With the temperatures dipping and the faintest chime of sleigh bells in the distance, London is just beginning to get into the swing of the festive season: it’s time to revel in the wintry weather, don a pair of skates and go for a glide on one of the capital’s many rinks.
Here, we’ve rounded up all the venues you need to know about, whether it’s for an afternoon of family fun, or a date night (though do beware the ignominy of the slipped-over skater). Most of these tend to fill up smartish, so play it safe and book your tickets in advance — check each rink's website for details of prices and availability.
Beware, too, that for many places, prices vary according to when you plan to skate: weekends and evenings are typically the most popular sessions, and consequently the most expensive. If you're comparing two places on price alone, check how long each skate will last: some run longer than others. Almost everywhere includes skate hire in their ticket price, though many allow customers to bring their own. Most places offer skate-aids for nervous skaters, which are are typically £5—10 extra to hire, and normally available on a first-come, first-served basis. Happy slipping and sliding.
Natural History Museum ice rink
Ice skating at the Natural History Museum has grown into something of a London institution — the scenery is overwhelmingly beautiful, the lights frame things like it's a film, and the 1000 square metre rink holds its own — but after 16 years, this will be its final outing. From 2022 onwards, the area will be transformed into a new hub for urban wildlife.
All the more reason to head down this winter, then. The first floor café and bar makes for a good spot to watch other skaters once your session is over, and there are wheelchair skate sessions throughout the rink's run.
Cromwell Road, SW7, until January 16, nhm.ac.uk
Ice skating at Skylight
Skating up high? Why not? Skylight was treated to a makeover last winter, which means it boasts London's first rooftop rink. Once you’re done on the ice, book yourself one of the Christmas igloos, for a cosy night of cocktails and Alpine-inspired grub.
Tobacco Dock, E1, November 5—January 20, skylightlondon.com
The Queen’s House Ice Rink
Not many ice rinks can claim a space on a UNESCO World Heritage site, but that’s just one of a few USPs at this one, found within the grounds of the Royal Museums Greenwich. Another reason to go is the views, both of the bucolic Greenwich Park and urban glitter of Canary Wharf across the Thames. There’s an on-site catering stall, with bigger meals served up at the nearby Parkside Cafe.
National Maritime Museum Gardens, SE10, November 18 —January 9, rmg.co.uk
Skate at Somerset House
The efficiently named Skate at Somerset House comes in two forms: during the day, it's a gorgeous spot to glide about in the ever-impressive courtyard, while in the evening, they host Skate Lates, which see top DJs and musical acts take over the ringside. This year, Moët & Chandon are seeing to the refreshments with Champagne and cocktails, and don’t forget to get a snap of the 40ft Christmas tree while you’re there.
Strand, WC2, November 17 —January 16, somersethouse.org.uk
Alexandra Palace Ice Rink
Ally Pally is a year-round delight, but winter is always a special time for this hilltop venue. The fireworks are always among the most popular in the capital, and its ice rink is a similarly crowd-pleasing affair. It’s indoors, and therefore protected from the less palatable periods of British weather, and will also host The Nutcracker on Ice between December 6-12.
Alexandra Palace Way, N22, until December 17, alexandrapalace.com
Winter Wonderland ice rink at Hyde Park
Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park returns with UK's largest outdoor ice rink, set around a Victorian bandstand and illuminated by a canopy of lights. Skating runs from 10am until 9pm, with 50 minute sessions running every hour on the hour. There's a photographer on hand if you want a souvenir, but personal cameras aren’t allowed on the ice.
Knightsbridge, W2, November 5 —January 3, hydeparkwinterwonderland.com
Ice Rink Canary Wharf
Always determined to prove itself as somewhere more than just the place where people in suits go for the 9-to-5, Canary Wharf will host its rink for 18 weeks over the winter season. Those who don’t fancy getting their skates on, or who need some refreshment after a session on the ice, can retire to the rink-side OffPiste Bar.
Canada Square Park, E14, until February 26, icerinkcanarywharf.co.uk
Hampton Court ice rink and bar
Henry VIII's magnificent 500-year-old red-brick Tudor palace makes for a spectacular backdrop for ice skating, and there's are refreshments available for afterwards. In the day time, it's family-friendly, while once night falls, it becomes more date-friendly as they light up the ring with hundreds of coloured lights.
East Molesey, KT8, November 13 —January 9, hrp.org.uk
Winter Festival at Brent Cross
There’s all sorts going on at this winter festival in north-west London, but the ice rink is always one of the main attractions. It’s hugely popular with families, thanks in part to all the other things you can do once you’ve had your time on the ice, from white-knuckle rides to visiting Santa’s Grotto, or indulging in mulled wine, donuts, pancakes and more.
Brent Cross Shopping Centre, NW4, November 27 —January 3, winterfestivalbrentcross.com