How to Stay Warm in Portuguese Houses During Winter

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Last updated on June 14, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 8 minutes

Parts of Portugal like the Algarve, the Alentejo, and Lisbon are blessed with some of the mildest winters that Europe has to offer. Outside, that is. Inside a Portuguese house is another story altogether. 

Old Portuguese houses and apartments are typically poorly insulated and almost never have central heating of any kind, although some may have an air conditioning unit with a heat function. Newer properties tend to be better insulated, and some may even have a heating system of some sort, but these properties are the minority, unfortunately.

However, this isn’t just a Portuguese issue: it’s common in Southern Europe.

I’m in Greece and have the same problems as those in Portugal in the winter time. The winters have gotten so much colder the past eight years and this year I put up three layers of cotton curtains and it’s still cold. – Lisa

If you are purchasing a property, however, the good news is that you can install a heating system, such as a heat pump, to sort this issue out. If you are renting, that’s unfortunately not an option, but thankfully there are plenty of suggestions in this article.

Many confessed to sleeping in sleeping bags during the winter, often underneath a duvet and sometimes on top of one as well, while others recommended using not just one but several hot water bottles. One person even admitted to using a five-litre capacity hot water bottle. 

Other lifehacks included preheating the bed with a hairdryer or using an iron to iron your clothes on the bed so you heat up both your clothes and the bed at the same time. 

Most common recommendations

The following are some of the most common and most effective ways to keep your house warm. Utilising just one of these solutions mightn’t be enough and, generally speaking, most people should try to combine as many of them as possible in order to get the best results. 

A heater

The most obvious solution is a heater such as this best-selling oil heater on, although this in itself isn’t always enough to solve the problem. 

The heat, particularly from the electric space heaters that most people use, doesn’t tend to stick around and only works when it’s directly pointed at you. Electric oil heaters and gas heaters suffer from the same problem, but some people say they do a slightly better job. 

You can also improve your property’s ability to hold heat by making small improvements to your insulation: put draft stoppers at the bottom of the doors and fix any cracks or holes around the windows. 

It’s also worth pointing out that heaters will raise your electricity bill, particularly if you’re using it all day, as electricity is very expensive in Portugal. Gas space heaters often work out cheaper, but many people don’t like having large gas bottles around the house. 

It’s also worth noting that because space heaters use a lot of electricity, you may find that the electricity cuts out if you use another high-powered appliance like a microwave or a hair dryer at the same time. 

Alternatively, Oren recommends opening the oven door to heat the apartment up.

I have to offer one more option where electricity bill does not bother you.
Turn on the kitchen oven and open it’s door. I bet this is how the heater was invented!!
this warmed the airbnb apartment so good that we didn’t need those small ineffective heaters.
you can put the oven at 250 or 100 degrees, it doesn’t matter since the thermostat does not cut the heat when the door is open. It also works on gas ovens.


A dehumidifier

Definitely recommend a dehumidifier. It’s cheaper than a heater to run and deals with the mold problem. You also need to open the windows daily to change the air. – Adam

Another popular recommendation, and one that mightn’t be immediately obvious is to use a dehumidifier. Again, you can pick one up from Amazon Spain or alternatively at somewhere like Leroy Merlin.

Dehumidifiers remove moisture from the air, which reduces dampness and the risk of the black mold that plagues Portuguese houses, and also makes it easier for the room to heat up, especially when using a heater. Using one near your wardrobe can also remove dampness from your clothes. 

Not sure if a dehumidifier will help? You can get a humidity thermometer (or hygrometer) to measure the humidity in your home or simply ask a friend if you can borrow their dehumidifier for a day or two. 

A good (or electric) blanket

A high-quality duvet — one capable of keeping you warm in a Portuguese winter — will probably set you back more than €100 at IKEA and, even then, you may still want another big blanket on top. An even better option would be to add an electric blanket, especially if it’s one you can use while sitting on the sofa as well. These blankets are quite affordable to run and it’s usually cheaper to just heat an electric blanket than to try and heat a room with an electric heater.

For couples, there are even electric blankets that have two controls so you can heat each side of the bed according to your own desired temperature. Although slightly bulky, you could also potentially pack one in your suitcase if you’re visiting Portugal during winter.

