11 of the best Christmas markets in Britain

Manchester Christmas Market sign

Twinkling lights, mulled wine, a festive atmosphere and fabulous gifts – Britain’s Christmas markets are back this year and bigger and better than ever before. Set in some of Britain’s loveliest cities, a visit to a Christmas market is equal parts shopping experience, equal parts destination discovery.

 

Winter Wonderland, London

Transforming one of London’s spectacular parks, Hyde Park Winter Wonderland offers a festive paradise in the heart of the city. Home to the world’s tallest transportable observation wheel, a Magical Ice Kingdom and an array of comedic acts at its own Comedy Club, in addition to Britain’s largest open air ice rink and plenty of bars and food stalls, there’s something for all the family to enjoy. Enjoy jaw-dropping circus acts and don’t miss the arrival of Paddington on Ice, a stunning show combining cutting-edge choreography, toe-tapping music and impressive costumes that is being performed in the UK for the first time!

When? 21 November – 5 January

Also check out: The festive window displays at Hamleys, Selfridge’s and Harrods, plus the capital’s festive lights around the shopping hubs of Regent’s Street and Oxford Street

 

Bath Christmas Market, south-west England

For historic-ambience-meets-winter-style, head to Bath Christmas Market, as more than 150 pop-up chalets set up on the city’s pretty Georgian streets. Visitors can expect a real treasure trove of gifts to take home, whether that’s jewellery, homewares or decorations. Last year more than 80% of stallholders came from Bath and south-west England, while 99% of all products were handmade in Britain or abroad with Fairtrade certification, so this is very much an eco-savvy shopping experience. There’s always new stalls to explore as well as the perennial favourites, while visitors can fill empty bellies with a range of festive food from The Lodge in the heart of the market.

When? 28 November – 15 December

Also check out: Bath on Ice, the festive ice rink that runs from 15 November to 5 January 2020, and Glow in the Dark mini golf; the Christmas Trail at Prior Park Landscape Garden during December; and Shoppers’ Carols at Bath Abbey on various dates throughout the festive season.

 

Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market, central England

A firm favourite on the city’s yuletide calendar, Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market is the largest authentic German Christmas market outside of Germany or Austria. Expect a fine range of traditional, personalised gifts and products on its 80 stalls and get into the German spirit while feasting on schnitzels, bratwursts, glühwein and weissbeer. Another huge draw is its bandstand location in Victoria Square and the programme of live music and carol singers that’s set to bring the party atmosphere to festive shopping.

When? 7 November – 23 December 2019

Also check out: Outdoor skating at Ice Rink Birmingham plus the Big Wheel Experience from 7 November to 12 January 2020, or head to Enchanted Weston, an illuminated, after-dark experience in stunning parkland with live music and food, running from 13 to 21 December.

 

Edinburgh Christmas Market, Scotland

Even if paying a visit after Christmas, guests still get the chance to enjoy some festive treats as Edinburgh’s Christmas market continues until early January as part of Edinburgh’s Christmas, a six-week programme of entertainment in the city centre. While it’s not open on Christmas Day, it is open until 8pm on Christmas Eve so bring plenty of bags to fill up with goodies such as arts and crafts, foodie treats and traditional or bespoke Christmas products. The market itself takes place in East Princes Street Gardens, guaranteeing some gorgeous views of Edinburgh Castle in the background and easy access to some of the city’s major attractions.

When? 16 November 2019 – 4 January 2020

Also check out: The Big Wheel and funfair rides on East Princes Street Gardens; and an adaption of Charles Dickens classic An Edinburgh Christmas Carol at the Lyceum (28 November 2019 – 4 January 2020).

 

Belfast Christmas Market, Northern Ireland

Set against the backdrop of one of the Northern Irish capital’s most iconic buildings, Belfast City Hall, the Belfast Christmas Market returns in 2019 with its enviable mix of artisan products and stalls groaning with tasty treats from international cuisines in its outdoor food court. Indulge in crepes, a hog roast, glühwein and continental cheeses, then make it a truly Northern Irish experience and visit Lavery’s traditional Irish bar for fantastic live music to really get in the Christmas spirit. Kids will love riding the vintage carousel or zipping down the helter skelter, as well as taking a trip to visit Santa in his magical grotto.

When? 16 November – 22 December 2019

Also check out: A Christmas Carol at arts and culture hub The Mac (27 November 2019 – 5 January 2020), and Christmas Wonderland at outdoor adventure centre The Jungle.

 

South Bank Winter Festival, London

The popular Winter Market returns to London’s Southbank Centre, a seasonal pleasure that sits alongside a range of family shows and festive fun as the banks of the River Thames become a winter wonderland. All along the South Bank are strings of decorations and cute illuminated wooden cabins selling Christmas gifts, from the quirky to the traditional, as well as mince pies, spiced cider and steaming mugs of mulled wine and hot chocolate. Global cuisines are available too, in the form of festive treats to gift or to eat there and then. Make sure to grab a selfie by the huge Christmas tree!

