Praça da Figueira Square

Praça da Figueira Square (48)

Located close to the “Praça de Rossio”, the “Praça da Figueira” square is one of the most popular attractions of the Baixa Pombalino area. This is not only because of the architectural quality of the buildings around it, but due to the fact that the metro, buses and trams heading to or from all points of the city gather here. It is a busy place as well as a meeting point for Lisbonites who can often be observed on its corners, terraces and cafes, looking at their watches to see if their date will be on time or not. 

This lively square has not always held such an atmosphere and has been to known for its market, popular feasts and hospital. 

You might be interested to know that in the 16th century the square did not actually exist. In its place was the ´All Saints’ Hospital`, the most important in the capital and the reason why the area was known as “Horta do Hospital”.

Like much of its surroundings, this zone was terribly affected by the 1755 earthquake and the hospital so damaged that the city knocked it down for good in 1775. As years passed, trees grew in the square, lamps were erected and a multi-door fence added. However, the story did not end there. The Marquis of Pombal’s project for the Baixa district involved transforming an area heading for desolation after the hospital’s demolition, into a lively nucleus for the new city: the market.  

The square thus opened up to lively colours and the comings and goings of Lisbon’s inhabitants, who came here in search of the vegetables and pulses that were sold at open-air stalls. The importance of this shabby site made it necessary in the end to build almost eight-thousand square metres of covered market in 1885.

In the 19th century the “Praça da Figueira” was a reference in the city, not only for its animated market but also because it was the site for the Saint António, Saint Joao and Saint Pedro festivals. 

During the celebrations that were normally held in June, music took over the square: guitarists, pipers and dancers animated the people on balconies and out in the streets carrying their specially prepared dishes, creating a fever-pitched atmosphere often found in these types of festivals.

Stepping onto this square in the present day, you will realise that the atmosphere has changed since the 19th century. In the 1950’s the market was pulled down and the square returned to the open air.

Shops, hotels, restaurants and cafes occupy the ground floors of the elegant, tiled buildings that surround the square. An enormous pedestal supports a bronze equestrian statue of King Joao I of Portugal, which is a majestic sight when looked on from above, with thousands of pigeons at his feet. So whether you pass by on foot or stop for a while, like the locals who come here each day, you will be sure to enjoy this lovely square.

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