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The world’s first mechanical ice rink is believed to have been the Glaciarium, opened in London in 1876. In the 150 years since, ice skating rinks have become wintertime staples—even in the world’s warmest places.
From outdoor rinks beneath beautiful castles to unlikely indoor rinks in the desert, these nine ice rinks are among the world’s most picturesque places to skate. So lace up, hit the ice, and and be sure to indulge in a glass of hot chocolate afterwards.
Moscow: GUM Ice Rink
This ice rink has become a symbol of Moscow. Located at the center of the Red Square, visitors come for the ice and stay for the spectacular views. While doing laps, you’ll get up-close views of St. Basil’s Cathedral, the Kremlin, and the GUM Department Store. Visit at night, when twinkling lights make the rink particularly romantic, or on Sundays when famous skaters and hockey players host master classes. Buy your tickets in advance online to avoid spending the night waiting in line.
London: Somerset House
London is the birthplace of the modern ice rink, so it only makes sense that the city still has some of the most fantastic rinks in the world. Somerset House goes big on the holiday cheer with a 40-foot Christmas tree at the head of the rink. Consider visiting on select “club nights” when Somerset House hosts disco dance parties on ice. When you’re done skating, sit on the outside of the rink and indulge in hot chocolate or wine and fondue from the classic British bulwark Fortnum & Mason.
Ottawa, Canada: Rideau Canal
It probably comes as little surprise that the world’s largest naturally frozen ice rink is in Canada. The Rideau Canal in Ottawa is almost five miles long, stretching from downtown to Dows Lake. The canal, which is the size of 90 Olympic ice rinks, welcomes more than one million visitors every year. Because skating five miles straight is exhausting, there are five rest stops peppered throughout the track. Stop in for some heat and a hot chocolate before continuing your adventure.
Paris: L’Hotel de Ville
Located in front of City Hall and a stone’s throw away from the Seine, the L’Hotel de Ville ice rink becomes a meeting point for Parisians every winter. The colors of Paris’s grand Hausmannian buildings are perfectly complemented by the icy dreamscape of the patinoire. Access to the rink is free for everybody, but you’ll have to pay to rent a pair of skates for your laps.
Vienna: Vienna Ice Dream
The aptly-named Vienna Ice Dream is an icy fairy tale. Set in front of the impressive town hall, this 90,000 square-foot ice rink becomes a romantic winter wonderland when the sun sets. Lights twinkle and waltz music plays over loudspeakers. The Ice Dream also has eight lanes for curling.
Colorado: Keystone Lake
There are five acres of frozen lake to skate over at this Colorado attraction. Large festive Christmas trees add a dose of holiday cheer to the skate. But this ice rink is particularly unique in that there are designated areas for hockey players, as well as pucks available for rent. The lake also has a claim to fame: it is the largest Zamboni-maintained ice rink in North America.
Budapest: City Park Ice Rink
Europe’s largest ice rink is also one of its most charming. The City Park Ice Rink in Budapest has been in operation since 1870 (although it didn’t become an artificial ice rink until 1926) and has been entwined in much of the city’s history, for better and for worse. During World War II, the rink was damaged by bombs. But it was repaired and has since become a staple of Budapest in winter. Visit for the fantastic views of Vajdahunyad Castle and a rinkside cup of Hungarian hot chocolate.
New York City: Rockefeller Center
When it’s Christmastime in the city, there is no more iconic place to skate than at Rockefeller Center. The lights of the Rockefeller Center tree and the gold Prometheus Fountain provide an iconic backdrop that’s been enchanting New Yorkers and visitors since 1936. There’s only room on the rink for 150 skaters at a time, so make your reservations well in advance. Although, be aware that as with many iconic New York City experiences, you’re going to pay a premium. A reserved skating time on the ice starts at $60.
Dubai: Dubai Ice Rink
Just because outdoor temperatures may be sweltering doesn’t mean you can’t ice skate in the winter. Buried in the air conditioning of the Dubai Mall is the extravagant city’s Olympic-sized ice rink. It’s an excellent choice for when the desert temperatures outside get to be too much. The rink hosts children’s birthday parties, disco dance nights, and classes for beginners.