earthquake and tidal wave destroyed the palace.
After the disaster, Dom José I moved his palace a few miles west to the Ajuda neighborhood, which was spared by the earthquake.
Locals still call the square Terreiro do Paço, and today the Terreiro Paço Metro Station and ferry landing are located on the east side of the square.
Lisbon’s Comercial Square in the 20th Century
n 1908 King Carlos I and his son Luis Felipe were riding through the square when they were assassinated by Republicans.
Two years later, the monarchy ended and Portugal became a republic. The first years of the republic were very shakey, but stability was later found in the National Dictatorship and the Estado Novo under the regime of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, who directed Portugal from 1932 until 1968.
The strict authoritarian regime continued on until the Carnation Revolution of April 25, 1974. With this peaceful military coup that saw soldiers amassed in Praça do Comércio, the Estado Novo / Second Republic came to an end, a new constitution was written, and Portuguese colonialism ended.
Over the years, the square has served as a reception room for foreign dignitaries entering the city from the river. For example, Queen Elizabeth landed here with her entourage in 1957.
Arco da Rua Augusta
Construction of the Arco da Rua Augusta started immediately after the earthquake in 1755, and it was not completed until 1873. It took 118 years to complete, but it is stunning, and it has a beautiful golden glow at dusk.
If you are standing in Praça do Comércio, you will see that the arch has six columns that stand eleven meters tall.
Directly above the arch is a relief of the coat of arms of Portugal.
The trio at the top, sculpted by Célestin Anatole Calmels (French, 1822-1906), represents Glory rewarding Valor and Genius.
The lower statues, directly above the columns, were sculpted by Victor Bastos.
On the right, you see Nuno Álvares Pereira (1360-1431). Álvares was a general who liberated Portugal from Castile. Later in life, he became a Carmelite monk and he founded Lisbon’s Convento do Carmo – which was partially ruined in the 1755 earthquake. He was sainted by Pope Benedict in 2009.
Also on the right side, you see Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, the Marquês de Pombal. He was the general who was in charge of the reconstruction of Lisbon following the earthquake.
On the left are Vasco da Gama and the Portuguese general Viriatus.
Visitors can climb to the top of the arch. The entrance is at Rua Augusta 2.
Opposite the Arch, you will notice that there are two white columns sticking up out of the river. This is what remains of the Cais das Colunas. Why are there columns in the water in Lisbon?
There once was a grand stairwell here that led visitors arriving by boat into the city. Today a few steps remain, and this is an awesome spot to watch the sun set over the river.
How about a small group tour?
The Dom José I Statue
In the center of the Praça do Comércio is a massive equestrian sculpture facing the river. Dom José I was king of Portugal at the time of the earthquake and the rebuilding of the city.
He sits atop the pedestal on his horse, and on the front of the pedestal is a relief of Sebastião José de Carvalho e Mello, the Marquês de Pombal, who was the governor responsible for rebuilding the city.
The sculpture was created by Machado de Castro.
Lisboa Story Center
Praça do Comércio 78
Hours: 10 am – 7 pm. Last entry is at 6 pm
Official website: https://www.lisboastorycentre.pt/en/content/lisboa-story-centre
An interactive museum that tells the history of Lisbon, through the use of technology and audio guides. The earthquake room is a favorite part of the museum for many visitors.
Admission is 6.50€ for adults. Admission for seniors and children under 16 is 4.51€. There is a combination ticket to enter the Lisboa Story Center and the Rua Augusta Arch for 8€. Children under 5 are free, and there is free admission with the Lisboa card.
Ribeira das Naus
Ribeira das Naus is a riverside promenade to the west of Praça do Comércio that stretches to the Cais do Sodré ferry terminal and metro station.
You will find grass and trees, some shade, a path for walking or running, benches to sit and enjoy the view, as well as a great kiosk, ice cream stands, restaurants and a wine bar with a river view.
The concrete slopes down into the river, and this provides a place to sunbathe or to watch the sun set.
Vinhos do Portugal and Museu da Cerveja
On the western side of Praça do Comércio, you can find the Wines of Portugal Wine Tasting Room. They serve more than 1000 different wines from the eleven wine regions of Portugal.
