Why drink on the ground when you can sip cocktails in the sky? Check out our ultimate guide to London's best rooftop bars.
It’s a tough task, but somebody had to stroll the streets of London, eyes permanently cast skywards for signs of fun being had many floors above.
But we are servants to you and if a cocktail or two slides our way during this arduous task, then so be it. The result is all that matters, and here it is: The Definitive Guide to London’s Rooftop bars. We had rules, of course - you have to have rules, or else chaos reigns supreme. We won’t allow members bars or private hotel terraces (cocktails for the many, not the few!), we shan’t accept entirely covered spaces (that’s a room, not a terrace!) and we absolutely will not even contemplate ground-floor drinking (the closer to Heaven, the better!)
If you want to head straight for your local area, use the tags below. And if we’ve missed somewhere that warrants a mention, let us know in the comments…
The tenth floor might not be the highest roof top venue on this list, but Radio Rooftop's location on The Strand means it's got some of the best views around. From the corner spot it enjoys, you'll be able to sip drinks while looking out across the River Thames towards the Royal Festival Hall and London Eye in one direction, The Shard in another, and the whole of the city and Canary Wharf on the horizon out east. It's a beautiful spot atop the equally swish ME Hotel, and the cocktail menu here is first class.
336-337 Strand, WC2R 1HA, www.radiorooftop.com
Positioned above the Doubletree Hilton Hotel near Fenchurch Street station, Savage Garden is a welcomingly quirky rooftop venue smack-bang in the middle of an otherwise corporate swamp. It claims to be "London's wildest sky-high destination," which is a bold claim, but with cocktails including the Diablo ("hotter than a chilli pepper") and the Savage Spritz ("more of a blitz than a spritz"), they're at least dedicated to trying to prove the point.
There are actually two terraces here - the Wildside, which sits under a retractable roof and caters more to private events, and the Beefeater-sponsored Pink Gin Terrace right on top of it all, from which you'll get all of the city's skyline and the added bonus of an unbeatable view of the Tower of London.
Floor 12, 7 Pepys Street, EC3N 4AF, www.savagegarden.co.uk
No prizes here for the biggest rooftop - LSQ offers more of a balcony than a full-blown terrace, but this is all about location, location, location. The LSQ stands for, we presume, Leicester Square, and this place occupies a spot overlooking the famous tourist spot - one of the busiest areas in London - which somehow makes it all the more relaxing, knowing that down below there's a never-ending battle for floor space. They're open from breakfast until evening, but it's probably at its most popular in that all-important pre-theatre period, when a grabbing a space for food and cocktails is never easy. Mark LSQ down as your secret antidote to queuing for two hours for a table at Slug & Lettuce.
9th Floor, Hotel Indigo, 1 Leicester Square, WC2H 7NA, www.lsqrooftop.com
The German-based Amano hotel group knows a thing or two about rooftop bars. They've got no less than THREE sky-high venues in Berlin as well as a further three ground level terraces in the same city - these guys appreciate the merits of an outdoor beer. So it's no surprise that their brand-spanking new Covent Garden hotel has a Skybar with its own roof terrace that boasts clean, modernist design. Inside, it's all sharp corners and low-level furniture that make sure the floor-to-ceiling windows around the whole bar become the focal point, where you can sip cocktails while the sun sets over central London.
Drury House, 34-43 Russell Street, WC2B 5HA, www.amanogroup.de
Perched atop the Assembly Hotel on Charing Cross Road, Garden Rooftop really runs with the theme - a ceiling full of tumbling flora make it feel like you're boozing in a garden centre, but there's no doubting the greenery gives a welcome touch of colour to what is (let's be honest) a typically grey London sky in the background.
We have to be honest, this one snuck into the list because it does have a roof, but large windows that slide open to turn the whole area into a covered balcony just about won us over. And with cocktails including Bricks in the Sky, The View, Tenth Floor and Rooftop Delight, it's like they've been trying to get our attention, so welcome to the rooftop list, Garden Rooftop!
Assembly Hotel, 31 Charing Cross Rd, WC2H 0LS, www.gardenrooftop.co.uk
Jin Bo Law Skybar
No, Jin Bo Law isn't a firm of barristers with such a penchant for cocktails that they've opened their own bar on the roof (though we're claiming copyright on that sitcom right here and now), it's actually the golden wine cup in the dynasty of imperial China, and a term used today to describe children who are cherished by their families. With that in mind, leave the kids at home and head to this golden wine cup in the centre of town. You'll be greeted by the awe-inspiring sight of the bar, shrouded in a golden metal lattice wave that points towards the terrace outside.
As the name suggests, this is an 'East meets West' bar, which in simple terms means cocktails you know, infused with ingredients you probably don't.
