INSPIRATION • November 2019
There’s no surer sign that the winter season is under way than the glide of skates on ice. From man-made rinks in twinkly city-centre settings to frozen canals, writer Rachel Truman takes a twirl on the world’s most beautiful rinks
Get your skates on to take a turn on Paris’s loveliest – and the world’s biggest – ice-skating rink as it returns for one last winter. Le Grand Palais de Glaces has set up underneath the glass dome of the elegant Grand Palais for five seasons. The vast space is on the Champs-Élysées and will close for renovations in 2020. Expect a super-charged experience with lights, music and sculptures. There’s a dedicated area for kids, while, at night, light shows, DJs and giant disco balls transform the rink into one huge dancefloor.
Le Grand Palais de Glaces runs from 13 December 2019 to 8 January 2020
London has its fair share of ice-skating rinks with stunning backdrops. You can twirl beneath the extraordinary architecture of the Natural History Museum or take to the ice in the Tower of London’s moat, but none quite matches the majesty of Somerset House. In the neoclassical courtyard, skaters glide beneath a sparkling Christmas tree. Late-night sessions, Skate Lates, see renowned DJs play sets rink-side. Warm up or cool down, depending on your exertions, with a hot chocolate or cocktail at the Fortnum’s Lodge.
Skate at Somerset House runs from 13 November 2019 until 12 January 2020
Strap on your skates for a quintessential New York winter experience at Wollman Skating Rink, Central Park – it’s hard to imagine a more romantic and festive backdrop. Beginners can join ‘learn to skate’ sessions while confident skaters can sign up for figure skating and ice dancing. The rink can become crowded, so prepare for queues and remember to take cash, as you can’t pay by card.
Wollman Rink is open from late October to early April, weather permitting
St Petersburg is as pretty as a picture in winter and a natural place to take to the ice. Head to Kirov Central Park on Yelagin Island, a popular spot thanks to its palace, gardens, lakes and woodland trails, to twirl around the ice rinks (one natural, one man-made). Enjoy the snowy scenes of the main ice rink on the big square, decked out with a Christmas tree – it’s like gliding through the pages of a Russian novel. You can also rent skis and slide off to explore the island’s frozen trails.
The Kirov Central Park ice-skating rink operates throughout the winter
As the temperature plummets in Canada’s capital – an easy two hour drive from Montreal – anticipation rises that Rideau Canal will freeze over once again, transforming itself into a winter playground. This free urban skateway attracts up to 20,000 people a day, but as the world’s largest naturally frozen skating rink, there’s room for everyone. Meandering through Ottawa’s centre and diverse surrounding neighbourhoods, it’s a breezy way to see some sights. Fuel your explorations with poutine (French fries and cheese curds) or a beavertail (cinnamon pastry) from canal-side shacks.
The Rideau Canal Skateway generally runs from January to late February or early March, weather dependent
Chicago has seriously stunning ice rinks, and the prettiest is perhaps the Skating Ribbon at Maggie Daley Park. This winter attraction takes skaters on a quarter-of-a-mile loop, delivering sensational skyline views – if you do it in the evening as Chicago lights up, it’s particularly beautiful. You can take the edge off your chilly extremities with a hot chocolate, and, best of all, access to the rink is free.
The Maggie Daley Park Ice-Skating Ribbon runs from December through to March
Locals have been zipping around the frozen lake in front of Vajdahunyad Castle since 1870, back when ice skating was a popular pastime of the Hungarian elite. The romantic appeal will hit even the most reluctant of skaters as they whirl around next to the imposing gothic building. Dreamy setting aside, it’s also Europe’s largest outdoor rink. Feeling the burn? Soak weary muscles in one of Budapest’s famous thermal baths.
Budapest’s City Park Outdoor Ice Rink is usually open from mid-November until the end of February