In the throes of the holiday spirit, London transforms its sights both historic and modern into backdrops for a veritable winter wonderland. One of the most enchanting ways to join the festive party all over town is on skates, and the city offers up plenty of options to soak it all in on rinks in the most charming and unexpected places. Here, a rundown of where you can tie on a pair and glide through the glittery cheer.
The London Eye has frozen itself over with Eyeskate, the massive ferris wheel’s largest ice rink to date at its base. As part of the observation center’s Frostival festivities, visitors can take a few rounds before entering the Frosty Capsule, which adds wintery sound effects like crackling fire to a guided tour of London’s Christmas history.
An ice-covered favorite for the last ten years, the rink in the courtyard of Somerset House offers skaters a traditional Renaissance palace backdrop for their frosty turns. The cultural hub set between the Strand and the Thames goes all out for winter fun, with extras like Champagne and chocolate to enjoy while skating, and Tom’s Kitchen adjacent for dinner right by the ice.
Modern-day visitors and current residents of London fare better than treasonous criminals of centuries past with a trip to the Tower of London—rather than imprisonment and execution, their purpose of ice skating in the moat undoubtedly makes for a more enjoyable stay. Surrounded by the Tower’s fortress battlements and twinkling lights come nightfall, skaters can tuck into the Ice Bar & Cafe for seasonal snacks, hot cocoa or something a bit stiffer.
If, perhaps, a grand, former royal abode is more akin to one’s skating pleasure, the rink at the Hampton Court Palace might be a more cushy option. The former home of Henry VIII now exists as a virtual “Tudor World” and skaters can enjoy from the outdoors the picturesque backdrop of Tudor and Baroque excess, or pop into the Ice Bar & Cafe for a warm-up.
When it comes to fairy lights around the holidays, more is more. The Lycamobile rink at the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland takes that rule of thumb and brings it, with 100,000 glittering lights sheltering fancy-free skaters gliding around the Victorian bandstand at the center of the ice. The rink is just one component to the Winter Wonderland’s holiday bonanza, which also includes an ice sculpture “kingdom”, rides, and even a circus.