Want to make your bed even warmer? Consider putting a warm blanket beneath the sheets or, even better, an electric mattress topper. 


Layers, whether on the bed or for your clothes, were another common recommendation with many people recommending wearing three or more pairs of socks, thermals, long-sleeve t-shirts and multiple jumpers, or pyjamas underneath the clothes. Hats, thick socks, fingerless gloves, and thick-soled slippers were also recommended. 

I have an Oodie. It’s like a blanket you can wear but the great thing is that you can also work with it. – Karen

Warm drinks

Tea, coffee, or soup — warm drinks are great for keeping you warm during winter. You’ll get through a lot of warm liquids, so just make sure you invest in some caffeine-free tea bags otherwise you’ll be bouncing off the walls. 

Being mindful of the drop

During a Portuguese winter, the air is often warmer outside than inside particularly between around 11 am and 3 pm. It’s a good idea to open up the windows both to get some of that warm air, but also to prevent humidity in the house. 

The only thing you have to watch out for is that sudden drop in temperature that Portugal gets when the afternoon turns into evening. 

South-facing rooms are usually the warmest

Unless there’s another building directly in front of you, south-facing rooms are usually the warmest and will require less heating. If you haven’t already bought or rented a place in Portugal, this is definitely something to look out for.

More Permanent Solutions

If you own your own property, you’ll have the freedom to make a few more permanent changes to your property which will help to keep it warmer including adding better insulation or installing heating. 

Wood chip stoves

Wood chip or pellet stoves are a very popular heating solution in Portugal. They typically give off more heat than a normal fireplace, the pellets are easier to store than the wood, they get going faster, they’re easier to clean, and your clothes don’t smell as bad from the smoke. 

Underfloor heating

There are lots of different types of permanent heaters available, but underfloor heating is considered to be one of the most effective and wall heat is often recommended as well. Unfortunately both, particularly underfloor heating, are messy and expensive to install, but many say that it’s definitely worth it.

Other Creative Solutions

  • Tinder – If you’re single, find somewhere else to keep you warm at night. One person even recommended finding a couple. After all: more meat = more heat. 
  • Exercise – Press Ups, star jumps, and running on the stop all help you to keep warm and they’ll burn calories too. Alternatively, if you live somewhere hilly like Lisbon, take to the streets for a quick powerwalk up and down one of the many hills. 
  • Alcohol – If fitness isn’t your thing, try a little vodka, whisky, medronho, or bagaco. And don’t worry if it’s early in the day, just put a little bit in your coffee to get you going.  
  • Think about things that make you angry – Don’t meditate; fixate! Let that blood boil.
  • Pets – Cats and dogs can be good lap warmers during the day and, if you don’t mind them in the bed at night, a source of heat in the evening. 
  • Buy a brand new apartment – Rather than trying to fix insulation and heating problems in an old building, just buy a brand new apartment or house instead. 

If you enjoyed this article, you can look forward to my next article: how to stay cool in Portuguese houses during summer! 

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James Cave is the founder of Portugalist and the author of the bestselling book, Moving to Portugal Made Simple. He has visited just about every part of Portugal, including Madeira and all nine islands of the Azores, and lived in several parts of Portugal including Lisbon, the Algarve, and Northern Portugal. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for website owners to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon (.es,, .de etc) and any other website that may be affiliated with Amazon Service LLC.

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There are 56 comments on this article. Join the conversation and add your own thoughts, reviews, and stories of life in Portugal. However, please remember to be civil.


  1. Definitely recommend a pellet stove. Paraffin heater is a no no because they generate moisture which in turn condenses on cold surfaces and causes mould

  2. Another suggestion: Cover your windows at night with insulating curtains. In the U.S., windows are one of the biggest sources of heat loss/cold gain in a home. There are curtains available that have insulation built in, but another way is to hang panels of fleece over each window. You can hang them using clip-on curtain rings so that you can open them during the day to let sun in. I don’t know about Portugal, but fleece is very popular in the U.S. and there are many colors, patterns, and prices available. You could even install a very long curtain rod, or multiple rods, across an entire outside wall and hang fleece floor to ceiling to help overcome the lack of insulation. I’ve used fleece over drafty windows and it helps a lot.

