Ice skating London: The best ice rinks across the capital

David Ellis, Harry Fletcher
London icon: the Natural History Museum's beloved ice rink

London might lack picturesque lakes and the requisite freezing temperatures for natural ice skating spots, but where there's a will, there's a way.

Beginning with early starters the Natural History Museum, many temporary rinks pop up over winter, some taking advantage of London's most iconic scenery and some squeezing in among the skyscrapers.

Typically, everywhere gets extremely busy, so play it safe and book your tickets in advance: check each rink's website for details of prices and availability. Discounts are widely available for those booking ahead of time.

Be aware that for many places, prices vary according to when you plan to skate: weekends and evenings are typically the most popular sessions, and consequently the most expensive. If you're comparing two places on price alone, its also wise to consider how long each skate will last: some run longer than others. Most places offer skate-aids for nervous skaters, which are are typically £5 - £10 extra to hire. Almost everywhere includes skate hire in their ticket price, though many allow customers to bring their own. Note that speed-skates are usually not permitted anywhere.

The list below is ordered by opening date.

Natural History Museum ice rink

Ice skating at the Natural History Museum has grown into something of a London institution: the scenery is overwhelmingly beautiful, the lights frame things like it's a film, and the 1000 square metre rink holds its own. The fairground carousel makes a gorgeous sight, too.

The first floor café/bar makes for a good spot to watch other skaters once your session is over and there's plenty on, with live acoustic sessions throughout the season. Saturday mornings host a penguin skate club for the little ones to learn, and there are wheelchair skate sessions throughout the rink's run.

Cromwell Road, SW7 5BD, October 19 until January 12,

Ice skating at Skylight

Skating up high? Why not? Skylight has given itself a makeover for the winter and now boasts London's first rooftop rink – and besides skating, there's a chance to do a little ice hockey shooting, too. You can fill up on street food, and there'll be DJs spinning to keep festive spirits high.

Tobacco Dock, E1W 2SF, from November 1,

Skate at Somerset House

The efficiently named Skate at Somerset House comes in two forms: during the day, it's a gorgeous spot to glide about in the ever-impressive courtyard, while in the evening, they host Skate Lates, which see top DJs and musical acts take over the ringside. They've got some good names, too: Hot Chip's Joe Goddard, DJ Yoda and Nabihah Iqbal will all be performing. As ever, Fortnum & Mason are providing refreshments: there'll be lashings of champagne and a winter arcade if you need to do a little Christmas shopping. One of our favourites.

Strand, WC2R 1LA, November 13 until January 12,

Bar Elba

New this year, Waterloo rooftop spot Bar Elba is turning into a little winter haven from November 13. Expect plenty of mulled wine and mugs of hot gin, as well as blankets to cosy up into on festive evenings. Best of all? Skating on the rink in November is totally free for guests visiting the bar – booking ahead is still required though.

From November 13, 109-117 Waterloo Road, SE1 8UL,

Tower of London ice skating

They call this "London's most dramatic rink" and in fairness, and the Tower of London as a backdrop certainly is gorgeous. Pretty with fairylights, the Tower of London's offering also features an ice bar and café to go with its stunning views.

Tower of London, EC3N 4AB, November 16 until January 5,

Winter Wonderland ice rink at Hyde Park

Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park returns for its eleventh year with its picturesque open-air ice rink, which also happens to be the UK's largest. A Victorian bandstand, which will host live music, is the centrepiece, and the ice is illuminated by more than 100,000 lights. Skating runs from 10am until 10pm, with 50 minute sessions running every hour on the hour. There's a photographer on hand if you want a souvenir, but if you're just watching, there's a spectator's stand serving hot chocolate and festive drinks.

Knightsbridge W2 2UH, November 21 until January 5,

Hampton Court ice rink and bar

Henry VIII's magnificent 500-year-old red-brick Tudor palace makes for a spectacular backdrop for ice skating, and there's an ice bar and café for afterwards. In the day time, it's family-friendly, while once night falls, it becomes more date-friendly as they light up the ring with hundreds of coloured lights.

East Molesey, KT8 9AU, November 22 until January 5,

Covent Garden

Covent Garden is always one of the most festive places in the capital at Christmas time – with one of the best lights displays you'll find anywhere. This year, it’s about to get even more into the festival spirit by launching its inaugural ice rink in collaboration with Tiffany in the East Piazza. Don’t miss it.

East Piazza, Covent Garden, WC2E 9DD, November 29 until December 26,