Reborn out of the wreckage of the 1755 earthquake, this lovely Lisbon square marks the northern reach of the Pombaline Downtown. It stretches out in a quadrilateral form dominated by the neo-classical harmony of the D. Maria II Theatre, built on the site of the former House of the Inquisition.
According to the Marquis of Pombal, the Praça do Comércio would be the centre-point of the city and symbol of the new social order he wished to create for the Nation.
However, as time moved on, it was Rossio, a bright and welcoming square, which established itself as the bourgeois forum for Lisbon.
The square took on life with its hotels (now disappeared) that were filled with travellers, stores and tobacconists. There was also no short supply of that very Portuguese institution – the café. These would be the forums for talk, conspiracy, politics and the arts.
Life has long since changed, but Café Nicola (on the western side) and the Pastelaria Suíça (the eastern) remain to bear testament to times gone by.
At the centre is the 28 metre high column that was erected in 1870. On top is king Pedro IV who holds the Constitution in his right hand.
Two monumental fountains were added in 1889, where florists now set out their wares.
To the south, observe how the gracious arc forms the connection with the Rua dos Sapateiros. It is a fine piece of Pombaline architecture from the end of the 18th century with ornamental embellishments including a fine window with its veranda opening out onto the Square. Its construction was paid for by businessman Pires Bandeira and later became known as the Arch of Bandeira.
The entire square recently underwent a complete makeover restoring the splendour of the original Portuguese cobbling with the central area featuring a combination of blue and white stones tracing the waves of the sea.