When? 8 November 2019 – 5 January 2020

Also check out: The fantastic performances available at the Southbank Centre, from Christmas concerts and choir performances to a children’s retelling of Black Beauty (14 December 2019 – 5 January 2020) and circus entertainment with Circus 1903 (19 December 2019 – 5 January 2020).

 

Cardiff Christmas Market, south Wales

Set across five streets of Cardiff’s pedestrianised city centre, Cardiff’s Christmas Market will be in full swing from mid-November, leaving plenty of time to find the perfect gift among its stalls. Its ethos is hosting stallholders selling original, hand-made products and artists and crafts people selling their work. There are plenty of food and drink options available among the 200+ stallholders and there’ll be music, festive lights and entertainment transforming the streets.

When? 14 November – 23 December 2019

Also check out: Santa Tours at the Principality Stadium (4 – 24 December 2019) or choose from various Christmas shows at St David’s Hall throughout December.

 

Manchester Christmas Markets, north-west England

The 20th instalment of the Manchester Christmas Markets will take over locations across the city from mid-November, meaning visitors won’t be far from festive gifts and delicious food and drink stalls selling traditional bratwurst, hog roast, paella and much more. There will be more than 300 stalls and chalets across the city, with the heart of the markets found in Albert Square. Visitors can follow the trail and pick up jewellery, toys, plants, bags, homeware and fun, quirky gifts at a variety of markets, including a French market, a German market, a World Christmas market and a dedicated Arts & Crafts market.

When? 8 November – 21 December 2019 (Albert Square stalls open until 22 December)

Also check out: Winter Funland, which will be held at an indoor venue and include fairground attractions, an ice rink, a circus and other fun performances (6 December 2019 – 3 January 2020); Halle’s (Manchester’s Orchestra’s) Christmas Concerts at Bridgewater Hall and Ice Village Manchester, the UK's biggest-ever ice attraction which includes an Arctic Tiki Bar, Santa's Grotto and an ice rink (8 November 2019 - 5 January 2020).

 

Leeds Christkindelmarkt, north England

Millennium Square in Leeds is transformed for the city’s annual Christkindelmarkt German Christmas Market, with the addition of more than 40 traditionally decorated wooden chalets. Browse through hand-crafted jewellery and festive decorations, tuck into authentic German food and feel extra festive with a ride on the popular Christmas Carousel. For those still feeling hungry, visit the Alp Chalet restaurant in the centre of the market, a Bavarian style eatery offering a delectable selection of traditional food and drink, alongside evening entertainment.

When? 8 November – 21 December 2019

Also check out: Thor’s Tipi in Victoria Gardens, a pop-up tipi bar offering an array of winter warming drinks; the massed voices of Inspiration Choir as they join forces with the Orchestra of Opera North for Inspiration: A Christmas Extravaganza at Leeds Town Hall (21 December 2019); and the Leeds Playhouse festive production of The Night Before Christmas (30 November - 28 December 2019).

 

Winchester Christmas Market, south England

With its unique location in the shadow of Winchester’s great cathedral, Winchester Cathedral’s Christmas Market is widely regarded as one of Europe’s best. More than 100 chalets are home to hand-picked exhibitors offering exclusive gifts that visitors won’t find on the high street – from hand-crafted decorations and festive treats to craft beer and mulled wine.

When? 21 November – 22 December 2019

Also check out: Skate around the city’s covered Christmas Ice Rink (21 November 2019 – 2 January 2020) and marvel at the glittering Christmas tree in its centre; or visit the Ginchester Christmas Market (7 December 2019), a celebration of the region’s diverse spirits including local gin, whisky, vodka and rum.

 

The Victorian Christmas Festival at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, south England

Travel back in time for three days of festive fun at the Victorian Christmas Festival, held in the impressive surroundings of the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. This year marks 20 years of Christmas magic, with the festival home to 120 market stalls selling all sorts of festive treats, an array of Victorian street performers and the chance to meet Father Christmas.

When? 29 November – 1 December 2019

Also check out: Mix up a treat as the Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower hosts two Christmas Cocktail Parties (7 and 13 December 2019); Meet Father Christmas at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum (14 December 2019) and enjoy lashings of festive fun during the That’ll Be The Day Christmas Show at Kings Theatre (18 December 2019).

 

 

Commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s voyage to America

This September marks 400 years since the Mayflower’s pioneering voyage from Plymouth to the ‘New World’, and events are being held across England to commemorate the journey. Visitors to Britain can experience an incredible range of festivals, exhibitions, self-guided tours and art installations, organised by Mayflower 400. These events will reveal the fascinating history and cultural impact of the journey, while celebrating the values of freedom, democracy, integration and tolerance in the modern world. So, why wait? Read on to discover more about the Mayflower celebrations or find out how to explore Britain’s rich maritime heritage, for a truly epic voyage into history.

