Ice skating in London is best experienced from November to January. Get ready to hit the ice with our guide to the best London ice rinks open during Christmas 2013 and into early 2014.
One of the best things about the approach of winter is that it heralds the return of London’s ice rinks. Located throughout the city, the selection varies from shimmering rinks encased by royal palaces to a newer option in the shadow of the London Eye. Here’s our pick of the city’s best – they’re only open for a limited time so get your skates on before its too late.
Eyeskate might seem a bewildering name for an ice rink, but it all makes sense when you get there. Positioned directly beside the London Eye and facing the Thames, this is one of the best-located rinks in the city and the troupes of wrapped-up tourists strolling along the adjacent South Bank mean it’s popular throughout the week. As this is one of the city’s newer rinks, skates and sundries are still in good nick. Discount packages are available if you’d like to combine a rotation on the Eye with your 45-minute skate session or both can be booked individually.
When: daily 10am-9pm, from November 27 until January 5 Where: EDF Energy London Eye, Riverside Building, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7PB How much: £10.50; children £7.50. Discounts are available if purchased online. Tube: Waterloo
Somerset House ice rink
Eternally elegant Somerset House provides one of the most grown-up ice-skating experiences available in the capital, and its "Club Night" sessions, with soundtracks provided by DJs from the Ministry of Sound, Rinse FM and elsewhere, are paticularly popular with dating couples. Those wanting a little less physical exertion may prefer the earlier day and evening sessions, followed by a trip to Tom's Skate Lounge cafe and bar, which overlooks the ice. Children taking their first tentative steps onto the ice can learn the ropes in the Somerset Penguin Club, which is a dedicated training space for newcomers aged under eight. Older skaters can learn the ropes at the rink's skate school, which offers a series of skating lessons on weekends.
When: Daily 10am-10.15pm (until 11.30pm on Club Nights), from November 14 to January 5 Where: Somerset House, The Strand, London WC2R 1LA How much: from £7.50 - £15, excluding a booking fee of £1.25-£2 Tube: Temple; Charing Cross; Covent Garden
Canary Wharf ice rink
If you’re unable to travel to New York’s Rockefeller Center ice rink, you can, at least, approximate the experience at the Canary Wharf ice rink. Flanked by the soaring towers of Canada Square Park, the rink is a popular spot with groups of City boys and as a setting for office parties but, unlike some central rinks, can be a pleasingly tranquil spot on weekends. Thoughtfully, its owners have also provided onsite festive food and drink facilities so that everyone can get into the spirit without venturing too far from the ice.
When: Typically Mon-Fri 10.30am-11pm; Sat 10am-10.45pm; Sun 10am-9.45pm; from October 26 to February 16 Where: Canada Square Park, Canary Wharf, London E14 5AH How much: from £13.50; children £9.50 Tube: Canary Wharf
Winter Wonderland ice rink
The ice rink in Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland is especially popular with families. Which is no surprise as it’s surrounded by countless fairground rides, carousels, a Christmas market, festive food stalls and so on and so forth – you may want to blinker or blindfold your charges on the way there lest you spend an unplanned fortune en route. The rink itself has plenty to recommend it, however. It is illuminated by over 100,000 lights and has a Victorian bandstand as its centre point.
When: daily 10am-10pm; November 26 to January 5 Where: Hyde Park, London W2 2UH How much: from £10.50 - £14.50; children £8.50 - £9.50 Tube: Hyde Park Corner
Hampton Court Palace ice rink
Hampton Court Palace ice rink is the one to go to if you want to make a day of it. A 35-minute train journey from Waterloo, the Tudor palace was an abode to Henry VIII and is one of Britain’s most imposing royal residences (it’s well worth setting aside some time to explore its grounds while you’re there). Plenty of visitors do just that and this is a popular choice for competent skaters looking to impress new dates. If you’re not quite as nimble on the ice you can enlist an instructor to give you a supervised skating session for £32.
When: daily 10am-10pm from November 30 to January 12 Where: Hampton Court Palace, East Molesey, Surrey, KT8 9AU How much: from £11-£13; children £9-£9.50 Train: Hampton Court
Tower of London ice rink
For history buffs and ‘New World’ tourists, few other ice rinks can compare to the Tower of London's. For eight years now, the rink has been embedded into the tower moat of this ancient building and is set against directly against the fortress walls. You can take it for granted that this one will be crowded so it’s worth coming early if you’d like some space to practise your moves. Wheelchair users are also welcome on the ice except during the last hour-long session each day.
When: daily 10am-10pm from November 16 to January 5 Where: Tower Hill, London EC3N 4AB How much: from £11.50-£13.50; under-16s from £9-£9.50 Tube: Tower Hill
Natural History Museum ice rink
The Natural History Museum provides a rather magnificent backdrop for this ice rink, which draws crowds of tourists visiting South Kensington's numerous cultural attractions - sessions can get very crowded here. A section of the ice is reserved for children and, in addition to the main 1000sq metre ice rink, a fairground carousel and rinkside cafe and bar is in operational while the rink is in place. And then of course there are the adjacent attractions of the Natural History Museum itself, the Science Museum and the V&A, the permanent exhibition spaces of which are all free to enter should you want to turn your skate session into a complete and cheap day out.
When: until January 5. Times vary throughout the season but you can find up-to-date details on the website. Where: Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD How much: peak sessions £13.50; under-13s £9 Tube: South Kensington