Friendly disclaimer! We want to be as accurate as possible, but given these challenging times, we urge you to recheck that the venues are open when you decide to visit.
To truly understand a country’s identity, history and soul, tune in to its local music culture. And with Lisbon, immersing yourself in its historic Fado music is definitely one of the best ways to do it.
Fado (pronounced faðu in Portuguese, and meaning fate/destiny) can be termed as a 19th-century Portuguese blues genre – with its dominant themes of heartache, melancholy, and longing (termed Saudade in Portuguese), often in the context of life at sea. A powerful fadista or Fado singer’s performance can be electric and heart-wrenching enough to linger in your senses for a long time.
The best spots to experience Fado is at restaurants and watering-holes set in Lisbon’s cobblestoned streets of the Alfama, Mouraria, and Bairro Alto neighbourhoods. Here are Unravelog’s recommendations for you to lose yourself in this soul music.
Mesa de Frades
This former chapel turned restaurant is one of the most magical settings for a Fado experience. Featuring 18th-century Azulejo tiles and remnants of mural work on the walls, the place offers an intimate ambience with only a few tables on offer. It is owned by Pedro de Castro, a guitar player and is hence known as being a ‘fadista’s canteen’. One can catch both Fado stars and emerging fadistas at any of their dinner shows, and a table requires prior booking.
Address: R. dos Remédios 139, 1100-453 Lisboa
Phone: +351 917 029 436
Timings: Mon – Sat 8:30 pm to 2 am
Tasca do Chico
Tascas are typically bars or pubs where one could just step in for a drink or sit down for a meal while enjoying the night’s unscripted and open-mic fadista performances. They offer a casual alternative to the shows held at “adegas” or restaurants and often better represent Fado’s original working-class origins.
At Tasca do Chico, set up in Alfama in 2009, fadistas perform on most nights from 9 pm onwards. It is recommended to arrive much earlier as the place is hugely popular for its laid-back vibes, traditional Portuguese pastiches (snacks), and drinks.
Phone: +351 961 339 696
Timings: Every day 7 pm to 2 am
This small, family-run restaurant in Alfama is the place to go for “fado vadio” or layman fado singing by local residents belting personal renditions of their favourite songs from the genre. The vibe is genuine and amateur in the most wonderful way. Apart from the authentic experience, it is also popular for delicious Portuguese fare of lamb, octopus, bacalhau and steak. Seating is limited so it is recommended to arrive early before the 9 pm performances between Thursday and Saturday nights.
This is a relatively new yet popular fado restaurant in the famous ‘Pink street’ area of Cais do Sodré otherwise famed for its nightclubs. The owners have set it up in this area specifically to renew the old Portuguese tavern spirit in urban settings. They also aim to encourage new Fado talent, and emerging voices in Fado generally rule the show. The food menu too is a mix of traditional and modern Portuguese “petiscos” (snacks) and dishes.
Parreirinha de Alfama
A warm and rustic Fado house and restaurant set up in 1950, Parreirinhais is equally popular for its music and food. It is owned by a locally renowned fado singer, Argentina Santos who still shares the stage with other fadistas like Lina Maria Alves, Tina Santos and Luis Tomar. The music begins at around 9:30 PM so one should book a table before this.
The menu features traditional Portuguese dishes like “bacalhau à Narcisa” (cured codfish), “arroz de tamboril” (monkfish rice) and “alcatra à moda da Terceira” (steak).
Phone: +351 21 886 8209
Timings: Tue – Sun 8 pm to 1 am
Sr. Fado de Alfama
This is a family-run Fado house owned by fadista Ana Marina and the guitarist Duarte Santos. The hosts themselves say that coming here is like being invited for dinner at a friend’s home and making a great night of it. The traditional set menu is prepared by Anna and served by Duarte and their daughter Nádia. Post dinner, the couple transform into their performing avatars for the night’s two-person show! Seats need to be booked at this intimate nine-tables only setting. The meal includes “cataplana” (fish stew) or “carne de porco à alentejana (pork with clams), a dessert, coffee or tea, and drinks (wine, water, or soft drinks).
Address: R. dos Remédios 176, 1100-304 Lisboa
Phone: +351 914 431 971
Hours: Sun – Mon 7:30 pm to 11 pm
Clube de Fado
Located in the heart of Alfama, close to the Lisbon cathedral, this charming restaurant is set in a centuries-old structure featuring vaulted ceilings and stone walls. Owned by renowned guitar player Mario Pacheco, the place has hosted many famous fadistas like Maria Armanda, Machado Shares, and Maria Ana Bobone. Apart from the established artists they also host young, rising talent of the genre. The food at this slightly pricey venue may not be as rousing as the music, which definitely compensates nonetheless.
Phone: +351 21 885 2704
Timings: 8 pm to 10:30 pm (check website for days open)
Páteo De Alfama
This is set inside the Palácio da Sra de Murça, or the 17th-century palace of the “Lady of Murça” and what’s more is that the remains of the city’s most ancient wall known as the ‘“Cerca Velha” can still be found here.
The restaurant has two halls that feature two types of shows – one focusing solely on Fado and the other on Fado and folk songs that explain its history. It is hosted by fadistas Maria Mendes and Luísa Rocha along with a crew of 20 singers and dancers. The dinner menu features dishes like “bacalhau à Gomes de Sá” (codfish in the oven) and duck orange stew.
Phone: +351 21 882 2174
Timings: Check website, requires prior booking
If you have more time in hand to explore Lisbon further and indulge in its many offerings, check out our detailed itinerary that unravels Lisbon in 3 days.