The sun’s rays are bestowing London with their glow once again – it’s been a while, so we don’t blame the population for wanting to get a few storeys closer to them.
Lazy rooftop days are just what summer ordered, and having a cold beer or spritz in hand only ever improves things.
All over the capital, London bars are opening up to the sun-seeking masses, offering splendid spots to catch some post-work or weekend warmth.
From luxurious cocktail spots to practically perfect pubs, these are the rooftop bars you need to sun yourself on in London, listed in no particular order.
Step out onto the rooftop terrace of this French restaurant, and its lush garden feels like a green mirage floating on the urban skyline. Coq D’Argent is at the heart of the City on Poultry, but the neat hedges and precise lawns of its heated outdoor quarters offer a surreal foreground to views of St Paul’s, the Walkie Talkie and more.
1 Poultry, EC2R 8EJ, coqdargent.co.uk
Savage Garden promises a walk on the wild side – it does at least have some pretty wild views. Two terraces result in wraparound, 360 degree views of the city from its twelve-storey high perch near the Tower of London. From Wednesday to Saturday, DJ sets are on hand to really get the party going.
Floor 12, 7 Pepys Street, EC3N 4AF, savagegarden.co.uk
A little bit of the Amalfi Coast has made its way to Oxford Street – and you’ll find it on top of Selfridges. Alto is an oasis of Italian chic ready to rescue shoppers from the crowds below. The restaurant boasts a fully retractable roof, while the beams of its al fresco terrace are festooned with lemon-laden branches and hanging lanterns. Guests underneath can tuck into plates of pasta and cicchetti or simply kick back with a spritz.
Selfridges, Oxford Street, W1A 1AB, selfridges.com
This year, King’s Cross hotspot Big Chill is looking on the bright side with a “rose-tinted” roof terrace. There’s pink on the walls, roses dangling from the pergola and plenty of pink gin, rosé cider and a watermelon fizz on the drinks menu. If you’re hungry, Chuck Burgers is serving a stack of pancakes topped with pink gin cream and infused berry compote.
257-259 Pentonville Road, N1 9NL, bigchillbar.com
Trafalgar St. James
Wondering what Nelson’s view is like from up on that column? Get a taste of life as London’s most famous statue by settling down with a drink on top of Trafalgar St. James hotel. Across its outdoor terrace and glass conservatory space, views across Trafalgar Square are unrivalled, with Big Ben (and, admittedly, its scaffolding) in view too. It’s a smart spot with a sophisticated cocktail menu to match. If it's raining, try their newly launched bar downstairs, Rockwell.
2 Spring Gardens, Trafalgar Square, SW1A 2TS, trafalgarstjames.com
This Waterloo bar was named after the island on which Napoleon was marooned – initially, that doesn’t bode well. And yet, after a couple of hours, it’s easy to come around to the idea of spending 300 days in a sun-soaked Bar Elba, with food from Dip and Flip and a reasonably priced drinks menu on hand. Once night has fallen, head downstairs to the basement for a night out with lots of girl power at Tonight Josephine, named after the military leader’s first wife.
Rooftop Mercury House, 109-117 Waterloo Road, SE1 8UL, bar-elba.co.uk
Queen of Hoxton
The rooftop party at Queen of Hoxton has returned – but this time it’s a real fiesta. The summer of 2019 will see the rooftop of the Shoreditch bar and club go totally mexicana, with a technicolour decor inspired by the Mexican town of San Cristobal and the country’s female wrestling tradition. Expect tacos, tequila, and huge frozen margaritas.
1 Curtain Road, EC2A 3JX, queenofhoxton.com
The staircase journey up to Frank’s Cafe is pretty darn pink – we're talking pink-painted floors, walls, ceilings, pipes, balustrades and more – but at the top you’ll get multicoloured views for miles of south London. Set atop an old multi-storey car park and comprising part of the Bold Tendencies art gallery, evenings at Frank’s are a simple pleasure which come accompanied by negronis, artwork and often spectacular sunsets.
Bold Tendencies, 7th-10th Floor Multi Storey Car Park, 95A Rye Lane, SE15 4ST, boldtendencies.com
There are rooftops, and there's being 38 storeys up. Sushisamba’s dizzying spot boasts sublime skyline views from both outside and in, thanks to its spectacular glass-surrounded dining room. Two outdoor terraces offer cosy spots with endless vistas for drinks, but the west terrace comes out on top for its spectacular glowing orange tree installation. The newer Covent Garden location also boasts terrace views over the famous market square.
