Situated on Largo do Chafariz de Dentro, the museum is right opposite the entrance to Alfama. The easiest way to find it is to simply walk towards the sea on Praça de Comércio and turn left up the main road (Avenida Infant Dom Henrique). It’s about a 5 – 10 minute walk along the water front and is situated on the right. Alternatively you can take bus number 28.
The museum opened in 1998 and is located within a spacious well-designed building that still smells new. It costs €5 (2012 price) to enter and you are not allowed to take photographs. Both times I have visited, the museum has been quiet although as with most tourist attractions, it is busier at the weekends.
Despite being quite a small museum, they have a packed collection that includes interactive features. The permanent collection is a wonderful journey through the history of Fado – the music, the singers, the musicians and instrument (namely the Portuguese guitar).
There are hundreds of photos of famous singers as well as posters of old advertisements. Every wall is crammed with information on how fado developed as a musical genre. You can listen to the different types of fado as well as different artists. My favourite part of the museum is the model Portuguese guitar workshop. A wax work figure stands over his tools as a film runs behind him showing how a Portuguese guitar is made. As a musician I have always been in awe of master instrument makers. Along the wall is a large display of different makes and models of guitar. My fingers were itching to play!
The last room is a wonderful installation that recreates a fado bar. Last time I visited I was the only person in there so it was easy to feel like I had been transported back in time. The room is dark and atmospheric. Glass cases of original costumes worn by great Fadistas like Lidia Ribeiro, Maria da Fé and Amalia line the back walls. All around the room are photographs of Fado in action and of course there is fado playing as you stand and absorb the atmosphere.
The museum has space also for temporary exhibitions. Past exhibitions are listed on their website if you would like to know more. There is a cafe which wasn’t open when I was there but according to their website it is open at the weekend and Fado is played live.
You’ll find the shop very expensive but it does have an excellent selection of fado music as well as some lovely books on art and culture in Portugal as well as fado. My only disappointment was that they did not have any posters. I love the old Fado advertisments – particularly those by Stuart Carvalhais and would love to have some prints of his work.
The Fado Museum is the perfect place to pass an hour in the late afternoon. From there you can cross the street and be right in the heart of old Alfama ready to spend the evening in the arms of fado.
Museu do Fado (in Portuguese and English)
Opening Times: Tuesday – Sunday 10 – 6pm (last admission 5.30pm).