Are you planning on visiting England in winter? There are lots of reasons to come to our little island in the cooler months, despite unpredictable weather!
The small country of England might not have the warmest weather, but we more than make up for it in history, beautiful landscapes and a unique culture.
The home of endless mugs of warm tea, roast dinners, Harry Potter, red buses, the Beatles, and so many more iconic things, there are endless things to do on this island, whatever the weather.
In England, the weather’s never that reliable anyway, which makes many attractions all-weather. Plus, visiting the country’s top tourist spots is much more enjoyable out of busy season (the summer).
What’s more, if you’re used to cold weather (hello Canadians, people from north USA and people from Central and Eastern Europe!), England’s winter weather will feel mild in comparison.
I grew up in London, but I moved to the West Country of England as an adult, living first in Bristol, then Bath and now Devon. I also have family in Cornwall and in Derbyshire, and have explored the length and breadth of this country in all seasons!
So, what are the best places to visit in England in winter?
We’ll go into them all in this blog post, which will help you plan your England winter trip!
Reasons to visit England in the winter
So, why would you choose to visit England in the winter months? I can think of a few reasons:
England can be grey and rainy in the wintertime, but it’s often very atmospheric. I love a gloomy walk around Dartmoor on January’s day!
Plus, we get beautiful crisp, clear winter days too – and occasionally there’s even some snow. There was tonnes of snow in the South East and north parts of the country in December 2022 (in the South West we didn’t get much, but it was very frosty!).
It’s rarely too cold, and while it can be rainy, most tourists find they can still get out and explore!
Because good weather is never guaranteed in England – even in the summertime – we have plenty of all-weather attractions.
Cosmopolitan cities like London, Manchester and Birmingham have a huge array of museums and other top-rated tourist attractions, inside and outside.
Or, if you are lucky and get some warmer weather, you can enjoy hikes around the coastline or through our national parks.
Summer in England can be heaving, especially in the South West which is known for its beaches. But visit in winter, and you’ll be virtually the only tourist!
And with fewer tourists, prices can be much cheaper! You’ll find deals for flights and accommodations and even some restaurants offer deals in January or February (if you visit over Christmas, prices are likely to be inflated).
Whether you want to tuck into a roast dinner in a warm pub or enjoy a fish and chip takeaway after a bracing coastal walk, England’s food is instantly warming. Plus, we’re the home of English breakfast tea – and we serve it more or less everywhere!
Places to visit in England in winter
There are plenty of places to visit in England in the winter season – which runs from November to March. Here are some of the best!
London is a surprisingly excellent European winter city break.
At Christmas, the place comes alive with festive cheer.
Enjoy the magical Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park or Christmas in Covent Garden.
With festive lights and plenty of chances to grab a mulled wine or hot chocolate, London in December has so many allures.
If you’ve got little ones in tow, you can take them to places like M&M world or the Science Museum.
London is also one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, with restaurants from all corners of the globe.
You can enjoy this glorious food scene – dining on anything from a falafel wrap to a steaming hot bowl of ramen – any time of year!
Thanks to London’s great connections to the rest of England, there are even a number of winter day trips that you can enjoy – some of these head to other destinations I’ve recommended in this guide, like Bath and the Cotswolds.
Wrap up warm, and you’ll love London in winter – you can see my full guide to the city here.
Bath is a gorgeous spa city and UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s perfect to visit in the winter months.
With historic buildings lining the streets, plenty of independent shops to browse and tea rooms to cosy up in, you’ll have an idyllic time here.
Bath was a prosperous Georgian town, and you can see that reflected in the beautiful city today. But its history stretches back even further.
It was founded by the Romans and enjoyed a prestigious status as a spa town. You can relish this in the city today, as there’s a Thermae spa with a rooftop pool with steam rooms and other spa facilities.
There are plenty of other indoor attractions in Bath as well. Visit the Jane Austen Museum, the Museum of East Asian Art and the Fashion Museum; or head to the newest exhibition, Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein (I visited this on a recent trip to Bath and absolutely loved it!).
The beautiful Cotswolds AONB is the perfect place for your winter holidays.
This vast area is home to an abundance of historic villages, interspersed with the rugged beauty of the English countryside.
It’s hard to say which is the prettiest village in the Cotswolds, but people often think that it’s Bourton on the Water. Sometimes known as ‘The Venice of the Cotswolds’, think of gorgeous cottages lining canals when visiting.
The cute village of Stow-on-the-Wold has one of the country’s oldest pubs and a beautiful church with a door that is framed by two trees.
The historic market town of Tetbury (which is the home of Prince Charles) is another lovely place to visit in the colder months, with lots of independent shops and restaurants and a few interesting museums.
It can get cold up north, but York is the perfect place for a winter break.
With a labyrinth of charismatic streets winding through a charming city centre, there are plenty of all-weather attractions including the cosy Betty’s Tea Room and countless museums.
Learn about Vikings at the JORVIK Viking Centre and visit the National Railway Museum, where you can read about all things trains.
