Fado (destiny), is the traditional Portuguese song and there is nothing better than hearing it live.
A Fado house is usually a restaurant where singers will entertain you while you are eating.
Traditionally, they are popular and a meeting spot for families and friends. Today, they are catered for tourists and have lost much of its charm.
Tourists make up for almost all customers and the locals that go there usually are entertaining guests. This has caused the quality to decrease and the prices to increase tremendously (Fado houses used to be really cheap).
The most traditional ones are located in Alfama and Mouraria, but there are some other around Lisbon, like this one in "Bairro Alto"
Having good singers obviously helps. This restaurant had 4 singers (one being a cook - this is quite usual) and only one was OK. The other were just fair.
The food was good, but not great. We had, among other things, "Bacalhau à Brás", "Carne de Porco à Alentejana", "Chocos".
It was also quite expensive (20 Eur/person), so value for money was not great.
You can also expect, as in all Fado houses, that the singers will come and offer their CD's for sale.
I would probably look elsewhere first, but it is not a terrible place.
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"
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.
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
On this picture is one of the longest-established Fado Houses, the Adega do Machado in Bairro Alto.
Personally, I find most Fado Houses to be tacky tourist traps (see my "Tourist Trap" tip), but if you're looking for a good Fado experience, the best option is Senhor Vinho in the district of Lapa. It's a little expensive, but so are all Fado places, and at least this one is a little more authentic, often featuring renowned singers.
Dress Code: Dress up a little.
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 :)
Yes, it is the obligatory thing you have to do in Lisbon. You can't say "I was in Lisbon" not listening to Fado live:)
They say the best places for listening to Fado is in Alfama but there are also a lot of restaurants in the district called Bairro Alto.
So, you go there in the late evening, go to the one of the Fado restaurants, order the supper and be ready for cultural experiences. It is really worth to listen to it!
"Fado" it is traditional Lisbon's music, it is when the singers sing and other people play the guitar for them. It is is called European blues sometimes. Fado is nice, we were one evening at the restaurant with fado and we liked the music and singers' singing.
Dress Code: Well, it is a special evening, I suppose you rather should wear something smart, rather no jeans.
I was not expecting all that much. The little I knew of Fado made it sound like painful below-the-note belting. And other VT member tips were truly ominous. Well, it was great! Too bad I came after dinner and only had a drink. Each singer comes for a brief cycle of 4 or 5 songs, then the lights come back up for ten minutes or so. The men look like ordinary guys and sing of broken hearts. The women are more like goddesses shaking their fists, with half closed eyes. I was getting severely jet-lagged and my legs were sore, but I enjoyed it very much. One of the singers was the cashier who had let me in. Perhaps she had had a great career at some point. I bought a couple of CDs at the FNAC, but it is much better in person, flat notes and all.
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
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.
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
Fermentaçao is a typical fado-restaurant in located in Alfama district. The fado is not bad if you are not an expert. But you will only listen to a few songs
The place is very uncomfortable with small tabourets and lots of people in every table.
The food is awful. They advertise 'cozinha tradicional e bom vinho'. It is a big lie. The salad is nothing special, the vegetables are frozen and bad and fastly cooked. But the worst thing is the wine. You must pay a crazy price for a filthty tetra brik wine mixed with water.
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))))
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.
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.