Pushing the boat out? Go for the Expense Me - a sharing cocktail featuring Hennessy Vs Cognac, Moët Chandon Brut champagne, Strawberry Puree, Lemonade, Apple juice and Cranberry juice. Is the name a little too on the nose? It's £88.88 - so perhaps they just know their market.
14th floor, 9 Aldgate High Street Dorsett City, EC3N 1AH, www.jinbolaw.co.uk
The Aqua group know their way around high-end bars, with 25 swish venues spanning the world from London to New York, Miami, Beijing, Hong Kong and Dubai. Perhaps London's most well-known Aqua venue is half way up The Shard, but this rooftop overlooking Regent Street has something they can't offer - the open air.
Aqua Spirit goes all out, with a bar on the terrace itself, which means you can always be sure the bartender is as cold as you when you're sticking it out even though the temperature has dropped into single figures.
Top notch cocktails are the order of the day here - all reasonably priced at between £8 - £15 (we said top notch, didn't we?), and a tapas-style bar snacks menu to help soak it all up.
5th Floor, 240 Regent Street (Entrance 30 Argyll Street), W1B 3BR, www.aquaspirit.co.uk
Who is Sabine? We don't know! But she's got a view of St. Paul's Cathedral that's so good, she had to share it. Take a seat on her rooftop terrace and once the old God-palace over the road gets lit up, you might just be looking at the most Instagrammable location in London. If you look the other way, you'll be treated to views over to the Shard, but seriously, who looks the other way? Nobody, that's who!
The small plates menu here is reassuringly fancy: Baked Camembert, pulled jackfruit tacos, smoked salmon tartare and the like all make an appearance, and the cocktail list doesn't get left behind. Take a long hard look at the view and then suck down on a Negronito. Trust us on that.
10 Godliman St, EC4V 5AJ, www.sabinelondon.co.uk
Willows on the Roof
Confusingly still marketed on their website as somewhere to enjoy a seasonal hot drink, Willows on the Roof is perfectly set up for the summer months. Astro turf under foot, trees and bushes scattered liberally around old fashioned, wooden garden furniture and festooned lights draped up above, what's not to like about this rooftop hideaway? And if you're after some light bites, Tinie Tempah's restaurant, RAPS (get it? He raps and he sells wraps!) is serving up healthy soul food to pair with your seasonal cocktails.
John Lewis Rooftop, 300 Oxford Street, W1C 1DX, www.willowsontheroof.co.uk
A pleasant inside-outside space, the main, glass-walled restaurant of Mercer swings open its large, bi-fold doors to create a large, Mediterranean-style terrace. The cocktail menu is brilliantly adventurous, using ingredients such as Butterfly pea flower infused Nicholson gin and Curry leaves infused Laphroaig whisky, and the menu offers Cornish-fed chicken, Charcoal grilled Heron's Farm British Aged Beef steaks and Peterhead Lemon Sole.
20 Garlick Hill, EC4V 2AU, www.vintryandmercer.com
A long-time favourite of the city bankers whose offices overlook the rooftop gardens, the Coq D'Argent is old-school, French glamour in the heart of London. It's certainly not cheap, but if you're looking to impress a date or laying the business card down on the table, then order some crustaceans, caviar and champagne and kick back safe in the knowledge that you're enjoying the high-life in every way.
Such is the design of the terrace here, that for much of your visit you might not even realise you're up on the roof - dining areas enclosed with decorative hedges and umbrellas give the feel of a Parisian street restaurant rather than a rooftop terrace - but make sure you take a stroll through the gardens, where you'll see the city skyline looming over the deceptively large green lawns.
No.1 Poultry, EC2R 8EJ,
Overlooking Finsbury Square between Old Street and Liverpool Street stations, Aviary has a sizeable terrace that runs along the side of its rooftop restaurant and culminates in a wide space packed full of tables perfect for enjoying the sunshine with a cold glass of champagne. It's got a decidedly 'banker on a lunchbreak' feel to it - don't expect a happy hour or cheap pints here - but for its quirky theme and great views over to the city's skyscrapers, Aviary is well worth a visit.
22-25 Finsbury Square, EC2A 1DX, www.aviarylondon.com
The team behind Aviary launch their newest rooftop spot this month, taking the space above the beautiful old House of Fraser building on King William Street. The bar itself is a curious add-on, teaming a modern penthouse structure with the grand old dome of the original building. They’ve nabbed the bar skills of Angelos Bafas from Aqua and downstairs, a restaurant will offer a seasonal menu with equally exquisite views.
Get in there early and nab yourself a space before tongues start wagging about Wagtail.
68 King William Street, EC4N 7HR, www.wagtaillondon.com
A stroll through the One New Change shopping centre isn't the most likely entrance to one of London's best rooftops, but the views from Madison make it all worthwhile. What you'll get from the 6th floor is unobstructed views of St. Paul's Cathedral which, when the sun begins to drop and the landmark's lights switch on, is one of the finest sights in the city. The food - heavy on the meat with a long steak list - is excellent and fairly priced and the bottomless bubbles at the New York Rooftop Brunch are always popular.
