Ice skating is easily one of the most treasured winter traditions across Europe, and in some countries it also serves as an important national pastime! From Olympic size indoor rinks to frozen seas and lakes – winter is a great time to dust of the skates and hit the ice. Whether you may wobble a bit or can glide without a care on the ice, skating at one of these fantastic skating rinks is a sure way to enjoy yourself this season.

The Eden Project – Cornwall, England

The Eden Project Ice Rink - ice rinks omio

Ice Skating at The Eden Project in Cornwall – photo courtesy of The Eden Project

Set in Cornwall, the ice skating rink at the Eden Project is a perfectly magical place to spend some time on the ice this winter. The Eden Project was founded in 2001 with the construction of two bio-domes to house a collection of plants from all over the world. Since then it has grown into a favourite learning and adventure centre of many in England, and this season they are celebrating 10 years of winter ice skating. The theme of their ice rink this year is set in a lovely range of snowy mountains featuring a beautiful surrounding arrangement of trees and plants, as well as coloured lighting and fairy lights to make it feel as though you are skating through a magical winter wood. General skate sessions are open to all and scheduled throughout the day, and the Eden Project also offer lessons and special sessions for younger children, schools and families. For the little ones who are learning, penguin aids can be rented for the skate session and a rink cafe is also available for those not wishing to step on the ice.

  • Rink Type: Indoor (Pavilion), artificial ice
  • Prices: Public skates cost £6 for 40 mins and include skate rentals. Half-price skates, special sessions and a skate-pass are also available
  • Opening Season and Times: October, 2014 – 22 February, 2015; session times can be viewed online
  • How to Get There: A bus runs to Eden from St. Austell Station, where you get get a train from London Paddington. Other nearby stations include Luxulyan railway station and Newquay Station. Eden Project will give a discount to those who purchase tickets at the site, who have valid travel tickets by bus or train.

Väike Viik Skating Rink and Baltic Sea – Haapsalu, Estonia

Ice sailing in Estonia - ice rinks omio

Ice sailing in Estonia – Wikimedia Commons: Raul Kern

Haapsalu is a small seaside resort town known for it’s mud baths and castle in Lääne County, Estonia. During the winter time, usually from the end of December in February/March, the coast along the Baltic Sea here freezes and forms a natural ice skating rink. At this time, the Väike Viik (which is a small inlet lake in the town of Haapsalu that connects to the bay) freezes over and becomes a natural outdoor ice skating rink. Locals will hit this rink to spend the afternoon playing hockey or skating with friends. But for those who are the most adventurous, you can also skate out on the bay once it freezes over. You can have a try at kite skiing and ice sailing on the two bays of Haapsalu, Eeslaht and Tagalaht. Of course paying attention to weather reports and local advice about the ice conditions are essential.

  • Rink Type: Outdoor, natural lake/sea
  • Prices: Public access, skating is free and you will need to bring your own equipment
  • Opening Season and Times: Winter, usually from the end of December through to February or March; Public access is available 24/7, however conditions should always be checked
  • How to Get There: Haapsalu is about 101km from Tallinn, the capital of Estonia where there is an international airport and ferry port. Regular trains and buses run from Tallinn to Haapsalu as well as a major road.

Taschenbergpalais – Dresden, Germany

Hotel Taschenbergpalais Kempinski Dresden - Ice Rinks omio

Skating Rink at the Hotel Taschenbergpalais Kempinski in Dresden – photo courtesy of Hotel Taschenbergpalais Kempinski

Dresden is the capital of Saxony, and has one of the most famous Christmas markets in Germany. Within one of the most elegant hotels here, the Taschenbergpalais Kempinski, an ice skating rink is situated as a special event during the holiday season. Superbly nestled into the inner courtyard of the hotel, the rink features a decorated Christmas tree in the middle and the lighting and general hotel surrounding give it a unique and beautiful ambiance. Of course you don’t have to be a guest of the hotel to skate here, as the rink is open to everyone and features special sessions throughout the season like a Ladies Night skate on Mondays that includes a free glass of prosecco and an Afterwork DJ skate on Thursdays. After enjoying your time on the ice you can of course pop over to the famous Christmas market, which is only a few meters away.

