When the sun’s out, it’s time to get high. Head for London’s best rooftop bars, roof terraces, open-air bars and sky-high drinking dens.
(Updated April 2018)
Rooftop bars in the West End
Aqua Spirit, Regent Street
A great spot to know about, this slick cocktail sanctuary high above Regent Street — part of Aqua Kyoto restaurant — is in a prime position for post-shopping recuperation. The views over Oxford Street and the West End are as appealing as the Japanese bar food and Asian-accented drinks list. No bookings are taken for the terrace (open for lunch from noon-3pm and drinks thereafter) so it’s best to arrive early.
Aqua Spirit, 5th floor, 240 Regent Street, W1B 3BR
The Carpenter’s Arms, Fitzrovia
This characterful pub just off Tottenham Court Road has something special up its sleeve — a rooftop beer garden. It may not be the greenest of gardens, but it’s a pretty sweet spot for a pint in the sunshine all the same.
The Carpenter’s Arms, 68-70 Whitfield Street, W1T 4EY
Radio Rooftop Bar, Aldwych
Set atop the ME London hotel, Radio Bar — so called because it’s on the site of the old Marconi House — is a sleek asymmetric treat for the eyes in itself. But naturally it’s the stunning panoramic views across pretty much the whole city that you’ll be looking at. Classic cocktails rub shoulders with new creations named Radio-Active and AM/FM. No reservations are taken, but note it's only open to hotel guests after 11pm.
Radio Rooftop Bar, 336-337 Strand, WC2R 1HA
Ham Yard Hotel, Piccadilly Circus
Ok, this gorgeous roof terrace is only open to hotel guests or under private hire, but it's still worth knowing about. If you've got a birthday celebration or company event coming up, we suggest you try and strong-arm the organisers into having it here. The space is marvellously pretty and even has a kitchen garden and some rooftop beehives for goodness' sake.
Ham Yard Hotel, 1 Ham Yard, W1D 7DT
alto by San Carlo, Oxford Street
This rooftop oasis places the emphasis on seasonal Italian produce and fresh ingredients. The Italian garden setting can be enjoyed with a drink in hand on the al fresco sun terrace, or with a full-blown seafood dinner at your table.
alto by San Carlo at Selfridges, 400 Oxford Street, W1A 1AB
The Rooftop, Trafalgar Square
Get a God complex as you watch the hustle of Trafalgar Square down below from this swish bar on top of The Trafalgar Hotel. It’s glamorous with prices to match.
The Rooftop, The Trafalgar Hotel, 2 Spring Gardens, Trafalgar Square, SW1A 2TS
During the sunnier months, visitors to this high-end, meat-heavy restaurant can enjoy pre or post-dinner drinks on the romantic roof terrace, complete with fireplace and pillows. Despite it being part of the reputation-led chain, few know about it. Wind, rain and chilly temperatures do close it though, so it's worth a call to make sure it's open before you set out especially.
Gaucho Piccadilly, 25 Swallow Street, W1B 4QR
Rooftop bars in the City and Clerkenwell
Planted with lavender, herbs and olive trees, this rooftop terrace at South Place Hotel brings a little piece of Provence to Moorgate — not that there’s anywhere in Provence that also affords you a bird’s eye view of the ongoing Crossrail works. Call by for a drink daily from noon until 11pm (weather permitting), or look out for the hotel’s regular rooftop parties and events. They also boast a retractable roof — so any drizzle shouldn't be a problem.
Angler rooftop terrace, 3 South Place, EC2M 2AF
A relative newbie on the rooftop bar scene is Aviary — located on the cusp of the city and Shoreditch, find it perched on the 10th floor of The Montcalm Hotel on Finsbury Square. With a nod to the glamorous art deco era, this place has a swish city look, but without the snobbiness that usually comes with it. Come here for raw seafood on the rocks, and cocktails, along with the large spacious terrace and its killer city skyline views.
