Ice, ice baby

By | Category: Travel destinations, Travel tips & opinions

For some people, it’s the putting up of the Christmas tree which signals that the countdown to Crimbo has officially begun. For others it is the sound of carols being sung, the smell of mince pies or simply the fact that it is finally December.

But for me, living in London, it’s the opening up of outdoor ice rinks all across the capital that says: Christmas is just around the corner.

I visited my first al fresco ice rink – the one in the courtyard of the architecturally beautiful Somerset House – a decade ago and was instantly captivated by the charm of the Christmas rink and smitten by this sport (which now enjoys Olympic status).

In my mind there is nothing quite like the allure of (wobbly) skating: the idea of playing at being Torvill and  Dean and gliding gracefully around the rink in white boots.

Where else can you fling your arms around a strange member of the opposite sex? Or – quite literally – bump into other people? And the best bit? Such behaviour is not only inevitable, it is the norm. The accepted and established code of conduct when it comes to Christmas skating.

Of all the capital’s Christmas festivities, getting my skates on at an outdoor rink tops the list every time. It’s really rather special being able to skate in the open air in the heart of London.

Skate at Somerset House


But which is London’s most magical rink? I am sucker for Somerset House’s fairytale setting: the beautiful 18th century courtyard space is illuminated at night by special lighting. This year Skate at Somerset House (until 5 Jan) has launched a series of club nights meaning that on certain evenings you can slide across the winter rink to sets from Ibiza Rocks and Lovebox DJs, long into the night.


If kids are in tow, try the Natural History Museum (until 5 Jan) where your little ones can practise their moves in a mini ‘kid friendly’ rink before whirling around the Christmas tree in the 1,000 sqm main rink. When you’ve finished skating, why not nip into the Natural History Museum for a history lesson en famille?

For more history, head to the atmospheric rink at the Tower of London (until 5 Jan). You and your family can admire the moat and views of the ancient fortress while slithering and sliding your way around the circuit.

Or perhaps you’d prefer to skate in the shadow of a more modern landmark like the London Eye? Then look no further than London Eye: Eyeskate (until 5 Jan).

The rink at The Natural History Museum


East Londoners should make a beeline for Broadgate Circle (until 27 Feb) which boasts London’s first outdoor ice rink – it’s also the only one in the city. And if you live or work in Canary Wharf (until 16 Feb), there’s a rink beneath the towers of the capital’s financial centre in Canada Square Park, which warrants a spin. If ice skating isn’t your thing, retreat to the viewing gallery where you can watch the – always entertaining – rink action.

Regardless of whether or not you can compete with Robin Cousins, everyone can enjoy apres skating – for there’s more to London’s many rinks than merely showing off your moves on the  slippery stuff. Half the fun comes in warming up over a hot chocolate or mulled wine in an onsite ice bar, after your session has finished.

Isn’t it time you got your skates on?


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