  • Rink type: Indoor, artificial ice
  • Prices: adults €6 (€9 with equipment rental), children €3 (€5 with equipment rental)
  • Opening Season and Times: 15/11/14 – 11/01/15; Mo – Fr: 3 p.m. –  10 p.m.; Sa/So: 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
  • How to Get There: The Taschenbergpalais Hotel is right next to the “Zwinger” and the “Semperopera” in the city centre, with tram stations only a few meters away. Dresden itself can be reached by train (the central station is south of the city centre, only a 5-10 minute walk) or by car using the Autobahn A4 or A13. In the northeast of the city there is the airport of Dresden with some international connections.

Patinoire de Liège – Liège, Belgium

Ice Rink, Patinoire de Liège - omio ice skating rinks

Ice Rink, Patinoire de Liège – photo courtesy of Patinoire de Liège

Belgians love ice skating, and when it’s cold enough and the lakes are frozen, people get their ice skates out to enjoy it. Located in Liege, Patinoire de Liège is the second biggest ice skating rink in Belgium and the only olympic one in Wallonia. Opened in 2012, the rink is 1800 square metres and has 1250 seats for ice hockey games. This rink is very popular and the Patinoire de Liège has about 200,000 visitors per year. Some of the special skate sessions offered here include the Jardin des Glaces (Ice Garden),  which is a special session for children with a lot of accessories for them to learn how to skate every Wednesday afternoon and Saturday morning. Occasionally some Light and music show are organised here, and the Liège ice skating rinks is also the home of the Bulldogs Ice Hockey Club.

  • Rink type: Indoor, artificial ice
  • Prices: €5.50 for adults, €9.10 for a special evening skate
  • Opening Season and Times: The rink is open year round, and times can vary with skate sessions daily except on Sundays and with later skates until 11:30 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays
  • How to Get There: Travelling by car : 7, Boulevard Raymond Poincaré à 4020 Liège. By bus take lines 4, 26, 31, 17, 29, 33, 35, or 138 and stop at Pont Longdoz.

FlevOnice – Biddinghuizen, The Netherlands

Flevonice in The Netherlands - ice skating rinks omio

Skating at FlevOnice in the Netherlands – photo courtesy of FlevOnice

Ice skating in the Netherlands is a favourite national pastime as well as a popular sport. It is one of the oldest traditional sports and kids here learn it from a young age. So much so that during the winter when it freezes, Dutch schools will give kids a few days off as ‘ice holidays’.  To get the full feel of the Dutch love for ice skating, you can hit the ice at FlevOnice. This skating rink was opened in 2007 by a family with a passion for ice skating. The Eleven Cities Tour is a very popular Dutch ice skating event that takes place on the river between 11 cities, where people ice skate from each city to city. Unfortunately, the last time it could take place was in 1997 since the river needs to be properly frozen. Of course many people miss this traditional activity, so the family decided to create a really long ice rink to replace it. After originally opening with a 5km long rink, FlevOnice reopened with a full family fun focus including a playground, slide, a nice restaurant and go-karting for young people – making it a fun family park for the winter. The  ice rink here is still an impressive 3 km though, so there is still plenty of ice to skate on! Around 1.5 million litres of water is used for the ice from their one water water spring, which is then cooled by 18 cooling systems. In addition to skating lessons, there is also an ice skating tour, based on the eleven cities tour, where people skate for 200 km that is a great event of the winter season.

  • Rink type: Outdoor
  • Prices: Varies throughout the day, Full day is €15, an afternoon ticket is €12.50, and an evening ticket costs €7.50. Kids’ tickets cost 50% of the adult price. Ice skates can be rented for between €4.50 and €12.50, depending on what skates you like
  • Opening Season and Times: 29/11 – 1/3, everyday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
  • How to Get There: The address is Strandgaperweg 30 in Biddinghuizen. From Amsterdam take the A6 exit 10 Harderwijk/Airport Lelystad. Then left to the N302. After 10 km left to Karekietweg. Then left to N306 and after to Strandgaperweg, also left.