Aviary Roof Terrace, 10th Floor Montcalm Royal London House, 22-25 Finsbury Square, EC2A 1DX
Piculpepper, Commercial Street
It's where they grow the fresh herbs and vegetables used in this east London pub's tasty menu, but Culpepper's roof garden also houses alfresco dining and a bar. Oh, and a giant eight-foot gherkin. It's now open for summer and offers a full menu and drinks from 11am (closed on Mondays).
Piculpepper at The Culpepper, 40 Commercial Street, E1 6LP
Bird of Smithfield, Smithfield
Spread over five floors in a renovated Georgian town house, Bird of Smithfield serves excellent British food — including meat from across the way — courtesy of chef Tommy Boland. More to the point, it comes with a rooftop terrace bar offering great views across the top of the meat market and beyond. Last orders for roof-based beverages are 9.30pm.
Bird of Smithfield, 26 Smithfield Street, EC1A 9LB
Coq d’Argent, Bank
Set atop the postmodern erection that is One Poultry, Coq d’Argent is a hard and fast favourite among City slickers. Its playfully designed rooftop terrace — complete with fake grass — is a real suntrap, while a large drinks list spans just about everything from beers and wines to spirits and cocktails. A full grill menu is available alongside bar snacks.
Coq d’Argent, No.1 Poultry, EC2R 8EJ
Madison, St Paul’s
A breathtaking view of the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral is the pièce de résistance at this restaurant and bar where Champagne and wines get big billing. There’s plenty of reasonably priced bar food if you’re not up for a full dinner and we’d recommend the Sunday brunch for a good value visit.
Madison, Rooftop terrace, 1 New Change, EC4M 9AF
Sky Garden, Fenchurch Street
The Sky Garden — set on the 35th and 36th floors of the bulbous Walkie-Talkie building — is kind of a roof terrace. Open early 'til late daily, there’s access to the al fresco strip, while the rest of the space is sufficiently glass-clad and greenery-filled to do a similar job. We visited when it first opened; read our guide to the varying restaurant and bar options. There’s also live music nights Wednesday through to Saturday.
The Sky Garden, 1 Sky Garden Walk, London, EC3M 8AF
Sushisamba, Liverpool Street
The highest roof terrace in London, on floor 38 of the Heron Tower, Sushisamba has high prices to match but soaring views that just about make up for it. The lift ride up there is worth a go in itself any time of day, but for best effects go of an evening and nab a seat around the fire pit.
Sushisamba, 110 Bishopsgate, EC2N 4AY
SkyLounge, Tower Hill
This sky-high terrace is currently being renovated and is due to reopen June 2018. It's not in the Tower of London itself, but it's not far off, situated on the 12th floor of the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel. It's actually two terraces, giving you views in pretty much any direction you like.
SkyLounge, 7 Pepys Street, EC3N 4AF (currently closed for renovations and reopening June 2018)
Rooftop bars in north London
Abbey Tavern, Kentish Town
This boozer’s biggest draw is its pretty wood-decked, fairy-light hung roof terrace which comes with loads of seating, if not the most scenic views. Where better to enjoy its pub kitchen wares of pies, burgers, sarnies and snacks than al fresco and on high?
Abbey Tavern 124 Kentish Town Road, NW1 9QB
The Castle, Angel
This Geronimo Inns gastropub on Pentonville Road is perfectly pleasant inside, but come a sunny day or a warm evening its spacious roof terrace is prime space — even if the views of, er, Pentonville Road aren’t that scenic.
The Castle, 51 Pentonville Road, N1 9HF
The Driver, King’s Cross
It’s not London’s prettiest terrace, and the fenced perimeters mean you might need to stand on tippy-toes to get a view, but this pub rooftop is still a great spot to soak up some sun with a pint in hand. On warm days you can expect regular rooftop BBQs too — check ahead.
The Driver, 2-4 Wharfdale Road, N1 9RY
Italian restaurant Vivo has a vast wood-decked roof terrace scattered with Mediterranean plants. The Upper Street masses still don’t really know about it so you should be able to enjoy a glass of prosecco or a sunny spritz in relative peace. Don’t expect views though — the surrounding fences are irritatingly just too tall for that.
