As the nights draw in and the temperature starts to drop, it seems crazy to get excited about an activity which involves spending hours outside on a large patch of ice, but we can’t wait! Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without a spot of ice skating at one of London’s festive pop-up ice rinks, which is why we’ve rounded up the best of the bunch right here for you.
Whether you choose to get your skates on at the iconic Somerset House ice skating rink, one of the historic royal palaces, or at Europe’s only rooftop ice rink, we guarantee you’ll come away feeling warm and fuzzy – particularly if you visit one of the many food and drink lodges for a boozy hot chocolate or a mulled cider afterwards. We’ve even included a few year-round indoor ice rinks for those looking to skill up before taking to the cold stuff with friends and colleagues, so there really is no excuse not to go. Woolly accessories at the ready!
Somerset House ice skating
Somerset House represents the ultimate ice skating destination in London. Each year people wait to discover who will sponsor the space - with brands like Tiffany & Co. and Fortnum & Mason being previous contenders - as this will determine the theme and vibe for the overall event. There's typically a cool bar space too (if you'll pardon the pun), so make sure to arrive early or leave a little while in your schedule afterwards so you can enjoy the ambiance from the sidelines for a bit too. If you don't fancy Somerset House ice skating this year then scroll down below for our pick of the other best places to play on some ice this winter in London.
What: The Somerset House ice skating rink is one of the prettiest and most popular in London, and for good reason. Situated in the venue’s 18th-century courtyard, the ice rink at Somerset House boasts a stunning backdrop, so even if you’re no Torvill or Dean, you can skate in style.
Look out for the venue’s Skate Lates – nights where you can skate along to DJ sets from trailblazing local and international DJs – and be sure to treat yourself to a boozy hot chocolate at Fortnum’s Lodge or the Baileys Treat Bar within the rink-side Skate Lounge.
When: 13 Nov 2019 – 12 Jan 2020
Where: Somerset House, Strand, Covent Garden, WC2R 1LA
Natural History Museum
What: Embrace the wintry weather by donning your skates at the Natural History Museum’s beautiful outdoor ice rink. Here you can switch between skating amid the fairy lit, frost-covered trees, and propping up the café bar and balcony with a hot chocolate or mulled wine.
When: 19 October 2019 - 12 January 2020
Where: Cromwell Road, SW7 5BD
The Tower of London
What: If the idea of gliding (or shuffling) around the ice in the shadow of one of London’s most historic fortresses sounds like an unforgettable experience, that’s because it is. Spectacular views and festive refreshments galore make the Tower of London Ice Rink an ideal spot for families, friends, couples and colleagues, particularly at night when the Tower is illuminated.
When: 16 November 2019 – 5 January 2020
Where: The Tower of London, Tower Hill, EC3N 4AB
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
What: Set around the Victorian bandstand in Hyde Park and illuminated with thousands of twinkling lights, Winter Wonderland’s ice rink is a top spot for groups looking to get their skates on this Christmas. It’s the largest outdoor ice rink in the UK, so there’s plenty of room to show off your moves (or not) and tons of Christmas market stalls and attractions to keep you busy once you’ve worn yourself out.
When: 21 November 2019 – 5 January 2020
Where: Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park, W2
Hampton Court Palace
What: Once again, the impressive courtyard of Henry VIII's historic home will be transformed into an ice rink for six weeks of skating this season. Take to the ice in one of the country's most scenic settings, enjoying spectacular views of the Thames-side Tudor palace as you skate, before treating yourself to a well-earned hot drink or sweet treat at the heated Ice Rink Café Bar.
When: 22 November 2019 - 5 January 2020
Where: Hampton Court Palace, East Molesey, Hampton, KT8 9AU
Skylight at Tobacco Dock
What: Not only can you ice skate at this uber-cool rooftop ice rink – the only one in Europe, as it happens – you can also pit your puck shooting skills against your friends in an ice-hockey shoot-out. There’s also street food, Christmassy tipples and heated igloos for private groups. If you’re thinking Skylight sounds perfect for your Christmas party, it’s worth knowing that you can hire the whole rooftop for up to 300 people, or reserve a heated area for a minimum of 50.
When: 31 October 2019 - 5 January 2020
Where: Tobacco Dock, Wapping, E1W 2SF
What: The people’s palace’s ice rink might be open throughout the year, but you can make the most of the festive season by booking a Christmas skating slot. It’s worth it for the venue’s views of the capital alone, but what seals the deal for us is its Christmas-themed ice disco session ‘All I Want For Xmas (is Fromage On Ice)’ DJ’d by Club De Fromage that promises to be epic.
When: All year round
Where: Alexandra Palace, Alexandra Palace Way, Wood Green, N22 7AY
Streatham Ice and Leisure Centre
What: It’s not the prettiest setting in which to pretend you’re Elsa from Frozen (did we write that out loud?), but it is the only Olympic-sized skating rink in the city so there’s plenty of space to try out some more daring moves before hitting up one of the more festive rinks in town.
When: All year round
Where: 390 Streatham High Road, Lambeth, SW16 6HX
Lee Valley Ice Centre
What: You won’t find a beautiful backdrop or pop-up Fortnum’s Lodge here, but what you will find is plenty of space for ice skating and a range of skating courses and lessons to suit all ages and abilities. Great if you want to practise your moves before a date at Somerset House ice skating rink, or a work Christmas party at Skylight.
When: All year round
Where: Lea Bridge Road, E10 7QL
Looking to have more festive fun? Check out our round-up of the best Christmas afternoon teas in London