The original, independent guide to Lisbon
The Praça do Comércio is the grandest of Lisbon’s plazas. This magnificent plaza opens out on the Tejo Estuary, and is surrounded on three sides by distractive yellow Pombaline architecture, with the decorative Arco da Rua Augusta as the focal point of the plaza.
The magnificent Praça do Comércio
The Praça do Comércio reflected the wealth and ambitions of Lisbon, and Portugal in the late 18th century. Here in the plaza financiers, merchants and captains would fund and plan perilous sea-voyages to the far reaches of the known world or trade the goods from these lands.
Historically the Praça do Comércio was the location of the Paço da Ribeira, the royal palace of Lisbon, the complex was obliterated by the devastating earthquake of 1755. Though completely destroyed there are remnants of this once mighty palace throughout the plaza.
For you as a visitor, there is a lot see and do within the Praça do Comércio. There is the Arco da Rua Augusta viewpoint, the Lisboa Story Centre museum, some of the best photo opportunities in Lisbon, along with numerous fine restaurants and authentic cafes. The Praça do Comércio is also the departure location for the E15 tram to Belem, and there is always a buzz about the plaza. This article will provide a tourist guide to the Praça do Comércio.
Related articles: Guide to the Baixa district – E15 tram
The Praça do Comércio was constructed in 1755 after the great earthquakeof Lisbon destroyed the entire Baixa district. Before the earthquake the most important royal complex, the Ribeira Palace, was situated on the site of the Praça do Comércio but this was totally destroyed by the tsunami that proceeded the earthquake. The most prominent feature of the Ribeira Palace were two distinctive towers and their original design was incorporated into the two towers that over look the Tagus river.
The view from the Arco da Rua Augusta
The destruction of the Ribeira Palace also lost the greatest collection of classical Portuguese literature as housed in the palace was the Ribeira royal library of 20,000 books. The statue in the centre of the Praça do Comércio is of King Jose I riding his horse that is symbolically crushing snakes with its hoofs.
King Jose I was the Portuguese ruler during the reconstruction of Lisbon and the statue was inaugurated on his birthday on the 6th June 1775. The Marquês de Pombal, the great politician of the era who was credited for the reconstruction of Lisbon makes an appearance with his image on the bronze emblem on the front of the pedestal.
The impressive Arco da Rua Augusta, which marks the entrance to the Rua Augusta, was only finished in 1875 almost a century after the original plans were drawn up. This delay allowed the inauguration of the tower to coincide with the centenary of the devastating earthquake. The three statues at the top of the tower represent Glory rewarding Valour and Genius and are part of the Portuguese coat of arms while the two seated figures at the base represent the two rivers of Portugal, the Tejo and Douro.
At the southern side of the Praça do Comércio is the, Cais das Colunas, a set of marble stairs, which lead down to the waters edge. These steps were installed so that royal dignitaries could receive a grand entrance to Lisbon. The origins for these steps date from before the 1755 earthquake when the steps would lead straight into the royal palace.
The Praça do Comércio is a major transport hub. The square is a departure location for the tram network heading towards the Belem district or the Basílica da Estrela. Praça do Comércio contains a major commuter ferry terminal at Terreiro do Paço, with departures south across the River Tagus. These ferry routes offer a very different perspective to Lisbon and allows the city to be viewed from the water. The closest metro is connected to the ferry terminal and is on the blue metro line.
A newly opened tourist attraction allows visitors to view the Praça do Comércio from the Arco da Rua Augusta viewing platform and this is open every day from 9:00-19:00 and the entrance fee is €2.50. From here there are fantastic views over the plaza.