There are two things you can’t ignore when you’re in Lisbon (three things, if you include pasteis de nata, which you should definitely not ignore): the glorious Rio Tejo or River Tagus carving its way around the city; and the giant statue of Cristo Rei or Christ the King, which overlooks the river and Lisbon from the top of a hill across the water in Almada. Getting to the latter requires that you cross the former by car, train or, best of all, by boat.
Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer provided the inspiration for Lisbon’s giant statue. While it may not have the same grandeur or dramatic vantage point of Christ the Redeemer, Christ the King provides a vast and beautiful panorama over the city. Standing loftily above the Ponte 25 de Abril, the iconic red bridge which straddles the Rio Tejo (and which does a passable impersonation of the Golden Gate Bridge), Christ the King is a remarkable sight.
Although construction was approved in 1940, it was only after World War II that the building work started. Fittingly, the statue was dedicated to Portugal having survived the Second World War largely unscathed. The foundation stone was laid in 1949 but it took another three years before construction began. It was completed and opened in 1959 and, like the Monument to the Discoveries across the river, became a symbol of the Salazar dictatorship. Church and State, hand-in-hand.
Made from reinforced concrete, the statue is 133 metres in height. The observation deck, located somewhere around the feet, is ‘only’ 89 metres, but thanks to the statue’s hilltop position on the top of a cliff, the views overlooking the river and city are spectacular. I don’t know how far you can see, but the views extend for several dozen kilometres all the way pst the dramatic white sliver crossing the Rio Tejo to the south, the Vasco da Gama Bridge.
Leaving the ferry terminal of Cais do Sodré in Lisbon we headed to Cacilhas on the opposite bank. The views when you’re crossing the river are pretty special, and give you an idea of the size of the Ponte 25 de Abril, which towers over everything.
Cacilhas is a sleepy suburb and although it might be the jumping off point for the Cristo Rei, most people from Lisbon head here for delicious seafood and beer. The numerous fish restaurants for which Cacilhas is famous dish up a lot of tasty traditional dishes. Most of the restaurants have good views over the river, making a leisurely lunch a real pleasure; fishermen can be seen trying their luck along the waterfront while boats motor past. All the while the beautiful cityscape of Lisbon provides the backdrop.