    • Great idea, thanks. I’m in Greece and have the same problems as those in Portugal in the winter time. The winters have gotten so much colder the past eight years and this year I put up three layers of cotton curtains and it’s still cold. I’ll try flannel although no idea where I’ll find it here. Amazon I suppose. Houses in Med. countries are often built as summer homes and therefore just haven’t got the insulation – just cement and brick and nothing else. I’ve been thinking about relocating to Portugal but it seems as if it would be the same as here!

  3. Is radiant barrier available in Portugal? It is great to keep the warmth in and the cold out in winter. If you own an older home you can attach it to screeds at top and bottom of the wall and around any openings. Then you can upholster the wall for a decorative effect. I would recommend a synthetic fabric to avoid any problems with mildew.
    And I also have a question. We are considering renting or buying an apartment in a high rise. Are they more energy efficient? And totally on a different subject, if you buy a unit, what is the range of home owners fees associated with ownership. I have never seen any quotes on fee assessments?

  4. Under floor heating in combination with solar could be a good permanent solution (of course with some insulation as well). Another thing that is often overlooked is use the winter sun better. So much sun not benign used. In the past they made the windows small because of the single pane glas but now we have much better ones and the need for small windows is gone. If I look for houses I need the sun in my house in the winter but not in the summer. To block the summer sun you need the right size of roof overhang. One of first things I would do is bigger windows. But I am not sure if this is always allowed.

  5. This made me so nervous. There are few things I dislike more than cold weather. Thanks for the many suggestions of how stay warm inside.

    • I’m retired in north-central Greece and have been thinking about moving to Portugal to be warmer. After reading this article, it sounds the same as where I am here. House not insulated for winters, no central heat, just a wood -burning stove, only turn it on in the afternoon when the sun goes around the house, mold in the bathroom on the outside wall! Maybe I should think twice before making another move! Ten years ago when I moved to this house, the winters were wonderful – nice enough to sleep with my window open and the sun during the day warmed the house so well. Then two years later, climate change occurred and it’s been cold, cold, cold with snow ice and rain.

    • A lot of Portuguese houses don’t have central heating. We are lucky because ours does have. But it is diesel oil fueled. Last year I filled the tank and it cost over €1000. It was gone in three months. This year we are only using it very sparingly. I have bought a lovely furry blanket which I use in the evenings.
      PS we had exactly the same problem in Australia, freezing in winter and no houses there have central heating. They actually sell electrically powered blanket wraps for warming you up when sitting down. It was surreal.

      • Yikes Christine! We have the same system with underfloor heating . We paid the same as you last year but our tank is still half full!! Are you heating day and night ?. We only put our heating on in the late afternoon and turn it off when we go to bed. Our bedroom stays at 17/18 deg’s the recommended temp for sleeping. A good duvet and the occasional hotter bottle is enough for us. We do admit to be lucky in that our house faces South and is on the coast. We have had to wean ourselves off living in high temps ( 26deg) as we did through the Dutch winters we endured for 30 yrs!

        The trick is extra layers.. particularly if you can get your hands on cashmere based underwear used by climbers ( my D picked hers up on eBay .. or at the thrift store cheap as chips) Ditto socks..Keep the extremities warm

      • I grew up in Australia where many houses have central heating, at least in the South, where it is quite cold in winter. I grew up with what we call “(gas) ducted heating” which is known as “forced air heating” in (at least some parts of) America. Just sayin…

  6. very good article every one should read before moving to Portugal. I kinda gave up… I bought myself 2 fleece onsies and I think this is the best buy of my life:))) Combination of dihumidifier+heater works ok. But overall unless you are building the house yourself or can totally reconstruct you just get used to and survive those terrible terrible winter months.. fighting the mold, throwing away things ruined by the mold, paying crazy electric bills (we only use heater less than 3 hours a day in winter). I am also thinking of buying a ski balaklava because my face gets cold and…. i dont think anymore that this idea is too crazy:))))

  7. Its important to understand a bit about heating in Algarve – its humid but not too cold, but cold enough to be uncomfortable in winter. My advice is to avoid any form of heating based on combustion – gas heaters, pellet stoves…they all generate water vapour which aggrevates the problem.You need a source of dry heat such as radiators which heat up the air which in turn will absorb more water vapour.
    I installed electrical underfloor heating in my apartment, total cost was E1800, and yes it does consume electricity, but the payback in comfort is well worth the cost.
    If you are going to redo the flooring, this is by far the most efficient and effective way to heat.
    I know someone working in Quarteira area who is experienced in this kind of work.

