Christmas means London’s outdoor skating rinks are back up and running, so whether you’re an expert skater or spend most of the time gripping the sides for dear life, it’s a fun way to spend an hour.
There’s one problem with this great idea though: it can be hella expensive. But if you’re willing to go outside of popular times you can skate for less than half the price that some less-savvy Londoners will cough up. Here, then, is our guide to London skating on the cheap.
Note: While some ordinarily popular rinks are closed due to the COVID-19 disruptions, others are opting to open for business this season.
Quick tips to save money at London’s outdoor skate rinks
Look for off-peak slots and early-bird options, often found on morning sessions on weekdays. While the fixed price spots (like Tower Bridge) may not seem great, they can work out cheaper on ‘peak’ times than places with varied prices, so keep that in mind if you want to skate closer to Christmas. Of course, students and children generally get in cheaper and family tickets are available to help save too. Also, as annoying as booking fees are, with such a popular pastime it’s better to book ahead than risk your chosen session being sold out (yes, even at 9 am).
1. Somerset House
The grand dame of London’s outdoor skating rinks, amid the Neoclassical splendour of Somerset House’s courtyard, this is also one of the most popular. Somerset House knows this, and the website helpfully lists the most popular dates.
Prices start at £11.00 for adults and £8.50 for children and concessions (including those on PIP and Univrsal Credit)—plus a £2.95 transaction fee per order. There are Skate Lates again this year, which combine DJ performances with evening skating. To snag the cheaper prices go earlier in the day if you can and opt for off-peak dates.
For a little after-skate treat, there are a few gourmet and alpine dining options as well as champagne/cocktails at the Skate Lounge.
Ice Skating at Somerset House
2. The Natural History Museum
Go skating and then see the dinosaurs! The NHM’s skating rink has cheaper slots in the morning but also late at night.
Peak days are from December 8th to January 6th when all days fall under the £15.95 to £17.05 pricing options. During off-peak times, however, weekday slots cost between £12.65 and £15.95, although weekends remain at the higher prices.
There are bonus items to add like afternoon tea or champagne if youre looking for a treat and some late-night sessions will feature live music and DJs.
Natural History Museum Ice Skating
3. Canary Wharf
The Canary Wharf skating rink stays open until 26 February 2022, so it’s worth bearing in mind long after festive shenanigans are over. The first session of each day starts between 10 am and 10:35 am, depending on the date. Pricing is £17.95 for adults and £11.95 for children. There’s also a family package for 2 adults and 2 children from £49.50. A £2.50 booking fee will apply for online ticket purchases.
Canary Wharf Ice Skating
|Advance sales: £17.95|
|Advance sales: £11.95|
4. Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
The Christmas extravaganza is back in Hyde Park, with its gigantic wheel, circus and entertainment shows, places to eat and drink and, of course, a skating rink. The bandstand provides live music and the chance to skate is pretty consistent—running from 10am – 10pm with sessions lasting 50 minutes. Skate rental is included and it’s suggested your arrive 20 minutes early to get your skates and be ready to go.
Off-peak adults tickets cost £10.50, standard tickets cost £14.50 and peak tickets cost £15.50.
For children, it’s £7.50, £9.50 and £10.50 respectively and concession tickets save a pound on the adult fare. Family tickets cost £30.00, £38.00 and £42.00.
There are booking fees of between £3-£10 depending on your total amount. Tickets will be available from the box office but may sell out.
The question now is: When is off peak? The answer is not simple. Unfortunately, this information is only available when booking tickets and varies wildly, but generally weekends are entirely peak (bar the odd early session), and off-peak tickets can only be found on weekday mornings. Try the first 1-5 sessions of weekdays, up until Dec 14th. After that, some morning sessions are standard while afternoon are peak, including Christmas Eve, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Eve, which is pretty good. There is no drop back down to off-peak after Christmas or New Year’s, but there are more standard prices to be had than peak prices on balance.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
5. Hampton Court Palace
In the past Hampton Court had fix prices for skating. This year, there is a slight variation depending on date and time. Adult tickets range from £16.00 to £19.00. Tickets for children up to 12 years old are £11.50 to £14.00. Family tickets offer some discounts. A £1.20 booking fee applies to online purchases. Even with the new pricing scheme, the peak prices are among the most afforable in the list. Not to mention, does it get more festive than skating at a Tudor palace? Possibly not.
Hampton Court Palace Ice Skating
|Advance sales: £16.00|
|Advance sales: £11.50|
6. Skylight Tobacco Dock
This isn’t one of the major rinks and as such it’s a fair bit smaller, but it is the only rooftop ice rink in Europe, so it’s an unusual one. It’s attached to a Skylight’s rooftop bar in Tobacco Dock (imagine a colder version of above, with more coats), which has replaced its summer croquet and petanque with a skating rink as a fun alternative if you’re bored of drinking mulled cider and eating fondue (as if you can ever get bored of eating fondue). Tickets cost £12, can only be bought on the day, and get you 45 minutes of skating. Booking a table/igloo is recommended. Open until mid January.
7. Tower of London – cancelled for 2021
Tower of London Ice Skating
|Advance sales: £17.20|
|Advance sales: £12.70|
While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. This article was originally published in November 2017. Last updated in October 2021.