Traditionally performed by a single vocalist accompanied by a duo of classical guitar and 12-string Portuguese guitar, fado is Portugal’s great contribution to music. The form has its roots among the poor working-class people of early 19th-century Lisbon, and it typically expresses strong feelings of sorrow, longing and nostalgia. Nowadays fado clubs divide themselves into casual tascas (traditional pubs) and more formal restaurant-like settings. In either case, reserve a table after dinner, as the food rarely matches the quality of the singing.
On this recent stay in Lisbon, we tried two contrasting but equally memorable venues. In Alfama, Casa de Linhares presents lyrical singers in a candlelit space of soaring brick vaults. O Faia in Bairro Alto has less atmosphere, but there, altos such as Lenita Gentil and Filipa Cardoso grab you by the throat and don’t let go, so powerful are their voices. Casa de Linhares charges 15 euros per person on top of food and drink, and O Faia has a 25-euro-per-person minimum.
Casa de Linhares
Beco dos Armazéns do Linho 2. Tel.  91-018-8118
Rua da Barroca 54-56. Tel.  21-342-6742