To talk about Fado music, we will have to talk about Fado in Lisbon, where you find its most important origins.
Lisbon is in the capital of Portugal where this style of music was born. Fado is very typical Portuguese and unique which makes it so much more special to the Portuguese people.
Let us try to explain in words what Fado means.
What is Fado?
Speaking in practical terms, clear and direct, Fado is a style of music – just like Rock, Pop and RnB are. But, for reasons that distinguish it from other styles, Fado is (so) much more than just a simple style of music.
Normally, Fado is sung by a single person and accompanied by a classical guitar and a Portuguese guitar. In total, it takes three people to sing (and play) traditional Fado – something that has been changing over time.
The word “Fado” comes from the Latin word, “fatum”, which means “destiny” in Portuguese, and it is precisely what is sung in all the songs linked to this musical style.
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What does Fado sound like?
It is very difficult to explain in words what this musical style sounds like since it is not similar to any other music genre. It does not have many instruments, it does not use any type of electronic device and it does not have the worldwide projection that other types of music have.
Fado is traditionally a sad song, sung only with two guitars, without microphones or amplifiers – traditionally speaking, of course. Generally, this musical style is very melancholy and, apart from being sung with a lot of feeling, it is very different from any other type of music you may have ever heard.
Even if you don’t understand the words, I guarantee that hearing this music will move you.
Have a listen to some Fado at Clube de Fado:
Where is the best Fado in Lisbon?
What are the best places to listen to Fado in Lisbon?
It was in Lisbon that Fado was born, so there is no better city to listen to it – although one can hear Fado performed in other parts of the country. Forget the Lisbon you know and focus on the neighbourhoods of Lisbon, the most typical ones of the city, where you can experience the whole tradition.
The best places to listen to Fado in Lisbon are in the Fado Clubs (“Casas de Fado”) which are very small houses, specifically designed for singing (and playing) this type of music. Over time, some restaurants opened up and combined dinner with these “concerts” – and there are a lot of them nowadays.
Find more things to do in Lisbon here.
Let us focus on the main areas which are the most typical and famous ones for listening to Fado: Alfama and Mouraria (we will also look at Fado in Chiado).
Discover the best clubs in Lisbon by clicking on this link.
Fado in Alfama
The best places to listen to Fado in Alfama are:
- Parreirinha de Alfama;
- Clube de Fado;
- Casa de Linhares (website is in Portuguese); and
- Mesa de Frades.
Fado in Mouraria
To listen to Fado in Mouraria, go to Maria da Mouraria, considered to be the best place in this neighbourhood to live this outstanding experience.
Fado in Chiado
Although Chiado is not the most typical of Lisbon places to listen to Fado, it also has good houses where you can go to like Mascote da Atalaia.
Top 10 Fado clubs in Lisbon
The selection of places below relates to the best Fado Clubs you can find in Lisbon. In some cases, these houses are also restaurants (some are very touristic and some are not).
To secure a place in these Clubs, you must arrive early, because these are small places, with a dark and cosy environment so that Fado can be sung (and heard) in a traditional environment.
1. Clube de Fado
Clube de Fado is one of the most prestigious Fado Clubs in Lisbon, where you can also dine or snack. Clube de Fado is located near the Cathedral (“Sé”), in Alfama, and opens at 8pm and closes at 2am. A reservation can be made by phone on (+351) 218 852 704).
Address: Rua S. João Praça, 86 – 94 (next to the Cathedral Sé).
2. Sr. Vinho
Sr. Vinho was founded in 1937 and located in Lapa. It is easy to see why this is one of the most respected Fado houses. It is open every day from 8pm to 2am. Book a table by calling (+351) 213 972 681.
Address: Rua do Meio à Lapa 18.
3. Adega Machado
Adega Machado was also founded in 1937 and this is a great place to dine and listen to the best Fado in Lisbon. The Adega Machado is near the Church of São Roque and is highly searched for because of the interaction between the artists and the audience. It opens every day at 7.30pm and closes at 2am. Book a table at (+351) 213 422 282.
Address: Rua do Norte 91.
