Surely two of the most iconic images of Lisbon, alongside the yellow trams, must be the suspension bridge, Ponte 25 de Abril, which crosses the River Tejo linking the city of Lisbon with Almada on the Margem Sul (South Bank) and the statue of Jesus Christ which dominates the skyline of the Margem Sul. Up until the end of the nineteenth century the area on the Margem Sul has been compared to the Wild West in terms of lawlessness as it was so cut off from Lisbon, but, in part due to the opening of the bridge, nowadays it has become an extension of Lisbon, with industrial and suburban areas and popular beaches within easy reach. The bridge was inaugurated in 1966 with its original name of Ponte Salazar, after the Prime Minister and dictator, António de Oliveira Salazar. The name was changed to Ponte 25 de Abril after the 1974 Carnation Revolution. The bridge is 100 metres high and, where it crosses the river, is 2 kilometres long. The top level of the bridge (at 70 metres above the river) has a six-lane highway. The lower level of the bridge is a railway track, which was only added in 1999, giving direct access to the south of Portugal by train from the centre of Lisbon. Before this was added travellers had to catch the ferry to Barreiro train station on the south bank and board the train there. The design of the bridge is reminiscent of the Bay Bridge in San Francisco, which is not surprising as it was built by the same company who built the Bay Bridge. It is also often compared to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and is as symbolic for Lisbon as the Golden Gate Bridge is for San Francisco.Across the river, just behind the bridge on the top of a hill, is the famous statue Cristo Rei (Christ the King) designed by Francisco Franco, who was clearly inspired by the statue of Cristo Redentor in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It was inaugurated in 1959, during the time of the ultra-Catholic Salazar dictatorship. The statue of Jesus Christ with his arms outstretched is on top of a 82-metre pedestal and standing at 28 metres can been seen from many parts of Lisbon. At the bottom of the pedestal is a chapel, Capela de Nossa Senhora da Paz (Chapel of Our Lady of Peace). At the top of the pedestal, by Jesus’s feet, is a viewing platform, which can only be reached by a lift, offering marvellous views of Lisbon and Belém; it is even said that on a clear day it is possible to see the Pena Palace in Sintra.
Sanctuário Nacional do Cristo Rei, Alto do Pragal, Almada
To get there from Lisbon catch the Transtejo Cacilhas ferry from Cais do Sodré to Casilhas and then catch the 101 bus to Cristo Rei (it is the last stop). It is also possible to walk there, passing through the small city of Almada: allow an hour.
Opening hours: early-July and September 9.30am-6.45pm; late-July and August 9.30am-7.30pm; September to June 9.30am-6pm (daily).
Price: chapel is free; lift to the viewing platform €6 (as of 2017).