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  • Worldwide Scott | June 22, 2016 9:00 PM ET

    Falling for Fado in Lisbon

    Falling for Fado in Lisbon

    Photos by Worldwide Scott

    There is a haunting sound that echoes from the hills of Lisbon, Portugal when the sun goes down. It is a mournful, soul-filled musical moan, and it manages to fill the evening air with a touch of melancholy as it floats through the city like a fog.

    It’s called fado.

    Fado, which roughly translates to “fate” or “destiny,” has been the signature sound of Lisbon (and Portugal) since the early part of the 1800s. It tells the story of the country’s people through bittersweet melody, often regaling listeners with tales of sailors that left home and never came back, lovers separated by thousands of miles, or simply just a longing for better days in a place that has had its share of rough times over the years.

    READ MORE: Loving Life in Lisbon

    Simply put, when you’re in Lisbon, you have to listen to some fado. In fact, when I was there, a night out listening to fado (a musical style I hadn’t even heard of before) ended up being one of the highlights of my entire trip to Europe.

    Fado performances are commonplace in the capital, ranging from the pre-organized polished variety, perfect for tour groups, to simple shows at slightly more hole-in-the-wall joints.

    I went for the latter.

    I’ll admit, I was a bit skeptical when I showed up at the bar, and it was packed to the gills and sweaty. But as soon as the sweaty man who packed every last inch of his shirt to the gills started singing, I was hooked.

    Every word that came from his mouth immediately mesmerized me, and that is saying something considering I don’t speak a lick of Portuguese. The heartfelt verses of the fado he was dropping oozed emotion, and the gentle plucking of the Portuguese guitarra in the background supported the singing heroically.

    I stayed until the end of the set, soaking in song after song, and I’m sure if you find yourself some fado in Lisbon, it will affect you the same way.

    Here are a few of the finest places to find fado in Lisbon:

    Tasco Do Chico

    This is the place I went to, and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s a down-home “divey” sort of place no doubt, with its walls plastered with old portraits and its ceiling strewn in soccer scarves, but that’s what makes it special. The style of the shows here are spontaneous and performed by non-professionals, which only serves to add authenticity to the proceedings. The shows are held twice a week, on Monday and Wednesday nights, so get there early to grab a seat.

    Os Amigos da Severa

    Another bar overflowing with rustic atmosphere, Amigos de Severa claims to be the birthplace of fado. Its name translates to “Friends of Severa” (Maria Severa was one of the first fado singers) and it is said that her father had a bar on this site where she honed her skills. The venue pays homage to her and to the art of fado, and is run by a legendary gregarious gentleman always eager to pour patrons his house ginjinha, a traditional Portuguese cherry liqueur.

    READ MORE: Why Are US Tourists Flocking to Portugal?


    Offering fantastic fado shows every night, Forcado combines the sounds of the haunting music with tantalizing traditional Portuguese food. Forcado’s shows are probably the most “professional” on this list, and are ideal for getting a sample of fado for the first time or with a family.

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Worldwide Scott The Adventures of Worldwide Scott

Worldwide Scott Born in the U.S.A like Springsteen but trying to see the world like Pitbull, Worldwide Scott is the voice behind the hard-hitting travel site of the same name. Employing a groundbreaking strategy of visiting destinations, coming home, and then writing things about them on the internet, Worldwide Scott only tackles the tough questions that other writers wouldn't dare touch: Is travelling fun? Are there pretty places in the world? Do people in other countries wear clothes? Does Europe really exist? And if so, what's the beer like there? Stick around, he's going places.
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