Officially this square is called Praça Dom Pedro IV, but ever since it was created, in the middle ages, it’s gone by its more popular name, Rossio.
In the Middle Ages, Rossio was the place to be for executions, bullfighting and demonstrations, but it doubled as a meeting place. The original name comes from the King of Portugal in the 19th century (and the 1st Emperor of Brazil).
Heart of Lisbon
Rossio is the beating heart of Lisbon. Several districts come together on the square and all around it are many shops, restaurants and bars, such as A Ginjinha, Café Nicola and Pastelaria Suíça. This makes Rossio an important meeting place up to today. Chances are you will set foot on Rossio several times during your stay in Lisbon.
Beware of pickpockets!
We are always warned about pickpockets on Rossio, but that happens in any big city anyway. I don’t think that Lisbon in general and the Rossio square in particular should make you feel insecure. No more than, for example, Paris, Amsterdam or London.
However, you will most likely run into some fellows around Rossio that want to sell you hash. These young men usually stand around in the streets and show you their goods very subtly. Just don’t respond and keep going, they’ll leave you alone (unless of course, you want some. But we hear the quality is not all that).
To increase the feeling of security, the city of Lisbon sends out a fair amount of police officers around Rossio. So again, no need to worry, these hash men are harmless.
Sights on the square
In the middle of the square is a 23 meters high column with the statue of Dom Pedro IV. At the foot of the column are allegorical images representing Right, Courage, Restraint and Wisdom.
Baroque fountains are located on both sides of the square. The fountains are identical and the statues on the fountains are mythical figures. The fountains are made by French sculptors Mathurin Moreau and Michel Lienard and made in a French foundry in Val d’Osne.
On the north side of the square is the prominent Teatro Nacional Dona Maria II. The theater is built on the site of the 15th century Estaus palace. It was built on the spot where the Estaus palace used to be, which was destroyed by a fire in 1836. In 1842 the construction of the theater started. The building was known for its richly decorated interior by several Portuguese artists, but that was largely destroyed by the fire in 1964. Since 2012 this place is a National Monument.
On the southwest side you look at Convento do Carmo.
Via the south side of the square you walk from Rossio via Rua Augusta to Praça do Comércio on the banks of the Tagus river.
Estação de Caminhos de Ferro do Rossio
Or in short: Rossio Station. This station is located right in the center between Rossio square and Praça dos Restauradores. If you want to catch a train to Sintra, this is where you need to be. What’s special about the Rossio-Sintra railway is that if you leave the station, you go straight through a tunnel through the hills that surround the center of Lisbon.
If you want to know more about the departure times to Sintra, check here
If you decide to take a train around lunchtime, be sure to pick up some pastries at nearby pastelaria/restaurant Beira Gare. In the ‘shop window’ you can already see the deliciousness waiting for you. We know tha the choices are a bit overwhelming.
Don’t forget to enjoy the beautiful patterns of black and white tiles in the streets. The streets of Lisbon are often beautifully covered with calçada (small square stones) laid in a mosaic.
The pavement of Rossio is called Mar Largo (wide sea).
When you walk past or on, you get the name. You can even get a little seasick if you look at it too long. The waves symbolize the meeting between the Tagus and the Atlantic Ocean.
And if it happens to rain, make sure you have shoes with decent grip, these tiles can become very slippery.