Fun (and more importantly, warm) winter activities in London
Brrr..! It’s got cold in London, particularly with those biting northerly winds: it’s such a shock after our long hot summer and unseasonably warm autumn. Remember the “beast from the east” last winter, twice? It makes us shudder to think about it. Once we’re wrapped up well, we thought we’d look at winter activities we can all enjoy in London that could keep us feeling warm and cosy, winter events and things to do in London in winter, whatever your budget.
We have to start with a trip to Wapping’s Tobacco Dock for London’s first rooftop ice rink, Skylight London, at Penning Street, car park entrance, E1W 2SF which runs until 27th January 2019. Wow that view of the City! At weekends there are even DJs creating a party vibe for groups. Surrounding the decent size ice rink, which also hosts Ice Hockey Slap Shot, there are outlets serving mulled wine, seasonal cocktails and street food including melted cheese delights from The Raclette Brothers. Sounds cold? Not so! We particularly love the Snug Bar on level 9 and there are warm igloos and huts for hire It’s free to get in but skating is £12 (first come, first served – you cannot book unless you have a large group) plus the igloos and huts cost from £60-£180 – head to skylightlondon.com to reserve these or the tables or firstname.lastname@example.org. They’ve also got a ticketed New Year’s Eve party here. General opening hours Thursdays and Fridays 5pm – 11pm and Saturdays and Sundays midday – 11pm, however between December 27th and 30th they’re open 11am – 11pm.
In the City, close to Canary Wharf Underground Station, we recommend huddling around the fire in the back room with a warming mulled wine or rich port at The Grapes, owned by Sir Ian McKellen. It’s at 76 Narrow Street, Limehouse. E14 8BP. This traditional English pub has been in existence since 1583, was home to Elizabeth I’s explorer Sir Humphrey Gilbert, and from 1820 used to be frequented by Charles Dickens (where all his books can be read in the Back Parlour). Follow the steps up to a deck overlooking the Thames if it’s not too cold, then up some narrow stairs to the tiny restaurant which specialises in seafood. Call 0207 987 4396.
After a few hours shopping in the West End, we recommend Skyline Skating on John Lewis’ rooftop. That may sound like the chilliest thing to do, particularly as London’s second rooftop ice rink was inspired by the frost fairs held on the tideway of the Thames in 24 of the winters between the 17th and early 19th centuries. During the Great Frost of 1683-4 the Thames was completely frozen 11 inches deep for two months! On the Oxford Street rooftop you can look forward to letting off steam on the small ice rink, a Sipsmith’s hot gin hideaway for its mulled gins, warming winter cocktail masterclasses, and cosy nooks to eat MyPie’s comfort food under the glow of festive lights. The £6-8 tickets can be reserved on Eventbrite until 6th January 2019.
Close to us here at Tower Bridge, across the Thames in Flat Iron Square, 53 Southwark Street SE1 1RU is new pop-up Après London; a giant festive timber-framed ski lodge serving up mulled cider or mulled wine at £6 each and hot toddies at £7, or festive cocktails from four bars on the benches, with a dance floor, surrounded by an Austrian Alpine village complete with pine trees, a mini Shard, mock sweet shop, wine bar, post office, library and patisserie to walk around. It’s bigger and better this year and the site is open until 13th January 2019. You can book a private area (one of the shops) by contacting email@example.com or by calling 0203 179 9800. There’s even a vintage flea market at the weekends.
The rooftop urban garden Pergola at Paddington Central, 5 Kingdom Street, is back open for the winter season and has had a clear roof fitted to fully enclose the festively decorated space which seats 850; they welcome groups. You can stargaze in the warmth enjoying hot toddies and festive cocktails with an exciting feast of food provided in four self-service restaurants, hosted by street food French cuisine pioneers Canard, Vietnamese barbeque kings MAM, nu-Mexican Yucatan and the gourmet burgers and specials of Patty & Bun. There’s a hidden alfresco garden, seven day beds and two bars over two floors. Open Wednesdays 6pm – 11pm, Thursday – Saturday noon – 11pm and Sundays midday – 1030 pm. Although they make space for walk-ins, they can get so popular as it’s such a great place to hang out with friends, so make reservations on pergolalondon.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
There’s something smaller at Pergola Olympia, 5th floor, Olympia Way, Kensington, who have what they describe as a botanical bolthole built on Olympia’s rooftop with one bar, views of the London skyline, seating for 500 and three restaurants: British seafood and crab specialists, Claw, Shoreditch’s pizza palace Passo, plus Patty & Bun. There are nine day beds here below the ivy, beams and brickwork. At both venues, groups can share the same picnic benches and eat whatever they fancy from wherever they fancy. Both venues are cashless. Open Wednesday & Thursdays 4pm – 11pm, Fridays & Saturdays midday – 1130pm and Sundays midday – 10pm. email@example.com
Who doesn’t like a cosy English pub in the winter? We’ve chosen three more for you to enjoy. Farringdon’s historic Grade II-listed Ye Olde Mitre Tavern run by Fuller’s was established in 1546 and is located at 1 Ely Court, Ely Place, EC1N 6SJ, close to Chancery Lane Tube. It takes some beating with Judith Norman’s warm welcome. Reputedly Queen Elizabeth I was said to have danced around the cherry tree in the front of this building. This wood-panelled beauty is perfect for real ales, sausage rolls, am awesome toasties menu plus boasts a great wine list. Contact 0207 405 4751 else firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The Holly Bush in Hampstead is another Grade II-listed 18th century wood-panelled gem run by Fuller’s and boasts cosy corners and roaring fires to kick back and enjoy the fresh seasonal comfort food on offer. Their roasts are legendary. The Romney Room is the main dining room on the first floor for tables of two to six, or if you have a larger party they can accommodate up to 14 in the ground floor Assembly Room. Contact the manager Ben Relph on 0207 435 2892 else email@example.com.