Rooftop Terrace One, New Change, EC4M 9AF, www.madisonlondon.net
If Sushisamba isn't the best sushi restaurant in town, it's certainly in the mix with its menu inspired by the cuisines of Japan, Brazil and Peru. Its decor is as eye-opening as its diverse mix of cultural influences and on the 39th floor terrace you can order cocktails from a bar built around a tree. Whether you're eating in the monochrome tiled main restaurant space or settling down on the open-air terrace, Sushisamba is the kind of venue you'll want to tell your friends about - and you'll definitely have all the Insta-friendly pictures you'll need to do it.
Heron Tower, Bishopsgate, EC2N 4AY, www.sushisamba.com
The regeneration of Kings Cross continues apace and at the centre of it all sits The Standard. From LA to New York, Miami and the Maldives, these guys know the power of ultra-cool, outside spaces. As you'd expect, it's modern, quirky and high-fashion, but here you also get the backdrop of the grand, mid 19th-century splendour of St Pancras Station (or, more specifically, the Renaissance Hotel that sits in front of the platforms).
Cocktails are available by the glass or in pitchers, which sets the scene for the atmosphere here - it's young, fun and lively. A definite highlight of London's rooftop scene.
10 Argyle St, London WC1H 8EG, www.standardhotels.com
Big Chill has become a north London institution for good reason. No-nonsense fun is what's served up here - good beers, good cocktails, good food and good times. But if you're munching down on one of their delicious Chuck burgers this summer, upstairs is the place to do it. The terrace here is a warren of cozy spaces divided by wooden pergolas and steel planter boxes Little touches like the wall of old speakers give a nod to the Big Chill's ties to the music world (the guys behind the Big Chill bars use to run festivals that booked the likes of The Chemical Brothers, Kanye West, Robert Plant, Massive Attack, Roots Manuva and Thom Yorke) and the whole place has the feel of a welcoming house party where someone else pours the drinks.
257-259 Pentonville Rd, N1 9NL, www.bigchillbar.com
Camden seems to change every week, with new bars and restaurants popping up all over. But one thing remains constant amongst it all: The trusty Lock Tavern. From the early noughties when it was a hang-out for indie and nu-rave bands to today, its homely, exposed-brick interior has barely changed yet never seems to have dated. The roof terrace is a low-key affair with no bells and whistles, but grab yourself a seat outside and watch the weird and wonderful Camden come to life on the street below.
35 Chalk Farm Rd, Chalk Farm, NW1 8AJ, www.lock-tavern.com
Lucky Club Camden
Lucky Club, which we wrote about right here a few weeks back, opens in Camden Market on May 13, which means you need to hotfoot it over there sharpish and bag yourself a Mexican cocktail. The venue was once a Horse Hospital, but that wasn’t a stable enough business, so it eventually became Proud Camden, before transforming into Lucky Club Camden - the new, flagship venue for the owners behind Lucky Club Mayfair.
It’ll be a monster offering of nearly 5,600 square feet with a retractable roof, a menu packed full of tacos and Margaritas in every flavour you can imagine.
The Terrace, Horse Hospital, North Stables Yard, NW1 8AH, www.theluckyclub.com
A masterclass in making the best of what you're given, Bubba Oasis has a terrace that runs the whole length of its roof and fits up to 60 people. It's a rare thing in Islington, with most restaurants and venues finding themselves below flats or offices, so Bubba gets top marks for finding a space for that all-important summer hangout.
It's enclosed with white, wooden walls that allow for weather-proofing covers to be dragged over on rainy days, and the home-made feel of their crate-tables and garden furniture make it super welcoming. DJs can often be found spinning tunes under the night sky and if you give Bubba a shot next time you're in N1, there's every chance you might end up bunkering down for the evening here.
57-58 Upper St, N1 0NY, www.bubbaoasis.com
When Frank's opened in 2009, it became an instant hit with locals and word soon spread to outsiders who'd never even considered the idea of a night out in Peckham. But most of all, it sent shockwaves through the hospitality industry, when people who'd spent millions on their luxury roof terraces watched as a car park - literally just a car park - became the bar of the summer.
It's moved on in parts since then, with wooden structures and bars added here and there and other operators taking over the floors below, but the charm of Frank's will always be the Berlin-style, industrial feel it exudes. The sunsets are beautiful, the views across London are far reaching, and the atmosphere is always on point.
7th-10th Floor Multi Storey Car Park, 95A Rye Ln, SE15 4ST, Frank's Cafe
South Londoners don't know how good they've got it. Just minutes away from Frank's Cafe is Bussey Rooftop, a glorious terrace fixed to the top of an old gun and ammo factory. It's evolved over the years to incorporate a floral canopy/pergola and kitchens dishing out some of the finest pizzas around, but the views - and its claim to being the "highest drinking spot in the neighbourhood" - remain unchanged.