The opening event

Commencing in November 2019, there will be a rich 12-month programme of cultural events focusing on the Native American people and the connection between the UK, Netherlands and America. Organised in conjunction with the Wampanoag Advisory Committee, this collection of events and exhibitions aims to highlight Britain’s link to the founding of the United States in a culturally sensitive way.

The commemorative programme of events will open with a set of illuminations at multiple locations including Plymouth, Rotherhithe and Dartmouth. Local and international artists will create spectacular light installations to mark the first Thanksgiving that happened between the pilgrims and the Native Americans in 1621.

When? 28 November – 1 December 2019, entry is free.

Self-guided tours

‘Mayflower Self-Guided Tours’, a free app aiming to tell the stories of the original pilgrims via trail guides, has been released as part of Mayflower 400. Allowing visitors to follow Mayflower trails, the app uses GPS to guide users along routes in British cities, towns and villages associated with the Mayflower. Free guided walks and driving tours encourage visitors to retrace the steps of the pilgrims in connected locations such as Rotherhithe in London, Southampton, Dartmouth and Plymouth. With exciting new additions such as artworks, way-markers and new installations along the trails, key spots such as Gainsborough Old Hall and the Mayflower Steps in Plymouth can be explored in an immersive and insightful way.

Mayflower 400: Legends and Legacy

The commemorative festival will also include ‘Mayflower 400: Legends and Legacy’, a major artistic programme due to show at The Box, Plymouth. This will include a series of community projects, events and art focusing on the pilgrims and Native Americans touched by the Mayflower voyage. It will bring objects from the National Museum of the American Indian, the Harvard Peabody Museum and Pilgrim Hall to Plymouth for the first time, showcasing Native American culture to a new audience in Britain.

When? Running from spring 2020 – autumn 2021

The Elizabethan House

An Elizabethan House in Plymouth is being restored as part of the Mayflower 400 commemorations, taking visitors back to the late 16th century. Experience the feel of a traditional British house from the time of the pilgrims, set out in the style of a sea captain’s home and complete with restored wooden panelling. Set to reopen in 2020, the house will feature expertly restored rooms over two floors, including a kitchen, dining room, bedrooms and a parlour.

See a complete overview of the Mayflower 400 programme in this guide.

Mayflower Heritage Tours

From 102 passengers, there are currently an estimated 30 million Americans alone whose linage can be traced back to the pilgrims and crew from this voyage, making the Mayflower 400 a new and interactive way to trace ancestry. Curious travellers can now book a range of ‘Mayflower Tours’, guiding them around historic cobbled streets and traditional pubs, as well as stopping for educational Mayflower 400 events or talks. Prices vary.

South-east England’s historical ships

For visitors wishing to experience more of Britain’s nautical history and continue on their own journey of discovery, south-east England has a number of fascinating ships to explore.

HMS Warrior, Portsmouth

Once the highlight of Queen Victoria’s fleet, the HMS Warrior was the world’s first armour-plated warship. A fantastic example of a Victorian combat vessel, the ship is now a museum where visitors can explore the decks and learn about life on the ocean. This is one of the most interactive historic ships to visit, with characters from its heyday walking the decks, alongside opportunities for visitors to learn sword fighting skills, master signal flag waving and to peek inside the captain’s cabin.

Tickets to a single attraction at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard cost £18 for adults and £13 for children and students, but there are a range of ticket types available depending on the number of attractions included.

A discount of 20% is available when buying a Full Navy Ticket online – this includes access to HMS Warrior, HMS Victory, the National Museum of the Royal Navy Portsmouth, harbour tours and more.

The Mary Rose Museum, Portsmouth

Once serving the Tudor Navy under King Henry VIII, the Mary Rose made her first voyage in 1510, and was a successful war ship for almost all of the monarch’s reign. This vessel was raised from the seabed in 1982, after underwater research uncovered the shipwreck. Visitors can see what was saved of the ship at the Mary Rose Museum, along with thousands of Tudor artefacts that were also recovered from the wreckage.

A Portsmouth Pass allows visitors 12 months to visit the Mary Rose, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Emirates Spinnaker Tower and The D-Day story. A VIP experience can be booked online, which includes a private tour with behind-the-scenes access, a boat ride to the Mary Rose wreck site, a private audience and retelling of the Mary Rose story by a King Henry VIII impersonator, and a goody bag. This costs £75 per person. General admission to this attraction is £18 on the day for adults and £8.50 for a child. A discount of 20% is available when bought online.

HMS Victory, Portsmouth

Famous for being Lord Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, HMS Victory embarked on numerous voyages after first setting sail in 1765. Docked at Portsmouth since 1922, it is now a museum, where visitors can discover what life would have been like on board such a vessel. Walk through the Great Cabin where the Admiral would have planned his battle strategy, the lower gun deck where 460 members of the crew slept and ate, and the Poop Deck, only recently open to the public. This is the highest point of the ship, giving an additional historical perspective as well as great views of the surrounding dockyard.

