Who says summer is the best time to visit Europe? When the winter arrives, the fun really starts and what better way to keep warm than donning ice skates and doing pirouettes under the stars? From natural lakes to handsome half-timber city centres, here are some of the most picturesque outdoor ice skating rinks in Europe…
Somerset House, UK
This easily one of the prettiest places to skate in London – an elegant ‘grown-up’ experience you’ll get to skate right outside beautiful Somerset House (an important arts and cultural centre). Definitely one for the romantics; expect a huge imposing Christmas tree, plenty of mulled wine, and for the less confident skaters there’s even a skating school on weekends.
City dwellers have been skating in Kungsträdgården (a park in the centre of Stockholm) since 1962, when the rink first opened. Stockholm is a handsome city at the best of times but winter is when the city really comes into its own. Expect a great atmosphere with several stands selling hot drinks and food, and of course the chance of some real snow.
This city is beautiful all year round but at Christmas time there’s definitely more than an extra dash of magic. The outdoor ice rink is located right outside the gorgeous illuminated City Hall and expect nearby stalls offering hot drinks and snacks and background music ranging from pop to the more traditional waltz.
Hotel de Ville, Paris, France
With a location like Paris, any of the city’s outdoor ice skating rinks are going to be pretty spectacular. For a real picture-postcard experience try the outdoor ice rink located right outside the illuminated 19th century Hôtel de Ville (the City Hall). This has fast become a symbol of a wintery Paris, but sadly with long queues to prove it!
With strong flavours of both Germany and France, this pretty half-timber town is one of the most beautiful cities in France. Come wintertime, the romance factor is really cranked up several notches. Twinkling fairy lights and Christmas market stalls surround the city’s Gothic Cathédrale Notre Dame which makes a gorgeous backdrop to the picturesque outdoor ice rink.
Tower of London, UK
Definitely one for the history fans, this ice skating rink can be found embedded into the tower’s moat right next to the famous fortress walls. It’s both a distinctive and discerning location, but like many other major tourist attractions in London, it can get very crowded – make sure you get there early to avoid the worst of tourist crush.
Munich Ice Magic, Germany
The Bavarian city usually synonymous with October beer festivals also makes a great winter destination. When the temperature really starts to fall head for Munich Ice Magic, the city’s largest open-air ice rink which this year will be held at Karlplatz Stachus, the city’s attractive 18th-century square.
Lake Jura, Switzerland
During the winter Lake Jura offers some of the best natural ice skating in the world, and the mountains near the French and Swiss border couldn’t offer a more idyllic backdrop. Expect beautiful snowy unspoilt scenery of the high valley and the chance of skating over the collection of pretty lakes in the Jura region. You may also like our post on the best places to visit in Switzerland.
Lake Corinthia, Austria
For another natural skating experience also consider Southern Austria’s Lake Corinthia. During the winter months the elongated frozen lake has ice thick enough to take the team of skaters who flock here. What could be more beautiful than an outdoor ice rink frees of any walls or other constraints?
This university town in the North of Jutland is home to an ancient centre surrounded by half-timbered buildings. During the winter months, a free outdoor ice rink is constructed in the cosy C.W. Obels Square where you can skate surrounded by handsome buildings and some of the best cafes in Aalborg – very handy when you feel the need to thaw out.
Check out our post on the coolest hotels in Copenhagen.