Peckham has become something of a hipster hideaway of recent times, so expect a young, cool crowd with students from nearby arts colleges and universities, and a sprinkling of young professionals sampling the top notch cocktail menu.
Roof B, Bussey Building, 133 Rye Ln, SE15 4ST, www.busseyrooftopbar.com
London Bridge Rooftop
Considering its location next to one of London's busiest commuter stations, London Bridge Rooftop is new enough to still be considered a 'hidden gem' (read: somewhere you might actually be able to get a seat on a sunny day), but it won't stay that way for long if people like us keep shouting about it. It's got an astroturfed floor, picnic tables, a flower--wall with neon lights in it and a view that incorporates the Shard - so far, so 'rooftop bar'. But the beauty of this place is that it's so well positioned for that post-work bevvy that you'll be able to watch your train pull up and decide whether to make a run for the station.
And there's another bonus, too - with the famous Flat Iron Square and Vinegar Yard both within spitting distance, the outdoor-drinking crowd is split three ways in London Bridge, so you'll be able to find a seat in the sun one way or another.
Colechurch House, Bridge Walk, London SE1 2SX, www.londonbridgerooftop.com
Waterloo Sky Bar
The H10 hotel's rooftop bar isn't the most stylish on this list (what is it with hotel bars always looking like... hotel bars?) but the view from upstairs nudges it firmly into a place worthy of your attention.
The terrace points north towards the river, making the London Eye your focal point as you sip cocktails on the deck, which is split into two sections - one with soft, comfy sofas where you can lounge with friends, and a second with upright chairs where you can pretend to be in a meeting while gazing over the views.
It's a relatively small set-up outside, meaning it's perfect for a quiet date or you could easily fill it with friends, but this is an escape from the crowds of London, so don't come here for rooftop party vibes - it's all about quiet reflection over a cocktail or two.
284-302 Waterloo Rd, SE1 8RQ, Waterloo Sky Bar
What happens at Seabird? Well, you eat stuff from the sea while hanging out with the birds. See what they did there? Good, then let's move on. The tiled terrace of this Southwark restaurant sits atop the Hoxton Hotel, and follows the New York-style chic of the hotel chain's venues. The tall, foliage-covered brick pillars that run along the length of the space give the venue a Manhattan feel and the place feels buzzy and relaxing at the same time, which is a tough job to pull off. Inside, the modern warehouse feel continues with cozy, garden-furniture style chairs interspersed with bright sofas - all of which will point you in the direction of floor-to-ceiling windows.
If you need any more convincing, there's a happy hour from 3-5pm Monday to Thursday, when oysters are £2 a go and Martinis are £7.
The Rooftop, The Hoxton Southwark, 40 Blackfriars Road, SE1 8NY, www.seabirdlondon.com
Like a booze-fuelled playground for adults, Bar Elba goes big on colour, fruity drinks and activities. Despite being a meagre four-floors in the air, you'll still get top views - and by that, we mean the top of The London Eye, the top of Westminster Abbey and the top of skyscrapers. But Bar Elba more than makes up for that by giving you plenty to occupy your senses in the sunshine. Regular Rooftop Cinema evenings, a bottomless brunch at weekends and stand up comedy nights are in the diary for this season, so grab a jug of cocktail and settle down for the evening at Elba.
109-117 Waterloo Rd, SE1 8UL, www.bar-elba.co.uk
OXO Tower Restaurant
Alas, the OXO symbols that shine bright over London every night are not urging you to go home and play your Playstation. And they’re not signing off a text with a cute ‘hugs and kisses babes’ either. No, they’re calling you skyward towards the Oxo Tower. Fittingly, where meaty cubes of flavour were once produced for cooking enthusiasts, today a restaurant sits on the roof overlooking the Thames, and it’s really rather good.
The Oxo Tower Restaurant - owned by Harvey Nichols - caters for anybody with deep pockets, covering large parties, children’s menus and tasting menus as well as an extensive wine list. It’s a destination for a special occasion or a refined afternoon sipping good wine, so don’t come hoping for a raucous party - but the views here are majestic and the atmosphere one of relaxed sophistication.
Barge House St, SE1 9PH, Oxo Tower Restaurant
Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden
If you're strolling along the South Bank, this place will be quite literally calling you up - you can access it via the bright yellow staircase with the words 'Come on up' written across the outside. If you do as you're told, you'll be rewarded with a beautifully serene, natural garden space overlooking the Thames. The foliage was originally designed by the green-fingered maestros of the Eden Project in Cornwall and the fruit trees and flowers make for a perfect backdrop for your evening glass of Rosè.