110 Bishopsgate, EC2N 4AY, sushisamba.com
12th Knot at Sea Containers
Twelve storeys up, 12th Knot is an elegant spot with the best of the South Bank in its gaze. Indoors, the bar is home to slick decor flanked by floor-to-ceiling glass walls, ripe for soaking up the luxury hotel bar’s riverside views over to St Paul’s and the City. Head out to the terrace for a particularly sophisticated spot to sip against the skyline.
20 Upper Ground, SE1 9PD, seacontainerslondon.com
Smartened-up Shoreditch pub the Culpeper is an favourite for post-work drinks all year round, with guests frequently spilling out into the surrounding streets. The jovial crowd can now head onwards and upwards too with the reopening of the pub’s roof garden. Last year it was home to a giant sculptural pickle (or “piculpeper”) but now the garden boasts a rustic chic aesthetic with a focus on English wine at the bar.
40 Commercial Street, E1 6LP, theculpeper.com
The Faltering Fullback
If it’s a proper pub you’re looking for, the Faltering Fullback in Finsbury Park is your best bet. The famous rugby-centric venue clocked in at number 23 in our list of the 50 best pubs in London, and its at its best in the summer. Without a huge amount of space outside, the pub has instead turned its beer garden into a tower of split-level decking, transcending multiple platforms and acting as a suntrap on the good days.
19 Perth Road, Stroud Green, N4 3HB, falteringfullback.com
Head up to this rooftop and you’ll find not one rooftop bar, but two: twin restaurants Aqua Nueva and Aqua Kyoto boast outdoor terraces that sit side by side. This year, the terrace at Iberian restaurant Aqua Nueva has been inspired by the National Gallery’s exhibition of work by Spanish artist Sorolla. Arty events will take place on the rooftop too, with the terrace hosting al fresco watercolour art classes throughout the summer.
5th Floor 240 Regent Street, (Entrance 30 Argyll St), W1F 7EB, aquanueva.co.uk
Dalston Roof Park
This Hackney bar offers proper feel-good fun: the cost of your sunset tipple at Dalston Roof Park is going towards a good cause. All profits from the east London hotspot go towards the Bootstrap charity, which looks to empower young people in business. An ever-changing schedule of goings-on will keep you entertained, ranging from quiz nights to live gigs.
The Print House, 18-22 Ashwin Street, E8 3DL, bootstrapcharity.com
Pergola on the Roof
A summer favourite since it first topped a White City car park in 2016, Pergola on the Roof returns to Paddington this year for more sky high fun. The covered pergola will again be florally bedecked and pastel-painted, with food courtesy of Patty & Bun, Honi Poke, Babek Brothers and An Choi, and a fully stocked bar on hand with frosé and the like. Kensington sunset-seekers should head to Pergola Olympia, its closed-roof sibling site that offers floor-to-ceiling views of west London.
4 Kingdom Street, W2 6PY, pergolalondon.com
Rooftop bar and grill at Boundary London
Get up, up and away from the hustle and bustle of Shoreditch at Boundary London, where its rooftop bar and grill offers summery dishes and gin by the copa. The glass-encased, indoor Orangery means diners can enjoy year-round food and drink, while its heated terrace offers uninterrupted views of all the sites of east London.
2-4 Boundary Street, E2 7DD, boundary.london
Bussey Rooftop Bar
Bussey Rooftop Bar has gone all Club Tropicana this year, with vibrant decor and an abundance of coloured flowers winding its way around the Peckham hotspot. 360 degree views of the London skyline are the backdrop here, with the bar perched on top of the Bussey Building, a renowned arts and music venue. Negronis, Pimms and icy bespoke cocktails can be found on the menu, with RockaDollar in charge of the food.
Roof B Bussey Building, 133 Rye Lane, SE15 4ST, busseyrooftopbar.com
The Lock Tavern
Camden venue The Lock Tavern is a staple among music fans and pub connoisseurs. Its simple rooftop offering looks out onto the Stables – the view is not the prettiest in London, nor the highest, but having a darn good pub within arms reach is a major plus. The gin and tonic list boasts a total of 11 serves, while the beer roster champions neighbours Camden Hells alongside US brewery Founders.
35 Chalk Farm Road, NW1 8AJ, lock-tavern.com
The star attraction of the Manhattan-style bar Madison is an unrivalled close-up view of St Paul’s Cathedral’s iconic dome, but there’s plenty more fun to be had on the terrace itself. Live music and DJ sets run from Wednesday to Sunday during summer, while food takes its queues from summer barbecues, with a wood-fired Josper oven chargrilling seasonal dishes.
