"Rossio - Praša D. Pedro IV" Top 5 Page for this destination Getting around Tip by a2lopes
Getting around, Lisbon: 39 reviews and 73 photos
Favorite thing: Rossio is the fond name Lisbonners use for Praça D. Pedro IV. The old name "Rossio" was the common name given to the central squares of any town in the country. It is the "center", the heart of Lisbon, the focal point of the lower city, full of souvenir and craft shops, historical cafés, pigeons, where everybody passes by, stops, the meeting point to go somewhere downtown.
Up high on a marble column (actually with 27 meters is one of the highest in the city) the bronze statue of Pedro IV overlooks the square with its amazing black and white mosaic undulating pebble paving "calçada portuguesa" in a special design -Mar Português (the waves of Portuguese sea)- and the 2 baroque bronze fountains.
Talking about Pedro, it was a curious sovereign. First of all, his father, João VI, left Lisbon running from Napoleon’s troops in a huge fleet for Brazil who becomes the head of the Portuguese empire. The only sovereign to run away from Napoleon (not giving him the “privilege” of being defeated) and the only European empire with a capital out of Europe... this is quite a story. When his father returned to Lisbon he split the crown and enthroned himself Brazil emperor. But once his father died he was elected (as successor) king o Portugal. First he accepted the throne of Portugal but he only ruled for 6 days and he left this crown to his daughter Maria da Glória. Later on his brother Miguel, an absolutist which opposed his brother’s liberal ideas, started a fight against his nephew Maria (actually to her sister Isabel Maria, who was left as regent) and claimed the throne. This started a civil war between absolutists and liberals and Pedro IV abdicated his throne in Brazil in favor of his son Pedro II and returned from Brazil in 1831. In July 1833 he arrived in Lisbon, and later that year Maria da Glória (D. Maria II) was proclaimed Queen, with Pedro as regent.
Well, back to the square. In the old days the big Estaus Palace served as the Inquisition office, and as the main square, along with the open market Rossio was frequently used as setting for public executions. Later on, the huge All-Saints Royal Hospital was also build on the eastern side of the square. As many other structures in Lisbon area these important buildings were destroyed with the big earthquake of 1755 (actually the old Inquisition Palace was only completely destroyed in a fire in 1836) and what we can see today is the reminiscence of the Marquês de Pombal reconstruction plan carried out along the 18th and 19th centuries. Nevertheless, Rossio was always the most important square in town and so was used for political rallies, bullfights, military parades, etc.
North of the square is Teatro Nacional de Dona Maria II, a neoclassical style building from the 1840’s with six monumental columns and built on the spot of the Inquisitional Palace. It is no less interesting inside, the theater itself being a fine one, with a ceiling painted by Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro. On the outside, the statue above the theater is the one of Gil Vicente, our first play-righter, also a known goldsmith which was the author of one of the best gold treasures of Portugal -the Belém Monstrance on display at the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga (see link).
Next to the theater we have from one side the beautiful Rossio train station and from the other the Largo de S. Domingos. This leads to Praça da Figueira and to the pedestrian street Portas de Santo Antão -a strolling area with shops, leisure esplanades, and several types of restaurants, from the very expensive (but good) Gambrinus, to the small and cheap “tascas”. And of course being here we cannot avoid one of the landmarks of Rossio area - the ginginha- a traditional sour cherry liquor that spread from Rossio (actually the most well known place stands in Largo de S. Domingos) and become popular all around the country. Some places like Óbidos specialized in this liquor but most part of the production of the cherries come from Fundão, near the Serra da Estrela.
There are 2 quite famous cafés across the square: Nicola, once the hangout of intellectuals and artist, namely the famous satiric poet Bocage, and the famous Pastelaria Suíça, the pastry shop of kings with finest traditional sweets.
On the other top of the Rossio square stands the bizarre Rua da Betesga (which we can translate as the redundant "alley street" because of the previous dead end street standing there before the earthquake) which is the smallest street in Lisbon (20 meters) but the one with most traffic, as every vehicle entering the Rossio square from the river must pass there. There is a Portuguese saying that can be translated as “you are trying to put the Betesga in Rossio” to address a virtually impossible task. By the way, at the end of Rua da Betesga you can find another good pastry shop (pastelaria), Confeitaria Nacional, which dates back to 1829, and is quite famous for its "bolo-rei" (literally, King Cake) a traditional Portuguese soft dough cake with nuts and fruits, which is usually eaten around Christmas until the "Dia de Reis" (literally, Day of Kings, as a reference to the three wise men) on January 6th.
Pigeons are a constant in the square but this applies also on many other areas in Lisbon. The square is also the gathering point of ethnic people from the Portuguese ex-colonies (and their second generation) not necessarily related to drugs or poverty, it is just because they are used to come here, and they will not upset / annoy you. But as a foreigner (and they will spot it by the distance) you will be offered some drugs by other youngsters. You will also see some beggars. Well this is the scene you have in all great cities (in Europe at least).
As Lisbon is quite hilly there are many viewpoints, we call them Miradouros (see link), which have superb views of the town and the river. There are 3 great spots to overlook Rossio square from above -the castle, the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara (at the top of Elevador da Glória), and the cafeteria at the top of the Santa Justa elevator. I go there often just for the view and admire the Lisbonners and tourists passing by like ants :-)
The entire square is served by many city buses (remember it is the most important square in town), the Rossio train station and by the metro stations "Rossio" (green line) and nearby "Baixa-Chiado" (blue line).
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