You can even walk around York’s city walls all year round!
Canterbury is a cathedral city in the southeast of England. My sister went to university here, and it’s a beautiful historical place with charming buildings that transport you back centuries.
If you’re looking for somewhere that feels quintessentially British and is just a short journey from London, I’d definitely recommend Canterbury.
Famous for being the centre of the Church of England for centuries, Canterbury cathedral is worth a visit if you’re interested in history or religion.
Other attractions in Canterbury include various museums, St Augustines Abbey, Westgate Gardens and plenty of independent restaurants and fun bars.
You’re also not far from the coast here, so if you get a pleasant winter’s day, you could road trip to Herne Bay (this is where my dad lives, so I know the coastal town quite well!) or Whitstable.
Oxford is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the UK.
Famous as the home of Oxford University (which is one of the most prestigious education institutions in the world!) Oxford University has historic buildings, an abundance of museums and university campuses to tour.
In the winter, Oxford has a fraction of the tourists compared to the summer – so you can explore without hundreds of other tourists around you!
Oxford is an expensive city, but you might experience a reduction in prices during the winter.
Again, it’s easy to reach from London; you can get the Oxford Tube (which confusingly, is a bus and not a train!) which costs just £12 one way and £18 for a return.
The incredible landscapes of the Lake District are worth visiting any time of year.
In the winter, there are fewer tourists and brisk days have a magical feel about them. It could just be you and the lakes!
There are plenty of winter walks if you get the opportunity, where you can enjoy the peaceful serenity of the area.
Also, visit traditional towns and villages like Hawkshead, Koniton and Keswick where you can shelter for a cup of tea if needed.
There are beautiful places to stay all over the Lake District, from spa hotels to cosy cottages where you can stay warm all winter!
Dartmoor National Park
With wild landscapes and looming tors, Dartmoor National Park is the largest in England and is a wonderful place for a wintery walk.
Although it’s not always accessible due to rainy or potentially snowy weather, Dartmoor’s natural beauty makes it the ideal place for wintery walks.
I live close to Dartmoor, and my favourite spots are Hay Tor, Brent Tor (this one’s my favourite, it has a church on top of a hill with a sweeping view of the moorland!), the ancient ruins of Grimspound and the scenic Burrator Reservoir.
Don’t miss charming towns like Widecombe in the Moor (literally a village in the midst of Dartmoor!) and Ashburton (famous for antique shops and colourful houses!), and I’d also highly recommend dining at The Highwayman Inn, which has been called “the weirdest pub in the UK“.
Dartmoor National Park is close to places like the coastal towns of Salcombe and Brixham and it’s not far from Exeter, Exmouth and Plymouth too.
I write travel guides to South West England on my other blog, Go South West England – it’s the biggest blog focusing solely on the West Country. You can check out my Dartmoor travel guide here.
The Peak District is one of the most atmospheric landscapes in the country; a huge expanse of countryside with plenty of hills to climb up!
Situated mainly in Derbyshire, a midlands region, the Peak District extends into Yorkshire and other counties.
My mum grew up in Baslow, a Peak District village, and when we used to go and visit family, we enjoyed lots of walks like this one to Curbar Edge.
You can road trip through this natural landscape, stopping off in beautiful villages like Bakewell and Baslow, doing plenty of hikes if you get the weather for it!
If not, it’s the perfect place to rent a cosy cottage and hole up for the winter!
With the backdrop of the 900-year-old Winchester Cathedral, this city has one of the best festive markets in the country.
If you’re looking for places to visit in England at Christmas, head to Winchester!
Winchester is a deeply historic place, and along with the cathedral you can enjoy the Old Bishop’s Palace, the City Mill and the museum.
Plus, here you’re in gorgeous Hampshire countryside – perfect for a wintery walk.
Back in Winchester, enjoy plenty of locally-run restaurants made with fresh seasonal produce.
Cornwall is home to beautiful seaside towns and charming local culture. In the summertime, this region of the UK is heaving with tourists.
But in the winter, there are barely any other tourists!
If you have crisp, sunny weather, you can enjoy hiking on the epic South West Coast Path and exploring Cornwall’s many botanical gardens and other outdoor attractions.
Plus, there are loads of museums in Cornwall.
Visit the Geevor Tin Mine museum to learn about Cornwall’s historic mining heritage, Jamaica Inn for smuggling history, the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro for the most comprehensive look into Cornish history and culture, and lots of English Heritage and National Trust properties.
During Christmastime, Cornwall comes alive.
There are incredible Christmas lights in Mousehole and festivals and traditions all over the region!
My other blog, Go South West England, has the most comprehensive resource on Cornwall on the internet; you can check out my full Cornwall travel guide here, which links to hundreds of posts about the region.
Things to do in winter in England
Make sure you tick off the following on your England winter bucket list!
Visit charming towns and cities
One thing that England does very well is beautiful historical cities.
These cities are stunning any time of year, and in the winter you’ll find there are far fewer tourists.
