Rooftop Bars And Beer Gardens: Choose Your Own Summer Pub Crawl Around London

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 62 months ago

Last Updated 24 May 2019

Rooftop Bars And Beer Gardens: Choose Your Own Summer Pub Crawl Around London
Best rooftop bars and beer gardens in central London: a pub crawl
The view from Vista at the Trafalgar

Whenever there's sunshine on this small island, make the most of it by enjoying the capital's beer gardens and rooftop bars. Whatever the temperature, we've put together a series of pub crawls so you can enjoy multiple pints in the sun, allowing you to spread your patronage far and wide. So, onto the crawls...

Bear in mind that some rooftop bars are seasonal and some occasionally close for private events, so check before setting out.

Central London rooftop bars and beer gardens

This is a crawl for people who want views and gardens to come garnished with cocktails. Start at Radio Rooftop on the Strand, above the ME Hotel — which is in the old Marconi House, where the BBC made its first radio broadcast in 1922 (note: they won't let you in if you're wearing trainers, as the dress code is 'smart and glamourous').

Then nip down the Strand towards Trafalgar Square, taking a detour down Villiers Street for a sherry standing in the garden of Gordon's Wine Bar. Next, you're back up in the gods again at The Rooftop, overlooking Trafalgar Square.

Best rooftop bars and beer gardens in central London: Aqua Spirit
Aqua Spirit

Once you've emptied your wallet, make sure you've got your debit card handy because it's time to head up Regent Street and call in at Aqua Spirit. Quaff a Japanese-inspired cocktail and nibble on yakitori or tempura while admiring the views from the open air roof terrace.

East London rooftop bars and beer gardens

This crawl around Shoreditch mixes hipster with craft beer without needing to grow a full, luxuriant beard. Start at Netil360 on Westgate Street, overlooking London Fields. This hip hangout is, like so many things in east London, not quite as 'hip' as it used to be. For one, it's no longer BYOB. But the rooftop is expansive and the views are pretty spectacular.

Don't get too comfortable, because you need to head to The Royal Oak on Columbia Road, which has a cosy triangular back garden spilling out into the adjoining courtyard.

The summer 2019 Mexican-themed rooftop at Queen of Hoxton

The beer garden at the Well and Bucket may be small, but you can't visit this part of town without stopping in to sample its magnificent ale selection. Then it's on to Boundary Rooftop for a cocktail and, if you err towards the chilly, a sit-down in the heated, glass rooftop orangery.

Swing by Queen of Hoxton's popular rooftop terrace - where colourful themes change with the seasons - before heading back north to The Red Lion. The rooftop of this multi-storey bar is wee, but if you can squeeze in there's a great atmosphere (just buy your drinks before walking up the stairs; the bar is three floors down). Finish up at the Golden Bee by Old Street station for a cocktail — or several, given that it closes at 3am on Fridays and Saturdays.

North London rooftop bars and beer gardens

This crawl around north London is a bit spread out. You can walk it if you like, but it's about 40 minutes between some of the pubs. Recommended bus routes are indicated by purple circles on the map, which mark bus stops — click to get more information.

The Spaniards Inn is an institution in this part of town. A massive beer garden makes up for the way Hampstead Heath is blocked from view by a fence; a more bucolic setting is offered at The Flask, where the tables out the front of this Highgate pub make it one of the loveliest places in London to while away an afternoon.

You, however, have to get to Crouch End. You can walk for 40 minutes or catch the W5 for the beautiful stained glass, ironworks and textured ceiling of The Queens. If you can tear yourself away from the pub's interior, there's a very pleasant beer garden.

The Faltering Fullback

If you're starting to yearn for a view, the next stop is Finsbury Park's Faltering Fullback (catch the W7 if you don't fancy the walk). The beer garden is built on varying levels and includes a roof terrace.

A quick journey on the number 4 bus brings you to The Junction Tavern in Kentish Town and its beer garden that has actually won awards — so the pub says. We can believe it. The final stop is a southerly walk to The Abbey Tavern, with its wooden roof terrace warmly decked with fairy lights.

South London rooftop bars and beer gardens

This is another crawl that may be easier using the occasional bus. Purple dots mark the bus stops — click for more information.

Any crawl of outdoor drinking in south London inevitably has to start at Frank's, the bar atop a car park in Peckham (this is only open in the summer, so don't start here if you're off for some winter sunshine drinking).

A 345 bus nixes the need for a 30 minute walk to the Sun of Camberwell — it's an Antic pub so you know the beer will be good, and there's a garden out back.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Fentimanarms (@fentimanarms) on

A number of buses will get you near The Fentiman Arms, which has outdoor seating front and back. Take note of the Penguin book cover wallpaper when you buy your pint. There's another choice of buses to help you on your way to The Tankard, which boasts a roof terrace overlooking the grounds of the Imperial War Museum. Visit on a Monday and you'll have the added perk of half price burgers.

A short walk north brings you to The Camel and Artichoke on Lower Marsh is the perfect way to break up the walk to the river, with its beer garden to the rear. Before you hit the Thames, stop off at Bar Elba next to Waterloo station for the giddy combination of margaritas and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Camel and Artichoke, London's best beer gardens and ideal for a pub crawl around south London
The Camel and Artichoke

Finally, head to the National Theatre on the South Bank. Its terrace bar and restaurant is open evenings, as well as lunchtime on Saturdays (it's completely closed on Sundays, though). Enjoy views across the Thames with one of the more reasonably priced cocktails available in zone 1. Alternatively — or additionally, depending on how you're feeling at this point — end at The Understudy, tucked into the National Theatre's eastern wing. It sells a good range of craft beer and has seating outside, also offering river vistas.

West London rooftop bars and beer gardens

"Our Lovely Garden" reads a gate into The Windsor Castle in Notting Hill. It's not lying — all enclosed, rustic and leafy.

Catch the 9 or 27 buses (click on the purple dots for more information) from Kensington down to Hammersmith and The Lyric. The theatre's green and leafy roof garden is a great place to savour a pint. The Dove, and its multi-level terrace overlooking the river, is a short stroll away.

London's best rooftop bars and roof terraces: Lyric Hammersmith in west London
Photo: Lyric Hammersmith

If you don't want to walk to Chiswick, catch a bus to take you to The George IV. A rear beer garden is a more tangible attraction than the pub's alleged ghost. Finally, The Tabard has a theatre — but we, of course, are here for the beer garden and a surprisingly excellent range of craft beer.