Christmas means London’s outdoor skating rinks are back up and running. 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: 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.
The prices given are for adult tickets and inclusive of online booking fees and skate hire. Students and children generally get in cheaper and family tickets are available. And as annoying as booking fees are, it’s better to book ahead than risk your chosen session being sold out (yes, even at 9am).
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. Off peak season runs until 1 December and then 8-14 January 2018. Even then, there are different prices depending on what time of day you go.
On weekdays during off peak, the 10am and 11.15am skate sessions are £8.90 per adult. Prices sneak up from the 12.30pm session, reaching £16.15 in the evening. £16.15 is also the price whatever the time during off-peak weekends.
Between 2-14 December and 3-7 January it’s £14.65 for weekday mornings / £17.35 for evenings and weekends.
True cheapos will want to avoid 15 December-2 January, where the cheapest ticket is £17.35 per session (and priciest is £19.35). Save your money and buy yourself a mulled wine in the Skate Lounge afterwards.
If you want to go ultra-Cheapo, you can try avoiding booking fees by turning up in person at the box office. A handful of tickets are available for each day, meaning it’s theoretically possible to skate for £7.50 but be warned: day tickets go fast.
Natural History Museum
Go skating and then see the dinosaurs! The NHM’s skating rink has a similar pricing structure throughout the day as Somerset House: the earlier you go, the cheaper it is. The weekday slot between 10am and 1.40pm is the best value, giving plenty of skating time for £12.65. The same price after 2pm only gets you a 50-minute session, and then from 3pm it costs £15.95. £15.95 is the cheapest price on a weekend, but only for the earliest and last slots on each day.
Unlike Somerset House, tickets don’t get more expensive the closer you are to Christmas and New Year, so if you really must go skating on Christmas Eve, it’s better to head to South Kensington than Strand.
The Canary Wharf skating rink stays open until 24 February 2018, so it’s worth bearing in mind long after festive shenanigans are over. The first session of each day—between 9am and 12.15pm, depending on the date—costs £9.95 instead of the usual £16.95. This applies on weekends too, making it one of the cheapest ways to get your skating fix outside the working week, even if it does mean getting to the Docklands for 9am. There’s also an off-peak discounted rate of £14.50 so long as your session doesn’t run beyond 4pm on weekdays, with the exception of 11 December-2 January 2018 and 11-19 February 2018.
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. Off-peak skating tickets cost £9.50, standard tickets cost £14.50 and peak tickets cost £15.50 (plus a transaction fee of £3-£6, depending on how many you’re buying). The question now is: when is off peak? The answer is: not simple.
Until Thursday 23 November, off peak is all day. Weekends are always a mix of standard and peak, and Friday evenings from 8 December are also peak. On weekdays between Friday 24 November and Friday 1 December, weekdays are off peak until 3pm; 4pm and later is standard price. Between Monday 4 December and Friday 15 December, weekdays only have two off peak sessions, at 10am and 11am, apart from Fridays when it’s just 10am. After that it’s standard pricing. Off peak disappears from Monday 18 December, replaced by a mixture of standard and peak. So that’s that.
Tower of London
It’s not the cheapest rink around, but skating at the Tower of London has the added advantage of being the same price all the time. None of this peak/off-peak malarkey. It’s £14.50 all the time, whether you want to skate at 8pm on Christmas Eve or 11am on 28 November. Even adding a mini bottle of prosecco only takes the cost up to £22. That’s really not bad. And you’re right in front of the Tower of London.
Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court skating rink works on the same principles as the Tower of London (not surprising as it’s run by the same company). One price, whenever you go. The only difference is it’s ever-so-slightly cheaper: £14 for whenever you want to take to the ice. Does it get more festive than skating at a Tudor palace? Possibly not.
This isn’t one of the major rinks and as such it’s a fair bit smaller, taking a maximum of 50 people. It’s attached to a Skylight’s rooftop bar in Tobacco Dock, which has replaced its summer croquet and petanque with a skating rink as a fun thing to do when you’re bored of drinking mulled cider and eating fondue (as if you can ever get bored of eating fondue). Tickets cost £10, can only be bought on the day, and get you 45 minutes of skating. Open until 14 January 2018.