  8. I just want to give a tips on what to wear when its cold – inside or outside. I live in Norway, and we have warm and insulated houses, but its very cold outside several months a year, at least 4 months with -5 celcius or colder (depending a bit on where in Norway). Well clothes, wear wool, its so much delicat and nice garments in wool to get, maybe you have to order, but i really recommend it. Last time I was in Portugal, last autum, I brought with me a thin, summerwool t-skirt, and I used it a lot. Does not get to hot in the day, and is so nice to snuggel in at nignt, and of course wool socks. And the best is that you can have wool in all thickness, from thin like silk, to thicker like fleece.

    Just a little tips from far north, someone that does not freeze willingly 😉

  9. 3 pairs of socks seems to be the magic number. I tried 2 pairs (thermal) but it wasn’t enough. I think you probably need 3 X thick socks + slippers though.

  10. It’s amazing how much you can fix by sorting out the windows. Most windows have gaps in them and some of them don’t close properly. It seems like such a small thing but it can make a huge difference.

  11. We have decided to spend our winters in Germany and our summers in Portugal instead of the other way around. Once we have more money to spend improving our house we will make it more warm and then we will spend winter there instead.

  12. When I go to look for somewhere to rent I’m going to bring a digital thermometer/barrometer with me. This is if I go looking for somewhere in winter obviously.

  13. Drinking warm drinks is only going to make you colder, as your body temp is going to increase and make a much more difference between the temperature outside, resulting on feeling colder. Drink hot when it’s hot, and cold when it’s cold.

    • I think this only applies to some extent 🙂 I’ve heard this too – same with showers. However, my experience shows that when I’m cold and have a cold drink (even with ice cubes), I get even much colder! And hot drinks usually have had the opposite effect on me. At least it seems to kickstart something positive. Writing this, cause I’m now in Lisbon, and already starting to freeze at night lol

  14. Hello,

    This is (was) my first winter in Portugal and coming from the USA, where houses are super heated in the winter, was quite a change. Someone suggested to me flannel sheets and they worked wonders! Make sure to buy a good set, they are a little expensive but make a huge difference while you’re in bed. We bought ‘Lameirinho’ brand. Also bought good fleece pajamas and while watching tv at night also had thick fleece blankets. Slippers with flexible rubber sole also insulate well the cold floors. It was a quite bareable winter. Hope this helps.

  15. Hi James! Thanks sooo much for your enlightening article and all the feedback contributors, very helpful. I am moving from Miami to Porto, way too hot and humid here for the past 15 years and I came 30 years ago plus tornados inside most hurricanes now.
    I plan to buy a new construction condo; will I have heat and AC? What would you say may be the average utility bill for 1 person (3 warm kitties) in a 2 bedroom for a winter month?
    As well, do you really need AC in the summer? I don’t want to be uncomfortable especially with the high humidity more than Miami. Anyone else also, I welcome your thoughts. Thanks

  16. Hi Wes,

    Newer buildings are built to much better standards and often have AC. Central heating is becoming more and more common as well. I think you should be able to find what you’re looking for. Both can also be installed later on, although I imagine it would be easier to get the AC done later.

    I haven’t had AC in most of the places I’ve lived in Portugal and get by with a fan and by keeping the place cool. It does get a bit drowsy in the middle of summer and AC would be more pleasant, but it’s possible to get by without it. If I was thinking about owning a place long-term, I would think about getting it installed though.

    I’m hoping to do a post on electricity figures but need some people to share theirs with me so I can get some averages.

  17. Brand new builds dont necessarily have better insulation. I moved into one when i first moved here as had done my homework and could not believe how cold it was (13 degrees inside, sat around in down coat and hat!)

    • Most horrible and coldest housing in Europe. Poor, shoddy construction (thanks to mixing sea sand in the cement), the cult of poverty (which suits the government).

  18. Definitely recommend a dehumidifier. It’s cheaper than a heater to run and deals with the mold problem. You also need to open the windows daily to change the air.

    An electric blanket is the most cost effective way of staying warm. You can drape it over yourself. It won’t warm the room but it will warm you. The challenge is when there’s more than one person in the house and you all need electric blankets. Obviously it keeps you warm at night too.

