10 unexpected events happening this winter 

You don’t need us to tell you about all the traditional Christmas markets and festive light displays - you’ll find those anyway - so here’s some more unique events you might enjoy this chilly season... 

Christmas Floating Film Festival at St Katherine’s Docks

People relaxed on a pontoon at the Floating Film Festival

If you're looking for quirky things to do in London, go and watch classic Christmas movies, like Home Alone, Elf and Love Actually, while snuggled up on a pontoon on St Katherine’s Docks. Beanbags, blankets, hot chocolate and mulled wine all add to the cosiness. 

4-10 December 2017 

Lumiere London 

Neon fish floating above a street in London
© Matthew Andrews

Explore London by night during this dazzling winter light festival. More than 40 artists will turn some of the capital’s most familiar streets, from the West End to Waterloo, into glow-in-the-dark galleries - and it’s all free to visit. 

18-21 January 2018

BBC Good Food’s Festive Feast at Hampton Court Palace 

Festive Feast stalls open for business at Hampton Court Palace
© Hayley Bray

Head to this famous royal palace to meet artisan producers and try morsels tasty enough even to please former resident, Henry VIII. It’s a fine place to pick up a few Christmas gifts for any foodies in the family, and there’ll also be carol singing and seasonal cooking demos. 

8-10 December 2017

Festive Afternoon Tea at The Connaught 

Festive cakes at The Connaught, London

You’ve heard of afternoon tea of course, but ever had a festive one? Start with one of the best at this famous London hotel. A true celebration of the season, it comes with champagne, smoked salmon sandwiches and a chocolate fondue (with gingerbread for dipping). 

20 November 2017 - 1 January 2018

The Christmas Experience at Lotherton Hall

Santa with helpers and a fairy wand at Lotherton Hall, Leeds.
© Lizzie Coombes

The kids will love this one-of-a-kind festive event. Take them on an interactive walk through the 12 days of Christmas in the grounds of an historic house in Leeds, northern England, followed by a tip-toe to The Fairy Dell with its adorable mini homes, cinema and church. 

24 November - 23 December 2017 

Game of Thrones Tapestry at Ulster Museum

Ulster Museum in Belfast, Northern Ireland, is currently home to an epic Game of Thrones Tapestry. Winter is the perfect time to see it evolve, as each week it’s being added to with key scenes from season 7 of the hit fantasy drama. By March 2018, the hand-stitched story will be a complete record of the show. And while you’re in town, make sure you check out some of the nearby filming locations

22 July 2017 - 4 March 2018 

National Parks Dark Skies Festival 

Woman and child at night enjoying the Dark Skies Festival
© Stephen Garnett

You don’t have to be an astronomist to appreciate the beauty of the UK’s dark skies, and winter is the best time to do it. Some of the darkest places in England - the Yorkshire Dales, Northumberland, North York Moors and South Downs - are running a joint festival where you can learn more about the constellations, go to stargazing parties and even try cycling under the night sky. 

9-25 February 2018 

Portobello Winter Festival 

A samba band dressed in festive costumes.
© Westway Trust

Head to Portobello Road, North London, for a festive fair with a Caribbean twist. This is the home of the Notting Hill Carnival, after all. There’ll be live steel bands and calypso music, a colourful array of street food and lots of locally made arts and crafts. Oh, and word has it Santa is bringing along his yeti… 

9-10 December 2017

Shrove Tuesday at Beamish Museum 

Woman making pancakes in historical costume at Beamish Museum.

See how Britons have celebrated Shrove Tuesday, or ‘Pancake Day’, the feast day before Lent, at this immersive living history museum in Durham, northeast England. At the 1940s farm, for instance, you’ll get to watch costumed characters make eggless pancakes, just as people did during WWII rationing. 

13 February 2018 

Celtic Connections

If you thought music festivals were just a summer thing, get yourself some tickets for Celtic Connections in Glasgow, Scotland. You don’t need green fields and sunny days to appreciate some of the finest Celtic-inspired music in the world. Catch some of the 2,100 acts playing trad, jazz, folk and more in one of 20 (wonderfully warm) venues around the city. 

18 January - 4 February 2018