August 15, 2019 / Leave a Comment
Fado music, the somber song of Portual, is a deeply passionate and heartbreaking folk music genre that can be traced back to the 1820s (and possibly earlier) in Lisbon. Fado was in many ways the expression by which a suppressed people communicated feels of frustration, loneliness, and outright abandonment during the 1960s and 70s, as all of Portugal fell deeply into political corruption – ultimately paving the way for the 1974 coup known as the “Carnation Revolution”.
Dubbed the “Lisbon Blues“by some, Fado is, and has always been the song of the sad, the forelorn, and the broken. Today is stands more as a token of the past than an indicator of current position, as the last forty years have been much kinder to Lisbon, and indeed the entirety of Portugal. Yet, to understand Fado is still to somehow understand Lisbon, making it one of the essential things to experience in the city.
You would think that with the popularity of Fado among Lisboans that this musical style would be apparent and easy to find once you’re in the city. In truth, however, it isn’t. Lisbon is a city of back-alleys, hills, elevation changes, and some not-so-obvious establishments that are absolute gems, but possess almost a speakeasy quality in the difficulty of finding them.
After some searching and questioning of locals, however, we were able to locate a few great spots to find some of the best Fado in Lisbon. Now, we’re letting you in on the secret – the best places to find Fado music in Lisbon, and enjoy the great nightlife in Lisbon!
Tasca do Chico
If there’s one common theme with many of these establishments where Fado can be found, it’s that they’re not in central Lisbon. In fact, the best neighborhood in which to find Fado in Lisbon is south of Plaza Marques de Pombal, in the southern portion of Bairro Alto.
Tasca do Chico is one of the most well known locations in Bairro Alto to find Fado, which takes place on Mondays and Wednesdays starting at 21:00 (9:00 pm). You’ll need to arrive early, as its a small, popular space that is frequented by locals and tourists alike.
Address: R. do Diário de Notícias 39, 1200-108 Lisboa, Portugal
A gorgeous restaurant in the cellar of a 17th century palace, Cafe Luso is a great culinary and Fado music establishment founded in 1937. It was the site of a legendary recording by Fado artist Amália Rodrigues in 1955, and carries with it one of the most distinct reputations as a must-see Fado location.
A higher end establishment than some of the more “club-type” atmospheres in which Fado can be found, reservations will normally be required, which can be done via their website.
Address: Tv. da Queimada 10, 1200-365 Lisboa, Portugal
Clube de Fado
Traditional Portuguese cooking and the sounds of Fado in a relaxed and casual atmosphere – that’s what Clube de Fado is all about. This establishment off of Crusez da Se gives you everything you want in a Fado club without emptying your wallet or giving you the feeling of “stuffiness”.
It’s in establishments like Clube de Fado, easy, dark, and warm, where the real depth of Fado comes across in an intimate setting.
Address: 1100-009 Lisbon, Portugal
Located just two blocks from Tasca do Chico in Bairro Alto, A Severa is a great secondary stop in the area if you’re looking for a true “tour” of Fado in southern Lisbon.
A more upscale location than say, perhaps Clube de Fado, A Severa has been opened since 1955 and does require reservations for entry. It’s worth it, however, as they have traditionally offered some of the most crushingly romantic Fado performances by some of the most well-known artists in Lisbon.
Address: R. das Gáveas 51, 1200-206 Lisboa, Portugal
A higher end location in the Alfama district, you truly get what you pay for at Tasca Bela. Typically there’s a flat fee for food, drinks, and live Fado, which is set in a beautifully rustic are of southeastern Lisbon. Tasca Bela has one of the best reputations among high culinary treats without the “fussiness” of a formal event.
Address: 1100 445, R. dos Remédios 190, Lisboa, Portugal
Started in 1937, Adega Machado is one of the longest-running Fado clubs in Lisbon – but it’s much more than that. If your first thought is experiencing truly high-end culinary Portuguese classics and secondly on music, Adega Machado is more your speed.
While the Fado is great, the food is simply unreal.
Address: Rua do Norte, nº 91, 1200-284 Lisboa, Portugal
Some might say that A Nini is where real Fado lives.
No frills, no fluff, just a comfortable and cozy bar with great food, affordable prices, and some of the best Fado tradition anywhere. It’s a beautiful place and the optimal setting for a romantic date night for couples in Lisbon, which often stars Fado legends Maria Da Nazaré and Celeste Rodrigues.
Address: R. Dom Francisco Manuel de Melo 44A, 1070-015 Lisboa, Portugal
Retiro dos Sentidos
Also in the Bairro Alto district is Retiro dos Sentidos, another small romantic establishment that features Fado music almost nightly. While the food isn’t on par with some of the before-mentioned establishments, this is a great, small place for a few drinks and great music. Their tapa plates are much more reliable dishes, but you’ll want to carry cash as patrons have often complained of touch-and-go wifi which often effects their ability to process cards.
Despite this, if you’re looking for a convenient location, have a few euros in your pocket and really just want to hear Fado and enjoy a beer, Retiro dos Sentidos is an enjoyable spot.
Address: A, R. do Diário de Notícias 40, 1200-144 Lisboa, Portugal
Casa de Linhares
It’s big, it’s fancy, it’s beautiful, but it’s also excellent.
Casa de Linhares is not the relaxed-arm environment some may be looking for, where you sip on a cocktail in the hot Lisboan night, but rather a dress-to-impress affair that rests in the Linhares House – a structure of what remains of a Renaissance building that collapsed in the earthquake of 1755.
Fado is truly celebrated here, and the prices aren’t nearly as high as one might anticipate (Lisbon is one of the best bargain cities in all of Europe) with occasional menu items topping out around $40 USD.
Casa de Linhares is of the best date night spots in Lisbon, and one of the most enjoyable for great food and Fado.
Address: Beco dos Armazéns do Linho 2, 1100-037 Lisboa, Portugal
Since 1975, Senhor Vinho has been a popular location for Fado and great Lisboan culinary classics that is renowned by tourist and locals alike. A stunning restaurant, Senhor Vinho often features Fado’s most famous artist, including Aldina Duarte, Vanessa Alvez, and Filipa Cardos.
Address: R. Meio à Lapa 18, 1200-724 Lisboa, Portugal
Cover photo by Chris