Work on some schemes will begin on Christmas Eve - which falls on a Saturday - to give engineers and maintenance teams four days to carry out upgrades before the next working day.
London, Manchester and Cardiff are among the cities affected.
Passengers are advised to plan their journeys in advance using the National Rail Enquiries website.
Phil Hufton, NR's managing director for England and Wales, said engineering work is carried out throughout the year but larger upgrades usually take place over bank holidays as up to 50% fewer passengers travel on those days.
He went on: "Despite our essential upgrades, the vast majority of the rail network - more than 95% - remains unaffected and will be open for business as usual.
"This vital investment will make the railway more reliable for years to come, while improving journeys for thousands of passengers.
"There's never a good time to impact on journeys and I'd like to thank passengers in advance for their patience."
No trains will operate to or from London Paddington between December 24 and December 29 because of work to build the new Crossrail rail link.
That means the Heathrow Express service between Heathrow Airport and Paddington will be suspended for six days and Great Western Railway trains will terminate at Ealing Broadway.
Major upgrades of signalling, track and overhead lines for Crossrail's eastern section mean bus replacements and diversions will be in place for services to and from London Liverpool Street from December 24 to January 2.
Work on Manchester's Ordsall Chord scheme, to create a link between the city centre's main train stations, means rail replacement buses and diversions will be operational for Oxford Road services from December 18 to December 28.
There will be no late-night trains between Cardiff Central, Bridgend, Newport and the Valleys on Christmas Eve due to significant work around the Welsh capital to bring new signalling and tracks into use. There will be further disruption from December 27 until January 3.
Work at New Cross, south London as part of the Thameslink programme means no Southeastern trains will operate to London Bridge and Charing Cross from December 24-28, apart from the Hastings services which will be diverted to London Bridge.
Bizarre Christmas traditions around the world
Bizarre Christmas traditions around the world
Caterpillars might not be the most popular South Africa delicacy but they are one of the most festive. On Christmas Day locals will be tucking into deep-fried caterpillars of the Emperor Moth.
Catalonia has not one but two weird and wonderful Christmas traditions. The local resident include the 'Caganer' in their nativity scenes, which is a small figure of a defecating man. The Catalonians also have Tio de Nadal, which is also known as the 'pooping log'. The log is decorated with a face and blanket and put in the fire on Christmas Eve before being beaten with sticks.
You won't find any Norwegian houses being cleaned on Christmas Eve. It's not even because it's a holiday, all brooms are kept hidden away just in case they're stolen by witches or evil spirits.
Attending Mass is the run-up to Christmas might not seem that unusual, but in Venezuela you'll see people making their way there in a rather bizarre fashion. Caracas residents have started journeying to Mass on roller skates.
The power of advertising can be life changing apparently, many Japanese families eat at KFC on Christmas Eve thanks to a campaign way back in 1974.
When it comes to unusual Christmas tree decorations, Germany ranks fairly high. Traditionally Germans hide a pickle in their Christmas Trees on Christmas Eve and the first child to find it gets a little present.
Forget the traditional conifer if you're spending the Christmas period in New Zealand because on that side of the world they prefer to decorate Pohutukawa trees at Christmas.
Christmas morning in Portugal is not a time for rushed openings of stockings but rather a time to remember the dead. Consoda is a traditional feast and families lay places at their tables for the souls of their loved ones.
On 5 December in the Netherlands and Germany children put their shoes out to receive sweets and gifts overnight. In the Netherlands it's also traditional to receive a chocolate letter representing the first letter of your name and little spiced cookies called 'pepernoten' that are thrown by Sinterklaas' helpers.
Christmas may be a time for joy and giving but it can also be a scary time of year for Austrian children who live in fear of 'Krampus', a Christmas devil who's said to beat naughty children with branches.
Forget the tinsel - Ukrainians go for a completely different festive style - they decorate their trees with artificial spiders and web.
At Christmas in the Czech Republic, unmarried women stand by a door and throw a shoe over their shoulder. If the shoe lands with the toe pointing towards the door then they'll marry within the next year.
In the Swedish town of Gavle the authorities started installing a Swedish Yule Goat each year as of 1966. But almost every other year vandals get in early and burn it down.
Forget about Santa if you're spending Christmas in Italy because the children there await the arrival of a friendly witch called Befana who delivers sweets and toys on 5 January.
The postal service in Canada recognises the address: Santa Claus, North Pole, Canada, HOHOHO. Any letters that are sent to this address will be opened and replied to.