In usual times, the rooftop bar is a weather dependent pastime. Normally, cocktails outdoors mean the sun is shining.
But these are not normal times. April 12 is a moment of freedom, and the city is humming with anticipation. Bookings are through the roof, and it’s set to benefit the capital something to the tune of £500 million.
After the cold, long isolation of all these lockdowns, lazy rooftop days are just what spring 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, plus those who couldn’t care less whether it’s raining or not, 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.
King’s Cross hotspot Big Chill is always one for a good time, with all the basics covered: plenty of beer, a to-the-point wine list, and a handful of cocktails too. If you’re hungry, Chuck Burgers is looking after the food: try the Jamexican, where buttermilk fried chicken breast comes with jerk barbecue sauce and jalapeño aioli. Definitely the winner.
257-259 Pentonville Road, N1 9NL, bigchillbar.com
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. Bookings aren’t being taken until May, but walk-ins are welcome.
Selfridges, Oxford Street, W1A 1AB, sancarloalto.co.uk
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.
2 Spring Gardens, Trafalgar Square, SW1A 2TS, trafalgarstjames.com
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. Currently just reopening from Thursday to Saturdays.
Floor 12, 7 Pepys Street, EC3N 4AF,savagegarden.co.uk
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
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 decent food and a reasonably priced drinks menu on hand. Once night has fallen, and it’s allowed again, 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. Sign up to their email list and you’ll get a cocktail on the house.
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 – and this year it’s sitting pretty in pink. There’ll be plenty of fizz, with the terrace sponsored by Moët & Chandon, views across Shoreditch and a disco ball or two as well.
1 Curtain Road, EC2A 3JX, queenofhoxton.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, which reopens on May 17. 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
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 ofthe 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
Smart Shoreditch pub the Culpeper is an favourite for post-work drinks all year round, with, in usual times, guests frequently spilling out into the surrounding streets. While the pub downstairs can’t yet open, the jovial crowd can now head onwards and upwards to the pub’s roof garden. The garden boasts a rustic chic aesthetic with a focus on English wine at the bar.
40 Commercial Street, E1 6LP, theculpeper.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.
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
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.
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 is a good’un, 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, peÌtanque 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
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