The Wines of Portugal Wine Tasting Room is open every day from 11 am until 7 pm. Official website: Wines of Portugal | A world of difference – winesofportugal.com
On the opposite side of Praça do Comércio, you will find the Museu da Cerveja (The Beer Museum) and discover the history of beer, visit an old monastic brewery, understand the beginning of industrial production, and be introduced to the world of Portuguese craft beers. Guided tours are offered from noon until 9 pm. There is also a restaurant and large terrace. Open until midnight. Official website: https://www.museudacerveja.pt/
How to get to Praça do Comércio
GPS Coordinates: 38.70745441066303, -9.136388124305256
Praça do Comércio is a transportation hub. The Terreiro do Paço metro station is on the east side of the square, and it is the last stop of the blue line. Within the metro station, you will also find access to the ferry terminal with boats going to Berreiro on the south side of the river.
The floor of this metro station is often wet due to being so close to the river, and you will also find that as it is the last stop on the subway line, trains are less frequent than at other stations.
On a nice day, it might be better to walk north toward Rossio Square metro station (green and blue lines) or west to Baixa-Chaido (green and blue lines), or Cais do Sodré (metro, train, and ferry terminal).
Events at Praça do Comércio
- Arraial Pride – Lisbon’s Gay Pride festival, the largest in Portugal, is celebrated in June. https://www.facebook.com/arraialpridelx
- World Cup Viewing – In November of 2022 fans gathered at Praça do Comércio to watch games on the massive screen.
- New Year’s Eve (Passagem do Ano) Fireworks and free concerts in the big square.
Dining at Praça do Comércio
You can find Italian food, ice cream, steak, and multiple options for seafood in Praça do Comércio.
- Marisqueira Azul Beerhouse and Seafood
- Terrace – Serving octopus, salt cod, Portuguese steak, BBQ pork ribs, pork chops, salads and vegetarian options
- Baía do Peixe (Bay of Fish)
- RIB Beef and Wine – known for their Tomahawk ribeye, Chateaubriand, and RIB eye. I discuss RIB in my article Best places to eat steak in Lisbon
- Cervejaria Antártida – Seafood, Beef, and cocktails, open since 2005.
- Troppo Squisito Ristorante Italiano – serving pizza, pasta, and gelato
- Terra Nova Restaurante – Serving vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options
- Bacalhau da Praça
- Terra Nova Restaurante – seafood, cataplanas, pastured meat, Portuguese and Mediterranean cuisine
- No Solo Italia (since 1982)
- Can the Can Cocktail Bar
And then, there is Martinha da Arcada, Lisbon’s oldest restaurant, dating back to 1782.
Lodging at Praça do Comércio
Pousada de Lisboa, in what was once the Ministry of the Interior building at Praça do Comércio 34, and now is a luxury boutique hotel with views of the Tejo River and Praça do Comércio. Due to its location and history, it is one of the most interesting and unique hotels in Lisbon.
The hotel offers a bar and restaurant, Rib Beef and Wine.
Other amenities such as air-conditioning, room service, wifi, an indoor swimming pool, a rooftop sunbathing deck, a small exercise room, and spa and massage treatment.
Pets are allowed.
What else is nearby?
- Santa Justa Lift Elevador de Santa Justa | Everything you need to know
- Rossio Square (Praça Dom Pedro IV) The famous square with its undulating black and white Portuguese tiles, its fountains, statue of Dom Pedro, many restaurants and cafes, and its metro station, is just a few blocks away. Rossio Square – Praça Dom Pedro IV – What you need to know – lisbontravelideas.com
- São Domingos Church A beautiful church with a terrible history is just off of Rossio Square São Domingos Church in Lisbon
- Praça da Figueira Buses, tuk-tuks, taxis, electric trams, and an artisanal farmers’ market can all be found at this minor square on the eastern side of the Rossio Square metro station. For more information, see my article, Praça da Figueira
- Rua Augusta Pedestrian Boulevard This pedestrian street extends from the Arch of Rua Augusta to Rossio Square. You will find great pasteis de nata, The big difference between Pastéis de Belém and Pastéis de Nata food, drinks, and street performers all along this avenue.
- Convento do Carmo Ruins Lisbon’s Convento do Carmo Ruins | Everything You Need to Know about this church that was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake. A beautiful sight not-to-miss.
- Conceição Velha Church This church from 1534 is a beautiful example of Manueline Architecture, just east of Praça do Comércio.
- Casa dos Bicos Another unique piece of architecture is found just east of Praça do Comércio, the Venetian-styled, diamond-studded “House of Beaks.”
- Rossio Train Station This beautiful train station with its impressive facade dates to 1890. You can sleep in the hostel on the top floor, and then catch a train to Sintra in the morning.
- Elevador da Glória How to get to Bairro Alto? (Hint: Take the Glória Funicular)
- Great Seafood Finding the best seafood in Lisbon
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