Lovingly overseeing the people of Lisbon with arms raised in an eternal blessing, the Cristo Rei monument sits proudly on a bluff in the city of Almada. Perched high above the Tagus River, or Rio Tejo to the locals, the monument and river provide a beautiful backdrop from either bank.
Inspired by the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Cristo Rei is a pilgrimage site for the Portuguese faithful and other Catholics from around the world. Non-Catholic tourists are always welcome to visit and experience the mammoth structure and enjoy the spectacular panoramic views.
Consecrated in 1959, the Santuario Nacional de Cristo Rei statue depicts Christ blessing the city of Lisbon. It has been long believed that the statue was erected in celebration of Lisbon’s non-involvement in WWII; it was, however, in planning before the war began. Upon completion, the people of Portugal embraced the statue as a symbol of their good fortune and devout Catholic faith.
The statue stands 28 meters (92 feet) tall upon a 75-meter (246-foot) pedestal. The imposing statue can be seen for miles and is a constant reminder of the country’s deep religious roots.
To truly experience the massiveness of the structure, stand at the doorway and look up. The perspective is dizzying with the giant statue braced against the clear blue sky. If you suffer from vertigo, hold someone’s hand for balance.
The view from the grounds is breathtaking. The parking lot has a 133-meter (436-foot) drop down through the town and overlooking the Tagus River. The Ponte 25 de Abril, a suspension bridge similar to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, spans the river with graceful lines.
The view from the platform inside the statue is even more spectacular. The additional 80 meters (262 feet) up the statue’s elevator affords the visitor breathtaking panoramic views. On a clear day, you can see as far as Pena Palace in Serra de Sintra about 32 kilometers (20 miles) to the northwest.
There is a nominal fee to access the viewing platform. Be prepared to climb a long set of narrow stairs once you are off the elevator. The lift, unfortunately, doesn’t go all the way to the viewing platform.
The flat and well-maintained garden paths surrounding the Cristo Rei monument are beautifully landscaped with lush trees, manicured lawns, and strategically placed statuary. As you explore the gardens you will find interesting perspectives and observation points.
The gardens are a special spot to sit and meditate or just be in the moment with the views of Lisbon anchoring the background.
The Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Paz is free to all who visit. Situated in the center of the statue’s base, the chapel contains striking stained-glass windows and a beautiful pastel altar painting. It is a peaceful respite from the scorching summer sun and provides a bench to pray a word of thanks.
Please note, this is a Catholic chapel where many devoted pilgrims come to worship; enter and exit with respect and silence.
When To Visit
Peak season to visit almost anywhere in Europe is July and August. Many Europeans are on summer holidays and touring around the continent. If you can, visit during the shoulder season; late spring and early fall. Europe in May and September offers visitors cooler days, brilliant sunshine sprinkled with a little rain, and fewer tourists.
To avoid the crowds, visit early in the day. Also, a mid-week visit will find the sanctuary less busy. As an added bonus, the mornings are much cooler and will make your visit more enjoyable.
If you are looking for the best photography options, visit mid to late afternoon. It can be hot in the summer, but the sunlight dancing off the Tagus is blindingly beautiful. Finding the picture-perfect angle is an easy task in this stunning setting.
How To Get There
The ultimate touristy experience is to take a private Tuk Tuk Tour. A Tuk Tuk is a small box-car, three-wheel taxi with room for two in the back. They are a fun way to get around town on your own, but taking a tour with a knowledgeable local guide is much more entertaining. This tour will take you over the Ponte 25 de Abril or across the Tagus on the ferry.
For the intrepid explorer, you can reach the sanctuary by taking the ferry and then a city bus to the Cristo Rei.
Pro Tip: The complex is flat with well-maintained gravel paths between the buildings and statuary. There is a set of stairs between the gift shop and the viewing platform, but otherwise, the entire complex is very accessible.
For more ideas about what to see in Lisbon, visit the best things to do in Lisbon, Portugal.