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Inside the Young V&A
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The 23 best new things to do in the UK in 2023

All the museum openings, exhibitions, theatre, festivals and other great stuff we’re excited about next year

Chiara Wilkinson
Ella Doyle
Written by
Chiara Wilkinson
&
Ella Doyle
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Grab your calendars, digital or otherwise. Load up your WhatsApp groups. Get your booking hats on. A lot of us will be glad to turn our backs on 2022, but as we wind down for Christmas and look ahead to the new year, it turns out that there’s actually quite a lot to look forward to. Cool stuff happening right here, in this very country. 

There’s a festival curated by a mammoth nightlife institution. There are loads of shiny new museums opening up. There’s the completion of the longest walking trail in the world. There’s even an all-year-round Christmas-themed amusement park (we’re not joking). And the best part is, that’s not even the start of it. From Eastbourne to Edinburgh, Time Out has picked 23 of the most exciting new things to do in the UK in 2023 – how many can you tick off? 

RECOMMENDED: The 15 best places to visit in the UK in 2023

Best new things to do in the UK in 2023

Manchester made a bit of a storm in 2022, with the northern city being crowned one of the world’s very best places to visit by Lonely Planet. It’s not showing any signs of slowing down next year, either, with the long-awaiting opening of Factory International, a £186 million arts venue which will be the new, permanent home of the biennial Manchester International Festival. The 2023 festival (June 29 to July 16) will be filled with all sorts of big shows and experiences to get stuck into – including the largest-ever immersive Yayoi Kusama exhibition and a stage adaptation of The Matrix directed by Danny Boyle.

Whisky fans, get a load of this. While you’d probably expect to travel further north for an epic whisky experience (we’re talking Highlands territory), Northumberland also loves a dram – and come Spring, an epic Anglo-Saxon Museum and English whisky distillery is set to paint the town red in the spirit of its the area’s 200-year-old distilling tradition. Ad Gefrin will invite visitors to learn about ancient Northumbrian kings and queens, and their impeccable hospitality. There might even be some nice gold goblets to drink out of. Cheers to that.

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If there was one thing to celebrate in 2022, it was getting festivals back for good: music, art, food, dance, the lot. Their triumphant return means 2023 will see even more festivals opening for the first time. Enter Exodus, by the guys behind legendary London nightclub Fabric. The festival will take place in a secret outdoors location just outside the capital on July 8 and 9, celebrating the most brilliant dance music artists from throughout Fabric’s 23-year history.

If it’s been on your bucket list to see something by Simon McBurney’s legendary theatre company Complicité, next year is probably the time to make it happen. Its latest venture is an adaptation of a dark comic novel, ‘Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead’ by Nobel Prize winner Olga Tokarczuk, which was shortlisted for the 2019 International Booker Prize. The production will be directed by McBurney and will be at London’s Barbican Centre from March 15 to April 1. 

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Blackpool is often associated with a certain old-school type of fun: strolls along the promenade, arcade games and vintage wooden roller coasters. But there will soon be another reason to pay a visit to the OG seaside town, as a new attraction called Showtown is set to draw visitors of all ages. Branding itself as a ‘museum of fun and entertainment’, it’s all-singing, all-dancing, and right on the Prom, with a whole load of comedy, dance, drama and acrobatics events to get stuck into when it opens later next year.

There are few things we love more than outdoor swimming, but not everyone can handle the chill. So rejoice, warm water lovers, as an epic new swimming centre is coming to Brighton in spring 2023 – and it’s heated. The 50-metre pool is on the site of the former Peter Pan playground and will be surrounded by carbon-neutral modular units housing small businesses, yoga studios and street-food kiosks. What’s more, it’ll be right by the beach, so you can take in epic sea views as you swim.

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Eureka! Science + Discovery is a massive new science centre that just opened on the banks of the Mersey in Seacombe. It was built with the help of young people in the community, and expects to attract a whopping 180,000 visitors next year. Expanding on the Eureka! National Children’s Museum in Yorkshire, this new outpost will house a range of exhibitions exploring science, technology, engineering and maths, opening with a show about the environmental impact of fast fashion. There’s also a 12-foot-tall cat with a swishing tail. Need we say more?

Ever wished that Christmas lasted all year around? Well, if you haven’t, you can bet your kids probably have. And from next summer, that wish will become a reality as £15 million amusement park, Lilidorei, is unveiled at the Alnwick Garden in Northumberland. It’s basically a magical Christmas village, full of elves, pixies and dwarfs, and will apparently be the biggest playground in the world when it opens in spring.

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Manchester is continuing to prove its worth as one of the country’s coolest cities – if not the coolest – with new events and openings seemingly announced every five minutes. We’re particularly excited for Manchester Museum to return in February next year following a hefty £15 million revamp, opening with an exhibition about the Golden Mummies of Egypt (pretty much everyone’s favourite period of history to learn about in school). Epic.