Invernia Valdemoro – Madrid, Spain

Invernia Valdemoro Spain . ice skating rinks omio

Skating lessons at Invernia Valdemoro in Spain – photo courtesy of Invernia Valdemoro

Ice skating in Spain is not the most traditional of activities, as the warm climate has made ice skating rare in the past. However, with large rinks now available it is popular during the winter months and is especially a popular around the holidays. As soon as the Christmas period begins, many of the cities all across Spain set up temporary ice rinks where hundreds of people can attend to enjoy this winter activity. One of the favourite places to take a twirl on the ice is at Invernia, which is located just on the outskirts of Madrid and is about 1800 m² in size. The grandstand allows for 240 spectators and there is a coffee shop where you can enjoy something warm while watching others glide about about the ice.  Invernia Valdemoro offers special session for kindergarten, school groups and big collectives during the week at mornings. A instructor is all the time taking care of the kids, but even the teachers can skate too. You can also find a variety of seasonal events, and this Christmas they will put on a musical performance titled “A Christmas Tale on Ice”. Invernia Valdemoro additionally offers ice skating lessons in different levels, but also ice dancing, ice hockey, curling and competition lessons.

  • Rink type: Indoor, artificial ice
  • Prices: Ticket + skates rental is €10, Individual tickets cost €5, Gloves €3, and Helmet rental €1.50. Special prices for School groups and information about other offers are available online.
  • Opening Season and Times: Public sessions Friday: 18:00 – 21:00, Saturday: 17:00 – 21:00, Sunday: 17:00 – 21:00, Invernia is closed during the summer months
  • How to Get There: Invernia is located in Valdemoro, almost 30 km away from the Madrid city centre. The best option to go by car, A4 exit 26A road E-5 to Valdemoro West. Otherwise, you can get there by public transport with bus service L1 or 422.

Courmayeur Mont Blanc – Aosta Valley, Italy

Courmayeur Mont Blanc, Italy - ice skating rinks omio

Panoramic view at Courmayeur Mont Blanc Italy – photo courtesy of Antonio Furingo

Located in the Courmayeur Forum Sport Center, you will find an indoor skating rink that is open all year long. This Olympic rink measures 60×30 m and offers seats for 3000 people. While ice skating is mostly popular in Italy during the winter months as a seasonal tradition, figure skating, hockey and short track speed skating are all quite popular here – and you’ll find lessons and events for each at the Courmayeur Mont Blanc. During the summer and winter, Courmayeur Skate Club organises various activities for children and the larger Courmayeur Forum Sport Center also offers the chance to play tennis, five-aside football, ping pong, basket, golf indoor, squash, skateboarding, and modern dance. There is also a wellness center, a restaurant and an Ice Bar. The rink has hosted the ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships® 2014 and from the 15th to 18th December 2014, it will host the Italian Figure Skating Championship. Two small hockey teams also train here, Les Aigles du Mont Blanc and i Gladiators Aosta, as well as Italian skating champions Sara Casella and Guia Tagliapietra and the Short Track team since 2011.

  • Rink type: Indoor, artificial ice
  • Prices: Adults entry + rental is €10. Children under 12 entry + rental is €8
  • Opening Season and Times: Open most of the year, but is closed in May. The opening hours change during the season and because of the events.
  • How to Get There: By car take highway A5 Torino-Aosta-Courmayeur or the state highway 26 to Courmayeur, and then to get to the Forum take SS26 to Dolonne. International airports nearby include Milan, Geneva and Turino.

Le Grand Palais des Glaces – Paris, France

Le Grand Palais des Glaces Paris - omio ice skating rinks

DJ Les Nocturnes skate at Le Grand Palais des Glaces in Paris – photo courtesy of Le Grand Palais des Glaces

The Grand Palais is a well known monument of Paris close to the Champs Elysées. It was built to show the excellence of French architecture during the Universal Exposition of 1900. Since 2013, an ice skating rink is installed seasonally inside the Grand Palais from mid-December to the beginning of January, and this rink is actually the biggest indoor ice-skating rink of the world. Ice skating has always been a popular tradition in France. In the past only the nobles and the gentries could afford it but nowadays just about everyone likes to hit the ice during the winter months. Most of the large French cities have both indoor and outdoor (only in winter) ice skating rinks, which can be very expensive to maintain in some southern cities because of the warm weather. Every night at The Grand Palais from 9:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. there is a special party skate session including DJ performances and a light show called Les Nocturnes. As the Grand Palais des Glaces is so ephemeral, it is the perfect place to skate with friends in an unbelievable atmosphere.

