London in the winter

Why it's worth a visit to the UK in the colder months

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Winter in Dubai not cold enough for you? Time Out reports on the top spots to seek out during a trip to chilly London.

As the days become shorter and frostier in the UK, the capital turns into an enticing wonderland – local watering holes beckon as cosy retreats and squares transform into twinkling ice rinks. Here are some of the best ways to stay chilled in good old London town if you happen to be heading there this winter.

The great and green outdoors
Pop on a woolly hat, find a bit of the great London outdoors and give the cold season a big hug. You’ve got 790 acres of enchantment in which to engage with winter on Hampstead Heath, and with stately home Kenwood House recently reopened (with atmospheric art masterpieces by the likes of Rembrandt, Turner, and Gainsborough), there’s always a warm place to retreat to when you’ve had enough of the great outdoors. For magical woodland, go to Richmond Park and its 600 red and fallow deer; it should look something like a snowy scene from Bambi (without any of the upsetting shooting incident, hopefully). You can even watch these majestic beasts from the comfort of a horse-drawn carriage. Magic.

Cosy up by the fire
Times are hard: with the price of gas outstripping that of plutonium, Londoners must resort to peasant cunning to keep warm, so why not borrow someone else’s heating? No, not at your mate’s house (must we explain everything to you?), at a watering hole. Find a suitable spot and you can combine a real fire with cockle-warming hearty British grub. Steak and kidney pies were made for an afternoon like this. It’s the very thing after an exhilarating walk on Hampstead Heath – and the nearby Southampton Arms in Gospel Oak offers an evocatively smoky fire to thaw out by. Or head further uphill to the historic Holly Bush in Hampstead Village, which has two wood-and-coal-burning fires among its maze of ancient rooms. Fancy a stroll along the Thames? Finish off the day at the Bricklayer’s Arms in Putney, where the best seats in the house are the lived-in leather armchairs by the roaring fire. Or try the magical Grapes in Limehouse (owned by Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings, sorry, Sir Ian McKellen). Head out to the chilly waters then retreat indoors.

Ice-skating
Ice-skating may not seem an immediate fit for east London’s financial centre, but the area’s twinkling towers provide a striking backdrop for the Canary Wharf rink. There’s also the wonderful backdrop provided by Somerset House located on the Strand in the centre of town where you can sweep round while peering up at this most imposing example of neo-classical architecture.

To the Alps (sort of)
Nothing beats a bucket of fondue, and happily a clutch of bars are creating Alpine and Nordic retreats in London. The Queen of Hoxton on Curtain Road reopens WigWamBam, a Norwegian-style candlelit rooftop tent complete with a projected ‘Eastern Lights’ display. Pop in to warm up with some Scandinavian sustenance including wild boar sausages – and don’t forget the ironic winter jumper! You might want to wear something a touch classier to visit Churchill Bar’s new Winter Terrace on Portman Square. Possibly the most sophisticated winter grotto in town, the Churchill Hotel’s outdoor space has been transformed into a luxe mountaintop retreat for the nippy months, with furs. Ski bunnies should slope off to The Piste at Archer Street. This temporary après-ski retreat is as festive as they come.

Snuggle under the covers
We all want to warm up under a quilt and watch a film on a wintry night and the gloriously retro Electric Cinema on Portobello Road lets you do just that. The intimate venue has a set of double beds that can be booked by moviegoers in the mood for lazing – try the matinee Electric Sunday screenings: tickets are cheaper, and they give you perfect justification to still be in bed at 2pm.

Candle-lit culture
At Sir John Soane’s Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, architect Soane left his exquisite 18th-century townhouse to the people of London in perpetuity as a museum to display his Old Master paintings and Greek, Roman and Egyptian antiquities. It all looks especially enchanting during its monthly candlelit evenings, which are first come, first served on the first Tuesday of every month and they are hugely popular.

Need to know

Getting there
Emirates flies direct to London from Dubai, from Dhs3,885. www.emirates.com

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