The Sunday Times calls Somerset House “the coolest rink of all,” and they’re spot on. After four years in London, I finally made it out to the city’s most beloved ice rink and am happy to report that it is absolutely amazing. Designed in the late 1700s to house prominent public offices, historic Somerset House is now one of the city’s most celebrated cultural and arts centre. Its photogenic facade and grand corridors have been featured in many popular films, including Sherlock Holmes, The Duchess and Sleepy Hollow. Every November, Somerset House assumes its most famous role as a stunning ice skating venue. Come along and take a look at all you can do at Somerset House this winter season!
Ice Skating at Somerset House
Enter Somerset House from its Thameside entrance and you’ll have to walk up a few flights of stairs before the grand courtyard, which is fully decked out in festive lights and holiday decorations, is fully revealed to you. At the centre of it all is a 900 square metre (9,700 square feet) ice rink.
I visited on a busy Saturday night and there was still plenty of room to skate. Tickets for an hour of skating cost around £16, with discounts available for students and under 12s. I highly recommend securing tickets online in advance, because they go quickly! Skate lessons and Polar Bear Club tickets (for children 4-8) are already sold out for the whole season.
A part of what makes Somerset House so popular with skaters are its themed nights. Glad Tidings Tuesday operates every Tuesday evening until Christmas and is an especially festive occasion. Choirs stop by the courtyard to sing Christmas carols and visitors can even sample yuletide treats.
On select Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, Somerset House turns into a nightclub on ice. Best suited for adults, Club Nights feature prominent DJs and musical acts that keep the party going until nearly midnight.
Whether you’re just feeling peckish or are ready to tuck into a full meal, Somerset House has you covered. Fortnum’s Lodge is on hand serving local favourite Welsh Rarebit, as well as sweet and savoury pastries and a wide selection cocktails. Over in the east wing of Somerset House, Ferdinanz & Wells Cafe has everything from artisan panettone and mince pies, to hot dogs and mulled wine. For something a little more filling, head over to Tom’s Kitchen for venison and cranberry casserole, braised beef cheek and other British specialties.
Shopping at The Christmas Arcade
If you stop by Somerset House this holiday season you’re in for a special treat. Event organisers have teamed up with Fortnum & Mason, a legendary Central London department store that’s a favourite even with Her Majesty the Queen. Fortnum & Mason is one of the best London spots for Christmas decorations, and this year they’ve brought their magical touch to Somerset House.
You’ll find the entrance to the Christmas Arcade right next to the ice rink. The Fortnum & Mason shop occupies a whole wing of Somerset House, which consists of one long passageway flanked by dozens of different rooms. Each room features a theme, such as Gifts for Him, Gifts for Her and Chocolates and Truffles – making shopping an absolute breeze. You can also pick up all sorts of luxury Christmas decorations and cards here, as well as Fortnum & Mason’s famous hampers.
If you can’t make it out to Fortnum & Mason’s store on Piccadilly, their pop up shop at Somerset House is the next best thing!
Make it a Visit to Remember
If you want to get into the holiday spirit, London style, why not pair a skating session with champagne or afternoon tea? There are three different combination experiences available, all of which can be booked online.
- Skate, champagne, and truffles – £25
- Skate and classic cream tea – £35
- Skate and afternoon tea – £60
Between the enormous ice rink, sparkling holiday lights and one-of-a-kind shopping experience, a trip to Somerset House is a must if you’re in London this holiday season. Even if you don’t fancy ice skating, come for the music, the atmosphere, the shopping and the festive food. I promise, you won’t be disappointed!
Opening Times: The ice rink at Somerset House is open from 11 November 2014 to 11 January 2015.
Tickets: Tickets are available online here. Advanced booking is highly recommended.
Getting There: Somerset House is located next to Temple Underground Station (District & Circle Line), about 15 minutes from Kensington.
(Image Credits: Images courtesy Somerset House, Fortnum & Mason and aglet)