( – some guidance for future pilgrims)
Every single Celtic fan I know of a certain vintage remembers exactly where they were when a team of heroes in hoops, all born within 30 miles of Celtic Park, became the first British team to win the big-eared cup. However, only a privileged few can boast of actually witnessing it in person on 25th May 1967 and, sadly, many of them are no longer with us.
Take my own family: Although my late Da (then working at Linwood) did help put the finishing touches to the iconic green & white Hillman Imp (or was it b & w – see below) that led the 1,800 mile “Celticade” to Portugal, he couldn’t just go leaving a wife and 5 young kids behind. However, my Uncle Pat (also RIP) – who ran his own business and who’s kids were grown up – was lucky enough to be there in the heat of Lisbon itself.
In today’s world of low-cost global travel it’s easy to forget that, until the surge of package holidays to Spain in the late 60’s & early 70’s, foreign travel wasn’t really that commonplace for ordinary working class people. Back then, Lisbon itself was a positively exotic location and 15k fans traveling to Portugal by any means possible was an extraordinary feat and an unprecedented event.
What Celtic achieved that day is not only probably the most important day in the club’s history, but something totally unique and miraculous in the world of football, which will never be repeated again. It’s therefore not surprising that, to Celtic fans, a visit to the Estádio Nacional some 12 miles outside Lisbon, is our Mecca, our Holy Grail, our holy pilgrimage on a par with walking the Camino, or an audience with the Pope in Rome.
Having sworn that one day I’d follow in my Uncle Pat’s footsteps and make up for the fact that my Da never made the trip, I was finally able to fulfil that dream in August 2019 – the same year that Big Billy – the legend lifting that cup in that image forever imprinted in our minds – passed away, which somehow made the timing more poignant.
Now, I don’t know about anyone else, but (despite loads of research) I actually found it quite difficult to find clear answers to many of the questions I had beforehand about visiting the stadium. So, now that I’ve actually been there, I thought it might be useful to jot down some details/tips for those of you planning your own pilgrimage in future. Hopefully, this might save you trying to sift out the useful bits from hundreds of pages of Google searches or (often unclear or conflicting) information on Trip Advisor, Wiki , and so on. There’s so much information out there on the subject it would take 1967 years to read it all. So, let me start with some basics…
Where is the Estádio Nacional stadium?
I must admit that, before we went, I was under the mistaken impression it was in Estoril (which is where Celtic’s hotel was) , partly the reason we combined our trip to Lisbon with a week in nearby Cascais (not to be confused with Caxias). However, although it’s in the same direction along the same coast, the stadium’s actually quite near the outskirts of Lisbon (not far past Belém), in the area above Cruz Quebrada/Algés, which is only 5 train stops from Lisbon’s Cais do Sodre station and roughly 12 miles/20+ minutes by road.
The Estádio Nacional stadium, also known as Jamor , is part of a much larger surrounding complex of parks and sporting facilities – the Centro Desportivo Nacional do Jamor (CDNJ) – essentially Portugal’s main centre for sporting excellence – in the Algés/Cruz Quebrada area. It’s located off of the Avenida Pierre de Coubertin.
How do you get there?
Assuming you’re based in Lisbon, the most economical way is to use your Viva Viagem public transport card, which is valid on the costal train line, as well as Lisbon’s metro & bus routes. Take the Linha de Cascais (Cascais line) train from Lisbon’s Cais do Sodre railway station. Get out 5 stops along the line at the Cruz Quebrada station. There are other possible public transport routes but, as they all require changing and still involve a walk at the end, I wouldn’t bother.
Then… assuming you don’t mind a 20 minute walk (partly uphill) …
Cross the line. Turn left. Walk to the end of the street, then turn right. Cross the motorway into the park. Turn left, then follow the signs up the hill towards the (very distinctive) floodlights*
* they’re slanted forwards as if an invisible giant drunk has been leaning on them.
Alternatively, you could rely on Google maps, OR
If you prefer (or are lazy, or don’t mind paying a bit more) you can get an Uber from Lisbon, Belém or Cruz Quebrada. Even a standard taxi cab from central Lisbon won’t set you back much more than 30 euros (ask the price before stepping in!) So, particularly if traveling in a small group , that’s certainly an easy option.
Are there official stadium tours?
No! However – with some restrictions – the public are normally allowed access at the discretion and under supervision of stadium security staff. However, don’t let that put you off! – They get Celtic fans visiting nearly every day, are generally very welcoming, and by & large leave you to wander around on your own.
How do I get in the stadium?
If you’ve walked up the hill, you should arrive with the stadium on your left – there’s a wide open area with large central gates (see 2nd pic) – and a view in front of you something like this…
(The view on your left…. see below.. )
With the stadium on your left, continue walking along the main road past that row of low (rather unassuming) white/red roofed buildings you can see in the 1st pic above. Take the first turning on the left and continue around the corner to your left and you’ll arrive in a small courtyard surrounded by low office (stadium administration) buildings. If you ask there then someone will come and walk you round towards the inside of the stadium.
(In our case we didn’t even need to ask – we’d been chatting to some workmen – they were smiling & nodding “Celtique, Celtic”- so by the time we walked round a security guide was already there to meet us).
Are there official opening hours?
In short – NO! The first thing to bear in mind is that the national stadium is still used for various events – athletics, the Portugese Cup Final (in May), some international matches etc. etc. On top of that, since 2018 it’s been the home venue of local football club Os Belenenses SAD, a small club currently in the Primera division (when Benfica or Sporting visit, the SAD Bellend 😏 fans are outnumbered 10 to 1). So, it’s always advisable to double-check in advance before visiting. Details to follow.
Whats the best time to visit?
