Alfresco Ice Skating
Outdoor ice rinks are a relatively recent addition to the winter city, and it's fair to say that Londoners have taken to them like ducks to frozen water -- which is to say enthusiastically, if not always gracefully. The king of the rinks remains the original, in the grandiose courtyard of Somerset House, Strand (tel. 020/7845-4600; Tube: Temple). The rink is open annually between late November and late January, with tickets generally costing £10 to £13. DJs spin sounds for the weekend evening sessions.
Every year more rinks appear, and today visitors to London can skate, spin, step, and stumble in a number of beautiful locations, including the Natural History Museum and the historic grounds of the Tower of London. Tickets for both are usually around £10 to £15 and can be booked in advance.
Scattered throughout town, you’ll see racks of identical red bikes in racks. They’re yours to borrow, day or night! They are called Santander Cycles (www.tfl.gov.uk/modes/cycling/santander-cycles), but Londoners call them Boris Bikes, after the blowsy former mayor who brought them here (or Barclays Bikes after a previous sponsor), and they provide more than 10.3 million rides a year. Interestingly, it’s been reported this is the only part of Transport for London that makes a profit.
It works like this: You choose one and pull it out of the rack by lifting the seat. You ride it to any other docking station in the city with a free space, and you park it by slotting the front wheel in until a green light appears on the dock. When you’re ready to ride somewhere else, just get another bike. You buy the right to borrow bikes for 24 hr. for £2, and that gets you 30 min. (payments are on your credit card) every time you pull a bike out of the rack. Go past that, and you pay the same rate: £2 per extra 30 min. The idea is for you to use a bike as you need it, not to keep it with you all day. You are required to follow the same traffic rules that cars do, which won’t be easy, although the city’s huge parks are safer places to cycle. Locations of nearby docks are listed on every pylon. Use the free apps Santander Cycles or Citymapper to find nearby stations with space.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.