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Commerce Square

This beautiful seafront square was the location of the Royal Ribeira Palace until the 1755 earthquake; it was remodelled as a centre for customs administration.

TravelCurious Tip

If you need the bathroom, try “The Sexiest WC on Earth”. Found in the square, it’s a fun attempt to revolutionise the usually dreadful experience of a public toilet!

The magnificent Commerce Square stretches from the riverfront of the Tagus and into Lisbon. Its 18th century arcades, cobbled streets and cream and lemon façades have enchanted visitors for more than two centuries. It was once the gateway for trade and visitors from the port, and even today it is still full of life, with its rattling trams and milling crowds.


On the north side of the square stands Verissimo da Costa’s splendid Arco da Victória, crowned with famous figures, including the 15th century explorer Vasco da Gama, a favourite son of the Portugal. On the same side of the square you can also find Café Martinho da Arcada, one of Lisbon’s legendary cafés. Enjoy an espresso where writers such as Fernando Pessoa and Eça de Quieroz once used to scribble.


Rough Day

On the 1st of November, a huge earthquake, followed by a tsunami and raging fires, destroyed most of Lisbon in the course of a cataclysmic day. As part of an effort to rebuild the city spearheaded by the architect Eugénio dos Santos, Commerce Square was constructed. It’s symmetrical buildings were filled with government bureaus to regulate and strengthen the trade coming to Lisbon from overseas.


A Royal Mess

A statue of Dom José I stands regally in the centre of the square. He is sat astride a horse, trampling snakes under hoof. His statue is the last bit of royalty left in the square, which prior to the 1755 earthquake had been the site of the Palácio da Ribeira.


In 1908 the square was actually where the monarchy fell, when anarchists assassinated Dom Carlos I and his son. Their bodyguards returned fire into the panicking crowd, killing two of an unknown number of assailants, but the damage was done. Two years later the Republican Party overthrew the Portuguese monarchy for good.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Lisbon
St George’s Castle
An impressive Moorish castle, overlooking the historic centre of Lisbon and the Tagus River.
Roman Theatre Museum
The site of a 1st century Roman theatre, situated on the slope of St. George's Castle.
Alfama
Lisbon's labyrinthine oldest district houses a variety of historical churches, fado bars and restaurants.
Baixa Pombalina
A particularly elegant district of Lisbon, the Lower Town was among the world's first earthquake-resistant constructions.
Santa Justa Lift
This urban elevator from 1902 connects the lower street of Baixa with Carmo Square.
Igreja do Carmo
The final traces of the medieval Carmo Convent, which was almost entirely destroyed after the 1755 earthquake.

Related Tours

Private Lisbon Full Day Highlights Walking Tour inc skip the line tickets
Explore Portugal’s capital on this full-day Lisbon walking tour, which showcases everything from cathedrals to castles, praças to palaces and monasteries to UNESCO monuments.
 
  • Take in the panoramic views of Lisbon from the Moorish St George’s Castle.
  • Visit key religious sites including the Sé de Lisboa cathedral and the earthquake-ravaged ruins of Carmo Convent.
  • Soak up the atmosphere in the thriving downtown Baixa district and in Lisbon’s most iconic praças: Rossio and Comércio.
  • Learn about Lisbon in the Middle Ages as you wander the steep gothic streets of the Alfama neighbourhood.
  • Explore the bohemian Bairro Alto, Lisbon’s entertainment district with its bars and Fado music.
  • Stop for a traditional Portuguese lunch (not included in price).
  • Head to historic Belém to see its 17th century palace, UNESCO-listed tower and Jerónimos Monastery.
  • Discover cultural treasures at The National Coach Music and Cultural Centre of Belém.
 On this comprehensive, eight-hour walking tour, you’ll explore Lisbon’s most important cultural and historic sites with an expert local guide. Discover everything from Lisbon’s roots as one of Europe’s most important seaports and magnet for world explorers during the Age of Discovery, to how its progressive city grid plan was developed after the horrific earthquake of 1755. Visit religious monuments, trendy cobblestone districts, historic Belem and so much more.  
 
The origins of Lisbon
 
You’ll begin delving into Lisbon’s history, which dates back to 1200 BC, by visiting key landmarks like the 1st century Roman Theatre of Lisboa and 12th century gothic cathedral, Sé de Lisboa, which has withstood the city’s cataclysmic earthquakes. From the Moorish St George’s Castle, you can admire sweeping views over Lisbon and the Tagus River and walk its impressive stone walls, which date back to the 6th century.
 
Travel back to the Middle Ages in the cobblestone streets of the Alfama neighbourhood, where vibrant yellow trams chug up the steep, narrow roads. Once a poor area located outside of Lisbon’s city walls, Alfama is now one of Lisbon’s trendiest districts and you’ll get to explore its colourful shops, buildings and bars whilst learning about the area’s Jewish and Moorish culture.
 
Back in downtown Baixa, you’ll hear about the magnitude nine earthquake which levelled much of Portugal’s capital and killed thousands in 1755. Rossio Square and Commerce Square are the perfect places to appreciate the revolutionary grid-like city plan and earthquake-resistant buildings that were implemented by the Marquis of Pombal after the disaster. The remains of  Convento do Carmo, with its roofless nave, are a reminder of the damage caused by one of the strongest quakes ever recorded.
 
Belém and Lisbon’s Age of Discovery
 
You’ll get the chance to visit Bairro Alto, a bohemian quarter known for its street art, bars and traditional Fado houses before heading to the beautiful Belém municipality. This area is famous for the 17th century Belém Palace, which was home to the Portuguese Monarchy for centuries. Both the Torre de Belém, a 16th-century fortification tower, and grand Jeronimos Monastery are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which you’ll get to admire.
 
Stop by the Discoveries Monument, which celebrates Portugal’s role in the Age of Discovery during the 15th and 16th centuries, then take some time to peruse the world’s largest collection of horse-drawn carriages at the National Coach Museum. Round off the tour with a visit to the Cultural Centre of Belém, the largest museum in Portugal which showcases the country’s cultural and technological achievements. 

Looking for an in-depth tour of Lisbon? Than this full-day highlights tour fits the bill, offering an overview of the city’s most famous sights and historical moments. 
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