Sun’s out? Time for a relaxing drink on one of the capital’s excellent roof terrace bars.
Aqua Spirit 5th floor, 240 Regent Street, W1
One of London’s most popular and reliable rooftop bars, Aqua affords a fine view of Oxford Street and the West End. It’s part of Aqua Kyoto, a high-end restaurant, and the crowd is suitably suited and booted. Booking required.
Radio Rooftop Bar 336-337 The Strand, WC2R 1HA
Find Radio Rooftop Bar at the top of Hotel Me at Aldwych. The views from on top are stunning, particularly the southern aspect which takes in a huge panorama of London landmarks. If it can’t be seen from this vantage point, it’s probably not worth seeing at all. Named for its location (it’s on the site of the old Marconi House) the historic theme extends to the cocktail menu, which includes concoctions named Radio-Active and AM/FM.
The Carpenters Arms 68-70 Whitfield Street, W1T 4EY
In the heart of London’s Fitzrovia, this spacious rooftop bar will distract you from the concrete jungle of central London. You can book the Belle Bar & roof terrace for private events and have some alfresco fun.
Vista part of The Trafalgar Hotel, 2 Spring Gardens, Trafalgar Square, SW1A 2TS
Change your perspective of Nelson’s Column and the National Gallery at Vista, which calls itself ‘an iconic sky bar’. And they’re not wrong, as it dominates the square from a strategic point (see image above).
Madison, One New Change 1 New Change, EC4M 9AF
Enjoy a breathtaking view of the dome of St Paul’s cathedral, from the top of the modern shopping centre in front of it. A lift will take you to Madison restaurant, tapas and cocktail bar. Don’t want to spend too much on a cocktail? They’re also open in the morning, just for a coffee.
Bird of Smithfield 26 Smithfield Street, EC1A 9LB
Spread over five floors, this renovated Georgian town house counts a rooftop bar area in, yes, Smithfield. The Bird of Smithfield is operated by Ivy alumnus Alan Bird, and its rooftop terrace has great views across the old market buildings. In case of inclement weather (or after the roof’s 11.30pm curfew) there’s also an underground cocktail bar.
Coq d’Argent No.1 Poultry, EC2R 8EJ
Set in the heart of the Square Mile, atop the postmodern erection that is One Poultry, Coq d’Argent continues the building’s playfulness with a rooftop terrace covered with a manicured lawn and rotund boluses that make it look like a golf course designed by James Stirling.
South Place Hotel 3 South Place, EC2M 2AF
South Place Hotel rooftop terrace brings a little piece of Provence to the heart of London. Planted with lavender, herbs and a pair of imposing olive trees, and with furniture inspired by the South of France, this west-facing terrace is an evening sun-trap. The terrace is open Monday to Sunday with various times and weather depending.
The Driver 2-4 Wharfdale Road, King’s Cross N1 9RY
You might have to stand on tippy-toes to get a view, but at least the big wall surrounding The Driver’s roof terrace will block out any chill breezes. Check for when the BBQ’s on.
Abbey Tavern 124 Kentish Town Road, NW1 9QB
A major draw for this pub is the kitchen run by Phileas Hog, turning out delicious burgers, sandwiches and sides. That you can enjoy said food in the beautifully bedecked roof terrace is a huge added bonus.
Roof Garden Cafe Bar at Southbank Centre Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX
Find it by way of the stand-out yellow stairs. The Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden looks like a proper green oasis, with a stunning view of the river. You’ll find a cafe bar, allotments, fruit trees and wild flowers. Open until September.
Frank’s Cafe & Campari Bar 10th Floor, Peckham Multi-Story Carpark 95A Rye Lane, SE15 4ST
Perched atop the multi-story car park in Peckham, Frank’s has been drawing the crowds south to Peckham for the past few years. The view is one of the best of London from the south. Enjoy a Negroni or two as the sun sets.
Honky Tonk 16a Clapham Common South Side, SW4 7AB
Another suntrap is set to open south of the river, as Honky Tonk brings ‘a taste of The Hamptons’ to Clapham. The Sundowner Terrace opens on 15 May at the venue near Clapham Common offering cocktails, booze-laced milkshakes and a selection of hot dogs that circulate in a specially designed cart.
Midnight Apothecary at Brunel Museum, Railway Avenue, Rotherhithe, SE16 4LF
Every summer the Brunel Museum’s rooftop garden hosts the Midnight Apothecary pop-up cocktail bar. The garden is on top of Brunel’s Thames Tunnel Shaft. Enjoy wild cocktails and a nice view of the River Thames.
Kensington Roof Gardens 99 Kensington High St, W8 5SA
Probably the oldest in this list (it’s been around for 75 years), the Roof Gardens in Kensington sit atop the old Derry and Toms department store. Unless closed for a private event the Gardens are open to the public, but the complex also hosts a restaurant, Babylon, which has its own outdoor space that offers a humdrum view across west London, and a nightclub. The biggest attraction, though, are the gardens’ four pink flamingos.
Boundary Rooftop 2-4 Boundary Street, Shoreditch, E2 7DD
Terence Conran’s ever-popular Shoreditch establishment continues to attract a likely crowd of affluent characters. By day an extension of the restaurant, from 4pm the rooftop becomes a bar, serving cocktails and cigars. Being a fairly squat building in an area devoid of interesting features, the views from on top aren’t the best you’ll find. It has a special offer: 50% off all oysters, lobsters, mussels, prawns, crab and other shellfish every Sunday evening from 8pm.
Coppa Hothouse Rooftop, Martello Street, E8 3QW
Hackney’s rooftop restaurant Coppa was a big success last summer, and the pop-up run by the folk behind Lardo restaurant has announced that it will return for another run this year. A southern Italian menu will include a wide selection of antipasti alongside barbecued meat and icy granita cocktails. It launches on the Hothouse rooftop near London Fields on 24 May and runs throughout the summer.
Dalston Roof Park The Print House, 18-22 Ashwin St, E8 3DL
The views aren’t the finest you’ll see but it does elevate you from the bustle of Dalston Junction. The gardens also regularly host film nights and other events. Tends to close during inclement weather.
Golden Bee Singer Street, Shoreditch, EC1V 9DD
Find the relaxed rooftop terrace of the Golden Bee just off Old Street station. Every weekday you can enjoy their special offer for Happy Hour: special prices on cocktails, beers and wines.
Platform Bar 2nd Floor, Netil House, 1-7 Westgate Street, London Fields, E8 3RL
This is not just a rooftop bar but a proper multifunctional space in the heart of London’s East End. Platform bar not only has a nice and relaxing terrace but also a gallery where different types of events take place. They’re open every day of the week.
Queen of Hoxton 1-5 Curtain Rd, EC2A 3JX
A rare all-year rooftop bar (they string up a wigwam during the winter months), come summer the Queen of Hoxton throws off its carapace and draws a mixed crowd of Shoreditch funsters and Square Mile suits to enjoy the rays. They also do a film season.
Feel the summer heat? See also:
This article is updated from our previous guide in May 2013. Did we miss something? Let us know at email@example.com
This article is part of our Best of London Food and Drink series. Visit the page for more recommendations of where to enjoy the capital’s top food and drink, categorised by cuisine, food type and more.