Up to 4 inches (10cm) of snow on higher ground and gales in the North East are also forecast.
The Met Office has issued weather warnings for the South East, the North and parts of southern Scotland, with icy roads and drifting snow potentially causing problems for travellers.
Health officials have warned the elderly and sick to stock up on essential medicines and food ahead of the cold snap.
Temperatures across much of the UK are likely to be just a few degrees above freezing, but with winds from Scandinavia it will feel much more raw, Met Office spokeswoman Nicola Maxey said.
Conditions could conspire to beat the current lowest temperature of the winter so far, the minus 11C (12.2F) recorded at Cromdale in Moray, north-east Scotland, on December 5.
The weather warnings are in force until 10am on Saturday, covering higher ground in the North between Sheffield and Edinburgh, and Kent and Sussex in the South East.
Ms Maxey said: “In areas like the Pennines, North York Moors and the Southern Highlands we are looking at lying snow of 3-6cm (1.2 to 2.5in) above 200m and maybe as much as 10cm (4in) above 300m.
“Down the eastern side of the UK we are likely to see snow flurries, sleet and showers coming through, which are likely to turn wintry.
“We could see gales in the North East, with drifting snow, and we could see icy conditions and disruptions to transport, particularly on higher routes through the Pennines.”
The cold winds from northern Europe are expected to bring sleet and snow to other eastern areas, but it is unlikely to settle.
Overnight into Saturday there will be widespread frosts, particularly in the West where there will be clearer skies.
The biting wind at the weekend will leave temperatures feeling much colder.
Friday will see 2C to 3C (36F to 37F) in the Midlands, London and eastern areas, with temperatures on Saturday between 3C and 5C (37.4F to 41F), perhaps reaching 6C (42.8F) in Scotland.
Public Health England (PHE) has issued a warning amid the plummeting temperatures, the Press Association reported.
Medical director Professor Paul Cosford said: “With more cold weather across all parts of England, now is the time to really think how it could impact you and your family, particularly those who are very young, over 65 or who have heart and lung conditions.