The original, independent guide to Lisbon
The original, independent guide to Lisbon
The Praça do Comércio is the most magnificent plaza in Lisbon, and one of the highlights of the city. This grand plaza is surrounded on three sides by distinctive yellow Pombaline styled buildings, with the southern side facing out over the Tejo Estuary.
An illustrious statue dedicated of King Joseph I stands at the centre of the plaza, while at the northern side is the triumphant Rua Augusta Arch (Arco da Rua Augusta), that leads into central Lisbon.
Originally, Portugal’s most important palace, the Paço da Ribeira, stood on the site of the Praça do Comércio, but this royal complex was destroyed by the devasting earthquake and tsunami in 1755. The plaza was also the location of that King Carlos I and his son Luis Filipe were assassinated in 1908, which ultimately lead to the fall of the Portuguese monarchy in 1910.
As a visitor, there is a lot for you to see and do within the Praça do Comércio. There are the panoramic views from the top of Arco da Rua Augusta, there is the informative Lisboa Story Centre, or wine tasting at Vinhos de Portugal. The plaza also boasts numerous fine restaurants, including Lisbon’s oldest restaurant, the Martinho da Arcada, which dates from 1782.
The Praça do Comércio is always a hive of activity, with tourists sightseeing, locals rushing for trams and buses, suited government workers acting important and shoppers browsing the market stalls. During your stay in Lisbon, you will be passing through the Praça do Comércio on numerous occasions, and fortunately, the plaza will never cease to impress.
The Arco da Rua Augusta (Rua Augusta Arch) spans the entrance of the Praça do Comércio with the Rua Augusta, the main pedestrianised shopping street of Lisbon. The Arco da Rua Augusta was constructed much later that the rest of the Praça do Comércio, only being finished 1875, almost a century after the original plans were drawn up.
At the top of the arch is a viewing platform, which at 30m high, provides an impressive 360o view of the Baixa district. The entrance fee is €2.50, and it is one of the best viewpoints of central Lisbon.
Before the 1755 earthquake, the Praça do Comércio was the location of the Paço da Ribeira (the Ribeira Palace), the main royal palace of Portugal. The earthquake struck on the morning of the 1st November, when the city was celebrating the important religious feast day of All Saints.
Traumatised by the earthquake, King Joseph I (José I) refused to ever to sleep inside a stone building and the royal court was moved to a series of tents and wooden structures to the west of the city (where the Palace of Ajuda stands today). Under the direction of the Marquês de Pombal, Lisbon was rebuilt, and the ruins of the Ribeira Palace were transformed into the Praça do Comércio.
Though the Paço da Ribeira was completely destroyed there are still remnants of this once mighty palace, and even the metro station is named Terreiro do Paço (Palace Square).
Found at the water's edge are the Cais das Colunas, a series of marble steps where foreign dignitaries would moor and enter the palace directly. The Torreão Poente (seen at the western end of the yellow buildings) closely resembles the Paço da Ribeira, the royal quarters in the ruined palace.
One annoyance while visiting the Praça do Comércio will be the endless stream of dodgy people trying to sell drugs. Always say no.
The police are very limited as to what they can do, as the “drugs” being sold are not real drugs, but crushed basil, bay leaves and a bit of paracetamol.
The Lisboa Story Centre is a great introduction to the history of Lisbon and provides a 60-minute audio and visual experience of the major historical events.
It is highly recommended to visit the museum early in your trip to Lisbon, as it will provide a good understanding of the city prior to sightseeing. The entrance fee is €5/€3 (adult/child), and further information is found on their website:
The Avenida Ribeira das Naus is the pleasant riverside walk that extends from the Praça do Comércio to Cais do Sodré. If the sun is shining, there is no nicer walk in Lisbon.
Related article: Cais do Sodré guide
One of the best ways to discover Lisbon and to meet fellow travellers is to join a guided tour. We have worked with Getyourguide.com for the last six years, and some of the best tours of Lisbon include:
On the first floor of the Museu da Cerveja (Museum of Beer), is a museum detailing the production of beer through the centuries and a history of beer from Portuguese speaking countries. The entrance is €5 and includes a drink: https://www.museudacerveja.pt/
The Praça do Comércio is a major transport hub, with public transport routes all over Lisbon. The only issue is that nothing is very centralised, and you will find yourself wandering across the plaza many times.
Being one of the most famous locations in Lisbon, the Praça do Comércio is filled with fancy tourist restaurants and high-class establishments.
There is RIB - Beef & Wine Lisboa (part of the Pousada de Lisboa hotel) serving fine steaks, Nosolo Itália serves Italian food, while Aura Lisboa offers Portuguese dishes. The Museu da Cerveja has a decent restaurant, but the standout experience is at the Martinho da Arcada, Lisbon’s oldest café/restaurant. This restaurant has been serving traditional Portuguese food since 1782.
Martinho da Arcada - https://martinhodaarcada.pt/
RIB - https://www.pousadas.pt/uk/hotel/pousada-lisboa/dining
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