4. Casa de Linhares
Casa de Linhares (website is in Portuguese) is located in Alfama and has resident artists. It also serves typical Portuguese dishes. This Fado house opens at 8pm and closes at 2am. Reservations are not always guaranteed, but you can try your luck by calling (+351) 910 188 118.
Address: Beco dos Armazéns do Linho 2.
5. Mesa de Frades
Mesa de Frades is also in Alfama, and is an intimate space decorated with traditional Portuguese tiles. It is open from Monday to Saturday from 8:30pm to 2am. You can book a table by calling (+351) 917 029 436.
Address: Rua dos Remédios 139.
6. Parreirinha de Alfama
Parreirinha de Alfama is one of the most notable Clubs and restaurants for Fado in Alfama. Here, you can listen to Fado and also enjoy a fantastic dinner from 8pm until 1am from Tuesday to Sunday. You can book a table through (+351) 218 868 209.
Address: Beco do Espírito Santo 1.
7. Café Luso
Café Luso is very close to the Church of São Roque and is considered a prestigious Fado Club which opened its doors in 1927. Dine to the sound of Fado from 7.30pm to 2am every day. To book your table, call (+351) 213 422 281.
Address: Travessa da Queimada 10.
8. Taberna Saudade
Taberna Saudade is the most recent Fado Club on this list, having opened its doors in 2013. Still, you can find a very typical and modern atmosphere at the same time. It is open from midday to 4pm on Monday and Tuesday, from midday to 2am from Wednesday to Friday and on Saturday from 5pm to 2am. Contact them to book a table on (+351) 913 681 785.
Address: Rua Presidente Arriaga 69.
9. Mascote da Atalaia
Mascote da Atalaia, with more than five decades of history, is a space that has been recently been refurbished and serves typical Portuguese dishes. Located in Chiado, Fado comes to life every day from 7pm to 11pm. You can book a table through (+351) 211 983 973.
Address: Rua da Atalaia 13.
Timpanas is located in the Alcântara neighbourhood next to the docks. Timpanas was established in the early ’60s and is one of the most prestigious places to listen to Fado in Lisbon. It is open from 8pm to 2am from Monday to Sunday and the number for reservations is (+351) 213 906 655.
Address: Rua Gilberto Rola 22-24.
Fado Tours in Lisbon
The growing number of tourists in the capital of Portugal has led to some new services being offered such as Fado Tours.
Here are three great tours that we can recommend:
Discover the emotions of Fado
This three-hour guided tour will take you to a Fado show in a typical Fado house. You can also enjoy some small nibbles and a glass of wine while you enjoy the show. It’s only €25 per person and you can book in advance at Get Your Guide here.
Fado music walking tour
Explore the culture and traditions of Fado music on a three-hour walking tour of Lisbon. Join a Fado singer in the neighbourhood where Fado originated, before enjoying a typical Portuguese meal of wine, sausages and traditional soup. This tour is very popular, so you should book early at Get Your Guide here.
Authentic Fado show, dinner and night tour
Experience Fado on a four-hour guided night tour of Alfama, Lisbon (they will pick you up from your hotel). Experience an authentic Fado show in a typical Portuguese restaurant while dining on delicious specialities. To book this tour, be early as it usually sells out. Go to this Get Your Guide page here.
Hungry? You might also like: Lisbon Restaurants.
Where is the most authentic Fado in Lisbon?
It is difficult to find the most authentic Fado in Lisbon. This is a very important issue nowadays since Fado has been marketed and has moved away from the traditional Clubs to restaurants, where it is mandatory to consume something – usually dinner.
There are many people that say that Fado music is being hampered by this commercialisation. However, it is still possible to find authentic Fado in Lisbon and listen to it for free.
Write down these three, top-secret locations:
- Tasca do Chico (website is in Portuguese) in Bairro Alto;
- Tasca do Jaime in Alfama; and
- Grupo Desportivo da Mouraria (website is in Portuguese).
For an after dinner drink, you might like: The Absolute Best Rooftop Bars in Lisbon
One last tip
When you are visiting a Fado Club or restaurant in Lisbon, remember to keep very quiet while the singer is performing, no talking during the show. It’s a sign of respect that the locals will appreciate.
Enjoy this amazing facet of Portuguese culture.
What is your favourite Fado Club in Lisbon? Tell us about it in the comments below.