It’s the heart of Portugal in song. A feeling of nostalgia and melancholy that fills the narrow, steep streets of enigmatic Lisbon. A song for what could have been, and never was, which wells up from the humble neighbourhoods, coming from the atmosphere of the taverns.
Fado, the feeling of the music, bewitches whoever discovers it, and is the expression of Lisbon’s soul. A soul scarred by history, from which springs music that is intimate, reserved, introverted…
In the old neighbourhoods of Lisbon, La Alfama and the Barrio Alta, when night starts to fall and the light fades, fado can be heard… Generally it is sung by one individual, accompanied by a Portuguese guitar.
* Fado performance. / Photo: myguide.iol.pt
The now legendary ‘fado houses’ welcome Lisbon natives and tourists alike at their narrow tables, characteristic of the city’s restaurants. Dining or having a drink while you listen to fado is a must if you visit Lisbon and truly want to understand the culture. While your taste buds savour the typical cuisine, your ears will relish the melancholic longing of fado.
Where to listen to fado in Lisbon?
Fado in La Alfama
La Alfama is the oldest neighbourhood in the city, a fact that becomes clear as you wander its steeply inclined streets and narrow lanes. A poor old fishing district, crowned by Lisbon Cathedral and located at the foot of San Jorge castle, it’s a neighbourhood full of aromas and emotions, the birthplace of the fado of the Portuguese people.
- Clube del Fado
Clube de Fado is one of the most exclusive fado houses, with a select atmosphere and personalised attention. Under subdued light, with sober decoration that takes you back in time, you can sample the fine Portuguese cuisine. The best in fado and the finest food are topped off by the location: it’s adjacent to the cathedral.
* Clube de Fado. / Photo: clube-de-fado.com
In the Clube del Fado you can see the most renowned artists, as well as hearing the best amateur voices. It’s a privileged place, which has seen many of the biggest stars of cinema, sport and literature pass through its doors.
- El Páteo de Alfama
Located inside the palace of the Lady of Murça, one of its two halls is the setting for spectacular folk music and fado shows. During the summer the patio lets you take in the bohemian air of the city and enjoy a drink in a traditional atmosphere.
*Páteo de Alfama. / Photo: www.pateodealfama.pt.
Situated between the castle and the cathedral, the fado show at the Páteo de Alfama takes you through the diverse moments of the genre’s history, from its origins, with the recreation of a fado tavern of the 19th century, up to the peak of its success in the late 20th century.
- Museu Do Fado
A reference point for fado in Lisbon, the museum opened its doors in 1998 and today is unmissable if you want to explore the origins of the popular Portuguese music.
There are a number of activities catered for within the whole complex, with the highlight being, of course, the museum itself. Photographs, instruments, records, sheet music and newspapers take you through the history of the melancholic melodies and the scenes it’s dominated.
*Portuguese guitars in the Museu do fado. / Photo: visitportugal.com.
The Museu do Fado also hosts temporary exhibitions, usually dedicated to the life and works of particular artists and it has other activities, such as a school, a documentation centre, an auditorium, a shop and a restaurant-café, which offers a fado show at the weekends.
Fado in the Barrio Alto
The Barrio Alto represents an alternative side to Lisbon and is, together with La Alfama, the best place to hear fado.
You’ll walk amidst graffiti and clothes hung out to dry above steep, narrow cobbled streets. As night falls the neighbourhood fills with people heading out to enjoy dinner or drinks, to the rhythm of fado.
*Fado singer. / Photo: viajaraportugal.com
- O faia
In 1947 when Lucilia do Carmo opened her fado house it was just a small spot on Rua de Barroca. Today its prestige is legendary.
O faia, is a 67-year-old gem in the heart of the Barrio Alto, which despite having been renovated, maintains its Lisbon essence. It’s the perfect option to try Portuguese cuisine with friends or your partner in a unique, intimate atmosphere.
- Canto Do Camoes
If you want to hear the purest fado for free, in a more homely atmosphere, there are many traditional restaurants where you can hear the ‘undulating’ tones, just like Canto do Camoes, a charming restaurant on the Travessa da Espera. It’s a welcoming spot to try traditional Portuguese food for dinner. The house speciality is seafood, in particular the cod, washed down with vinho verde.
- Adega Machado
In Adega Machado the cod and the local wine are the stars of the show. In 2012 it reopened after a complete renovation, which preserved its legendary tiled façade. While you dine you can gaze over the huge collection of paintings, drawings and photographs that cover the cultural history of Lisbon, documented by the Machado family. The renovation included the creation of a wine cellar that contains a wide selection of the country’s finest vintages.
*Fado in Adega Machado. / Photo: myguide.iol.pt.
These are just six places where you can enjoy the nostalgic sound of fado, but La Alfama and the Barrio Alto are full of restaurants where you can take in a show. We’d recommend you try the sardines, the cod, the seafood cataplana and the pork and clam based Porco à Alentejana, all traditional, tasty Lisbon dishes.
Hotel in the centre of Lisbon
Vincci Baixa 4* is located in the very centre of Lisbon, a stone’s throw from the majestic Praça do Comércio. It’s located in the Baixa neighbourhood, an area that could be defined as the ‘valley’ of the city, the lower part, between the two hills of the Barrio Alta and La Alfama, the cradles of fado. Staying here then, you can choose one or the other, or better yet, get to know both.
*Praça do Comércio, Lisboa.
To the north you’ll find the Praça de Rossio, a place to sample the stews and seafood dishes Portugal has to offer, while you look out over the Atlantic. Our hotel in Portugal is surrounded by a multitude of shops, cafes bars, in the area with the liveliest atmosphere in the city.
The decor in the rooms is modern and the attention to detail ensures you’ll be utterly relaxed on your holidays. In the Vincci Baixa 4* you can rent a car, get your concert tickets and arrange tours, as well as enjoy our two gastronomic zones: the lounge bar and the restaurant Tapas&Friends.
*Room at the hotel Vincci Baixa 4* Lisboa.
Just 80 metres from the Avenida Liberdade, inspired by Paris’ Champs-Élysées, stands the Vincci Liberdade 4*, the second hotel we opened in Lisbon. It’s a tranquil establishment, where you can rest, relax and from where you can easily get to unmissable places, like the Estufa Fria and the Botanical Gardens.
*Room at the hotel Vincci Liberdade 4* Lisboa.
Lisbon is one of those places you need to visit at least once in your life; and from the moment you hear fado, you’ll feel it in your soul. Get to know the city through the sound of the music. Music full of nostalgia, which awakens your emotions.
If you hear it, you’ll come back.