With beautiful eighteenth century symmetrical buildings and arcades facing the River Tejo, the Terreiro do Paço is one of the most important squares in Lisbon.
The large open space, mostly pedestrian, is a must-see destination for visitors to Lisbon. Also known as Praça do Comércio, the Terreiro do Paço is centred by the equestrian statue of King Dom José I who survived the destruction of the great earthquake of 1755, and put Marquês de Pombal in charge of Lisbon’s reconstruction.
The statue is surrounded by eighteenth century symmetrical buildings with arcades. Recently repainted in their original yellow colour, the buildings are nowadays occupied by ministries and other government offices.
On the northeast corner lies Martinho da Arcada, the oldest café-restaurant in Lisbon, established in 1782. A few meters away, the arch known as Arco da Rua Augusta marks the beginning of the Baixa’s main shopping street.
A bit of history
Before being completely destroyed by the earthquake, the royal palace, known as Paço da Ribeira, along with a library with more than 70,000 volumes, were located at the Terreiro do Paço. During the fifteenth and sixteenth century Discoveries, the square was an important gateway to Lisbon.
Many prominent figures in the past, including England’s Queen Elizabeth II in 1957, arrived in Lisbon through the marble steps of the pier Cais das Colunas, named after the two columns said to be inspired by the two pillars of the Solomon’s Temple.
Terreiro do Paço today
Recent renovation works on the riverfront have opened a pedestrian access to the River Tejo and a walking area along the river connecting to the nearby Cais do Sodré. Traffic can still be seen crossing Ribeira das Naus, the street parallel to the pedestrian area, but nowadays with severe limitations.