Chill Out at London’s Best Ice Skating Rinks
Leaving skid-marks has never been more enjoyable.
One of the many advantages of winter in the capital is the array of entertainments on offer. Every November to January, the cityscape becomes encrusted with ice rinks (usually the closest thing we’ll get to proper magical ice and snow is the slightly disconcerting accumulation of frost on the car windscreen early in the morning, so we’ve naturally become very good at creating artificial ice). There’s been a notable increase in ice rinks over the last decade, with each one having a distinct feel to it. Some of the most beautiful architectural landmarks have embraced ice rinks, so the choice has never been better. However, that choice brings with it a degree of uncertainty (or sheer panic if you’ve been put in charge of a group of children to take skating), so allow us to ease the anxiety with a run-down of the best ice rinks in London.
Skate at Somerset House with Fortnum & Mason is unbeatable in terms of beauty. Set within the courtyard of the Neo-Classical building, the lighting reflects magically off the crisp white façade, evoking the image of the northern lights descending onto London for a magical few weeks. It has a nice mixture of family-friendly activities as well as late night events for adults. The Polar Bear Club is open to children under 8 to teach them the basics of ice skating (with some absolutely adorable polar bear stabilisers to cling onto), and there are lessons available to those of all abilities and ages. Almost every night of the week the rink is taken over by a club night that goes on until roughly midnight, offering an exciting alternative to conventional pre-drinks at a bar or pub. That said, Skate also has an incredibly chic bar just off the ice rink (this year its botanical themed) where you can grab a mulled cider or two.
18th November 2015 – 10th January 2016
The Swarovski Ice Rink at the Natural History Museum is a great way to round off a day of museum-hopping. It’s hard not to be impressed with the setting of the Victorian Gothic-Revival cathedral of knowledge, and the layout of two adjacent ice rinks with a joining strip is a clever nod to the complex layout of the museum itself. Geared towards groups and families, you can twirl beneath the Christmas tree in the centre of the ice whilst the little ones enjoy a Penguin Club skating lesson (for those aged between 4-8). They don’t offer lessons for adults, but there is a Champagne skating deal as well as a parent-and-toddler deal on weekdays where under 4s go free. When you’ve had your fill of skating, head over to the Christmas market and traditional carousel for some down-time with a hot chocolate.
29th October 2015 – 3rd January 2016
The Ski Zillertal Ice Rink inside Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland is the most openly commercial ice skating rink on the list, but all that means is that there’s an unparalleled level of fun-fair entertainments surrounding it. Based around the Victorian band stand in the eastern section of the park, they have chosen an ideal location to bring some Dickensian charm to the experience. There aren’t any lessons on offer, though there is the opportunity to hire and Ice Guide for your group who’ll make sure you don’t go too off-piste with your technique. This rink is best to visit as part of a larger trip to Winter Wonderland as it does have a tendency to get quite crowded, and the sight of the bright lights on the rides are too tempting not to have a look at when you’ve finished your session. Open until 10pm every evening, it’s an essentially integrated part of the Winter Wonderland fun fair that both a joy in the daytime as well as the evening.
20th November 2015 – 3rd January 2016
The Ice Rink at the Tower of London is the most recent addition to the pantheon of London landmarks that have turned their hand to winter festivities. It’s the most intimate in scale and refreshing in its simplicity. Comparatively frills-free, the remarkable setting is evocative of the historic Hampton Court ice rink, though in a far more conveniently central location. They have opted for a hearty restaurant as accompanist, with The Pie Man providing some banging sausages and mash, beef goulash, and a small, decent selection of wines.
20th November 2015 – 3rd January 2016