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.
Rooftop bars in central London
Aqua Spirit, Regent Street
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, so arrive early. Note the smart casual dress code: no sportswear or flip flops.
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 terrace. It may not be the greenest of gardens, but it's a pretty sweet spot for a hibiscus & orange blossom spritz 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 ogling. Classic cocktails rub shoulders with new creations, 10 floors up. Reservations are recommended, and no sportswear or trainers are permitted.
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 on the cards, we suggest you try to strong-arm the organisers into having it here. The space is marvellously pretty — a cottage garden in the clouds — and even has a kitchen garden and 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. Whatever you plump for, you'll forget Oxford Street is mere metres below you.
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. You can also get a good gawp at Nelson from up here. The Rooftop is glamorous with prices to match — there's a minimum spend of between £35-£50 per person, depending when you visit.
The Rooftop, The Trafalgar Hotel, 2 Spring Gardens, Trafalgar Square, SW1A 2TS
LSQ Rooftop, Leicester Square
Much of this hotel rooftop bar is inside (although there is a small outdoor terrace) — but you're spoiled with dreamy vistas from LSQ Rooftop wherever you're sat — including the bright lights of Leicester Square down below, and the London Eye. For drinks, it's got to be one of the skyline-themed cocktails: maybe a Walkie-Talkie, The Shard or Nelson's...er... Tower.
LSQ Rooftop, 1 Leicester Square, WC2H 7NA
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
Terrace at the Dilly, Piccadilly
Hanging vines, birches and silk blooms create a 'secret garden' on the Terrace at the Dilly for 2023, an exclusive little spot among the columns of the grand hotel, overlooking Piccadilly itself. All the peachy, rosey hues of the decor here may well inspire you to order a glass of Château La Gordonne rosé. There are posh, French light bites too.
Terrace at the Dilly, 21 Piccadilly, W1J 0BH
Rooftop bars in the City of London
Planted with lavender, herbs and olive trees, this rooftop terrace at South Place Hotel brings a little piece of Provence to Moorgate. Call by for a drink from noon until 10pm (weather permitting), or look out for the hotel's regular rooftop parties and events. It also boasts a retractable roof — so any drizzle shouldn't be a problem.
Angler, South Place Hotel, 3 South Place, EC2M 2AF
Located on the cusp of the City and Shoreditch, find Aviary 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 sometimes comes with it. Come here for raw seafood on the rocks, and cocktails, served up with a large spacious terrace, winter igloos and killer city skyline views.
Aviary Roof Terrace, 10th Floor Montcalm Royal London House, 22-25 Finsbury Square, EC2A 1DX
Jin Bo Law, Aldgate
Perched on the 14th floor of Dorsett City Hotel, right next to Aldgate station, Jin Bo Law has some of the best views over the City of London rooftops. The balcony runs the length of this swanky Asian-style cocktail bar, which, despite the views, seems to be a little quieter than many on this list.
Jin Bo Law, Dorsett City Hotel, 9 Aldgate High Street, EC3N 1AH
The Culpeper, Commercial Street
It's where they grow the fresh herbs and vegetables used in this pub's tasty menu, but Culpeper's roof garden also houses al fresco dining and a bar. Oh, and an eight-foot gherkin. It offers a full menu and drinks during the summer months.
Piculpepper at The Culpepper, 40 Commercial Street, E1 6LP
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.
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 on the extensive bar menu. The food menu has a New York-inspired slant, and we’d recommend the Saturday brunch menu for a better 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 till 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. There are two bars, and two restaurants to choose from up there. If it's drinks you're after, Sky Pod Bar is the livelier of the two, with live music nights. More sophisticated vibes are found at City Garden.
The Sky Garden, 1 Sky Garden Walk, London, EC3M 8AF
Florattica, The Minories
Picking a theme and running with it, this swish rooftop bar near Aldgate is a riot of dried flowers hovering cloud-like above (also very floral) bar furniture. You can sip flowery drinks, like the Rose Mule, crafted with rose-infused vodka, although there are plenty of concoctions sans petals too. Stonking City views from the terrace btw.
Florattica, 11-15 Minories, EC3N 1AX
Though city slickers might descend on Wagtail to cheers their latest bonus over dinner in The Cupola, you can pop into the rooftop bar for a cheeky house cocktail, while admiring the juxtaposition of the 17th century Monument to the Great Fire among glassy additions like The Shard and Walkie-Talkie.
Wagtail, 68 King William Street, EC4N 7HR
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
Savage Garden, Tower Hill
Formerly known as SkyLounge, this sky-high terrace had a makeover with vibrant interiors drawing a 'cool' crowd. It's not in the Tower of London itself, though it's not far off, situated on the 12th floor of the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel. And it's actually two terraces, giving you views in pretty much any direction you like.