This is also part of the Full Navy Ticket scheme, otherwise a ticket to two attractions costs £18, and for a single attraction, £13.

The Cutty Sark, London

Visitors can get a taste of Victorian life on the sea as they explore the decks of the Cutty Sark. There are both above and below decks, a chance to manoeuvre the ship’s wheel and to listen to the stories of people who lived and breathed the Cutty Sark in daily dramatic retellings.

Built in 1869 and restored in 2007, this impressive example of a British sailing ship is an award-winning London attraction.

Visitors can save when buying a Day Explorer ticket, which includes multiple London sites, or by purchasing online. Walk-up prices are £15 for adults and £7.50 for children.

Top UK festivals for beer, wine and spirits

Britain is renowned for its craft beers, fine spirits and delightful mixology, while the growth of its wine industry continues to gather pace. With ‘Dry January’ at an end, those keen to sample the best of Britain’s alcohol can enjoy an abundance of incredible festivals for beer, wine and spirits throughout 2019, all of which provide ample opportunity to discover innovative concoctions and perhaps even a new tipple of choice…

Great British Gin Festival

The Great British Gin Festival will continue its tour of Britain in 2019, bringing 100 different gins from around the world to a range of locations. With cocktail demos and presentations from industry producers, they’ll be a generous helping of flavoured gins to test the taste buds, all with a background of live music.

When? On selected Fridays and Saturdays throughout 2019: 9 February (Hartlepool), 23 February (Winchester), 9 March (Portsmouth), 23 March (Ipswich), 29 March (Northamptonshire), 12 April (Bristol), 20 April (Hastings), 20 April (Edinburgh), 4 May (Belfast), 17 May (Birmingham), 25 May (Isle of Wight), 1 June (Cardiff), 7 June (Maidstone), 22 June (Newcastle), 29 June (London), 13 July (Nottingham), 27 July (Jersey)

Craft Beer Rising   

Tantalise your taste buds at The Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane, as Craft Beer Rising brings together more than a hundred of the finest craft brewers and ten cider producers. Alongside established names from the craft beer world, such as Brewdog, London Fields Brewery and Tiny Rebel, the festival will also welcome Brooklyn Brewery and Goose Island from the United States. Visitors can sample an array of delicious street food in The Foxes Den and enjoy live music across all three days of the event.

When? 21-23 February

The Wine and Spirits Show

Following an extremely popular show in autumn 2018, in April this year The Wine and Spirits Show returns to One Whitehall Place, part of the iconic The Royal Horseguards hotel in Westminster. Sample masterclasses from major wine and spirit brands, meet up with boutique wine producers and discover more about the fantastic history of Champagne. Head to the Global Masters Zone to find out more about prestigious entries into Global Masters competitions, sample a range of brews from every continent as part of the Global Beer Tour Zone, or visit the Spirits Hall – home to award-winning vodka, whisky, tequila, bourbon and more.

When? 12-13 April

London Whisky Weekender

Try an array of the finest home-grown Scottish whiskies, alongside brands from all corners of the globe at the London Whisky Weekender. With set sessions at the Kia Oval to ensure things don’t get too crowded, try the finest whiskies that India, Japan, the USA and Taiwan (among many others) have to offer, or purchase ‘under the counter dram tokens’ to sample rarer, more exclusive tipples.

When? 10-12 May

Prosecco Springs

The UK’s largest festival dedicated to sparkling wine, Prosecco Springs, will return to London’s Oval Space in May. With more producers on the bill than in previous years, visitors can sample authentic Italian street food, live music and an abundance of Prosecco in the heart of East London.

When? 17-19 May

Fyne Fest    

The annual celebration of beer, food and music at the Fyne Ales brewery estate in Cairndow, Argyll marks its tenth year in 2019. Having won Beer event of the Year at the 2018 Scottish Beer Awards, the family-friendly festival welcomes people of any age and has plenty of space for visitors to pitch tents or park up in motorhome and caravans. Fyne Fest will have more than 200 beers from over 50 of Europe’s breweries available to try, as well as a wealth of cider, cocktails, wines and spirits. Three stages host live music while 11 local and award-winning producers provide the food.

When? 31 May - 3 June

Festival of Wine 

Having originated in Glasgow in 2002, wine expert Tom Cannavan’s popular festival has expanded to take in three cities across Britain. The Festival of Wine features tastings and masterclasses in city centre locations from top winemakers, retailers and importers, allowing visitors to discover great wines and to learn the stories behind them.

When? 29 June (Glasgow), 19 October (London), 9 November (Edinburgh)

Great British Beer Festival

Developed by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), the Great British Beer Festival showcases more than 900 real ales and craft beers from around the world, of which more than half come from British brewers. Having operated for more than 40 years, the festival is run by hundreds of volunteers and also serves an array of ciders, fine wines, perries and gin from more than 30 bars. Tutored tasting sessions reveal more about the brews on offer, with each brewery also competing for the prestigious title of 2019 Champion Beer of Britain.

