From New York City‘s Rockefeller Center to Berlin‘s Potsdamer Platz, most world capitals boast a famous outdoor ice-skating venue. Yet few cities can rival London for the sheer number of open-air ice rinks (more than 20) or for their range of memorable locations, from the shadow of the London Eye to the heart of Hyde Park to the grounds of Hampton Court Palace. When you are this spoiled for choice, it often helps to narrow your options. So in that spirit, here are Forbes Travel Guide’s three favorite London ice rinks.
One of London’s most architecturally impressive buildings is also home to one of its most impressive annual architectural feats. Every year, from October through January, a nearly 11,000-square-foot ice rink is assembled in the gardens of this beautiful South Kensington museum, and then more than 75,000 fairy lights are hung above it. In addition to the main ice rink, there’s a junior rink for young skaters, a traditional fairground carousel and the rink-side Café Bar. It’s here that you can purchase tea, coffee, hot chocolate and even beer and wine, and find regular live music and entertainment. The bar also boasts a balcony overlooking the rink, for non-skaters who like to watch their friends falling on their behinds.
Open approximately 9 a.m. through 9 p.m. (times vary). Off-peak tickets: $19 adults, $13 children. Book tickets.
Skating venues don’t get more iconic than this. Situated in the dry moat of the world’s most famous prison, this ice rink offers views of the fortress battlements on one side and the south bank of the Thames — which includes London’s newest icon, The Shard — on another. Aside from the ice itself, the venue also includes a bar and café, where you can enjoy winter drinks and festive snacks. Dine like a local with a warming mug of mulled wine and a fruity mince pie. For the most magical of ice-skating experiences, book your visit after dark, as the rink and The Tower are beautifully illuminated.
Open 10 a.m. through 10 p.m. Off-peak tickets: $19 adults, $15 children. Book tickets.
Considered by many Londoners to be the cream of the ice-skating crop, Skate at Somerset House has three significant factors in its favor. The first is location: This open-air ice rink sits in the courtyard of a spectacular 18th-century neoclassical palace, Somerset House, situated on the riverside. The second is the variety of events and activities around the ice rink, which range from live DJs who soundtrack your skate to superb late-night shopping opportunities. And the third is the ability to enhance your ice-skating experience with “skate extras:” These vary in decadence (and price) from champagne and chocolates to a two-night stay at Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star The Savoy. Add all three of these factors together, and it’s easy to argue that this is the ultimate in outdoor ice skating.
Open 8:45 a.m. through 10:30 p.m. Regular tickets: $23.50 adults, $16.50 children. Book tickets.
All three ice-skating venues are open every day (except Christmas Day) until January 5, 2014.
Photos Courtesy of Gideon Mendel and Tower of London