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Top five things to do in London: On Ice

6 November 2012 Emma Wright

For some, ice-skating is a Christmas tradition of equal parts fun and terror. For others, it is little different to a walk in the park. It is however, acknowledged to be one of the season’s most magical of pastimes and we’ve compiled a list of the best rinks for you lucky things.

It was changes to bridges and the addition of an embankment that put an end to skating on the Thames back in 1814; the possibility of the river freezing diminished by the change in flow and depth. The first River Thames frost fair had been in 1607! ‘Not to worry!’ cried organisations across the capital, and today lovely Londoners and London visitors like yourselves are able to skate in locations just as fabulous as the Thames itself. Here are London Calling’s top five:

1. For many, an icy turn about the beautiful eighteenth-century courtyard at Somerset House is an annual tradition. Between 16th November and 6th January, find a 900-metre-square ice rink with a skate school for beginners, ‘Penguin Club’ sessions for children, a rink-side bar and lounge- also open to non ticket holders, and a pop-up luxury shopping mall- for treating loved ones, or for those of you who always forget your gloves. So far so lovely, but this rink’s USP is it’s late-night programme. It hosts DJs on selected dates- from Rob Da Bank to Ministry of Sound- and with evenings from vintage nights to disco nights; there's an icy evening for you all.

2.  Winter Wonderland's ice rink is the biggest outdoor rink in the UK, and is illuminated with more than 100,000 lights! Impressive stats there, but the main draw of this rink is the surrounding Wonderland. Should you need defrosting, there's open fires and warm edibles/ drinkables in the markets. Should you require more entertainment, there’s (inhales deeply); a circus, observation wheel, rides, Santa Land and a Magical Ice kingdom. Rink-wise, ice guides are able to look after groups of up to 15 skaters at a time for an additional charge, and wheelchair users are welcome. Head to the rink, which surrounds Hyde Park’s Victorian bandstand, between 23rd November and 6th January.

3. Located in the dry moat, the Tower of London ice rink (aka the more exotic-sounding, ‘Ice at the Tower’) offers an incredible historical setting. Festive sightseeing does not get better than this. Ice guides are available for supervised group skating (again, for an additional charge). As with fellow Historic Royal Palace’s Hampton Court, sessions last an hour and wheelchairs are welcome on the ice except during the last session of the day. Online booking is advised as this is a very popular rink, and it is open between 17th November and 6th January.

4. For those of you who find skating intimidating enough, without the hundreds of others in the rink, nip to the small circular rink nestled behind Liverpool Street Station. This rink also allows visitors to turn up and skate without booking so you can brush up in your lunch hour ahead of any organised group visits! As if it needed another draw, it runs from 16th November until 24th February, for the keenest skaters. The rink is available for private hire (Broomball teams sometimes use the rink) so your party could well arrange to have the space to yourselves.

5. The 720-metre-square Canary Wharf Ice Rink returns this year to its spot surrounded by soaring towers. London’s best-known business district isn’t famed for an ornate, fairy-tale appearance, but each winter is is decked out in fairy lights. This year it also hosts London's first ever ‘skate path’, allowing skaters the chance to leave the main rink and skate through the trees that line the perimeter of Canada Square Park. There’s a rink-side bar and a viewing gallery for those loved ones who still won’t be persuaded onto the ice, or for loved ones who’ve exhausted themselves on ice! It runs from 3rd November to 13th January.

 

 

 

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