Seven Hacks to Survive the Winter in Lisbon

It really does get cold indoors here in the winter as there's usually no central heating unless you're staying in a fancy-schmancy hotel. However, the Lisboetas have learned a trick or two to keep the temperature tolerable.

Sometimes you’re not sure if your leg is asleep or if your toes have frostbite and need to be amputated, but if you live in Lisbon, it’s likely the former. It really does get cold indoors here in the winter, as there’s usually no central heating unless you’re staying in a fancy-schmancy hotel. However, the Lisboetas have learned a trick or two to keep the temperature tolerable.

If you look at the weather forecast, you’ll think I’m making this all up; In January, for example, Lisbon gets 11 hours of sunlight and the temperature on average is a low of 8°C (46°F) with a high of 15°C (59°F). It may not sound so bad, but chances are your apartment feels like a refrigerator because it keeps all the cold inside. It can become common practice to pop out of your house and stand in the sun to defrost yourself, at least when it isn’t raining.

Here are some tips on how to heat your house, or at least how to make it through the coldest of times with the bare minimum of shivering.

1. Layer Up

This is a pretty obvious one, but as a fashionista, let me give you a tip on top of a tip: leggings over long underwear. No one will be the wiser and you’ll be snug as a bug even if it’s raining or windy. You can find long underwear at Decathlon starting at 5€ if you want to be sure you’ve got the ones meant for the Arctic. To keep your top warm, just put on every sweater you own until you look like Ralphie’s brother from A Christmas Story. No one judges you if you wear a fluffy hat indoors either.

2. Make Soup or Bake…Something.

Not hungry? That’s cool. Just light your oven and leave it cracked for a little while. Gas is cheaper than electricity in Lisbon, after all. Just don’t leave it unattended. We don’t want to burn the house down, we just want a little warmth.

Soup is the obvious go-to on a cold day, and when your stovetop is lit, you’re warming the room too. Canja (chicken soup) is the preferred cure-all for the Portuguese — you can find ready-made canja at most supermarkets — but there are other tasty soups that will heat you and your kitchen up just as easily. To keep it cheap, be on the lookout for Knorr instant soup packets at the grocery. Their tomato soup is especially yummy. Go ahead and throw some hot sauce on there for a little extra punch.

3. Let the Sun Shine In

Find the time of day to let the City of Light’s sun do some central heating all its own. Make sure your shutters are open and, if it’s not too drafty, open up the window to try and trap some of that heat. Admittedly, it’s rare that you’ll see a huge difference, but a slight one will do when you’re feeling close to hypothermia.

At night, don’t forget to close the shutters to trap the heat inside.

4. Light a Candle Under a Ceramic Clay Pot

Watch this video to see just how easy it is to make your own space heater. You can find the pots at Jumbo or Continente pretty cheaply (around 8€) depending on the size you want. The hardware can be procured from a Chinese loja or Leroy Merlin. Be warned that this is not kid-friendly — these babies get really hot. It’s likely that your local mini market has candles you can use, but as with any use of fire, be careful and be sure you’ve put some non-flammable stuff as a base just in case.

5. Keep Your Feet Warm

Who cares what the silly socks look like — for god’s sake, put them on! There are also the very ugly but charmingly warm fleece-lined pantufas (slippers) that you can find in places like Serra da Estrela and around Lisbon’s souvenir shops sometimes. I highly recommend them, even though these things aren’t likely to make you look sexy. If your feet are warm, chances are the rest of you will be, so do what you’ve gotta do. Haters gonna hate.

6. Throw a Party

Body heat is not a hoax — getting a bunch of people into your place will heat up the joint in more ways than one — and we are not judging you. Just be sure to keep the windows closed as much as possible and cook something for your guests while you’re at it!

If all else fails…

7. Use the Electric Space Heater

You’ll pay dearly for it when the electricity bill comes at the end of the month, but desperate times call for space heaters. To get the biggest bang for your buck, get into a room that you won’t have to leave for a while, close the doors, cover the cracks, and crank it up. You’ll be toasty in no time, so when you are…switch it off and enjoy it while it lasts.

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