When? 6-10 August

Indy Man Beer Con

Hosted in the glorious surroundings of Victoria Baths in Manchester, Independent Manchester Beer Convention will return for its eighth year in October. Welcoming breweries from across Britain, and a sprinkling of those from elsewhere in the world, the event features an eclectic mix of tasting sessions and a food village packed with delicacies from around the region.

When? 3-6 October

RumFest

Showcasing more than 400 rums from across the world, RumFest returns to the ILEC conference centre in Earls Court, London, for its thirteenth year in 2019. Expect intimate seminars from some of the industry’s leading lights, an array of delicious food tastings, live music and holiday giveaways as part of a carnival-like experience.

When? 19-20 October

Craft Beer Calling 

Bringing together an abundance of craft breweries under one roof, Newcastle’s Wylam Brewery will host the sixth edition of Craft Beer Calling in late October. As well as a Gin Palace and an artisan cider cellar, visitors can talk with the brewery staff to find out more about their favourite tipples before indulging at the on-site street food market.

When? 24-26 October

The Wine Festival 

Featuring hundreds of wines from English wine producers and some from further afield, Winchester Guildhall hosts The Wine Festival, a selection of tasters, masterclasses, street food and merchandise. Masters of Wine and TV presenters, Susie Barry and Peter Richards, host the event, imparting their expert knowledge while visitors discover exciting new wines.

When? 29-30 November

8 new museums and exhibitions you won’t want to miss

You’re never far from a first-rate museum or art gallery in Britain, many of which are free to visit. Take a look at these hot new openings in 2018 and be the first to see some of the best new exhibitions and galleries in the world.

 

If you like – art and design

You’ll loveDundee’s V&A, Dundee, Scotland

The V&A – one of London’s best museums – opens a new outpost of the museum in the Scottish city of Dundee this autumn, located 1.5 hours from Edinburgh. Ultra-modern and sleek in design, and architect Kengo Kuma’s first British commission, the museum launches with the spectacular Ocean Liners: Speed & Style exhibition, which will display never-before-seen objects and highlights from the ships that revolutionised travel in the mid-19th to the late 20th centuries. The museum will also showcase world-class touring exhibitions from the V&A, as well as the best of Scottish design.

Open: 15 September

 

If you like – sculpture

You’ll loveYorkshire Sculpture Park’s new visitor centre, Yorkshire, north England

Be one of the first to visit the Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s (YSP) £4million, environmentally friendly visitor centre later this year, which will bring a gallery space exhibiting 20th- and 21st-century art, a restaurant and shop to this leading centre of modern and contemporary sculpture. Set in the 18th-century Bretton Hall Estate in West Yorkshire, 30 minutes from Leeds, it’s also the only place in the world where you can see Barbara Hepworth’s The Family of Man in its entirety as well as a significant collection of sculpture, including bronzes by Henry Moore.

Open: Summer 2018

 

If you like – great feats of engineering

You’ll love – Being Brunel, Bristol, south-west England

New to Bristol this year is Being Brunel, a museum celebrating the life and work of engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the celebrated Victorian engineer whose famous designs include SS Great Britain, itself moored next to the new museum, and the city’s Clifton Suspension Bridge. It explores everything from the great designs themselves, his celebrity, his ambition to become a leader in engineering, and his home life. Families will love the interactive exhibits, which include talking portraits of his family and friends.

Open: Now

 

If you like – classic ceramics

You’ll love – the new-look Museum of Royal Worcester, Worcestershire, west England

Receiving a £1.7million refurbishment means the museum of the famed porcelain makers, located an hour from Birmingham, will become a living history of the factory, telling the stories of the people that worked there, as well as exhibiting collections that date back to 1751 when the company was formed.

Open: May 2018

 

If you like – maritime history

You’ll love – the new galleries at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

Taking a lead role in Cook 250 – the 250th anniversary celebrations of Captain Cook’s first expedition from London to the Pacific and Australia (on 26 August) – the National Maritime Museum is opening four new permanent galleries in 2018 in its East Wing. The new ‘Endeavour Galleries’ will each be dedicated to different themes: Pacific Encounters, Polar Worlds, Tudor and Stuart Seafarers, and Sea Things.
Open: Mid-2018 TBC

 

If you like – Welsh history

You’ll love – the new galleries at St Fagans National Museum of History, Cardiff, Wales

Later this year, new galleries will open at the open-air history museum around St Fagans Castle to display objects – many never shown before – from the National Museum Wales’ collections. Part of a significant renovation project, there will also be new buildings across the site, one – Gweithdy, a sustainable building boasting a café and a range of craft workshops – that is now open.

Open: Now, and throughout 2018

 

If you like – WWII history

You’ll love – the new galleries at D-Day Story, Portsmouth, south England

Personal stories of D-Day are told through the museum’s collections and audio-visual presentations in the refurbished galleries of the D-Day Museum in Portsmouth, two hours south of London. The new displays feature accounts of the Battle of Normandy and the museum has also put together guides on how you can discover the story of your family members involved in D-Day.

