What is a Bank Holiday in the UK?

Shoppers Visit Bath Christmas Market
Matt Cardy / Getty Images

A Bank Holiday is a national public holiday in the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Most of the population get a day off work, but there is no legal right to not work these days. Obviously, those employed in essential services must still work (e.g. police, fire, health, etc). Many employed in tourist industries and retail also work these days as they are popular for family days out and shopping. The only day that everything really shuts is Christmas Day (25 December).

Bank Holidays get their name because they are days when banks are shut and therefore, traditionally, no other businesses could operate.

Businesses That Are Open

In central London nearly everything remains open, but further out of the center more shops give their staff a day off. Remember, banks will be shut, but Bureau de Change facilities and ATMs will still be available.

Public Transport

The tubes and buses still operate on Bank Holidays, although the service is less frequent (usually a Sunday timetable).

Use Journey Planner to plan your route by public transport.

Bank Holidays in the UK

The number of bank holidays in the UK is relatively small compared to the number in many other European countries (only 8).

Most happen on a Monday. Check this list to help you plan your trip:

  • 1 January: New Year's Day
  • Friday before Easter Sunday: Good Friday
  • The day after Easter Sunday: Easter Monday
  • First Monday in May: May Day Bank Holiday
  • Last Monday in May: Spring Bank Holiday (Whitsun)* Whitsun is the British name for Pentecost, a Christian festival 49 days after Easter.
  • Last Monday in August: Summer Bank Holiday
  • 25 December: Christmas Day
  • 26 December or 27 December: Boxing Day (first weekday after Christmas Day)
Was this page helpful?