Winter is not all about staying inside by a fire, but also getting out in the fresh air and enjoying outdoor winter activities. Ice-skating is the perfect winter activity for all ages and a great way to get some much-needed exercise while enjoying the festive season. I’ve chosen some of the best outdoor skating rinks around the world which rank high for atmosphere. Get your skates on and head to one of these fabulous outdoor rinks:
When: 12th November 2014 to 11th January 2015
Though there are many popular outdoor skating rinks to choose from in London, the most atmospheric is definitely Somerset House. The 900-square-metre rink is set inside a spectacular neo-classical 18th century courtyard next to a beautifully decorated Christmas tree. This year’s partner, Fortnum & Mason, will be here to entice skaters to indulge in a post-skate cream tea or truffles and champagne in the Fortnum’s Lodge. After dark, the ice rink becomes the venue for exclusive ‘club nights’ with well-known international DJs spinning tunes until late.
Central Park in New York City, USA
When: November 2014 to March 2015
Ice-skating is a winter tradition in New York City going back to the winter of 1858 when Central Park’s lake was transformed into a skating rink. Today Central Park boasts two ice rinks: one at the southern end of the park called Wollman Rink, and the other at the northern end at Lasker Rink. Central Park’s winter wonderland framed by Manhattan’s impressive cityscape makes this an unforgettable experience for skating lovers, especially after nightfall when the skyline is lit up with twinkling lights.
Rathausplatz in Vienna, Austria
When: 24th January 2015 to 8th March 2015
Vienna’s Rathausplatz, the square facing the city’s stunning Gothic-style town hall, is another unique backdrop for an outdoor skating rink. With 6000 square metres, this is one of the biggest outdoor rinks in Europe, taking the form of a maze, with several large rinks connected with ice lanes, so that skaters can easily skate from one to the other. This one-of-a-kind skating experience is part of Winter Eistraum, an annual outdoor winter event.
Varosliget Park in Budapest, Hungary
When: November 2014 – March 2015
At 12,000 square metres, the ice rink in Budapest’s Varosliget Park is not only Europe’s biggest outdoor skating rink but also one of the most scenic. The rink is actually the frozen lake located in front of the beautiful Vajdahunyad Castle, built in a variety of styles: Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque. Skating here is a favourite winter activity for locals. Don’t miss a visit to the festive Christmas market at the castle and warm up with a cup of hot chocolate or a glass of mulled wine.
The Rideau Canal Skateway in Ottawa, Canada
When: January through to late February 2015
Every winter, Ottawa’s Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, becomes a 7.8-kilometre-long skating rink, the largest in the world. This ‘skateway’ begins near Canada’s neo-Gothic-style parliament building, running through the centre of the city, past the National Arts Centre to Dow’s Lake. There are several rest areas to stop at along the way where skaters can heat up and have a snack or hot drink. Open 24 hours, there are even locals who use the skateway to skate to work.
Ice Park in Zagreb, Croatia
When: 5th December 2014 to 18th January 2015
As part of a wide range of festive activities planned during the Advent in Zagreb festival, King Tomislav Square has been transformed into a giant 1,940 square metre ice park where you can put your skates on and enjoy the magical ambiance created by the square’s majestic buildings and trees covered with decorative garlands of lights. Stalls set up next to the rink offer many culinary delights and of course the traditional mulled wine served steaming hot.
Kungsträdgården Park in Stockholm, Sweden
When: mid-November 2014 to March 2015
The rink at Kungsträdgården Park is Stockholm’s most popular outdoor ice skating rink and a must-do winter activity. After dark, the rink is lit up with festive lights, while live music creates a cheerful atmosphere as do the stands selling glögg (Swedish mulled wine). Be sure to visit the Kungstädgården’s Christmas Market which is just next door (open until 22nd December).
Paola Fiocchi Van den Brande is Director of Passepartout Homes Ltd.