Open: Now

 

If you like – world-class art

You’ll love – the revamped Royal Academy, London

Marking its 250th anniversary in 2018, the Royal Academy will reveal its new look this summer. It will showcase more major exhibitions focusing on living artists and architects, new free art displays, and the institution’s two buildings – Burlington House on Piccadilly and Burlington Gardens – will be linked for the first time with dedicated spaces for exhibitions and displays across the site, including a new Architecture Studio and cafés. There’ll also be an increase in the debates, discussions and workshops the RA is famed for.

Open: May 2018

 

You might also like:

  • In autumn 2018 the British Museum in London will open the Albukhary Foundation Galleries of the Islamic world and a new Japan gallery.
  • The RAF Museum’s RAF Centenary Programme is transforming its London site as part of the Royal Air Force’s centenary celebrations in 2018 with new permanent exhibitions, opening in the summer, and the Now & the Future exhibit area will tell the story of the RAF from its earliest years in the First World War to its global role today.
  • The new-look Mackintosh Tearooms, Glasgow, Scotland, a £10million project preserving the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Tea Rooms Building, is scheduled for completion in June, and a shop next door will be transformed into an education and interpretative centre.
  • Westminster Abbey, London, will welcome a new gallery and museum this summer. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries in the Abbey’s medieval triforium, runs 70 ft above the Abbey and has not been seen by the public for more than 700 years. Expect to see treasures from the Abbey’s 1,000-year history.
  • Discover more than 3,000 objects from around the world in south London’s Horniman Museum and Gardens new World Gallery, celebrating what it means to be human. The new £4.6million gallery includes works of art and fun things to touch, play with and smell.

Surprising spots to tie the knot

The world will be watching when Meghan Markle marries Prince Harry this spring at Windsor Castle. But while Windsor’s historic St George’s Chapel is reserved for the nuptials of a very select few, the UK has many unusual options for adventurous brides and grooms-to-be.

 

Going underground

How deep is your love? About 300 metres deep if you get married in the Wookey Hole Caves, in Somerset. These subterranean limestone caves were carved out over millennia by the River Axe. Choose from three caverns where you can tie the knot, surrounded by flickering candles and crystal-clear pools.

 

Reach for the stars

If you want your wedding day to be out of this world, marry at Flamsteed House, the historic house of the Astronomers Royal in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, London. Take your wedding photos either side of the Prime Meridian, then dance the night away under the digital stars inside the famous Peter Harrison Planetarium (where they can also arrange private wedding proposals).

 

Under the sea

Your marriage could be in deep water, in the best possible way, if you hold your ceremony at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth, Devon. Exchange your vows against a glowing blue aquatic backdrop as fish, stingrays and tiger sharks glide gracefully past.

 

Woodland wonderful

Shout your love from the treetops – literally – by marrying in the wooden wonderland of The Treehouse at The Alnwick Garden, Northumberland. Tie the knot under a canopy of lime trees, before having your photos taken on the rustic walkways and rope bridges. Continue the woodland theme in the treetop restaurant, where furniture has been crafted from chunky logs and fallen branches.

 

High society

Embrace your inner ‘Lady of the Manor’ with a Downton Abbey-inspired wedding.

Highclere Castle in Newbury, Berkshire, was the real-life setting for the award-winning period drama. Follow in Lady Edith’s footsteps by descending the same great oak staircase she walked down en route to her wedding, before exchanging your own vows in the castle’s majestic saloon.

 

Islands in the stream

Originally built in the 1860s to guard against a French naval invasion, the Solent Forts off the coast of Portsmouth in Hampshire eventually became an important line of defence during the Second World War. After laying unused for several decades, Spitbank and No Man’s Forts were transformed into luxury boutique hotels where weddings can be booked. The third – Horse Sand Fort – is a museum. Arrive by speedboat on this man-made island and enjoy endless views across The Solent and the English Channel.

 

Training day

You can make sure your marriage is going places, when you exchange vows at the historic Llangollen Railway Station in Denbighshire, North Wales. Then travel by steam train through the lush, green Dee Valley, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

 

Scandi-Chic

Create your own Sami-style celebration with PapaKåta Teepees. These spacious, traditional tents come with lots of magical add-ons, including wood-burning fires, giant mirror balls and even a handcrafted circular oak bar. Pitch your teepee at lakeside venue Aldourie Castle, near Inverness, Scotland, and you can also squeeze in some monster spotting at the world-famous Loch Ness. Based in Henley-on-Thames, York and Scotland, they can set up tents across the UK.

 

Fit for a princess

Why stop at a castle when you can get married on your own island? Belle Isle is a 17th-century castle that sits on its own private island in Lough Erne Lake among 470 acres of countryside in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. After celebrating your nuptials, you can go fishing, shooting or explore the eight islands that make up this impressive estate.

