Holidays, festivals and events

Dive into the UK’s rich history and contemporary culture by enjoying the world-famous events, local celebrations and public holidays that take place throughout the year.

On public holidays (called ‘bank holidays’ in the UK) most institutions and businesses are closed. Dates differ in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Visit the gov.uk website for a full list. Some of the events below are bank holidays, but not all – there are great things happening in the UK all year round.

1 January: New Year’s Day. On New Year’s Eve (31 December) it’s traditional to celebrate midnight. There are parties across the country, with Edinburgh’s ‘Hogmany’ being one of the biggest. New Year’s Day is a public holiday so expect the celebrations to last well into the night!

Late January-early February: Chinese New Year. See food stalls, fireworks and dragon parades take over the streets of many UK cities to usher in the Chinese New Year. London’s celebration is the biggest outside of Asia, offering an explosion of colour, sounds and delicious aromas.

14 February: Valentine’s Day. Take your sweetheart out for dinner and give them a Valentine’s card, chocolates or flowers to celebrate this day of romance. If you’re single, you might even receive an anonymous card from a secret admirer.

17 March: St Patrick’s Day. Celebrated by Irish communities all around the world, many UK cities host their own St Patrick’s Day events too. Dress in green, grab a pint of Guinness and head out with friends to join in the celebrations.

21 June: Summer solstice. Celebrate the longest day and shortest night of the year at the ancient monument of Stonehenge. Stand inside the monument facing northeast and you'll see the sun rise like a blazing fire – a sight that brings in pagans and sun-lovers of all beliefs.

Late June: Glastonbury festival. Summer in the UK means music festival time.With its 175,000 revellers Glastonbury is the largest and most iconic. But from Wales’ Festival No.6 and Scotland’s T in the Park, to the new grass-roots festivals emerging across the country, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the festival season.

June/July: Eid al-Fitr. Marking the end of the month-long fast of Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr is celebrated by Muslim communities in the UK. Each community usually has its own events, but Birmingham and London see some of the largest organised celebrations and feasts.

August: Edinburgh Festival Fringe. ‘The Fringe’ features over 50,000 performances and more than 3,000 shows, over three weeks every August. As the world’s biggest arts festival it’s the place to go for stand-up comedy, dance, theatre, art exhibitions, circus, spoken word, opera and more.

Late August: Notting Hill Carnival. Held in London over August bank holiday weekend, Notting Hill is the biggest street carnival in Europe. Join two million carnival goers dancing to pumping calypso music and enjoying Caribbean food as they watch the high energy parade go by.

Late August: Manchester Pride. Pride events take place in UK cities over the year, and on August bank holiday weekend tens of thousands flock to Manchester to promote equality and celebrate LGBT life at The Big Weekend - a colourful 72-hour party with a flamboyant parade in the city centre.

October: Belfast International Arts Festival. Celebrating contemporary arts with an international theme, the Festival brings the world’s best and most innovative artists to Belfast every year.

31 October: Halloween. Originally based on the ancient Celtic religion, the modern way of celebrating Halloween is becoming increasingly popular in the UK. Expect to see witches, monsters and ghosts as children and adults alike enjoy Halloween fancy dress parties on this spooky night!

October/November: Diwali. The Festival of Lights for Hindu, Sikh and Jain communities is marked in several UK cities. Leicester’s extravagant street party with traditional food, music, dancing and fireworks is one of the biggest Diwali celebrations outside of India.

November: Outburst Arts Festival. Now in its second decade, Outburst is an annual showcase to allow LGBTQ+ people of all backgrounds find a home for stories and creative ideas.

5 November: Bonfire night. This event marks the anniversary of Guy Fawkes’ plot to blow up the House of Lords in 1605. Wrap up warm and head out to one of the thousands of organised bonfire night events across the UK to enjoy the spectacular firework displays.

December: Hanukkah. Jewish communities across the UK celebrate Hannukkah, the Festival of Lights. The Menorah (the candelabrum lit during Hanukkah) in Trafalgar Square in London is the largest in Europe.

25 and 26 December: Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Christmas means a big celebration in the UK! The build-up starts weeks before with Christmas markets, parties, trees, presents and mince pies taking centre stage through most of December. Christmas Day itself is a bank holiday, as is the day after, Boxing Day, when many people spend time with friends and family.