Vivo, 57-58 Upper Street, N1 0NY
The Faltering Fullback, Finsbury Park
This Irish pub tucked away behind Finsbury Park deserves a spot on this list despite it technically, technically, being a beer garden. Why? The multi-level garden sprawls across four levels of decking and is basically a glorified tree house. Elevated views and bountiful greenery make it a strong rival to many of the bars on this list. No bookings, so on sunny days you'll need to pop down early to secure a table.
Faltering Fullback, 19 Perth Rd, Finsbury Park, N4 3HB
Rooftop bars in Shoreditch and east London
Boundary Rooftop, Shoreditch
You could do worse than pass time in Shoreditch with drinks and Mediterranean nibbles on the Boundary rooftop. It does require a certain level of financial investment, though, and note that being a fairly squat building in an area devoid of interesting features, the views from on top aren’t the best you’ll find. The revamped space now comes with a heated glass orangery meaning it’s open all day every day irrelevant of the weather.
Boundary Rooftop, 2-4 Boundary Street, Shoreditch, E2 7DD
The Fox, Haggerston
This Kingsland Road pub specialising in real ales and ciders boasts a large roof terrace. It goes into the dependable rather than particularly pretty category, but gets the cute fairy light treatment after dusk. Plus, it has a craft beer vending machine...
The Fox, 372 Kingsland Road, E8 4DA
Golden Bee, Shoreditch
A stone’s throw from hectic Old Street station is the comparatively tranquil terrace of the Golden Bee. Make the most of it with happy hours from 5-7pm on Tuesdays to Thursdays.
Golden Bee, Singer Street, Shoreditch, EC1V 9DD
Queen of Hoxton, Shoreditch
The roof of the Queen of Hoxton is open all year round with seasonal transformations keeping Londoners on their toes. Winter saw it turn into a Moroccan Medina, while summer 2018 promises a futuristic Lost Vegas complete with wedding chapels, slot machines and abandoned school buses. Rooftop Film Club are also scheduled to return, along with a full cocktail and food menu.
Queen of Hoxton, 1-5 Curtain Road, EC2A 3JX
Red Lion, Hoxton
Either relaxed or rammed depending on the weather, open seven days a week, the Red Lion’s roof terrace is reliably open whenever you fancy an open-air drink. Food is purely pizza focussed, get a Meal Deal — £10 for your pizza and a pint.
Red Lion, 41 Hoxton Street, N1 6NH
Roof East, Stratford
This summer sees the return of Roof East in a loosely-termed ‘adult adventure playground’ atop a multi-storey car park in Stratford. It's pretty packed up there with De La Bowl (Hop Hop inspired lawn bowling), Birdies Crazy Golf Club and Rooftop Film Club getting involved in some sky-based action along with, possibly London's highest baseball batting cage. There are Roof East Bars and Beach BBQ bites up there too.
Roof East, Stratford multi-storey car park, Great Eastern Way, E15 1XE
Netil House, Bethnal Green
Like most things in east London, Netil House isn't quite as edgy and cool as it used to be - for example, it's no longer BYOB. But it's still a top place to do a bit of remote 'working' or just hang out with a beer, slice of pizza and watch the sun set over east London.
Netil House, 1 Westgate St, London E8 3RL
Magic Roundabout, Old Street
There's more to Old Street roundabout than the tube station below and the road rage on street level. Magic Roundabout is accessed through a staircase in the shopping concourse and overlooks the mayhem below. Street food vendors, cocktails and late-night DJs keep the sky-high antics going to the early hours.
Magic Roundabout, 16 St Agnes Well, EC1Y 1BE
Befriend a member and get on up to London's most exclusive sky high bar. This east London warehouse-turned hip private members' club is seriously worth trying to blag your way in somehow - rooftop pool says it all.
Shoreditch House, 1 Ebor St, London E1 6AW
Rooftop bars in south London
This rooftop bar and grill atop a multi-storey car park in Peckham is set to reopen in May 2018 and has become a regular fixture of a London summer. Expect hot wings, sardines and smoked aubergine pittas on the food side of things, cocktails on the drinks side of things, and scenic views of the City and across south London.
