Dining at a fado's restaurant may be a tourist trap.
Portuguese fado lovers go have dinner somewhere else, in a chosen restaurant, and go to the fado houses later in the night, eating a light snack with a glass of wine, so joining two advantages: eating better, and saving good money.
There are three different types of fado : Coimbra style, and Lisbon style, this one having two faces - popular and commercial. Hard to listen, Coimbra fado is a romantic collection of songs traditionally used by the students of Coimbra's university in their love adventures. Lisbon style is more widely spread, socially, and sounds different when sung by the higher or lower classes.
Of course, it's important to listen to fado, if you try to understand the Portuguese soul. But getting the right time and place is a bit tricky.
If you had the chance to make Portuguese friends, (yes, Portuguese are really friendly, it's only a matter of time and opportunity), use them to lead you to the best place. If you are on your own, either prepare a good amount of money, and go to a tourist restaurant, expecting a professional but soulless performance, or search for "fado vadio". This means amateur fado, and is sung in several small restaurants in the typical quarters. Bairro Alto and Alfama have many places where you can eat for a reasonable price, and, being lucky, listen to good fado.
Baiuca de Alfama, Fado Maior and Dragao de Alfama are popular places in Alfama, and in Bairro Alto you have Tasca do Chico and others.
Being a small group be careful at night.
For the best kept secret see my tip "Nini"
Don't tell anybody that you knew by me, because I will deny it!
This is a secret only for Portuguese - and only for the elected ones!
There are many (good and bad) places where tourists may change a handful of Euro notes for a dinner and a Fado experience.
There are also some popular bars and restaurants, where locals and tourists share the feelings of amateur fado. Which ones are the best?
My expert friends have no doubt: NINI.
Each Thursday night, fado is real. Since it is a amateur meeting, sometimes we have the better, sometimes... the other, but all of them singing with true passion and for passion.
Best of all, the food is good, at a normal price.
Reservation is recommended on Thursdays.
Everybody knows Amalia, but the real first icon of fado was Maria Severa, a reference to Amália herself.
There's a fado restaurant with her name in Bairro Alto, but she lived and sung in Mouraria, by the castle. Rua do Capelão, a known fado theme thanks to Severa, is the place where she lived, with her house well identified. Several small taverns around her house are now popular places where fado "happens".
Well all the books recommend going to hear fado music although some also caution you that it is "too touristy" or "not worth it" and so on.Well since we were in Lisbon and had nothing special to do with our evening we decided to give it a go. We love live music, and it was described as sort of "Portuguese blues" and we especially love the blues, (and we love food!) so we thought it was worth a try.
Anyway the next problem was which club to choose. WE went to the Barrio Alto neighborhood since that was the where our hotel staff said most of the clubs were. We walked around and around comparing prices and the menus of the different fado clubs till we came to the conclusion that they were all offering much the same thing so we just chose the club which looked the most inviting and which was not too big (as we didn't want to be sitting next to a large busload of tourists) The club was very nice ,the food excellent and the singers (two women and a man,and 2 musicians) seemed fine to us even though we have no clue about fado.
So if that is enough for you, then by all means go to the same place. In any case Barrio Alto is very beautiful and pleasant to walk around at night with lovely streets and squares.
This is an excellent fado restaurant in the Lapa district of Lisbon. The owner is Maria da Fé, a fado singer who performed around the world and won countless medals throughout her singing career. Fado here is of the Lisbon style, sung by solo performers.
I won't attempt to write a history of the fado but its origin is often said to be a legacy of the Moorish occupation OR music sung by Portuguese seafarers when they longed for home during their long voyages. This second possibility seemed very plausible from what I heard at Senhor Vinho.
I had researched quite a bit before leaving home for places where I could hear FADO VADIO, meaning "amateur style, where anybody can get up and sing" -- and had some good options in my notebook. Fado Vadio is often found in the district of the Alfama, which I visited twice in daytime. But I wanted a night spot... so eventually, I followed a good recommendation from a Lisboner for Senhor Vinho in Bairro Lapa.
