It’s one of the most iconic landmarks of Lisbon and defines its skyline. Portugal is a very religious country, and it seems fitting that its capital city is guarded by a colossal statue of Jesus, spreading its arms protectively towards Lisbon.
For years, the inhabitants of Almada, the city district just behind the Cristo Rei statue, have secretly voiced their discontent about the fact that this powerful religious symbol has turned its back on their neighbourhood. However, when you walk up towards the statue through the small streets of the city, it’s clear that the residents have fully embraced their local landmark. You will see graffitis all the way there preparing you for what you are about to see. And it's clear that the local cafés and restaurants welcome the steady stream of tourist-bearing Tuc-Tucs.
The design of the Cristo Rei statue is of course inspired by the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The story goes that the Cardinal of Lisbon returned inspired after a visit to the famous landmark in Rio. Dictator Salazar granted permission to build the monument in 1959. The authorities constructed the statue of Christ to thank god for sparing Portugal from the horrors of the second world war.
The experience of visiting the site is truly a religious one. You are greeted by nuns issuing and checking tickets, operating lifts and gift shops. The base of the monument is a chapel with worshipers praying. Loudspeakers all around the park broadcast prayers to the visiting crowds.
Once you have taken the lift and climbed up some tiny stairs to the viewing platform, you are rewarded with one of the best views of Lisbon. It truly is sensational. The entire city is spread out in front of you. The enormous 25 de Abril bridge which you usually have to look up to stretches out just underneath you. It is a genuinely uplifting experience.
How to get there:
From the station Cais do Sodré (on the waterfront near Baixa) take the ferry to Cacilhas. It takes around 15 minutes to arrive, and from there, you have three options how to get to Cristo Rei: either take the bus number 101, or walk for around 2.5km following the signs, or get an uber.
If the queue to go up the statue is long, you can always enjoy the park full of palm-and olive-trees which surrounds the main landmark. The views are still breath-taking and worth the journey.
The way to get there is to turn left in front of the main entrance to the Cristo Rei facilities and look for a dirt road with a dead-end sign. It leads down the hill towards the Tagus riverfront and offers ever-changing views of the bridge and Lisbon all the way down.
It’s about a ten-minute walk down the steep hill. You will arrive at a tree-lined viewing platform and the “Quinta da Arealva” which today lies in ruins and has been taken over by enthusiastic graffiti artists. Its location and overgrown state make it quite a magical place to be. Not sure how safe it would be at night but during the day there is nothing to worry about.
Bring some water. The walk back up is quite steep and a bit of a work-out but well worth it.
The journey to travel to the Cristo Rei statue might seem a little bit arduous, but if you have the time, it is worth the effort. You gain a new perspective by stepping away from the city to then look back at it.
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