Londoners and visitors will be getting their skates on from November through January and taking a twirl in some of the London's most iconic settings. Most London ice skating venues are open from mid-November through the first week in January and are closed on Christmas Day. The cost of admission usually includes skate rental.
Skate to the music during a club night with a DJ at the 10,000-square-foot ice skating rink in front of stately Somerset House, one of the most picturesque spots in the city. The backdrop is a classical 18th century courtyard before the landmark building on The Strand in central London.
Open from November 16 this year, the rink includes a skate school for kids and late-night skate sessions, too. Check out the rinkside bar for drinks and snacks plus a brand new pop-up shopping arcade. The rink is open until 10:15 p.m., and admission starts at £7.50 in November and £12.50 after December 7. Tube stops: Charing Cross, Covent Garden.
Natural History Museum
Dinosaurs and Darwin are interior exhibits while outside, thousands of twinkling lights adorn the Natural History Museum ice rink. It lies in front of this beautifully illuminated Victorian building in the heart of South Kensington. A smaller rink for children and a tall Christmas tree were added for 2012.
Children adore the rink-side carousel, and everyone enjoys warming up at the balcony bar serving Starbucks hot chocolate, mulled wine and other treats beginning November 2. Peak admission is £13.50, with family rates are available. The ice is open until 11 p.m. on Thursday through Saturday evenings, otherwise until 10 p.m. Tube stop: South Kensington.
Far more than just ice skating, the park stages a complete Winter Wonderland with rides and more. The largest rink in the U.K. is decorated by 100,000 lights and surrounded by a giant Ferris wheel and two Christmas circuses with rides and live entertainment. The rink offers one-hour skating sessions until 9 p.m., which cost £13.50 at peak times. Winter Wonderland and Santa in his Grotto are open every day starting November 23.
The Magical Ice Kingdom is new for 2012: a frozen walk-through world sculpted from 200 tons of ice and snow, with a dragon's lair, an ice queen's throne room, a unicorn and a carriage, plus an ice forest kept below freezing. Peak prices are £8, and family tickets are available. Tube stops: Knightsbridge, Hyde Park Corner, Green Park, Marble Arch.
Tower of London
Here's an opportunity to skate around the 11th century Tower of London on the moat surrounding this medieval landmark. It's a good idea to be on your best behavior with the Bloody Tower and Traitor's Gate nearby! On a cloudless night beneath the atmospherically illuminated monument, skaters spin under stars that sparkle like the Crown Jewels inside the tower.
Hour-long sessions go until 10 p.m. Look for a beefeater (tower guard) on ice skates — what a photo opportunity! A snack bar is handy. Peak price for skater sessions is £12.50. Tube stop: Tower Hill.
Office workers who want to take an open-air spin during lunch or have an office party on the ice can head for the rink at Canary Wharf through January 13, 2013. The rink, whose design changes every year, is in Canada Square Park, under the corporate headquarters' soaring skyscrapers. The rink is surrounded by a bounty of shops and restaurants.
An hour of skating costs £12.50 for individual rates, with family tickets available. Go to the website for advance booking to ensure a spot, especially during the most popular times at the end of the workday. Tube stop: Canary Wharf.
Hampton Court Palace
Do you suppose Henry VIII could skate? Imagine what he'd think of 250 skaters twirling around in the shadow of his favorite residence, Hampton Court Palace, magically illuminated by night. Open from December 1, the rink is celebrating its 10th year and has lots of fans. Lessons for children up to age 16 are popular, so booking online is recommended. This rink is open a week later than most others, through January 13, 2013. Tickets at £12.50 for peak times, and family tickets are available. Get there by South West Train from Waterloo to Hampton Court.
Top: Somerset House's ice rink provides a unique opportunity to enjoy ice skating in one of the most grand settings in London. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
Right: Skaters twirl in front of the Natural History Museum in London. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
Left: Even Pippa Middleton skates at Somerset House. (Photo by Nick Harvey/WireImage)