In a space once occupied by the royal palace, Lisbon's Praça do Comércio (or Commerce Square) occupies not just prime real estate but also a central place in the city's life.
The royal palace used to stand here. Which is why, rather than its formal name of Praça do Comércio, locals know it as Terreiro do Paço, or Palace Square.
King Manuel I moved the royal residence from Castelo Sao Jorge, the Moorish keep on top of the hill, down here by the waterfront in 1511. The first palace lasted until 1755, when a massive earthquake nearly destroyed Lisbon.
The palace was rebuilt surrounding the square, with its buildings painted royal yellow. In the wake of the 1910 revolution, they were converted to government offices and painted Republican pink. They’re still offices, but they’ve now been reverted back to yellow in homage to their royal history.
The square is framed by the Tagus River on one side, and its landing forms a historically dramatic entrance by water to the city of Lisbon. On the opposite site, the triumphal arch of the Arco da Rua Augusta on the other.
In the middle stands an equestrian statue of King King Jose I (Joseph I) (1714-1777), his horse stomping on snakes.
Aside from the statue in the middle, it makes for a large open event space for the city’s residents to use as one of the city’s prime communal gathering places. (Rossio Square, not far away, is another space that historically served in that role as well.) It’s where to locals descend en masse to watch Portugal win the Euro Cup or to ring in the New Year. More than an expanse of paving, it’s the heart of the city.
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