Yer boy William Shakespeare was born in the historic town of Stratford-upon-Avon in the West Midlands, where there are now three permanent theatres owned by the Royal Shakespeare Company. The Swan Theatre will return in 2023 after a three-year refurbishment which has seen the space get swanky new lighting, better sound and comfier seats. Best of all, it will open with an 11-week run of ‘Hamnet’ (April 1 to June 17), a stage adaptation of Maggie O’Farrell’s fictionalised account of the life of Shakespeare’s son.

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If you’ve visited Edinburgh recently, you’ll be familiar with all the building work taking place on the mound, between Princes Street and the old town. The aim is to transform the main building of the National Galleries of Scotland, which is due to reopen to the public in summer 2023. There will be stunning windows looking out over Princes Street Gardens and refurbished exhibition spaces, giving you a prime excuse to pay a visit to discover the work of pioneering Scottish artists like Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Phoebe Anna Traquair (as if you needed another one).

We’re already pretty blessed with walking routes in the UK, but things are about to get even better. When completed, the England Coastal Path will be the longest continuous hiking path in the world. It winds down from the bottom of Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland, all the way round the south coast of England, then back up to Cumbria, passing by many cosy pubs, beaches and historic villages along the way. Many parts of the route are already open, but the full 2,795 miles are due to be finished in spring.

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Remember the V&A Museum of Childhood in London? The Bethnal Green institution has being undergoing a mammoth transformation since 2018, and will officially reopen in summer 2023 as the reimagined Young V&A. It’s been completely refurbished with three new permanent galleries and plenty of play-and-learn areas for kids of all ages, so you can finally get them chanting, ‘museums aren’t boring!’ Get ready for some seriously cool family days out.

Work has been under way since 2019 to restore a Grade I-listed former monastery in Coventry, complete with beautiful early-Renaissance wall paintings. The Charterhouse was founded in 1381 as one of nine Catholic Carthusian Houses where monks lived in individual cells, and was in operation until Henry VIII ordered the dissolution of the monasteries. After a whopping £4.3 million grant securing its survival, the fascinating space is set to reopen in spring as a museum and visitor centre.

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Art lovers, listen up. The Turner Prize is officially going to take place in the southern seaside town of Eastbourne next year, with the award’s four shortlisted artists showcasing their work at the magnificently colourful Towner Art Gallery. It’s all part of 2023’s ‘Towner 100’, a year-long celebration of Eastbourne’s arts scene, which earned the town the top spot in our pick of the best places to visit in the UK next year.

Spend the night at an ‘Alice in Wonderland’-themed hotel
Image: The Tempus / Charlton Hall Estate / Jeffreys Interiors

16. Spend the night at an ‘Alice in Wonderland’-themed hotel

Big news: if you live in Northumberland, you might never need to fork out on an expensive foreign holiday ever again – because a seriously swanky hotel is opening there in spring 2023. Housed on a private 150-acre estate, The Tempus will channel the same wacky energy as its sister, Charlton Hall, with an eclectic ‘Alice in Wonderland’ theme across its 15 luxury bedrooms. Costumes optional. 

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Imagine living in a world where you’re only allowed to speak using 140 characters per day. No, we’re not talking about some strange Twitter-verse future, we’re talking about an award-winning play. Sam Steiner’s 2015 drama ‘Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons’ will be revived on stage next year by Josie Rourke, and will star Jenna Coleman and Aidan Turner in the lead roles. The thought-provoking piece will run at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London in January before heading to Manchester Opera House and Theatre Royal Brighton.

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There’s something special about seeing art outside of its usual setting – bare white gallery walls – which is why we’re so excited for the completion of a new art trail in southern England. The 153-mile-long North Downs Way Art Trail runs from Dover to Farnham, featuring permanent artworks that complement the local countryside and celebrate nearby heritage. It’s due to officially launch in early 2023 and will be completed by the end of the year. 

We’re firm believers that street food is an elite type of food. The smells! The bustle! The choice! Come September 2023, Bradford will be blessed with a swanky £21 million new market, known as Darley Street Market, with an entire floor dedicated to street-food vendors and bars. Another floor will sell fresh food and the ground floor will house other stalls, so you can eat, shop and socialise – all in one place. 

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There’s nothing like dazzling photographs to whisk you away from the everyday, and that’s exactly what this new blockbuster exhibition is all about. Taking place at the Tate Modern next year (July 6 to Jan 2024), ‘A World in Common: Contemporary African Photography’ will immerse visitors in the colours, landscapes and people of Africa. It will touch on themes like the climate emergency, spirituality and urbanism, and aims to showcase the rich diversity of the continent.

Wales might not be the first place that springs to mind when you hear the word ‘onsen’. But a new hotel in Cardigan offers the perfect opportunity to live out your Nipponophilic fantasies – without even having to leave the country. The Albion Aberteifi is themed around Wales’s maritime history, with cosy interiors designed to look like ship cabins. The best part, though, has to be the hotel’s accompanying onsen and outdoor sauna, set in a private woodland glade, which is due to open later next year. Lush.

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