In Lisbon, everything stops when fado is on. Silence rules the room, the lights dim, and only then the show begins.
Fado isn’t just a traditional music style—it’s an emotional experience. It’s hard not to feel touched by the vibrant performances of fadistas (fado singers), even without grasping the lyrics.
When it comes to fado, it’s easy to fall in a tourist trap, so we’re here to help! We’ve put together this guide, so you can enjoy the best fado Lisbon has to offer, with or without dinner.
What is Fado?
In Portuguese, the word fado means fate, but you probably know it as the traditional music genre. Its roots are in Alfama and Mouraria, and it’s where you can still hear many fado performances today.
Fado songs are usually connected to the feeling of saudade, a state of nostalgia and yearning for something or someone. That’s why most lyrics are about broken hearts and lost sailors in the sea.
Amália Rodrigues was one of Lisbon’s most famous fado singers, and she was the first one to take fado outside of Portuguese borders.
Amália had the chance to perform on big stages, but like many fadistas, she began her career in a Fado house, aka Casa de Fado.
If you’re really curious about fado, we recommend visiting the Fado Museum in Alfama. In the meantime, don’t miss these six place to hear fado in Lisbon, either!
1. Mascote da Atalaia: For An Intimate Concert
For a while, all you could get at this tiny bar was wine, beer, and peanuts. But that’s okay because everyone came here for the live fado.
More than a restaurant, Mascote da Atalaia was and continues to be, a Fado house.
Through the years, this humble spot in Bairro Alto has welcomed generations of fadistas, from Fernando Maurício to Alice Pires.
The crowds might have changed, and there might be more petiscos on offer, but the fado nights are still the highlight of it all.
Insider’s tip: Each day, there’s a different singer. If you’re curious to know who’s performing you can check their agenda online, otherwise, just show up and see for yourself!
2. Tasca do Chico: Fado Without Dinner
We’re not going to lie, seeing fado in Lisbon can be expensive, especially if you’re doing the whole show plus dinner experience.
If you’re on a budget and still want to see a good fado performance, we suggest heading to Tasca do Chico in Bairro Alto.
This beloved venue has been around since 1993, and it’s known for its weekly sessions of fado vadio, or fado sung by non-professionals. The sessions take place every Monday and Wednesday from 9 p.m. As soon as the music starts it gets packed, so make sure to arrive early!
If you do get hungry, order the chouriço assado (roasted chorizo). Don’t be alarmed by the flames, it’s just a traditional way of cooking chorizo in Portugal.
Insider’s tip: Keep quiet while the fado is on, otherwise you might get shushed by the crowd.
3. A Nini: Away From The Crowd
Set near Parque Eduardo VII, one of the largest parks in Lisbon, this family-run restaurant can easily go unnoticed as a fado venue.
It’s only on Thursdays that the stage is up for the fadistas. Suddenly, everyone turns away from their food, and the singer becomes the center of attention.
4. Associação do Fado Casto: After Hours Fado
Associação do Fado Casto is not an ordinary fado house—it’s more like an association, a meeting point for fadistas and devoted fado fans.
You might not hear it at first, and some days there isn’t even a sign outside, but trust us, there is fado behind the door.
Pedro de Castro is the owner of this unique space, and also a famous Portuguese guitar player. If you’re lucky, you might even catch him performing alongside the fadistas.
There’s no formal setting here, just friends sharing their passion for fado.
5. Adega Machado: A Quick Overview of Fado
In little less than an hour, two singers perform a range of fado songs, from the most traditional to the most modern, giving you a quick overview of the genre.
The experience also includes a glass of wine and a few traditional Portuguese snacks, all that comes to €17 per person.
Adega Machado is a traditional fado house and, as so, it has the usual dinner show combo, but we think the experience is the best way to introduce yourself to fado.
6. Real Fado: Fado Shows in Cool Lisbon Venues
This Lisbon-based project picked three venues to host weekly fado performances. Each location has their own character, and so does the show.
On Fridays, the show moves to Reservatório da Patriarcal, a historic underground cistern. Here the focus is not only fado but also the influences it had in other musical genres.
Finally, on Sundays, there’s timeless fado at Embaixada, where two generations, a young voice, and a consecrated singer, perform side by side.
All shows start at 7 p.m. and you can buy tickets in advance here.Want our insider’s guide to eating in Lisbon? Just add your email address in the form below!
Joana is a Portuguese travel writer based in Lisbon. On her blog City Odes, she writes about the hidden gems of Portugal, fun road trips and train rides worth taking. When she’s not typing away on her laptop, you can find her drinking an IPA on one of Lisbon’s latest craft beer bars.