This is more of a family-affair, with the cafe serving coffees, sandwiches, soft drinks and the like, but if you're looking for a spot where you can sit on the grass and enjoy a glass or two of wine, this place is a great option.
Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX, Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden
Clapham's Vagabond is a tap-and-pour venue, which means you can sample their 100+ wines by the glass - or even less than a glass if you're after a few sips of mega-expensive vino. The premise is simple: most bars only sell the good stuff by the bottle, because once you've poured a glass, it's a race against time to sell the rest before the whole bottle goes bad. But Vagabond's machines keep an air-tight seal on the wine bottles, so you can choose via an app to pour a smidgen of fine wine without having to worry when someone else will come along to finish it off.
Once you've poured your glass, head upstairs to the 'secret garden', where the views are minimal (it's surrounded on all sides by reclaimed wooden walls and frosted windows), but the sunshine can pour in through the open roof.
4 Northcote Rd, SW11 1NT, www.vagabondwines.co.uk
Tooting High Street isn't the first place you'd associate with a glamorous jazz-and-blues bar boasting a sizeable - and gorgeous - roof terrace, but that's because you've not been to The Corin. High-end Pan-Asian cuisine, cocktails crafted by leading mixologists and decor straight from The Great Gatsby all add to the sense of occasion here, and a live music schedule ranging from chill out pass and blues through to up-market jazz house mean repeat visits will never get boring. The Sunday Brunch comes with a soundtrack of live blues music and once you've settled down on the roof terrace, we're fairly sure your brunch will turn into lunch and before you know it, the sun has set over Tooting.
54a Tooting High Street, SW17 0RN, www.thecorintooting.com
Do you know what Peckham needs? Another awesome rooftop bar. Honestly, when jet packs hit the mass market, there's every chance people in Peckham will never come down to ground level again. Skylight Peckham is the sister venue to Skylight Tobacco Dock and the modern, cozy decor and splashes of greenery make this a fine place to spend a summer's day. There's less of the laissez faire cool that its local rivals give off (the website offers set packages for everything from 'Stag Parties' to 'Date Nights' and even 'Friday Nights', which feels like a Red Letter Day home page. Whatever happened to spontaneous drinks?) but there's no denying that this sun trap is a welcome addition to the South London skyline.
Theatre Walk (in between Peckham Library and Mountview College, 120 Peckham Hill St, SE15 5JT,
Considering its reputation as a party town, Clapham isn't blessed with many roof terraces - and that means you might have to arrive early to bag a spot at The Saxon, which claims (not unreasonably) to have the best sun trap in the area. It's not huge, but they've made great use of the space and there's plenty of room for large groups to congregate as well as carefully designed dividers that mean a quiet date-night is also possible. The food is great - especially the pizzas - and there's always a fun party atmosphere at The Saxon.
50 Clapham High St, SW4 7UL, www.thesaxon.co.uk
No 32 The Old Town
Boasting enviable views across Clapham Common, the terrace at No. 32 The Old Town is a glorious place to be. It's an all-day venue, meaning you can stop by for coffee and brunch from 9am or party late into the evening, and the fairy-light 'wall' that separates drinkers from the road make even a cloudy evening feel like it's lit by the stars. The food menu is a delicious smorgasbord of home-made dishes, from pancakes through to Sunday roasts, pasta and burgers and the bar tip-toes the tightrope between 'brilliant party place' and 'somewhere you can plug your laptop in and work,' which means there's really no reason to leave. Ever.
32 The Pavement, SW4 0JE, www.no32theoldtown.co.uk
Prince of Wales
Can't decide between a pub, a restaurant and an all-out Ibiza-style club terrace? Then do all three. The Prince of Wales boasts a 'traditional' pub downstairs - albeit one that hosts regular DJs - but there aren't many boozers in London that hide a full-on nightclub like this one. The club has a 1920s Art Deco sprung dance floor and a Funktion One soundsystem, which is club-speak for "bone-shakingly loud."
Bounce up the club's stairs and you'll find one of the city's finest terraces - a crescent-shaped beast of a space that lets you shake your tail feather in the warm glow of Brixton's setting sun.
467- 469 Brixton Rd, SW9 8HH, www.pow-london.com
Laurel's on the Roof
Fancy grabbing a cocktail with Brian Wilson, downing a beer with Neil Young or shooting the breeze with Joni Mitchell? Well, you can’t! Honestly, who do you think you are?
But you can get closer to knowing what it might feel like, by heading up to Laurel’s on the Roof, which is Shoreditch’s take on a 70s hangout in Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles.
It’s a bizarre vision, given that Laurel Canyon was all hippies and creatives escaping the city for a slice of serenity surrounded by nature and this is… well, it’s a high-end bar in Shoreditch. But hey, it has neon lights and flowers and it does look very nice indeed.