48 Hours in South-East England

Stretching from Kent to the east of London, down to England’s southern coastal counties of Sussex and Hampshire and back up to the counties of Surrey, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire that cluster around the capital, the area of South-East England is one of diverse landscapes, vibrant beach resorts, historic cities and gastronomic centres of excellence.

The real beauty of this region is its accessibility from London, with numerous public transport options available from the capital to all parts of the South East. Within just 30 minutes south of London you can be in the attractive city of Guildford, with its inviting mix of centuries of history and first-rate contemporary shopping. Beautiful coastlines and verdant woodlands await you in the New Forest in Hampshire, just 90 minutes from London, or experience the royal atmosphere of Windsor or the scholarly vibes of Oxford in less than an hour’s journey time from the capital.

The area may be perfect for day trips from London, but it also means you can pack in a huge variety of experiences within a weekend in the area, each bringing its own unique charm. Here we take a look at just one option of how to spend 48 hours South-East England; in its vibrant coastal areas.

 

DAY ONE:

09:00 BROWSE CONTEMPORARY ART

Take an early train out of London’s Charing Cross station and, within 90 minutes, you’ll reach Hastings, a town on the Sussex coast that’s well-known for its connections with the famous battle of 1066 but is also at the forefront of contemporary art with exhibitions at the Jerwood Gallery. Set in a stunning glass building on the Old Town’s fishing beach, this is the home to a fabulous collection of 20th- and 21st-century British art.

 

10:30 DISCOVER THE DARK SECRETS OF SMUGGLERS

Head down to St Clements Caves and embark on a Smugglers’ Adventure. You’ll join notorious smuggler ‘Hairy Jack’ through underground tunnels and caverns on this interactive experience that tells the tales of smugglers through the ages. You can also enter the attraction via the original West Hill funicular railway, which retains its original Victorian wooden carriages.

 

12:00 EXPLORE THE TOWN’S PAST

Stroll around the picturesque Old Town, a bustling haven of cobbled streets, ‘twittens’ (narrow passageways) and a flourishing arts community, which you can explore through its myriad of antique stores and independent art shops.

 

13:00 FEAST ON LOCAL SEAFOOD

Fresh fish lands on Hastings’ beaches every day, serving the town’s restaurants and cafes. Head down to The Stade area, the town’s fishing and cultural quarter, and dine on smoked fish and fresh cockles at Rock-a-Nore Kitchen, or admire the views of the seafront while munching oysters and other delicacies from the sea at the Old Custom House Restaurant. Round off your lunch with a luscious homemade ice cream from Di Polas ice cream parlour, where flavours range from sea salt caramel to apple and ginger.

After lunch, jump on the train and travel to the coastal city of Brighton & Hove, around an hour’s journey. Although just a short distance from Hastings, you’ll find a different vibe here.

 

15:00 WALK THROUGH A ROYAL FANTASY

Brighton & Hove is bohemian yet historic, eccentric yet stylish, and is unlike any other English seaside city. Although its heritage is deeply rooted in the 18th century – the Regency era – it boasts a heady mix of contemporary culture, artistic quarters, must-see museums and diverse shopping. Dominating the town is the Royal Pavilion, built by King George IV, a palace unlike any other in Europe. Wander through architecture bedecked with Indian domes and oriental interiors as well as Regency style.

 

17:00 SOAR INTO THE AIR

For unrivalled views of the city and its surrounding area, take a ‘flight’ on British Airways i360, the tallest UK viewing platform outside of London. Brilliant, Instagrammable views surround you as you head up 450ft/137 metres in the air.

 

18:00 ENJOY TRUE BRITISH ENTERTAINMENT

Back down to earth and head out to sea – as far as the end of Brighton Pier! A Grade II-listed pleasure pier, you can enjoy fairground rides and entertainment, and don’t forget to buy an iconic English seaside treat – Brighton Rock.

 

19:00 DINE AT SUSTAINABLE RESTAURANTS

Brighton is a real hotspot for food, particularly if you’re looking for something special, with a range of restaurants that encompass everything from vegan to waste-free. Terre a Terre, situated in the narrow alleys of the 17th-century Lanes – a maze of eclectic shops and unique eateries – is about indulgent vegetarian cuisine. And, if you’re looking for a restaurant that endorses sustainability throughout, try Plateau, a vibrant Lanes-based eaterie that offers a menu of organic and biodynamic wine.

 

21:00 HIT THE NIGHTLIFE

The city is well-known for its fabulous nightlife, arts and theatre scene, and is bursting with seriously cool and quirky bars and clubs. Sip on craft beers from local breweries, surrounded by walls lined with vinyl records and listen to your favourite tunes on the record players at Dead Wax Social; enjoy live music, home-made brews and quirky weekend events such as chocolate-sculpting lessons at the North Laine Brewhouse; or sip cocktails amid the retro charm of The Mesmerist, a 1920s’ speakeasy-style bar.

