Worth seeing in the capital Lisbon is the gigantic square Praça do Comércio (German: Handelsplatz) in the Baixa district. The square is located at the end of the Rua Augusta and is bordered by the river Tejo.
The history of the square
The square was originally called Terreiro do Paço (Palace Grounds), as it was the site of the Royal Castle until 1755, where the Portuguese kings resided for over 200 years. However, the castle was completely destroyed by the great earthquake and the following tsunami. After the earthquake, the square was rebuilt according to the plans of Marquis de Pombal, one of the most important Portuguese statesmen of the 18th century.
New buildings were built in a U-shape around the square and contained offices of the customs and port authorities. Furthermore, a triumphal arch was built to the entrance of Rua Augusta, as well as an equestrian statue of King José I to thank him for financing the reconstruction.
The square was an important meeting point for the city’s trade during the 18th and 19th centuries. Due to its location next to the port, Praça do Comércio was important for overseas trade, shipping companies and the country’s economy.
The square gained further historical importance in 1974 when it was used as a meeting place for the insurgents during the Carnation Revolution, the military coup against the country’s authoritarian dictatorship.
Until the end of the 20th century, the square was used as a parking lot. Nowadays, it is a pedestrian zone and also a popular venue for events.
What is there to see?
The Praça do Comércio consists of an imposing triumphal arch at the end of Rua Augusta, through which you enter the square, which measures 170 metres by 170. The archway shows Portuguese national heroes, as Vasco da Gama or also Marquis of Pombal. The square is framed by different palaces and in the middle there is the equestrian statue of King José I.
The square offers a wonderful view of the mouth of the Tagus due to its shape and nowadays you can find numerous cafés and restaurants here.