One of the best things about the approach of Christmas is that it heralds the return of London’s ice rinks. Located throughout the city, the selection varies from well-established rinks encased by royal palaces to more recent additions bordered by some of the city's most impressive landmarks. Here’s our pick of the city’s best – they’ll be open for a limited time, and tickets sell fast, so get your skates on.
1. Canary Wharf
Canary Wharf's ice rink distinguishes itself with a feature never before seen in the UK: embedded directly beneath the surface of the ice, an eight-kilometre-long grid of shimmering LED lights provide a dazzling cascade of colours and patterns. Think of it as an updated, wintry take on the illuminated disco dancefloors of yore. Complementing the display below is a lighting rig suspended from the ceiling above - this is one of the city’s few covered rinks so a wise option if rainy weather is forecast - and an agreeably upbeat soundtrack of pop and dance tracks. And the Canary Wharf setting provides another advantage too - the district’s depopulation each weekend means Saturday and Sunday sessions here can be markedly quieter than at the city centre’s more established rinks.
When: Until February 24.
Where: Canada Square Park, Canary Wharf, E14 5AB.
How much: From £14.50 to £16.95 for adults; kids £10.50 to £10.95.
Tube: Canary Wharf
2. Somerset House
Eternally elegant Somerset House provides one of the most grown-up ice-skating experiences available in the capital. This year’s offering includes "Skate Lates" nights, when local DJs descend on the rink to spin the vinyl. Those wanting a little less physical exertion may prefer the earlier day and evening sessions, followed by a trip to Fortnum's Lodge or the Skate Lounge. Children taking their first tentative steps onto the rink can learn the ropes in the Polar Cub Club, which is a dedicated training space for newcomers aged under eight. Older skaters can learn the ropes at the ice rink's skate school, which offers a series of skating lessons on weekends.
When: November 15 - January 14. Open daily 10am-10.15pm (Occasional Club Nights run until 11.30pm and there are a smattering of morning sessions from 8.45am to 9.45am).
Where: Somerset House, The Strand, London WC2R 1LA.
How much: From £7.50; a booking fee is applied to each ticket booked online, plus a one-off transaction charge.
Tube: Temple; Charing Cross; Covent Garden.
3. Winter Wonderland
Winter Wonderland returns to Hyde Park this year, along with its feted ice rink, which is a firm favourite with families. It's easy to see why: the ice is surrounded by countless fairground rides, carousels, a Christmas market and festive food stalls – you may want to blinker or blindfold your charges on the way to the ice lest you spend an unplanned fortune en route. The rink itself has plenty to recommend it, however. It is illuminated by garlands of fairy lights and has a Victorian bandstand as its centre point.
When: November 17 - January 1. Open daily 10am-10pm (open at 5pm on November 17).
Where: Hyde Park, London W2 2UH.
How much: Adults from £9.50; children from £7.50.
Tube: Hyde Park Corner.
4. Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court Palace ice rink is the one to go to if you want to make a day of it. A 35-minute train journey from Waterloo, the Tudor palace was an abode to Henry VIII and is one of Britain’s most imposing royal residences (it’s well worth setting aside some time to explore its grounds while you’re there). Plenty of visitors do just that and this is a popular choice for competent skaters looking to impress new dates. If you’re not quite as nimble on the ice you can enlist an instructor to give you a supervised skating session.
When: November 24 - January 7. Open daily 11am-10pm (open daily from 9am from December 18).
Where: Hampton Court Palace, East Molesey, Surrey, KT8 9AU.
How much: Adults from £14; children from £10.
Train: Hampton Court.
5. Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum provides a rather magnificent backdrop for this ice rink, which draws crowds of tourists visiting South Kensington's numerous cultural attractions - sessions can get crowded here. In addition to the main 1000sq metre ice rink, a fairground carousel and rinkside cafe and bar are in operational while the rink is in place. And then of course there are the adjacent attractions of the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the V&A, the permanent exhibition spaces of which are all free to enter should you want to turn your skate session into a complete day out.
When: Until January 7; Open daily 11am-9pm.
Where: Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD.
How much: Adults from £12.65; children from £8.80; families from £39.60.
Tube: South Kensington
6. Tower of London
Set against the Tower of London's floodlit walls, and with the Thames gushing past nearby, the Tower of London ice rink is one of the city's most spectacular. Having said that, previously there were numerous complaints about standing water on the ice, as well as griping about it being too busy (though what do you expect at one of Britain's most popular attractions?). Should the crowds get too much, skaters can take rest in the adjacent Ice Bar & Café, where festive snacks are served.
When: November 17 - January 7. Open daily from 11am to 10pm (open daily from 9am on December 18)
Where: Tower of London, EC3N 4AB.
How much: Adults from £14.50; children from £10.50.
Tube: Tower Hill.
7. Clapham Common
The first ever ice rink on Clapham Common is one of several attractions on offer at Winterville, which returns this year, created by the co-founders of Field Day and Street Feast in London. The “alternative festive experience” features a backyard cinema, roller disco and golf course in addition to a fairground and Christmas market.
When: November 23 - January 1. Open daily 12pm-10pm (Mon-Fri) and 11am-10pm (Sat & Sun)
Where: Clapham Common
How much: Adults £14; children £9.50; families £36.
Tube: Clapham Common