You’ll have to be quick to grab a table outside as space is limited, but wherever you end up, you’ll be guaranteed a glorious view. Don’t rush to bring your swimmers, buy the way - that pool on the other side of the glass looks incredibly inviting, but it’s for hotel guests only. Boooo!
The Mondrian, 45 Curtain Road, Shoreditch EC2A 3PT, Laurel's on the Roof
A decade ago, the planet’s finest physical specimens walked along these streets, bouncing into the park where they would complete incredible feats of endurance, bravery and strength. It was the pinnacle of years of intense training and sublime, God-given talent. Now, you can sit high above it all, eating muffins and drinking cocktails.
Yep, in many ways, The Allegra will show you just how far we have evolved as a species. From seven floors above street level, you’ll get unbeatable vistas of the London Stadium, Copper Box Arena and Zaha Hadid’s iconic London Aquatics Centre.
With views that good, you’ll need a restaurant and bar to match, and Allegra won’t let you down. It’s the brainchild of the team behind Chiltern Firehouse and St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel and you could be munching on blood pudding muffin with pickled jalapeño; friend chicken with mustard fruit and pickles or Waldorf tarts while guzzling signature cocktails like the moorish Smokey Joe.
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, 20 International Way, E20 1FD, www.allegra-restaurant.com
You know what rooftop bars need more of? Saunas. Yep, that’s right. Sweaty, steamy, boiling hot saunas. If you need a steer on the sort of place Netil 360 is, you should know that up until recently there were four Finnish saunas up on the roof, which you could hire for a little sweat-session. They’re currently out of action (presumably due to Covid), but the bar is open and it’s such a sun trap that you’ll probably get just as hot out there on the roof. There’s precious little shade up there, save for an ‘indoor’ section around the bar, so if you’re of a pasty persuasion, you’ll need to pack sunscreen. But Neil360 is effortlessly cool, achingly fashionable and frequented by a mix of people from city-boys to students and creatives who head up to the roof for the regular DJ sets under the pink sunsets of East London.
1 Westgate St, E8 3RL, www.netil360.com
Top marks to The Culpeper for making full use of their rooftop - not only do they provide top notch views of the area around Spitalfields, they’ve also devoted around a third of their outdoor space to growing the vegetables you’ll be eating from the Culpeper menu.
The rooftop here is all about rustic realness - make no mistake, this is a space for the plants, and you’re allowed to drink here - but that’s what makes it such a unique and special place.
There’s often a queue here, but stick it out and you’ll get locally sourced food, cocktails and wine, and a relaxed atmosphere in the heart of the city.
40 Commercial St, E1 6LP, www.theculpeper.com
Sometimes it pays to check how bars describe themselves online. Pocket Square - the bar above Hyatt Place London City East - says it’s “eccentrically local, outrageously striking,” which in itself is absolutely outrageous and entirely nonsensical. Words! Exclamation! Excitement! Nonsense!
One thing that might be described as eccentric is the gin-led cocktails, which come in an array of increasingly wacky glasses from blue swirly ones to yellow swoosh ones and even ones that look like goblets from Game of Thrones. That’s the kind of outrageously striking behaviour we can get behind. Take your multicoloured vessels straight to the roof terrace, where you can gaze down upon the people of Whitechapel Road, lifting your goblet high into the air and proclaiming yourself the new King of East London. They probably won’t hear you as you’re 9 floors up, but you’ll feel great and the view is quite special. 9th Floor, Hyatt Place London City East, 45 Whitechapel Road, E1 1DU, www.pocketsquare.london
Skylight Tobacco Dock
East London’s Skylight has an altogether different feel to its South London sister venue, and in our opinion is all the better for it. There’s all the pergolas and harsh, exposed concrete industrial architecture you’d expect from an East London roof terrace, but Skylight comes with a little added fun, courtesy of their rooftop games. Croquet, pétanque, shuffleboard and ping-pong are just some of the games on offer, so grab a group of friends and get competitive over a drink or two.
The terrace here is big and open, making the whole place feel ultra-sociable - no hiding away in groups here - and once the beers start flowing and the games are underway, you’re sure to leave with a friend - or competitive nemesis - more than you arrived with.
Tobacco Dock, E1W 2SF, Skylight Tobacco Dock
Boundary has long been one of Shoreditch’s much-loved secrets. It’s one of the finest restaurants in East London but enjoys a spot very slightly off the beaten track - enough so that it’s never swamped with day-trippers, but not so much that it feels a trek to get there.
The rooftop is a masterclass in relaxed dining. Sofas and comfortable chairs are draped with blankets for the evening hours, and the menu moves with the season, offering Mediterranean style grilled meats and fish during the summer, and Alps-inspired fondue and warming dishes during the winter.
The terrace is obviously the prime spot, but the Orangery also offers killer views with protecton against the weather, so mark this down as a year-round destination.