Basically, midweek during office hours (when there’s staff around) is the safest bet. In our case, we went during the close season, so Belenenses SAD * home matches weren’t a factor. – They usually play on Sunday’s at 17:00 (occasionally Friday). As for possible other events – these more commonly take place at weekends or evenings. However, it would be a shame to go there and not get in, so I’d strongly advise the following:-
. Check the published agenda at:-
. Check home fixtures of Os Belenenses SAD
– not to be confused with bitter rivals C.F Os Belenenses who play at the Restelo – there’s an interesting history to this – a bit like MK Dons & AFC Wimbledon – see https://thesefootballtimes.co/2019/05/10/the-split-that-led-portuguese-top-flight-side-belenenses-to-lose-their-stadium-badge-and-fans-in-one-season/
. Check there’s no clash with national public holidays
IF in any doubt – better safe than sorry – then best to phone or email in advance.
Phone: (351) 214 146 030 (Ext 1238)
Email : email@example.com
Ask for Jorge Sena E Silva (Manager)
Are there restrictions on where I can go in the stadium?
Yes! – There are some restrictions.
In short, you’re not allowed on the pitch and some other parts are cordoned off. When we were there, the guard/guide just led us round to the track , then left us to it, so by and large you’re free to wander. However, he did keep a discrete watch from a distance, just in case we got carried away with ourselves, so my plan to replicate big Tam’s goal then run madly in circles wearing only a kilt and waving a tricolour fell by the wayside.
However, as you can see from the pics below you can get close to the pitch, or behind the goal and all sides of the stadium.
Can you get in the (famous) players tunnel?
Normally you can’t as there’s a gate blocking access. Although we were lucky in that our guard/guide let us through the gate on the promise that we didn’t go too far in or make a mad dash for the pitch. We duly obliged, but we can attest to the fact that a quick chorus of The Celtic Song does carry quite an echo in that dark, confined space😉
Can you get to that platform where the cup was presented to Cesar?
Not really. You can get close to it, but it’s closed off behind a 1 meter high (fiber)glass wall and the gates at the side were locked. I was tempted to climb over , but as it wouldn’t have been fair on the guard/guide watching from a distance, and virtually impossible anyway to replicate that iconic shot with the cup, I refrained. (My son thought it seemed “dangerous” particularly as I was nursing bruised ribs and a gouged shin following an argument with a hidden rock at Guincho surf beach).
The closest I could get to mirroring that famous photo was to stand below the platform on a wall a bit further down..
Where is the memorial (50th anniversary) plaque?
It’s on a wall of one of the office buildings you pass as you come in the entrance area. Behind you if you’re facing the pitch/stadium. You’ll pass it on the way in or out , but just ask if you can’t find it!
So, is it worth the trip?
100% – Even if it didn’t have that Celtic history, it would still be worth a visit. It’s the type of stadium that will never be built again. Outdoor. Uncovered. It has the feel of an ancient monument or Roman amphitheater. A completely unique and almost eerie atmosphere. Almost as if the ghosts of footballers past – Jinky, Eusebio – are still lingering there. Despite the fact it’s a bit worse for wear and slightly run down, it has an aura all of its own. My son, who’s only familiar with modern football stadia, thought it was “a fantastic place”.
The fact that, despite (or perhaps because of ) it’s old world charm, this is still the official Portugese national stadium and also close to the hearts of all football fans in Portugal (it’s also their football Mecca) speaks volumes about its appeal.
When I sat on the terrace behind the goal that Gemmell and Chalmers scored in, and where the majority of Celtic fans were congregated, a shiver ran up my spine. Also, I don’t mind admitting that when I thought of my Da (who never made it here) and my Uncle Pat who did – both of whom died young – and all the others who’ve made this journey, I shed a few tears.
The place has a magic all of its own.
How long should you set aside for a visit?
If you include the time traveling back & forth from Lisbon and (let’s say) an hour at the stadium itself, you should set aside 3-4 hours in total. If I was doing it again, I’d probably combine it with the attractions in nearby Belém – the monastery and tower and the pasteis de Belém.
Any other compulsory places of Pilgrimage?
If you’re familiar with ’67, there is at least one other place which features in many of the photos from the time. The Hotel Palacio in Estoril (a few stops up the line) where Celtic stayed before & after the match. After checking out the Hotel, you might want to consider chilling out on the beach at Estoril (or nearby Cascais), maybe even as far as (my favourite) Guincho Beach if you’ve a few hours to spare, possibly even before heading back to Estoril to break the bank at the Casino.
On the way back to Lisbon, you might even want to consider a trip across the bridge to worship at the church & statue of “Christ Does The Broony” 😏
Obviously, none of these attractions can compare to the beauty & the buzz of the Estádio Nacional, but if you are planning a pilgrimage, I can certainly recommend combining it with some time in Lisbon – it’s a fabulous place to visit – or any of the resorts along that coast.
(Added/Inserted 19 Sept 2019)
It’s only just struck me how much our visit to this unique place actually speaks volumes about the close “family” connection many of us feel for Celtic F.C and how those bonds carry down through generations: My Da helped with the Imp that led the “Celticade” of fans on the official journey; my Uncle Pat cheered them on from behind the goal; another family member Jimmy Brennan then led the parade of the team around Celtic Park on 26th May 1967 at the front of the Coatbridge Shamrock Accordion Band! None of the men from that generation of my family are alive today. However, the only 2 surviving male members of the following generations – myself and my son (born 3 decades after Lisbon!) have now honoured their memory and that Celtic family bond by visiting this shrine to the soul of Celtic. A fact which makes me immensely proud!
With a bit of forward planning, there’s no reason why this couldn’t turn out to be the trip of a lifetime for any of you who’ve not yet made the Pilgrimage. ENJOY! #HH