(+ my friend wanted a quiet district that we could reach by Streetcar #28, and from where we could return to our hostel late but safely -- Lapa was perfect, it's a residential area with embassies etc.)
The evening was vibrant, we heard 5 performers (all very good, one sensational). Female performers wear a black shawl and use it as a powerful backdrop to their great voices and laments. Mesmerising!!
We heard one male performer, Dr Faustus, and this was fun, reminded me of fado singers I'd seen in old films about Lisbon. Aldina Duarte gave the last performance and no words could describe the feeling in the audience!
There were two guitarists to accompany the singing and they were fantastic, excellent players who didn't drown the voices.
This place is also a very good restaurant. Food service begins before the show and continue between performances. Silence reigns while a performer sings.
Menu includes starters (delicious and plentiful); lots of fish such as bass, sole, sea bream, grouper, monkfish, squid, octopus; veal medallions in sauce, some vegetarian dishes, etc.
I think the cover charge is waived when you have the dinner. Reservations highly recommended. The place was full when I went and I was glad we'd reserved, we had a very good table.
I'm thrilled to have chosen this particular place, our fado evening was a highlight of our visit to Lisbon. Authentic fado, fantastic performers, good food, professional service. Prices are medium-high and justified.
A taxi was called for us when we were ready to leave.
Dress Code: The place is sophisticated. I wore the only skirt I had brought for my 2-month trip (the long, wrinkled kind, so it looked good) and my new Portuguese hearings. After trekking through Spain just before, it was nice to dress up a bit.
My friend wore a pant-suit, very chic.
I don't think "coat and tie" are required but everyone was very well dressed, even those in high-end casual attire. No jeans, no sneakers :)
Apparently there are two types of Fado music. Lisbon has the type that is always performed by a solo singer. Two guitarists, one playing melody on a 12 stringed Portuguese guitar and the other playing rhythm on a 6 string viola. The music and songs portray intense feelings of pain and sadness or love and longing. The word Fado comes from Fatum, a latin word which means fate.
While I don’t think I quite got into the Fado style of singing, I did enjoy the guitarist or guitarrista, he was very good. The Portuguese guitarra has a flat back and is shaped like a mandolin. It can have 8, 10 or 12 strings which are arranged in pairs. Sometimes the guitarra is decorated with inlaid mother of pearl. The other instrument accompanying the guitarrista is the viola which provides the rhythm backing.
In the hearth of the newly refurbished part of Alfama, this fado house is a must: a small room where tables are piled and leave just small place for the musiciand and singers. You seat and eat plain food and enjoy various singer performing. Everybody sings here: the audience (often portuguese are there and they know the lyrics), the singers, the owner, the maid...everybody!
It's a nice experience, goes on until late at night, and although you're a bit too much jammed in this small hall full of tables, it's a nice experience.
Dress Code: Take it easy
As soon as it was noticed very often in the tourists recommendations I was only here. It was wonderful as they wrote. But taking into consideration the answer of the receptionist: You come here for dinner or for fado? I KINDLY ask tourists do not eat and speak while singers sing. It looks terriful and impolite at least. And it was nice show after midnight then tourists left the Club and just singers and their fans stayed and singers from other clubs came there to sing together in the intimate company. The atmosphere was so cozy))))
This is a must when in Portugal. I would call it a phenomenon rather than only singing. The people singing fado music are almost always women. Usually women with a very strong, perhaps loud but very good voice. The might close their eyes when they express themselves, they tell (often sad) stories in their words. It was a pity I didn't understand Portuguese. But still it had a effect on me.
The singers usually are dressed in black and wear a kind of a scarf on their shoulders. They mainly nowadays sing in restaurants who take some entrance fee. Some restaurants don't if you eat in their place.
I liked the performance so much that I bought the record of "our" singer. With an autograph, of course.
There are lots of fado places around the city, we found ours in the area called Alfama. We had our dinner and listened to the fadista.
Dress Code: No dress code mentioned. But it is a culture and habit in Portugal that people dress when they go out at least a little bit better than daytime. Both men and women. Local men do not wear shorts even at daytime, so you shouldn't at go to dinner or fado places with your sports gear or shorts.
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