Rooftop Terrace One, New Change, EC4M 9AF, madisonlondon.net
Popular east London spot Aviary has the City in its sights, with a bird’s eye view of its Finsbury home below. If you can navigate the post-work drinks rush, the sophisticated rooftop terrace at the restaurant and bar is practically built for dates. Settle down at a marble high-topped table in the summer, or book into one of their recurring transparent igloos in the chiller months.
Royal London House, 10th Floor Montcalm, 22-25 Finsbury Square, EC2A 1DX, aviarylondon.com
Situated right at the heart of Hackney, Netil 360 is a no-fuss, no-frills east London hideaway. The indoor constituent of the bar appears to be made largely of chipboard, but beyond that is a seriously relaxed suntrap of an al fresco terrace. The drinks menu touts largely local breweries and distilleries: beer comes courtesy of Truman’s and Five Points, while East London Liquor Company provides the spirits.
1 Westgate Street, E8 3RL, netil360.com
From the ground, the car park of the Stratford Centre doesn’t look like the most appealing summer venue, but its rooftop boasts what is effectively a playground for adults. Roof East’s gaming lanes offer bowling, curling and shuffleboard, while batting cages, VR football games and crazy golf will really bring out your inner sporting star. A host of London street food favourites keep visitors fed, while bars should keep your competitive juices flowing.
7 & 8 Stratford Multi Storey Car Park, Great Eastern Road, E15 1BB, roofeast.com
Wapping's Tobacco Dock hosts all sorts of entertainment throughout the year, but Skylight is where the fun goes through the roof. In the summer, day-beds and garden booths are set up for cocktail-fuelled relaxation against the City skyline, while the more competitive can get involved in croquet, pétanque and table tennis. In winter, the terrace transforms into the only rooftop ice rink in Europe. Get your skates on.
Tobacco Dock, Pennington Street entrance, E1W 2SF, skylightlondon.com
Bethnal Green isn’t the first place you’d expect to find mellow Iberian vibes – especially on the roof of a former public toilet. Tapas bar Chiringuito opened in 2018 inside a Museum Gardens building previously used for public conveniences, complete with a large open rooftop terrace. Slick white sofas make for a poolside ambience, with Peruvian-influenced small plates making for perfect bar snacking.
Museum Gardens, Cambridge Heath Road, Bethnal Green, E2 9PA, chiringuito.co.uk
Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden
The Southbank Centre is home to all sorts of cultural stimulation, but its not averse to a little white wine and chill. Created back in 2011 for the 60th anniversary of the Festival of Britain, the lush rooftop terrace on top of the Queen Elizabeth Hall music venue is populated with wildflowers, fruit trees and even allotment plots. It's laid-back spot that channels both bar and cafe, and you’ll find welcoming tables nestled among the greenery.
Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX, southbankcentre.co.uk
There’s a lot to The Driver, with a whole four floors to explore before you even get to the rooftop. You’re unlikely to catch too many rays on the covered terrace of this food-centric pub, but its summery decor makes for an alluring seasonal hideaway. Known to host sunny barbecues and rooftop parties, it’s become a Kings Cross favourite for an al fresco drink or two.
2-4 Wharfdale Road, N1 9RY, driverlondon.co.uk
Bird of Smithfield
A five-storey Georgian townhouse situated in historic Smithfield, the rooftop bar is Bird’s best bit. Lower floors offer a cocktail den named the Birdcage, a restaurant, lounge, bar and private dining room, but a rooftop with views of Smithfield market and a decent food menu is worth the climb. Dishes range from salt-baked yellow beetroot to fully loaded beef burgers, with a reasonably priced wine list on hand to accompany it.
26 Smithfield Street, EC1A 9LB, birdofsmithfield.com
Prince of Wales Feathers
The rooftop bar at the Prince of Wales Feathers is one of Fitzrovia’s best kept secrets. Dating back to the 1800s, the Warren Street pub sticks to its firmly British credentials throughout most of the residence, but its fairy-lit rooftop beer garden is a perfect spot for European-style al fresco drinking. A decent brewery selection will keep beer-lovers entertained, helped along by a seasonal rotation of “When It’s Gone, It’s Gone” kegs.
8 Warren St, W1T 5LD, theprinceofwalesfeathersw1.co.uk
If you can’t get to Ibiza this year, Radio Rooftop is a top spot for recreating the more relaxed elements of the White Island without leaving the M25. The lounge bar, which sits on top of the ME London hotel, is a mix of quintessentially London views across Somerset House and Covent Garden, and Ibiza-style DJs taking to the decks on the regular. An all day menu takes similar Spanish steps, while drinks range from champagne to bespoke cocktails.
336-337 Strand, WC2R 1HA, radiorooftop.com