Praça do Comércio is one of Europe's largest squares
Lisbon’s “Market Square” is still often called “Terreiro do Paço” (“Palace Square”) by locals, although there hasn’t been a palace here since 1755, when a devastating earthquake destroyed the royal residence and all the buildings around it. Luckily, the royal family wasn’t in town that day, and moved to a new palace up on a hill above Belém.
The arcaded buildings of the square now house cafés and restaurants
Even without the palace, the rebuilt square ended up being one of Europe’s most majestic. It’s Western Europe’s largest royal square and the second largest in the continent after St. Petersburg’s Palace Square. One side opens to the river, while at the center is a bronze equestrian statue of King José I, who reigned at the time of the earthquake. Its arcaded buildings still house a few government offices, but have been mostly turned into restaurants (which joined the city’s oldest café, “Martinho da Arcada,” in business since 1782 on the northeastern corner). There’s also a hotel (recommended below), the Lisboa Story Center (which takes visitors on a journey through Lisbon’s history), and one of the branches of the Lisbon Museum in the western turret, which hosts temporary Lisbon-related exhibitions.
The equestrian statue of the king who reigned when the square was rebuilt, after the 1755 earthquake
On the western side is also the Lisboa Welcome Center, the city’s main tourist office, and an associated store selling a range of souvenirs. A stone plaque on a wall recalls the assassination of King Carlos I and of the crown prince in this square in 1908, two years before Portugal was proclaimed a republic.
View over Praça do Comércio from the top of the triumphal arch
The square’s triumphal arch was meant to welcome those arriving in the city by boat, and is topped by sculptures representing Glory holding wreaths over Genius and Bravery. Below them are historical figures, including explorer Vasco da Gama and the Marquis of Pombal, the prime minister who oversaw downtown Lisbon’s 18th-century reconstruction.
Cais das Colunas, the pier where tourists and locals sit to admire the views
On the southern side of the square is Cais das Colunas, a pier with marble steps where tourists sit to admire the views as street musicians perform. On low tide, the sandy area beside it becomes a beach, although you’re better off sunbathing at Ribeira das Naus, an attractive promenade just a few feet from there.
Praça do Comércio seen from a sightseeing cruise
How to Get to Praça do Comércio
The metro station in Praça do Comércio is called Terreiro do Paço, and it’s on the blue line. The Baixa-Chiado station on the blue and green lines is nearby.
You may ride the metro (as well as the buses, trams, and trains) for free with the Lisboa Card.
The triumphal arch, known as Arco da Rua Augusta, offers a view over the square from the top. The Ribeira das Naus promenade to the west is the perfect spot to relax on the waterfront, while to the east is the 16th-century Casa dos Bicos, a branch of the Lisbon Museum.
Where to Stay in Praça do Comércio
Pousada de Lisboa
Praça do Comércio has one of Lisbon’s grandest hotels. It’s found on an arcaded building on the northwestern corner of the square, and presents an art-filled interior with pieces donated by the Lisbon Museum. It also has a beautiful restaurant with a vaulted ceiling and outdoor seating. The hotel’s facilities include a spa, an indoor pool and a fitness center.