Soak up Lisbon’s aesthetic melancholy in the historic Alfama, the neighbourhood where fado was born.
From amateur fado to well-known fado singers, we take a look at the best fado restaurants to sample traditional dishes and the authentic fado in Lisbon.
Parreirinha de Alfama
A nice and cosy restaurant where fado and the main dish have been paired since 1950. The rustic interior design has changed little over the years, and the beautiful azulejos (tiles) on the walls still gleam brightly.
The menu includes petiscos as starters and traditional Portuguese dishes, such as bacalhau à “Narcisa” (one of the 1001 ways to cook salt cured codfish), the house specialty arroz de tamboril (monkfish rice) and alcatra à moda da Terceira (rump steak) – not many options for vegetarians, though.
You can ask only for the main dish, instead of the menu, since the portions are very generous. During dinner, expect to listen to at least three different fado singers, more if you stay until the end.
- Beco Espírito Santo 1 (about 200 metres from the Museu do Fado), open for dinner (Tuesday to Sunday), menu: €30 per person
This is definitely not a place for a calm dinner. What makes this tiny family-run restaurant special is fado vadio (literally translated as vagrant, but which means “amateur” in fado’s language). Anyone can get up and sing fado. Invariably, locals are the ones that perform their favourite fado songs, during which you will be hissed at if you dare to speak or stand up. At this restaurant, you get the genuine fado experience.
The octopus, the bacalhau and the steak are some of the traditional Portuguese dishes on the menu. They stop serving around 10pm, though fado goes on until midnight.
- Rua de São Miguel 20, open 8pm-midnight (Thursday to Monday), minimum charge per person: €25
Clube de Fado
This place offers food as a supplement to fado. Here, the show is the main dish. You get high quality fado singers accompanied by the best Portuguese guitar players.
The food is not so great as the show, so you may want to just come for appetisers and drinks. The interior of arches and ogival ceiling creates the perfect atmosphere to listen to fado.
- Rua S. João Praça 86-94 (near the Sé), open daily 8pm-2am, fado charge: €7, www.clube-de-fado.com
Sr. Fado de Alfama
With only nine tables, be sure to book ahead if you’re planning to get the authentic fado experience, and taste some home-cooked Portuguese traditional dishes.
For a fixed price, you get appetisers, a very generous main course of cataplana (fish stew) or carne de porco à alentejana (pork with clams), a dessert, coffee or tea, and drinks (wine, water or soft drinks). Dinner is served by the owners, Ana Marina who cooks and serves, and Duarte Santos that chooses the wines.
Once everybody has finished, Ana Marina sheds her apron and Duarte Santos brings out his Portuguese guitar, and the fado performance begins. In between songs, they even tell you a bit about the history of fado, and which styles are being played.
Dinner starts around 8pm, fado kicks off at about 10pm, and goes on until 1am.
- Rua dos Remédios 176, open 8pm-1am (Wednesday, Friday and Saturday), fixed menu per person: €45, reservations: firstname.lastname@example.org, or +351 218 874 298
Páteo de Alfama
Halfway between the Sé and Lisbon’s castle, this restaurant is located in a palace that survived the earthquake of 1755. You can enjoy lunch and drinks in the páteo (courtyard) during summer. The remains of the oldest city wall, known as “Cerca Velha”, dating from the fifth century, can be seen in the courtyard and inside the building.
At dinner, you get a show of fado and folk songs. Headed by fado singers Cidália Moreira and Maria Mendes, the show tells the history of fado from its origin as a nineteenth century tavern song to its success today. A crew of about 20 singers and dancers present several traditional nicely staged folk songs.
The main dishes include bacalhau à Gomes de Sá (codfish in the oven) and duck orange stew with chestnuts.
- Rua São João da Praça 18, open daily, midday-3pm and 7.30pm-11.30pm, www.pateodealfama.pt, show: €15, menu: €37.5