 

TIME TO CHECK IN

There’s a range of well-known budget hotel names in Brighton, from Ibis to Travelodge, as well as a whole host of quality bed and breakfasts (B&B). Nineteen, located in the Kemp Town area of Brighton, is a stylish B&B in a converted 200-year-old Victorian townhouse, with walls adorned with contemporary artwork. For truly bohemian artwork throughout the rooms check into the Artist Residence, a seafront hotel decorated by local artists, while the grand dame of the city’s hotels is the Grand Brighton, an iconic five-star Brighton landmark of elegance and grandeur.

 

DAY TWO:

0900: BUILD UP AN APPETITE

There’s nothing like fresh air to wake you up and a bracing walk along Brighton’s seafront will do just that. Worked up an appetite? Pop into Billie’s for breakfast, a cosy, family-run café serving local handmade sausages, stacks of pancakes and a wide range of vegetarian and vegan dishes.

 

11:00 TASTE ENGLISH WINE

Nestled in the beautiful Sussex countryside, just 20 minutes from Brighton & Hove by taxi or bus, is the South Downs National Park, home to Ridgeview Vineyard and its award-winning English sparkling wine. Go behind-the-scenes with a tour of the vineyard and finish off with wine tastings overlooking the glorious South Downs. Once a month the vineyard also offers a wine and lunch tour.

 

12:30 Head to Brighton station and take the direct train to Portsmouth in the county of Hampshire, in just under 90 minutes.

 

14:00 GO BEHIND THE SCENES OF A HISTORIC DOCKYARD

The city of Portsmouth on the south coast of England is completely surrounded by water, making it an island city! So, it’s no surprise that it also comes with more than 800 years of naval history, much of which you can discover at its Historic Dockyard. Step back to the 16th century and explore the story of Henry VIII’s shipwrecked (and now raised) war ship at the Mary Rose Museum, or imagine what it was like being an 18th-century sailors aboard HMS Victory. In Spring 2018, the D-Day Museum will reopen on Southsea seafront (in the south of the city), which will use interactive material, video and major new exhibitions to retell the story of the Battle of Normandy in the Second World War.

OR

14:00 DISCOVER A LITERARY PAST

Portsmouth has hugely significant literary links; Charles Dickens was born here and his birthplace is preserved at the Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes while living in Portsmouth. The city is home to a large collection of Conan Doyle memorabilia at the Portsmouth Museum.

 

16:00 SHOPPING AND SEAVIEWS

Pick up designer bargains and high-street treats at the 90 premium outlet stores located at Gunwharf Quays, before heading up 105 metres to take in the gorgeous views from Emirates Spinnaker Tower, over the city and out to the Isle of Wight.

 

18:00 SIP CHAMPAGNE AT DUSK

Walk along the charming waterfront at Southsea and stop off for a glass of Champagne at the Southsea Castle Champagne Bar, which runs every Friday from May until September. You’ll be drinking bubbly with a beautiful Tudor castle backdrop!

 

20:00 ENJOY A RANGE OF RESTAURANTS

Restaurant 27 and Montparnasse are two of Portsmouth finest restaurants, and it’s at both of these you’ll find menus produced by chefs with Michelin-star experience, using ingredients from local suppliers and producers. Or, if you prefer a taste of the east, head down to the area of Old Portsmouth – this was once referred to as the Spice Island, as ships would dock there from Asia to unload their cargo – which still has a whole host of restaurants serving Asian cuisine. Check out the area of Albert Road, which is packed with choices.  

 

22:00 HIT THE NIGHTLIFE

Being a university town, Portsmouth offers a good mix of nightlife. It also serves up some excellent locally brewed beer – head up to the rooftop garden of the Brewhouse & Kitchen, set in a historic, Tudor-style inn, and order a pint of one of its 50 craft beers, including five that are brewed on site. Gin fan? Head over to Gin & Olive where aficionados of the spirit can choose from more than 100 on its menu, the only bar to offer this many in the county of Hampshire.

 

TIME TO CHECK IN

Similar to Brighton, Portsmouth has a good stock of budget hotels, guesthouses and lovely bed and breakfasts. Its boutique hotel offer is strong too. The G! Boutique Hotel has designed each room to be unique and quirky – rooms are given names ranging from Good Times and Grinning From Ear to Ear, to Giddy with Delight and Gloating You’re Not Here, plus there’s a funky cellar bar. Or, for a hotel with views over Portsmouth Harbour, check in to the Ship Leopard Boutique Hotel, housed in a Georgian building next to the Historic Dockyard, while just five minutes from the Southsea area is luxury property The Clarence. Looking for somewhere unique to stay? Sail out to No Man’s Fort, an island man-made fortress out at sea converted to a luxury venue that’s ideal for group bookings.

 

RETURNING TO LONDON:

There are direct trains from Portsmouth to London, which take just under two hours.