Savage Garden, DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, 7 Pepys Street, EC3N 4AF
Rooftop bars in Canary Wharf
Bōkan, Canary Wharf
Considering the amount of teetering skyscrapers round here (and suits with cash to splash), it's surprising there aren't more snazzy, vertigo-inducing bars opening up in this part of town. But maybe this 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 al fresco air terrace action with specialist gin bar, live jazz and daybeds.
Bōkan – 37th, 38th & 39th Floor, Novotel Canary Wharf, 40 Marsh Wall, E14 9TP
Boisdale, Canary Wharf
This tartan-clad, whisky-loaded bar comes with a great little rooftop bar too. Bring your colleagues, whip out the company credit card and settle in for a top night watching the sun go down with a dram in hand.
Boisdale, Cabot Place, Canary Wharf, E14 4QT
Rooftop bars in 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
TT Liquor, Shoreditch
Finnish landscape designer Taina Suonio's rooftop retreat is a glorious treehouse of a thing — on the same level as the Overground trains, rumbling nearby. Drinks on 2023's menu include the Drink to Forget-Me-Not (an egregiously blue elixir, crafted with tequila, blue Curaçao, pink grapefruit soda — and dusted with a Tajín rim). If you've got a few people with you, book one of the shady booths.
TT Liquor, 17B Kingsland Road, E2 8AA
Golden Bee, Shoreditch
A stone’s throw from Old Street station is the terrace of the Golden Bee. Make the most of it with two-for-one happy hour cocktails on certain days of the week.
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. For Summer 2023, it's been transformed into a 'Little Barcelona', which means bright murals and, frankly, a lot of Estrella.
Queen of Hoxton, 1-5 Curtain Road, EC2A 3JX
Shoreditch House, Shoreditch
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 Street, Shoreditch E1 6AW
Red Lion, Hoxton
Either relaxed or rammed depending on the weather, open seven days a week, the Red Lion’s roof terrace is there whenever you fancy an open-air drink. Food is purely pizza and burger focussed. Warning: it's one heck of a suntrap.
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 lawn bowls, Birdies Crazy Golf Club and Rooftop Film Club getting involved in some sky-based action along with London's highest baseball batting cage. Sustenance comes in the form of a range of street food vendors and a selection of cocktail bars.
Roof East, Stratford multi-storey car park, Great Eastern Way, E15 1XE
Another car park contender is Skylight. Already this multi-level bar has made a name for itself by offering rooftop ice skating rink during the winter months. For summer 2023, we're treated instead to lawn games, and summertime cocktails at the main pergola bar. Hungry? Burgers, nachos and churros are all on the menu.
Skylight at Tobacco Dock, Pennington Street Car Park, E1W 2SF. There's now a second Skylight venue too, in Peckham, south London.
Netil360, Bethnal Green
Like most things in east London, Netil360 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.
Netil360, 1 Westgate Street, Bethnal Green E8 3RL
Dalston Roof Park, Dalston
A roof garden on the top of the Print House building, just off Dalston Lane, Dalston Roof Park is open seven days a week with a busy roster of events during summertime. The space is the creation of Bootstrap, a training and enterprise charity, and all proceeds from the bar are ploughed back into the work they do in the local area. Alongside booze and quiz nights, you can expect a steady stream of community and music events too.
Dalston Roof Park, The Print House, 18-22 Ashwin Street, E8 3DL
Rooftop bars in north London
Abbey Tavern, Kentish Town
This boozer's biggest draw is its pretty wood-decked, fairy-light-strewn roof terrace which comes with loads of seating, if not the most scenic views. Where better to enjoy its pub kitchen wares of burgers and Sunday roasts than al fresco and on high?
Abbey Tavern 124 Kentish Town Road, NW1 9QB
The Castle, Angel
This Youngs 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 all that scenic.
The Castle, 54 Pentonville Road, N1 9HF
The Lucky Club, Camden
Fitted out in aquamarine tiles — and let's be honest, giving off bougie bathroom vibes — The Lucky Club is a go-to for Camden revellers — somewhere to sink a Mexican Mule or one of the many margarita options, and chow down on loaded nachos and tacos (look out for Taco Tuesday deals). No jaw-dropping views to speak of, but a spiffy summer rooftop hangout nonetheless.
The Lucky Club, North Stables Yard, Chalk Farm Road, NW1 8AHBig Chill, King's Cross
A couple of minutes' walk from King's Cross station you'll find Big Chill bar — and on the top of that, its buzzing popular rooftop terrace. It's a pretty laid back affair, just a few picnic tables and far more people milling around with a pint in hand. The cocktail menu is extensive, the food is burger-centric and weekends are for dancing, thanks to the resident DJs Thursday through to Saturday.
