Weather in the UK can be rather unpredictable and this is true in both autumn and winter. While autumn can have sunny spells, you're more likely to need your raincoat than your sunglasses.
As for winter, with an average temperature of 2 degrees, it's unlikely you'll want to spend extended periods of time outside. That's why we've come up with a list of awesome activities for the colder months to keep you enjoying the UK- even when it's chilly!
Things to Do in Autumn and Winter in the UK
1. Visit a cat cafe
It might seem strange to relax with a cup of tea in the company of some fluffy kittens, but in recent years Cat Cafe’s have sprung up around the UK. And the phenomena is not just unique to London, you can find Cat Cafes in cities like Manchester, Edinburgh, Bristol and Nottingham.
2. Head out for a walk
Even though it might be chilly, autumn and winter are the perfect time to enjoy the British countryside. Some of our favourite places to explore the frosted meadows and autumn leaves include Devil’s Dyke (Sussex), the Yorkshire Dales and Holyrood Park in Edinburgh. Just make sure you bring your coat!
3. Marvel at the Christmas Lights at Kew Gardens
You might have heard of the iconic Kew Gardens, but did you know that over the festive period the botanic gardens are transformed by thousands of Christmas lights? The lights go up on the 20th November and come down on the 5th January, so there’s only a short amount of time to enjoy the spectacle- so make sure you book in advance!
4. Enjoy a Sunday Roast
As far as traditional British foods go, there’s nothing better than a Sunday Roast. On a cold day, the hearty combination of seasonal vegetables with meat and gravy is the perfect antidote to the harsh weather. You can find pubs serving roast dinners on Sundays all over the country, and many will now offer vegan and vegetarian roasts too!
5. Take a dip in the sea (we're not joking)
Photo credit: Overstand Parish Council
If you’re used to temperatures in their 20s and 30s all year-round, the idea of swimming in the sea when the average temperature is 2 degrees might seem, well, crazy. However, festive swims are a long-standing part of British culture. The first festive swim was organised by Brighton swimming club in 1860, who took to the sea even on Christmas Day (most likely because there weren’t any swimming pools in those days). Nowadays, you can find festive and winter swimming clubs at beaches and lidos (open-air pools) all over the country, just make sure you follow these safety tips.
6. Cosy up with a board game in a pub
For those who prefer to escape the cold, rather than swim in it, a number of pubs and cafes now offer board games to help you pass the time on a cold winter’s afternoon. Cafes like Loading Bar (with locations in Brighton and London) offer an incredible range of vintage and unique board games for you and your friends to enjoy.
7. Go to the pantomime
Image first published in Visit London. Credit: Alastair Muir. Courtesy of Helen Snell.
A uniquely British phenomenon, the Christmas pantomime, or ‘panto,’ as it’s affectionately known, is a musical comedy show that is popular in the UK at Christmas time. ‘Pantos’ often borrow story lines from well-known fairy tales and mix them with pop music, audience participation and drag. The cultural references might be a bit difficult to get your head around, but if you’re interested in learning more about British Christmas traditions, the panto is the place to be. Find out which pantomimes are on in London this year here.
8. Have a Cream Tea
You might have heard of Afternoon Tea, but have you heard of a Cream Tea? Simply put, a Cream Tea is a pot of tea served with scones, jam and cream which is popular in the English regions of Devon and Cornwall. Stopping for a Cream Tea is the perfect way to spend a rainy afternoon and is generally much cheaper than paying for a full Afternoon Tea (which comes with sandwiches and cakes).
9. Visit a Christmas Market
When you think of Christmas markets, you might think of countries like Germany or Austria, but in recent years Christmas markets have sprung up all over the UK. City centres are taken over with stalls selling mulled wine and festive treats. If you're looking for your nearest fair, you can check out this list of the best Christmas markets here.
10. Visit an independent cinema
Although going to the cinema in the UK can be pretty pricey, there are still plenty of independent cinemas that offer cheap tickets to see some incredible films (plus discounts for students). As the days get shorted and the nights get longer, head to HOME in Manchester, Filmhouse in Edinburgh or any of these independent cinemas in London to escape the cold.
Want to experience the UK at winter? Check out our winter English courses for children and teenagers.