Rossio & Baixa, new centre


The Rossio Railway Station is a railway station in Lisbon, Portugal. In portuguese it is called ‘Estação de Caminhos de Ferro do Rossio’ and is situated on the Rossio square. Before, the station was known as Central Station and that designation still appears in its manueline façade.

The Portuguese Royal Railway Company commissioned the station. It was designed by Portuguese architect José Luís Monteiro between 1886 and 1887 .

It was built in the geographical centre of Lisbon, the Rossio. It connected the city to the city of Sintra.
The tunnel was made under the city and is widely considered one of the most important works of 19th century portugueseengineering.

Completion took place in 1890, and shortly after Lisbon’s Circle Line with a connection to the North Line was also inaugurated. The Rossio station became Lisbon’s main passenger station until late 1950s. Since then only a few long distance trains ended at Rossio. This ran up until the early 1990s.

Due to tunnel renewal work, the station was closed from October 2004 until February 2008.

The facade of the station is Neo-Manueline and dominates the northen-west side of the square.

It is in Manueline style with a touch of Romantic recreation. This was quiet typical of early 16th century architecture in Portugal.

The two intertwined horseshoe portals at the entrance are arguably the most interesting features, although the abundant sculptural decoration and the clock in a small turret are appreciated features too.

Inside the station, the platforms are connected by ramps, all of it covered by an iron structure.

Trains get access to the station, which is in the very heart of Lisbon, through a 2600 meter long tunnel.

The Rossio Square is the popular name of Praça de D. Pedro IV – the square constitutes the geographical centre of Lisbon.

It is located in Downtown Lisbon which is in so-called Pombaline style. It has been a main square of Lisbon since the Middle Ages. It has been the focal point of both revolts and celebrations – including shows, executions and bullfights. It is now a Lisbon meeting place of both lisboets (Lisbon natives) and tourists.

The name today of the square is an homage to Pedro IV. He was the king of Portugal as well as first Emperor of Brasil (although his title there was Pedro I). A statue of Pedro IV is right in the centre of the square.

Rossio got to become an important place in Lisbon during the 13th and 14th centuries. This was due to the population of the city expanding to the lower areas (from Castelo and Alfama) of the city.

The name “rossio” is equals roughly the word “commons” in English referring to a commonly owned piece of land.

Around year 1450, the Palace of Estaus, which was destined to house foreign noblemen on a visit to Lisbon, was built on the northen side of the square. After the Inquisition in Lisbon, the Palace of Estaus became its seat. The square was then often used as site for executions.

The Saint Domingo Convent was founded in the 13th century right behind the Rossio square. This church was severely damaged by the 1755 Earthquake. After it, it was done up baroque style.

The vast majority of buildings around the square dates back to the complete reconstruction of the Pombaline Lisbon Downtown. This was carried out in the years following the 1755 Earthquake, which levelled the buildings in the area. The devastation was complete.

The Rossio square has been a Lisbon hub for centuries. Some of the cafés and shops of the square date back as far as the 18th century, like the renowned Café Nicola. There are other traditional shops including the Pastelaria Suíça and the Ginjinha, where this rather typical Lisbon spirit (Ginjinha) can be tried.

The building structure of the Maria II Theatre in the northern end of Rossio square led to the area being attended more by the Lisbon high society. Nowadays the square is constantly populated by lisboets, travelers and tourists.

The famous portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa also wrote about Rossio in his “Lisbon – what the tourist should see”;

“We have now reached Praça D. Pedro IV, commonly known as Rocio or Rossio. This is a vast quadrangular space lined on all sides except the North one by buildings of the Pombal type; it is the chief Lisbon centre, almost all lines of transport passing there. In the middle of the square stands the statue of D. Pedro IV16, which dates from 1870; it was designed by Davioud and sculptured by Elias Robert. This monument is one of the highest in Lisbon, being over 27 metres high. It comprises a stone base, a marble pedestal, a column of white marble, and a bronze statue. The lower part contains four allegorical figures, representing Justice, Strength, Prudence and Temperance, as well as the shields of sixteen of the chief Portuguese towns. North and South of this monument there are two ponds with bronze fountains, surrounded by flower-plots.”



South of Rossio is baixa, which is the Pombaline Lower Town (Baixa Pombalina).

It is comprised of streets north of the Praça do Comércio, roughly between the Cais do Sodré and
the Alfama district, and extends northwards towards to the Rossio squares. After there is
stretches to the Avenida da Liberdade, which is a tree-lined boulevard noted for its tailoring
shops and cafes.

Baixa – Lisbon downtown – is an elegant district, almost exclusively constructed after the 1755
Lisbon earthquake. It takes its name from Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, who was the 1st
Marquess of Pombal and the Prime Minister to Joseph I of Portugal from 1750 to 1777. He was a
key figure of the Enlightenment in Portugal and he took the lead in ordering the rebuilding of
Lisbon after the earthquake.

The Marquis of Pombal was infamous for being strict and rigorously put down conditions on
rebuilding the city sticking to straight streets. This was the exact opposite of the ‘organic’
and ‘maze-like’ streetplan that characterised the district before the Earthquake (and which can
still be seen in Alfama).

Baixa – Lisbon downtown – is one of the first examples of earthquake-resistant construction.
Story goes that architectural models were tested by having troops march around them to simulate
an earthquake.
Baixa was placed on Portugal’s “tentative list” of potential World Heritage Sites on 7 December
2004. It states to be superior to the planned areas of Edinburgh, Turin and London.


‘Trade Square’ (Praça do Comércio)

At the bottom end of baixa, at the waterfront, we find ‘Trade Square’ (Praça do Comércio).

It is located at the bank of the Tagus river and is still commonly known as Terreiro do Paço (which is the name of the metro station there) as it was the location of a palace (Paco) there. This palace – Paços da Ribeira (Royal Ribeira Palace) was annihilated by the great 1755 Lisbon Earthquake.
After the earthquake, the square was completely remodelled as part of the rebuilding of the Pombaline Downtown, ordered by the earlier-mentioned Marquess of Pombal – who’s real name was Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo. He was the Minister of the Kingdom of Portugal from 1750 to 1777, during the reign of Dom José I, King of Portugal.A statute of Dom José I, can be seen on the very centre of the square.

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The Lisbon Oasis flats called ‘Mouraria’ are located in the vicinity of Baixa – please read more about Central and historic Lisbon holiday aparment.



Rossio & Baixa, new centre