The Best Rooftop Bars In London

Sun’s out? Er, sort of. Time for Londoners of all stripes to peel their clothes off and expose their pale flesh, grown only more cadaverous by a particularly harsh winter, to the warm rays. And where better to do it than on a rooftop whilst sipping on gin and juice? Unlike that SPF 15 sunscreen that’s been rotting in the bathroom cabinet these past few years, we’ve got you covered.

Add your own favourites in the comments.

Radio Rooftop Bar

Sitting atop the newly-opened Hotel Me at Aldwych, this will be Radio’s first summer in operation. They’re likely to attract a strong crowd: 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.

Bird of Smithfield

Another newcomer (it opened on 5 May) is the rooftop bar area at this restaurant in, yes, Smithfield. Set in an old Georgian house, it’s 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.

Aqua Spirit

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.

Boundary Rooftop

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.

Kensington Roof Gardens

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.

Dalston Roof Park

The views aren’t the finest you’ll see but it does elevate you from the bustle of Dalston Junction and afford a closer view of the unappealing buildings on top of the new Overground station. The gardens also regularly host film nights and other events. Tends to close during inclement weather.

Frank’s Cafe & Campari Bar

Perched atop the multi-story car park in Peckham, Frank’s has been drawing the crowds south to Peckham for the past four years. The view is one of the best of London from the south. Skip the so-so art that populates the rest of the car park and enjoy a Negroni or two as the sun sets. The bar re-opens 30 June 2013.

Coq d’Argent

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.

Queen of Hoxton

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. The rooftop opens 11 May, from 12pm – 10pm.

Reader recommendations:

Platform Bar, London Fields

Madison, One New Change

Vista, Trafalgar Square

South Place Hotel, Moorgate

See also:

London’s Best Ice Cream

London’s Best Beer Gardens

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  • Ian Rutter

    What about the bar at the top of One New Change, St Paul’s, and Vista on top of the Trafalgar Hotel?

  • BethPH

    Also there’s a rooftop bar on the relatively newly-opened South Place Hotel off Moorgate.

  • Dean Nicholas

    Thanks both. I’ll add those (and other reader suggestions) to the bottom of the post.

  • Carol Bridge

    I would highly recommend the Platform Bar in Hackney. Its a the top of Netil House, it’s tucked away and easy to miss, I love it for the chilled, welcoming atmosphere. A BBQ on the roof at weekends and DJ’s till late. Had lots of fun days/nights there.

    • Dean Nicholas

      Good call — I’ve been to Platform before, it’s a great place.

  • Footprints of London

    If you join the St Pancras Cruising Club you can get access to their licensed clubhouse in a converted water tower. The rooftop has an excellent view of the city. You don’t need to have a boat, just help out with the club from time to time.

  • Ben Hodgson

    There’s also the bar in the Queen Elizabeth Roof Gardens on the South Bank. Drinks aren’t particularly cheap, but the views of the Thames are great, and the grass is real…

  • Cool Bar Uncool

    The Old Fountain in Old Street has a great roof terrace!

  • Russ
  • Sam

    horrible service at radio rooftop and madison probably has much nicer view

  • Elsie

    What about the roof terrace bar on the top of Sanctum Soho Hotel?? It has a hot tub!!!!

    • Lindsey Clarke

      It does, but it doesn’t have a view. Unless you like looking at rock stars, of course.

  • Hannabea

    Having trouble finding one for tomorrow night that has availability near somerset house ?

    • MattFromLondonist

      Presumably, you tried calling Radio Rooftop bar (top of the list)? It’s right next to Somerset House. Across the Thames, the Royal Festival Hall has an outside upper balcony that you can take drinks onto. Not so classy, but cheaper and usually has space as it’s not very well known.

  • g0_f1sh

    Red Lion – Hoxton Square

    • MattFromLondonist

      Thanks. It had no bar on our last visit…had to carry drinks up from the ground floor. But it’s included in the related article on beer gardens/terraces:

  • catherinesalway

    I’ve just launched Redemption alcohol-free gastrobar on the roof at Netil House, E8. Super-healthy food and drinks and chilled tunes every summer Sunday – check it out!

  • ClaireyClaire

    The Golden Bee, Singer Street, by Old Street roundabout, great roof terrace!