Big Chill, 257-259 Pentonville Road, N1 9NL
The Rooftop, King's Cross
Adorning the top of brutalist-chic hotel The Standard, this rooftop hangout has what must be the best view of St Pancras Renaissance; it virtually rubs shoulders with the glorious redbrick clocktower — and you can happily while away a couple of hours sinking spiced margaritas, and perhaps plotting your next Eurostar jaunt.
The Rooftop, The Standard, 10 Argyle Street, WC1H 8EG
The Faltering Fullback, Finsbury Park
This legendary 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 Road, Finsbury Park, N4 3HB
Rooftop bars in south London
Frank's is a paradigm of the south London rooftop bar. This expansive bar and grill atop a multi-storey car park in Peckham has become a regular fixture of a London summer. Expect hot wings, charred aubergine, and lamb kebabs, Campari-based potions, and scenic views of the City and across south London. There's more seating for 2023, too.
Frank's, 10th Floor, 95a Rye Lane, SE15 4ST
Bussey Rooftop Bar, Peckham
Another rooftop recommendation in Peckham is the bar perched on top of cultural hub, Bussey Building. A spring/summer makeover has turned the space into a plant-filled suntrap; and a mighty fine place to admire sunsets over London. Cocktail and pizza slice, of course. Plus, Rooftop Film Club takes up residence here for a few months each summer.
Bussey Rooftop Bar, Bussey Building, 133 Rye Lane, SE15 4ST
The Tankard, Kennington
Formerly a Grand Union outlet, this site now belongs to Brewdog, offering a roof terrace overlooking the Imperial War Museum grounds. Food is typical pub grub, with plenty of vegan and veggie options.
The Tankard, 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-October 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. The Cocktail Gardener creates botanical drinks infused with ingredients from the museum's garden, served around a campfire. A beautifully atmospheric way to spend a summer evening, and you can order food from Deliveroo/JustEat etc too.
Midnight Apothecary at Brunel Museum, Railway Avenue, SE16 4LF (tickets should be booked in advance)
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 laid back — all fairy lights a-twinkle — and you can reward yourself for trudging up all those steps with a margarita and a burger or hot dog.
Bar Elba, Mercury House, 109-117 Waterloo Road, SE1 8UL
Lost In Brixton, Brixton
With Cuban rum cocktails, chicken from Rudie's Jerk Shack, and exotic flowers twisting up the woodwork, Lost In Brixton screams 'summer' at the top of its lungs. The fact it's nestled in amongst the railway arches lends it extra urban cred. No wonder there are often queues to get in.
Lost In Brixton, Brixton Village, Coldharbour Lane, SW9 8PS
JOIA Rooftop, Battersea Power Station
With the power station district now full steam ahead, a rooftop bar here was inevitable: JOIA Rooftop perches on the 16th floor of art'otel, offering summery sips like slushy peach daquiris, and Aventurinas (gin, mint, cucumber, lime), alongside Spanish style snacks. The real lure is that view of the famous chimneys — especially now you can watch people sticking out the top of one.
JOIA Rooftop, Battersea Power Station, 1 Electric Boulevard, SW11 8BJ
Fairytop Garden Zoo, Catford
Fairytop Garden Zoo is a relative newcomer to the south London rooftop scene, with a menu featuring all the summer faves (margaritas, palomas, Pimm's, spritzes) plus scrummy pizzas. The views might not be quite as spectacular as, say, Frank's — but poking over the back of Catford's houses, you can spy Canary Wharf.
Fairytop Garden Zoo, 108-110 Rushey Green, Catford, SE6 4HW
Rooftop bars in west London
Pergola Paddington, Paddington
After the demise of Kensington Roof Gardens, west London is in some serious need of rooftop representation. Luckily Pergola Paddington is open again this year, modelled on a Tulum-inspired beach club with Mexican food and booze on the menu, including spicy watermelon margs. Booking recommended.
Pergola Paddington, 5 Kingdom Street, Paddington Central, W2 6PY
Skylark Roof Garden, Paddington
Striped patio furniture and planters overspilling with herbs and wild grasses set the summery scene for Skylark — a worthy alternative to Pergola (they're next door neighbours), and a place where an afternoon will easily fly by, sharing a Gin Elderflower Spritz pitcher with pals, and watching trains snake their way in and out of Paddington station.
Skylark Roof Garden, 10th floor, 4 Kingdom Street, W2 6BD
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 feels comparatively rural to many of the bars on this list.
Lyric Bar, Lyric Square, King Street, W6 0QL
The Alexandra, Wimbledon
OK, technically this is south-west rather than west-west London, but it only requires a short hop over the Thames to make the most of this charming pub's rooftop bar. The Loft terrace comes with a burger shack and al fresco bar, from which it serves a good selection of beers. Low-key, it's still reliably packed on a sunny summer's day, so make sure to get there early if you want a table.
The Alexandra, 33 Wimbledon Hill Road, SW19 7NE
Original article by Ben O' Norum.