  • Rink type: Indoor, artificial ice
  • Prices: Free for children under 3 years old, €10 for children under 12 years old, €15 for the adults. For the night session the price is €25 for everybody (minors should be accompanied), and the prices include skate rental. Tickets can be booked online.
  • Opening Season and Times: This season it is open December 14th to January 4th.
  • How to Get There: Close to the Champs Elysées, the Grand Palais is very easy to find by car and it’s so big that you simply can’t miss it. By public transport you can stop at Champs Elysées – Clémenceau (metro lines 1 and 13) or at Invalides (RER line C, metro lines 8 and 13).

Weissensee – Kärnten (Carinthia), Austria

Weissensee skating Austria - omio ice skating rinks

Ice skating outdoors on the Weissensee – photo courtesy of Weissensee Information

The Weissensee is a 6.5 km² large lake in the Carinthia state of Austria. Every winter it freezes completely and is used as the largest outdoor ice skating rink in Europe. You will find here around 25 km for ice skating and even some special courts for curling. The lake is situated between the mountains and its amazing location lends to an unsurpassed atmosphere. Almost every winter sport has a long tradition in Austria, and ice skating whether for fun or as part of a sport like ice hockey is very popular here. At the Weissensee there are lessons for beginners as well as some good challenges for professionals, which entices many visitors each year. In particular, the 200 km ice marathon is a famous event annually. Weissensee is also part of the Dutch’s famous Eleven Cities Tour, so there are a lot of professional ice skaters and skating enthusiasts cutting some shapes on the ice here.

  • Rink type: Outdoor, natural
  • Prices: €5 per day, or €50 for the whole season.
  • Opening Season and Times: Middle of December to the beginning of March (or… as long as the ice is thick enough)
  • How to Get There: The nearest train station is 10 km away in Greifenburg. There you can take the shuttle-bus to the Weissensee. Travelling by car, you can take the B87 which leads directly to the lake.

Athens Heart Arena – Athens, Greece

Athens Heart Arena - Athens, ice skating rinks omio

Ice skating at Athens Heart Arena in Greece – photo courtesy of Athens Heart Arena

Greece does not boast a huge tradition of ice sports but with the arrival of winter, many cities will set up temporary skating rinks for the entertainment of children and adults alike. Of course one of the best rinks to go skating at is the Athens Heart Arena, which is the largest in Athens at 1000 m² and is located very near the center. You can rent skates, get a skating lesson (just be sure to call in advance) and spend some great time on the ice with friends and family! For those who don’t like skating, there is a mall right next door, where you can enjoy a bit of shopping and have a coffee. Ice skating is a wonderful winter activity in relation with the Christmas season that Greeks love to partake in, and here not only can you enjoy skating but also the occasional ice skating show.

  • Rink type: Indoor, artificial ice
  • Prices: €10 for an unlimited ticket that remains valid until your exit from the ice rink. Skate rental is included in the price, and the same price applies in case you bring your own skates.
  • Opening Season and Times: The rink is open from October to April, on Weekdays from 3:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m., and Weekends 11:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
  • How to Get There: By train the nearest station is “Peltrona” Station or “Tavros” Station with the commuter train,, and “Keramikos” Station on the subway. Travelling by bus the nearest stop is “Ergon” Station on lines 049, 815, 914.

 

Feature photo courtesy of Flickr: Michael Bentley

Caitlin Gulliford

Both British and American, Caitlin is originally from New York, but has loved also living in London and now Berlin. She holds a MSc in Gender, Media and Culture from the London School of Economics, and is always up for an adventure. She currently plans to cycle and sail her way around the world (a second time).