If you read any guide on what to do in Lisbon, chances are you’ll come across fado.
This traditional Portuguese music is moody and sad, and, for whatever reason, seems to be best paired with dinner and drinks.
Dinner with a fado show is a super popular activity for people visiting Lisbon (and Portugal in general), so, as it goes… it’s also a pretty common way for tourists to get ripped off… which is what almost happened to us.
We decided late in the afternoon on Andrew’s last day in Lisbon that we would go for dinner and a fado show to celebrate his birthday that night. We did very little (ie zero) research on where to go or how to avoid getting scammed, soooo, basically… we nearly fell into one of the aforementioned tourist traps.
(Side note: are you noticing a theme here? I literally did not plan annnything prior to this trip)!
Long story short… shortly after deciding on our fado dinner plans… like literally less than two minutes later, we walked by a cute restaurant with a big sign out front that said “FADO SHOW TONIGHT!”
…and then we went inside and booked a table for the four of us that evening!
Perfect, right?! It’s like the universe had been listening to our chat!
Well, not quite…
First mistake: Going into the first place we saw.
Turns out, there was a cover charge of 10 Euros a head… something the hostess didn’t tell us until after we had given her our name and contact information.
This was a bit of a red flag. In hindsight, we probably should have backed out then, but I hadn’t done any research to know any better, so I thought, “Well, technically we’re seeing a show. I guess paying a cover is normal,”
…and then, in our excited fado frenzy, we forked over 40 Euros.
Second and third mistake: Paying 40 Euros cover. Not looking at the menu.
As we continued on our walk back to our AirBnb, we started seeing (ie noticing for the first time) loads of restaurants with signs advertising fado shows that evening… many of which also had another one of my favorite words - “FREE!”
Still, we had already paid… so we decided to give the first spot a chance.
When we came back that night we quickly realized that this restaurant was a weeeee bit out of our “Nearing the End of a Two Week Holiday” price range
…and then (even more quickly) began concocting a “Let’s Get Our Money Back” and go somewhere else plan.
After a little hair flip action and some Oscar worthy acting from Lindsey and Andrew, we got our money back and began the hunt for a more affordable place to get our fado fix.
We found a buzzing restaurant with a bit of a wait, and though they still charged a per person cover at the door to reserve a table, 100% of this money went towards our bill at the end.
Our experience here was much more intimate and cozy… not to mention a whole lot easier on our bank accounts.
The fado singer found out it was Andrew’s birthday (because she was basically standing right beside our table the entire time) and gave him his own little encore.
I wish I had photos of this because a picture is worth a thousand words… but I don’t… so HERE’S A GIPH INSTEAD. That’s gotta be worth at least a million, right!? Just look at those birthday boy dance moves!
Despite the little mishaps along the way, our dinner + fado evening ended up being one of my favorite nights of the whole trip, and proof that it IS possible to get a great meal and a fun fado experience without paying an arm and a leg.
The moral of this story isn’t to do your research… because going with the flow actually turned out pretty well for us in the end.
The moral of this story is that even the most seasoned travellers make mistakes… and that there’s no problem a sassy little hair flip can’t solve.
Have you been to a fado show?
Was your experience as cool as Andrew’s? ;)
Let me know in the comments below!