Also known as “Terreiro do Paço” (Royal Palace Square), the Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square) is one of the most magnificent Squares in Lisbon.
Facing the gorgeous Tagus estuary, it is also one of the largest Squares in Europe, with around 36.000 square meters (180m x 200m).
The name Terreiro do Paço has its origin on the 16th century when the king changed the Palace (and its superb Library with more than 70.000 volumes) from the São Jorge Castle to this square. Unfortunately they got completely destroyed with the big earthquake of 1755, and therefore became the fundamental element of the reconstruction plan of the Marquês de Pombal, Minister of the King D. José I, that chose to privilege and value the bourgeois, financial, and commercial class that contributed unreservedly for Lisbon’s reconstruction, hence its name “Commerce Square”.
For centuries the Praça do Comércio was the great reception hall for visitors arriving by sea: it was at the dock where the Kings and Heads of State would disembark when visiting Portugal. Even nowadays it is possible to observe the marble stairway from the River into the Square direction.
The Square is characterized by its buildings with round arches, painted in yellow (its original colour), headquarters of governmental departments and with some restaurants. In fact in this square is located Lisboa’s oldest cafeteria-restaurant: the "Martinho da Arcada".
In the geometric centre of the Square, facing the river, is located, since 1775, a statue of King José the 1st, mounted on his horse Gentil, the work of the famous sculptor Machado de Castro.
On the Northern side of the Square there is the Arco Triunfal da Rua Augusta (Triumphal Arch), the magnificent entrance into the “Baixa” (downtown, or city centre), through the graceful Rua do Ouro, one of the main commercial area in Lisboa’s downtown. The arch has beautiful sculpture works evocating several Portuguese important individualities and with representations of the important Tagus and Douro Rivers. The Arch also has the Latin inscription "virtvtibvs maiorvm" (the greatest virtues) summarising both the concepts behind the great values of Portuguese patriotism and paying homage to past heroes, all facing the wide Tagus river, opening the way to a universal sense of the world.