Enjoy epic architecture spanning through centuries as you’ll feel like you’re taking a walk through the past.
Many of these cities have fascinating museums and historic restaurants, tea rooms, pubs and coffee houses for you to enjoy!
Some of the best cities are Bath, Oxford, Canterbury and York.
Charming towns include anywhere in the Cotswolds, Port Isaac and Cornwall’s fishing villages, Rye, Sandwich, Holmbury St Mary (where The Holiday was filmed!) and plenty of places in the Peak and Lake Districts.
Spend some time inside museums
There are dozens of amazing museums in England in winter!
Even better, many are free – including some of the best and most famous museums in London.
Visit the Natural History Museum, the V&A, the British Museum and the TATE Art Gallery, all without spending a dime.
Many other museums, including the Bristol Museum and the RAMM in Exeter, are completely free of charge.
There are hundreds of other museums in every city in the country too – from the Viking Museum in York to the SS Great Britain in Bristol!
Warm up in a cosy tea room
It’s a British stereotype that’s completely true – we really love tea!
Tea rooms are dotted all over England – you’ll find one in virtually every town and village in the country!
Here, you can enjoy some of England’s staples, like cream teas, delicious cakes and dainty sandwiches.
They’ve got a wonderful atmosphere and, in the winter, are the perfect places to warm up from the cold and shelter from the rain.
Road trip around quaint villages
The charming countryside of England is dotted with picturesque villages with quaint houses and cobbled streets.
Many of these villages can get too over-touristy in the summer months, but there’s plenty of room in the wintertime.
You can bundle up and stroll around the charming streets, feeling like you’ve gone back in time.
One of my favourite places in England is the cute village of Mousehole in West Cornwall. While the weather can be dramatic here in the winter, there are barely any tourists!
Go for a brisk coastal walk
There are some beautiful coastal walks in England – an entire coast path runs the whole way around the country and takes in some of the most incredible landscapes in Europe.
We don’t get rain all year round in England – sometimes we even get clear, brisk days in the winter.
Although the days can be short, you can fit in some great hikes in cool weather, while taking in some of the most incredible views in the country.
Visit one of England’s spa towns
Fancy a soak in the spa? There are plenty of spa towns and cities in England, where you can pamper yourself to your heart’s content!
Bath is the obvious one, but you could also visit Harrogate or Buxton for interesting history and plenty of spas.
Enjoy England’s Christmas markets
While England isn’t quite the same as traditional Bavaria, there are plenty of beautiful Christmas markets around the country.
Here, you can go Christmas shopping, sip on mulled wine and even enjoy rides!
Popular Christmas markets are in Bath, Winchester, Nottingham and of course, Winter Wonderland in London.
Enjoy a pub lunch with a roaring fire
A lot of English society revolves around pubs.
Fancy lunch? Head to the pub. Evening drinks? Visit the pub. Catch up with mates? Pub.
In the winter, pub lunches are gloriously hearty, and you can often sit right by a roaring fire.
Plus, you can enjoy pints of beer or wine as you unwind!
What is the weather like in England during winter?
England can be cold in winter, but it rarely snows. The temperature can drop into the low single digits, or even below freezing, frequently, but it’s not often prime snowing conditions.
Expect average temperatures ranging from 15°C/ 60°F on either side of winter to 0°C/ 32°F – 5°C/ 41°F in the midst of winter!
It can also rain quite a lot – England is rather famous for its cold drizzle – but sometimes we have brisk days with clear skies.
Basically, prepare for all eventualities!
One of the most important things to remember is that it gets dark early.
Winter solstice is on 21st December when the sun sets before 4:00pm.
After this date, the nights start drawing out.
What to pack for a winter trip to England
Most locals wear scarves, hats and gloves during winter in England.
If you are used to cooler temperatures, you might not need them.
You also may need a heavy coat and sturdy boots to stay warm.
Definitely take a cosy jumper (or a few!) – you’ll need them!
Also, it rains a lot in England in the winter – so don’t forget your waterproofs!
Other things that you might need are an unlocked smartphone, a kindle or other e-reader and an adapter (we use a three-prong plug in England).
How to get around England in the winter
You can get around England by bus, train or car.
If you’re driving yourself, take care on the roads, as they can be icy (especially during the nighttime). Be particularly careful if you’re going down any quiet or country roads.
Trains and coaches can be subject to cancellations because of adverse weather during these times. However, they are a safe way of exploring the country.
Coaches are much cheaper than trains in summer and winter! Book trains early for more affordable prices.
Tips for visiting England in winter
- Some attractions, like English Heritage or National Trust properties, are closed during the winter (particularly on weekdays). Factor this into your plans before heading out.
- If the weather is particularly bad, strike up a conversation about it with a local. We love moaning about the rain!
- I’ve mentioned this earlier in the post, but if you have bad weather, head to the pub. This is what the locals do! Plus, there are some incredible pubs in the UK, many of which have associated stories and legends.