The Tall Ships Race in Lisbon

Portuguese caravel Tall Ships

The Tall Ships Race takes place in Europe every summer. This year, Lisbon was one of the stops on the race, which meant I got the chance to see the Tagus river (Rio Tejo) like I’d never seen it before. It looked like a scene from a movie with so many tall ships (large, classic sailing ships) cruising through it.

The Tall Ships Race began in 1956 as a way to generate international camaraderie amongst the sailing youth and a way to commemorate the end of the tall ships era (whose demise was evident after WWII) with a proper send-off. The first race took place between Torquay, England and Lisbon, Portugal as its founders were two men – one British, one Portuguese.


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Its unexpected popularity meant that it became an annual institution. From a mere 20 tall ships, it now attracts over 100 from all across the globe. The aim is still the same: to get young people from all over the world excited about sailing. This year, I spotted ships from Russia, Bermuda, Norway, Portugal, Poland, Argentina, Mexico, Belgium, South Africa, United Kingdom, Denmark, Italy, Colombia, Spain and many more. Amongst the tall ships were other small ships and boats. Using my imagination a little to ignore the more modern vessels and the bridge, I got a glimpse as to how Lisbon might’ve appeared during the Discoveries: Portuguese caravels and other trading ships coming and going from Lisbon’s port and commercial square to lands in the Far East and the New World.


The Tall Ships race doesn’t come to Lisbon every year, but when it does, it attracts thousands of visitors. It consists of four days of entertainment: food, shows, live music, fireworks, you name it! You can go up to the different ships while they’re docked, take lots of pictures, and have a great day out by the water. At the end of those days, they all parade down the river and onto the next destination.


To get more information on future events and locations, keep checking the Sail Training International website. Have you ever seen The Tall Ships Race? What did you think?

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