  19. Definitely recommend a dehumidifier. It’s cheaper than a heater to run and deals with the mold problem. You also need to open the windows daily to change the air.

    An electric blanket is the most cost effective way of staying warm. You can drape it over yourself. It won’t warm the room but it will warm you. The challenge is when there’s more than one person in the house and you all need electric blankets. Obviously it keeps you warm at night too.

  20. With electricity and gas prices continuing to rise, this definitely isn’t the year for trying to heat your apartment with a space heater. They are completely ineffective at keeping the heat and use a lot of electricity.

    Wrapping yourself in an electric blanket is definitely more cost effective. This shouldn’t replace thick socks though as you lose most heat through your head and feet.

  21. Electric blanket for the bed.
    Electric throw for sitting on the sofa. If you use the laptop a lot get one that allows you to put your arms through it for when you’re working.
    Use an electric clothes airer to dry out the clothes – this helps in damp, humid Portuguese houses. Otherwise your clothes will take a few days to dry.

    All of these things use electricity but they use a minimal amount and it’s cheaper than using a space heater or even a gas heater.

  22. I have an Oodie. It’s like a blanket you can wear but the great thing is that you can also work with it.

    I have been wearing UGG boots too. The tiles in Portugal really transfer the cold to your feet and make you feel extra cold.

  23. We have a similar issue in Northern California, where older houses like mine do not have central heating or proper insulation but temperatures can drop to nearly freezing at night in the winter. Replacing/fixing leaky windows and doors goes a long way. I installed electric radiant floor heat in the bathroom and added insulation there when we replaced the drywall, so we don’t have to freeze getting out of the shower. Elsewhere in the house we use convection heaters and electric radiators sparingly in small spaces (I have one next to my desk) and electric throws on the couch. The floors are insulated with wool rugs and we capture the heat of the sun by opening up the curtains. We have a down duvet and a heavy wool blanket on the bed. But my absolute best defense against the cold is wearing cashmere sweaters and pants, wool socks and shearling slippers around the house from late October to early April. You do get used to being in a cooler home – it drives me crazy to visit folks who grew up in snowy climates and still heat their homes to t-shirt temperatures in the Winter – and staying cozy with sweaters and blankets is much friendlier to the environment (and the wallet) than running electric heaters all day.

  24. The sun shines so much here in Portugal you have to be crazy not to invest in some solar panels. We have panels that generate electricity and 2 batteries to store any excess. TIP: the IVA (tax) on batteries has been reduced from 23% to 6%.
    We have an air-source heat-pump to generate hot water when the sun doesn’t shine. When we renovated the house we laid underfloor heating which requires only 40º of hot water (a conventional radiator needs 70-95º).
    We have bigger windows but a good overhang for shade from the summer sun, still allowing the lower winter sun to warm the walls and light the rooms.
    In our previous place, we used thick bedding with an electric underblanket, layers of clothes, sheepskin slippers with thick soles. My mother swears by her electric OVERblanket.

    • we just installed solar panels and batteries. i should say, slightly disappointed because there is not enough sun during the day in winter or just no sun for a week and solar panels are not big help during those day. winter is the time when you need it most 🙁

  25. After spending min 1 week per anum fir the last 20 years we decided to move to Costa da Caparica just south of Lisbon from March 2021, the first month was cold, windy, humid throughout with nearly no sun. Of course it got better from April. The last winter 2022/23 was really horrible, even having an apartment with new windows all facing the south and as usual no heating it was impossible to ger the rooms somehow warm. What helped a bit were heating blankets/matress covers (only 60 watts) and a portable infrared heating panel (300 watts) which is much more efficient then radiators (2000 watts) and it does not increase the electricity bill much. So at least one of the problems living in portugal permanently can be ticked off from the long list 🙂

  26. Great article!!
    I have to offer one more option where electricity bill does not bother you.
    Turn on the kitchen oven and open it’s door. I bet this is how the heater was invented!!
    this warmed the airbnb apartment so good that we didn’t need those small ineffective heaters.
    you can put the oven at 250 or 100 degrees, it doesn’t matter since the thermostat does not cut the heat when the door is open.

    it also works on gas ovens.


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