2-4 Boundary St, London E2 7DD, www.boundary.london
Queen of Hoxton
Give me a rooftop, but make it Shoreditch. The annual theming of this large terrace is the stuff of legend and in recent years has included Lost Vegas, Alice in Winterland, WigWamBam and Las Mexicanas. And the QoH goes BIG on its themes - we’re talking storylines (Lost Vegas was based in the year 2030 when nature has reclaimed Vegas following an uprising by eco-warriors), crazy props (Las Mexicanas had an actual wrestling ring) and cocktail menus to match.
What's the theme this year? Cherry Blossom - expect a sea of pink, Instagrammable backdrops in every direction and a banging party every night of the week. It’s never quiet at Queen of Hoxton, but it’ll be a night you’ll remember for a long time.
1 Curtain Rd, EC2A 3JX, www.queenofhoxton.com
For an area that has more square footage in the sky than pretty much anywhere else in the UK, Canary Wharf is curiously short on rooftop drinking. Thankfully, Bokan stepped up to fill the gap and has managed to do so without covering every surface in chrome, marble and glass, as seems to be the fashion in this part of town. The result is a surprisingly tranquil, homely rooftop bar, with rustic, dark-wood walls and an ‘inside-outside’ set-up that means you cam enjoy terrace life even when you’re undercover.
The extensive cocktail list is reasonably priced and the English-with-a-twist menu includes sea bass, Hereford salt beef tacos, fish & chips and the BŌKAN burger.
Past celebrity guests in this grand old building include The Krays and George Orwell, although it wasn’t such an enjoyable visit for them - Upper 5th sits atop The Courthouse Hotel which, as the name suggests, used to house criminals on their way into the penal system.
Now a trendy Shoreditch destination, the roof terrace occupies some prime real estate. With that in mind, it’s hard to argue that the sparse, minimalist ‘decor’ isn’t a slightly disappointing use of the top floor. What we have here is essentially some chairs on some decking with the odd pot plant thrown in. That being said, this is Shoreditch, so the views are great, there are DJs pumping tunes into the night sky and there’s a party atmosphere whenever you visit. It’s a great spot to kickstart your evening before you dive down to street level to explore everything else the area has to offer.
Courthouse Hotel Shoreditch, 335-337 Old St, EC1V 9LL, Upper 5th
Stratford’s Roof East is like a bizarre summer fète, with a couple of foliage-filled cars and plenty of booze thrown in. There’s picket fences, miles of bunting zig-zagging overhead and games. Loads of games. They’ve got baseball batting cages, carpark karaoke, archery, crazy golf, lawn bowls, Jenga, cornhole, beat the bar and ping pong, so you’ll never get bored waiting for your mate to return from the bar. Food comes from a variety of street food trucks and the bar will keep you lubed up with a long list of cocktails, wines, craft beers and spirits. It’s not the kind of refined boozing you’ll find in other rooftops around London, but it’s way more fun.
7 & 8 Stratford Multi Storey Car Park, Great Eastern Rd, E15 1XE, www.roofeast.com
A short stroll from Old Street roundabout is one of Shoreditch’s swankier rooftop bars, courtesy of Golden Bee. A central fire pit provides the warmth (and flickering flames that’ll send you into a sleepy trance after a few beers), and palm trees curve overheard to give the place a distinctively Mediterranean feel, especially on a hot summer’s day.
Sustenance comes via Sushi platters and wood-fired pizzas, and the drinks list will have you feeling tipsy and smug, as many of the reasonably priced £11.50 cocktails hand £3 straight to the Our Little Tribe Uganda charity, which builds schools for disabled and disadvantaged children in the African country. Top marks for a bar doing something good with their hard-earned cash.
Singer St, EC1V 9DD, www.goldenbee.co.uk
Dalston Roof Park
Opening for the summer on June 2, Dalston Roof Park manages to morph from a daytime chill-out space to a house and disco rave palace with ease. Past events at the East London spot have included sunrise yoga, but if you’re more interested in downing grog than the downward dog, there’s plenty to keep you occupied. House and Disco Saturdays is brought to you by the curators of Pleasurehood and XOYO and bottomless Disco Brunches sit firmly on the raucous side of morning gatherings.
With turfed flooring and overflowing planters, you could be forgiven for thinking you’d strolled into a pleasant English garden… only this garden comes with a bar, London’s best underground DJs and a lot of strangers downing shots.
The Print House, 18-22 Ashwin St, E8 3DL, www.dalstonroofpark.com
The Gate Aldgate
If we were to choose the ideal roof-terrace set up, we’d be hard pushed to find something better than a secluded, green hideaway atop a booze shop. Step forward, TT Liquor, which offers all that plus one, essential extra: If you fancy going ‘off menu’, you can head downstairs, pick up beers or wine from their extremely large collection, and take it back to your table under the stars (for a small corkage fee).
