Portugal's Attractions: Praça do Comércio
Praça do Comércio (Terreiro do Paço)
Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square) is a large, square on the banks of the River Tagus in Lisbon. It was built on the site previously occupied by the Terreiro do Paço (Palace Yard) following its destruction in the 1755 earthquake. Lisboetas often still use the previous name for the square.
Along with the Arco da Rua Augusta at its northern end, the Praça do Comércio is one of the centerpieces of the redevelopment of the Portuguese capital by the Marquis of Pombal in the mid-18th century.
The U-shaped square, open at the Tagus end, was designed by Portuguese architect, Eugénio dos Santos. The buildings, with covered galleries on their ground floors, supported by columns, were occupied by the various ministries of state of Portugal and its then burgeoning empire. The two arms of the U-shape end in larger towers. It was at the open Tagus end of the square that ships would set out and dock on their voyages to all corners of the Portuguese overseas empire, thus the renaming of the square as "Commerce Square" when it was rebuilt.
Praça do Comércio was also the scene of the assassination of King Carlos I in 1908.
Nowadays, many of the administrative yellow-painted buildings that once served Portugal's empire in South America and the Far East have been transformed for other uses.
On the northern side of the square near the Arco da Rua Augusta is the Pestana Pousada de Lisboa, one of the most exclusive boutique places to stay in the capital.
Nearby is Lisbon's oldest cafe, the Cafe Martinho da Arcada, which opened in 1782, and was a favourite haunt of the writer Fernando Pessoa.
On the western side of the square is the main Lisbon Tourist Office (Turismo) with a stylish shop selling upmarket craft items from all over Portugal. A couple of pricey pavement cafes stand outside to sit and admire the view. Also on this side of the square is the HQ of Viniportugal, which promotes Portuguese wine. There are tastings Monday through Saturday.
On the eastern side of the square is the Museu da Cerveja (Beer Museum) a cervejaria/cafe housed in the former Ministry of Finance building. Inside and upstairs is an interesting museum for beer lovers celebrating the traditions of beer and beer production in Portugal and other Portuguese-speaking countries: Angola, Brazil, Mozambique, Cape Verde and Sao Tome and Principe.
Also on the western side of the square is the Lisboa Story Centre, which presents the history of Lisbon in 60 minutes and is popular both with visiting school parties and tourists for its multimedia exhibits and interactive approach. In summer a video and light show from the Lisboa Story Centre is projected on the Arco da Rua Augusta in the evening.