Frank’s, 10th Floor, 95a Rye Lane, SE15 4ST
The Tankard, Kennington
Formerly a Grand Union outlet, this site now belongs to The Draft House – a small group of pubs that proffer a great selection of beers. This spot offers a marvellous roof terrace, completely refurbed and overlooking the Imperial War Museum grounds. Food is mightily beer-friendly: mac'n'cheese balls, scotch eggs, burgers, fish'n'chips and the like, but with a couple of welcome veggie and vegan options too (oh, and mains are half price on Mondays).
Grand Union, 111 Kennington Road, SE11 6SF
Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden, South Bank
Originally a partnership with the Eden Project, this rooftop recommendation continues to be a natural haven of wildflowers, fruit trees and allotments. Light snacks and sandwiches line your stomach, but watching the sun go down over the Thames with a G&T in hand can't be beaten.
Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX (open April-September only)
Midnight Apothecary at Brunel Museum, Rotherhithe
Every summer the Brunel Museum’s rooftop garden hosts the Midnight Apothecary pop-up cocktail bar atop Brunel’s Thames Tunnel Shaft. Their Cocktail Gardener creates botanical drinks infused with and based on ingredients from the museum’s garden, served around a campfire. A beautifully atmospheric way to spend a summer evening, and they've got Farm Street Kitchen serving up street food too.
Midnight Apothecary at Brunel Museum, Railway Avenue, SE16 4LF. Book tickets here (Fridays and Saturdays April-September only)
12th Knot, South Bank
Just sneaking into the south London list is Sea Containers London's riverside bar overlooking the Thames. 12th Knot (formerly Rumpus Room) is terrace-top rather than rooftop, but the views down the river are spectacular, the cocktails are classic and walk-ins are welcome (although it does get very busy).
12th Knot, 20 Upper Ground, South Bank, London SE1 9PD
Bar Elba, Waterloo
Opposite Waterloo station sits this rooftop bar atop Mercury House. It's solely a rooftop bar so don't expect to be able to dive inside if the elements turn, but that should be no problem thanks to the heaters and coverings that offer some protection from a British summer. The vibe is incredibly laid back - all fairy lights a-twinkle - and you can reward yourself for trudging up all those steps with a margarita and grilled cheese sandwich.
Bar Elba, Mercury House, 109-117 Waterloo Road, SE1 8UL
Rooftop bars in west London
Lyric Bar, Hammersmith
The bar at the Lyric theatre is open to all, whether you have a theatre ticket or not and it offers a real boost to west London’s rooftop options. With plenty of planters and foliage along with views across low-level west London, it even feels a little bit rural.
Lyric Bar, Lyric Square, King Street, W6 0QL
Pergola Paddington, Paddington
After the demise of Kensington Roof Gardens, west London is in some serious need of rooftop representation. Luckily Pergola Paddington is reopening for a second year and promising the same dose of food residencies, booze-heavy bars and absolutely masses of picnic-style seating. This year burger giants Patty & Bun and Vietnamese barbecuers NAM are both on the restaurant line-up, among others. Booking recommended.
Pergola Paddington, 5 Kingdom Street, Paddington Central, W2 6PY
Bokan, Canary Wharf
Considering the amount of teetering skyscrapers round here (and suits with cash to splash), it's surprising there's not more snazzy altitude-inducing bars opening up in this part of town. But maybe this city slicker bar hails a rooftop revolution for Canary Wharf. There's a restaurant and bar on the 37th and 38th floors of the Novotel, but up on the 39th floor you'll find all the alfresco air terrace action, with specialist gin bar, live jazz and daybeds (like the sound of this already).
Bōkan – 37th, 38th & 39th Floor, Novotel Canary Wharf, 40 Marsh Wall, E14 9TP
Boisdale, Canary Wharf
This tartan-clad, whisky-loaded bar also comes with a great little rooftop bar up there too. Bring your colleagues, whip out the company credit card and settle in for a top night watching the sun go down with a beautiful dram in hand.
Boisdale, Cabot Place, Canary Wharf, E14 4QT
Any more rooftop bars or roof terraces which deserve a mention? Let us know in the comments below.