The fado is a traditional music genre typical of Lisbon, Porto and Coimbra. The tradition is very much alive, thanks to the talent of musicians and to the emotional appeal of this music.
There are many places in Lisbon to hear fado, and they are not (or at least not all of them) meant for tourists only. The person who invited me here is a fond lover of fado music, and had experimented several places in Lisbon, but he marked the Clube de Fado as the one where he heard the best music.
I had never heard live performances before, and I knew the fado only through recordings. I was impressed by the artists I heard in this place.
The Clube de Fado is a restaurant (the food is good but not memorable), various singers perform at intervals of about 30 minutes. During their performances most of the lights are turned off, in order to create silence. The normal eating and chatting is resumed after the 4 or 5 songs of each performance are finished.
It is open from 7 pm to 2 am
Dress Code: Serious but not too formal
Largo do Chafariz do Dentro hosts several fado restaurants. We had bad food but good fado singers in one of these restaurants. It was left of the square looking uphill; The Parreirinha in the center uphill should be much better i read somewhere.....
We paid about 50 euro a head for a dinner that would be 12 euro elsewhere. Portions were small. The music (5 different performers traveling from restaurant to restaurant) was very satisfying.
The Largo host also the Fado museum, which is a nice late afternoon trip for one hour.
Dress Code: Just behave !
In our Fado restaurants where 3 drunken Swedisch people (EEC emplyees ?). They behaved themselves terrible; my wife was able to prevent me trowings things to them or worse.
The nostalgic sounds of fado, Portuguese "songs of sorrow," are at their best in Lisbon--the capital attracts the greatest fadistas (fado singers) in the world. Fado is high art in Portugal, so don't plan to carry on a private conversation during a show--it's bad form.
Most of the authentic fado clubs cluster in the Bairro Alto and in the Alfama, between St. George's Castle and the docks. You can "fado hop" between the two quarters.
Dress Code: I recommend well dressed.
We couldn't visit Lisbon without at least one night out listening to fado music. This place, a low-key restaurant with singers and musicians standing in one corner, was totally great. Although there were some tourists there, there were plenty of Portuguese people too.
The best part was that in addition to professional singers, one of the waitresses and one of the cooks sang too. The waitress was so talented that I bought a CD from her.
While there is no cover charge, the food and drink prices are much higher than in a comparable restaurant without music. Whereas our other meals cost no more than about 15 euros per person, at this place we paid 66 euros for two (with a bottle of wine). It's still a very reasonable price to pay for an entire evening of entertainment and food.
Dress Code: Casual
There are some that are very touristy and tacky but we visited Adega do Ribatejo on Rua Diaro de Noticias 23. All of the staff has a part to play, including the cooks. The food was tasty and it seemed to be very popular with locals. We didn’t understand a word of the opera type singing but the atmosphere was brilliant and it didn’t seem to matter in the slightest. We guessed that they were singing mostly about unrequited love.
Dress Code: Casual.
A famous, but nevertheless not over-touristic Fado house is Café LUSO in the Bairro Alto.
They had all the great names of Portuguese fado history, e.g. Amália Rodrigues whose career started here, and today it's owned by singer Filipe Acácio.
Intense Fado music at its very best, and the setting (a vaulted cellar from the 17th century in a house that even survived the 1755 earthquake) with its mystical atmosphere adds to it.
Small dishes to go with the music, for example mountain cheese with bread chips, and excellent Portuguese wines.
At many of the Fado clubs and restaurants you will be entertained by colourful attired dancers performing a variety of cultural dances from the different regions of Portugal.
There are some good live FADO music (typical in Portugal) in Barrio Alto. But a friend of mine told me that the best one is near the Se (cathedral). If you find it ...
Despite the fact that my fado experience wasn't good at all, I'd still recommend talking to a local and finding a good, affordable place to see a show. All the hype has to be somewhat justified.