Over the years I’ve spent in London, I’ve taken part in quite a few different Christmas traditions. We’ve been to Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland, Christmas at Kew, and generally spent multiple hours fighting our way through horrendous crowds on Oxford Street to see the twinkling lights for about ten seconds before we bolt down a side street and vow never to do that again.
But the one tradition we do every year, without fail, is go ice skating on one of London’s outdoor rinks. I had never skating outdoors before moving here, and it is definitely one of the best ways to get in the festive spirit.
We’ve tried a couple of different locations, but our favorite is the Natural History Museum. It’s right in the heart of Kensington, the purpleish light on the museum makes it look enchanting, and it truly defines a London Christmas.
Forgive me for the qualities of these photos, as taking my actual camera out onto the ice seemed like an exceptionally bad idea, but hopefully they’ll give you a taste of the trials and tribulations of our evening.
First things first – they tell you to get to the rink about 40 minutes before your scheduled time. LISTEN TO THEM. We probably ended up getting there about 25-30 minutes before our scheduled time, and while we did get on the ice with everyone else, there are so many people that need to get their skates and check their bags that you really want to give yourself as much time as possible.
Skate rental is included with your entrance fee, and bag checking is 2 pounds per item. We combined both of our backpacks into one giant item and they had no problems with that. The items are kept behind the counter, always staffed, so we didn’t fear for our things while we were out trying not to land face down on the frozen water beneath our feet.
They zamboni the ice (smooth it out) after each 50 minute session so you have fresh ice to skate on, which is great!
I only skate once a year at Christmas now, though I used to a lot more (not well, but still). I didn’t want to lug my own skates into London this year though, so I used the rental states and WOW. It’s definitely more of a challenge when you don’t have skates you’re used to. Here I am looking fashionable in my ski jacket (it was FREEZING this past week in London) and showing you that I can still stand up on the ice.
We only saw a couple of wipeouts, thankfully, and everybody seemed to get back up just fine with only their egos bruised.
If you’re looking for a family, couple, or friend group activity this Christmas, definitely consider a few laps around the Natural History Museum ice rink. If you come in the daytime, you can actually go into the museum for free and have a look around before spending the evening sipping hot chocolate and attempting to be the next Michelle Kwan.
There is also a carousel and a cafe upstairs selling drinks and snacks so you can reward yourself for a job well done or commiserate with each other on how many times you got a taste of the ice.
You can find more about times and prices here.
We were guests of the Natural History Museum, but all opinions are my own.