The terrace is gorgeous and homely, with a perfect mix of greenery, old wood and exposed brick and the covered and heated booths will have you protected in all weathers. The kitchen turfs out Neopolitan pizzas and charcuterie boards and the drinks menu serves up only the finest booze - as you’d expect from a much respected liquor store.
17B Kingsland Rd, E2 8AA, www.ttliquor.co.uk
Rooftop @ The Trafalgar St James
St. James isn't an area that's short on swanky bars, so you won't be expecting anything less than a top-end bar in this part of town. In fact, the Trafalgar St James hotel has three of them, but the rooftop is the pick of the bunch for drinkers wanting a view. As you'd imagine of a hotel on Trafalgar Square, Admiral Nelson will be jealously peering over at your cocktails, and you can order from an extensive menu while admiring his natty hat. It's a Japanese-inspired offering with dishes like Grilled Salmon Teriyaki, Soy Glaze Beef Brisket and Wagyu Beefburgers, or you can order from a small plates menu for sharing and picking. Be warned ,there's a minimum spend here of £35 per head during the week and £50 at weekends, but a cocktail and a couple of small plates will see you comfortably over the line.
7th Floor, 2 Spring Gardens, St. James's, SW1A 2TS (WEST?), www.trafalgarstjames.com
The Nest @ Treehouse London
It should be a rule that any treehouse should have a leafy platform from which you can survey your kingdom - that goes for the rickety, shed-in-the-bushes your parents knocked up out of old crates and super-plush hotels.
The owners of Treehouse London know the score, and they’ve more than delivered. As you’d expect, it’s all wood, natural materials and hanging foliage, with mix-and-match furniture and twinkling lights among the leaves. It’s a beautifully calming space with views across central London and evenings are powered by DJs who take their spot up in their own ‘fort’, but the wraparound terrace is what you’re here for - and there are loungers a-plenty where you can bunker down for your stay.
Be warned, reservations are recommended and two-hour slots and minimum spends vary from £50 to £75pp through the week.
14-15 Langham Place, W1B 2QS. www.treehousehotels.com
The enormous, beer-hall-style outdoor space, Pergola Paddington has recently undergone a new-season overhaul to transform into a Mexican getaway inspired by the beach bars of Tulum. It’s surely the most fun you can have in Paddington these days, so we heartily recommend booking yourself a Cabana, settling down with a bellyful of Filth & Co tacos and becoming one with the Mexican spirit. Speaking of Mexican spirits, frozen tequila cocktails are the essential sunshine temperature regulator, but you can also grab the intriguing sounding Chilli Mango Margs, Watermelon Smash Blue Agave and Paloma Picantes from the bar. What are they? Who cares, gringo! Get ‘em down ya.
4 Kingdom St, London W2 6PY, www.pergolapaddington.com
Alto at Selfridge's
Alto is a rooftop restaurant by San Carlo, above Selfridges department store. You can problably glean enough information from that sentence to know exactly what to expect from this Oxford Street retreat. Pergolas festooned with lemons provide snippets of cover over the crisp, white table cloths of the restaurant, where well-heeled diners tuck into seasonal Italian dishes ranging from Yellowfun Tuna Tartare to Black Salt Sea Bass, Lobster and Fillet of Beef.
You don’t have to eat to enjoy the terrace - there are drinks-only spaces too, and it’s well worth heading up here for a break from the crowds below.
400 Oxford St, London W1A 1AB, Alto at Selfridges
601 Queens Rd
If you’re wombling free in West London any time in the near future, we highly recommend you make a beeline for 601 Queen’ s Rd, the nattily-named bar that you’ll find at… 4 Queens Road in Wimbledon.
It’s an odd-looking round turret on the end of Centre Court Shopping Centre, which sounds horrible, but actually turned out to be a lovely, quirky bar and restaurant with oodles of natural sunlight and the opportunity to stick a wraparound terrace along its whole outer wall. It’s got the tried and tested foliage-canopy intertwined with fairy lights, plentiful seating and a view over Wimbledon that’s perfect for watching the sun go down over an ice cold sundowner.
Centre Court Shopping Centre, 4 Queen's Rd, SW19 8YE www.601queensrd.co.uk
Skylark Roof Garden
Squeezing itself right into Pergola Paddington's manor (did someone say roof terrace crawl?), Skylark occupies the same sky space as its neighbour, but offers a very different experience.
The views across Hyde Park, Notting Hill and Little Venice are some of the best in London, and the terrace here is a green oasis away from the Westway below.
Food is decidedly ‘posh’ (they even serve posh fries, topped with pecorino, truffle, wasabi and green chilli mayo) and the Vulcan Pop Shrimp is worthy of your attention, washed down with a Zia-Mia mescal concoction as you relax on the striped loungers in the sun. 10th Floor, 4 Kingdom Street, Paddington Central, W2 6BD, www.skylarkroofgarden.co.uk