London's best rooftop bars for the summer

Rooftop favourite: Prince of Wales in Brixton
Rooftop favourite: Prince of Wales in Brixton

The clouds yawn, a crack of sunlight escapes and there it is: one bloke in the office has already swapped trousers for shorts, Instagram begins to fill up with shots of cocktails shining in jars and, to soak up every last wave of heat, Londoners head to the rooftops, as if being a few flights closer to the sun makes any difference to the right shade of tan.

With summer comes daylight that actually lasts for an entire day, which means long outdoor lunches that become al fresco suppers, and wine drunk by the crate.

While London lacks glorious rolling hills and picturesque countryside – being a city somewhat hampers that – it’s not short of views. From quiet pub rooftops to raucous party spots and from cheerful folkie sets to Ibiza vibes, heading up into the sky brings all sorts in our capital. Drink in the views as well as the cocktails: summer will be gone before you know it.

Selfridges' Roof Deck Restaurant & Bar

Selfridges have been making the most of their rooftop space for years now, but they've really nailed it this time around. They've gone for a Californian theme, which shows itself in the sunny decor and relaxed, smiling staff. The menu, from Chef Steve Tonkin, celebrates simple, clean cooking: lots of paired down fish dishes, fresh, bright cocktails and light puddings. On our recent visit, everything was first rate: the charred monkfish gorgeous and with a hint of smoke, the scallops fresh and meaty, asparagus in butter made all the brighter with the addition of shrimps. Many rooftop places use their views as a substitute for decent food, drink and service, as if they expect you to put up with below par offerings because the sun is out. That couldn't be further from the truth here: they've upped their game, and built somewhere that's a joy to visit even if it's raining (and it was when we went).

Info: 400 Oxford St, W1A 1AB,

Queen of Hoxton, Shoreditch

The Queen of Hoxton's rooftop has had more makeovers than Madonna and gleefully continues the trend this year. Their outside space has been re-imagined as Neverland, channelling the best of Pan. Dubbed Bangarang, they've all sorts of events on, including a mermaid crown making workshop. Be sure to head there at the end of the season, too: they're hosting a paint fight party.

Info: 1 Curtain Rd, EC2A 3JX,

Netil 360, Hackney

During the day, Netil 360 (on top of Hackney's Netil House) has its serious face on, with free workspaces, a cafe and even yoga sessions. But throughout the summer, they're in a more relaxed mood, with day parties, outdoor movie screenings, comedy nights, and various workshops . Expect lots of drinks, foodie pop-ups, and, naturally, terrific views.

Info: 1 Westgate St, E8 3RL,

Pergola on the Roof, Shepherd's Bush & Pergola Paddington Central, Paddington

Head to the BBC's old haunt, the television centre, for returning favourite the Pergola on the Roof. Food comes courtesy of 8 Hoxton Square, Salt ‘n’ Sauce from Bonnie Gull, Breddos Tacos, and Patty & Bun, so you won't go hungry. Just prepare for it to be busy: they've a capacity of more than 600, so it's not one for a quiet drink. If that's not your end of town, try their brand new site, Pergola Paddington Central, where there'll be plenty of live music and DJs, and food courtesy of Patty & Bun (they're good friends, it seems), Decatur, Mamalan, Raw Press and DF/Mexico. They're open for lunch and supper, and with a larger capacity – they can handle up to 850 Londoners over the two floors – it's definitely one if you're in the mood to party.

Info: Multi Story Car Park, Television Centre, Wood W12 7RJ & 5 Kingdom Street, W2 6PY,

The Roof Gardens, Kensington

You'll need to make a little effort to get in here, as they're big on glitz and glamour. Unsurprisingly, it's all rather lovely: the Babylon terrace gang are hot on their cocktails and when the grill gets going, the food is on point. Their parties have a reputation, too, for all the right reasons.

Info: 99 Kensington High Street, W8 5SA,

Prince of Wales, Brixton

For those who want to dance, POW salutes you: it is, unquestionably, a place to party. On the weekends, come for the DJs, while in the weekday, make do by bouncing between their three bars. Happy memories are made here, even if you won't always remember them the next morning.

Info: 467- 469 Brixton Rd, SW9 8HH,

Proud, Camden

Proud always make an effort with their outdoor space, and this year is no exception. They've completely redone the place, and its now styled to channel an English country garden: think full decking, water features and landscaped rockeries. Go for cool drinks, pop-up street food and live music.

Info: The Horse Hospital, The Stables Market, Chalk Farm Rd, NW1 8AH,

The Culpeper, Spitalfields

When the sun comes out, this Spitalfields pub overflows onto the pavement around it: the trick is to head upstairs, which is a tad quieter and has a view out over the Gherkin. Sunsets are particularly beautiful up here, but no-one comes to a pub for that, so rest assured that they've plenty of beers on tap, decent cocktails and the food is some of the best pub fare in London. Besides, in the small hours of the morning, it's popular with local bartenders as its usually open later than everywhere else.

Info: 40 Commercial St, E1 6LP,

Roof Top Kitchen at Alfies Antique Market, Marylebone

Alfies is a daytime port of calm: ideal if you're taking a break from the market. We'd come for lunch, order one of the daily-changing specials, and then give in to the temptation of wine and while away a few hours until closing time in the early evening.

Info: 13-25 Church St, NW8 8DT,

Dalston Roof Park, Dalston

An eco-addition to Hackney's growing rooftop scene, the Roof Park always has something going on. On the one hand, it's an urban oasis covered in impressive topiary, solar panels – which power it – and allotments, while on the other, it hosts cinema screenings, acoustic gigs and foodie residencies, as well as its fair share of parties. Opposite the overground station, this is a super-convenient rooftop, open daily. It's been refurbished for 2017, complete with two bars and, best of all, a retractable roof for when the weather isn't so good.

Info: 18 Ashwin St, E8 3DL,

Queen Elizabeth Roof Gardens Bar, South Bank

The term 'hidden gem' is overused, but means something here: tourists and Londonders alike often walk straight past the yellow staircase that leads up to this roof terrace. That doesn't mean it doesn't get busy – it is fairly central, after all. The garden is the result of volunteers from St Mungo's charity and feels a world away from the concrete lines of the Southbank Centre below. Jugs of Pimms and other summery libations are on offer with light snacks well into the evening.

Info: Belvedere Rd, London SE1 8XX,

Bussey Building, Peckham

The Bussey Building boasts a respectable bar, but head there for their regular film screenings, which show a mix of classics and fairly recent releases. We'd recommend getting down their early for a cocktail before the film stars, and staying for one after, too.

Info: 133 Rye Ln, SE15 4ST,

Frank's Cafe, Peckham

This huge spot takes over the entire top of a multi-storey carpark, so there's plenty of space for everyone, despite it's immense popularity. From May 19, expect a fabulous barbecue, lots of drinks, and a very chilled vibe. Arguably London's coolest rooftop, and the 360 degree views are oddly soothing.

Info: Peckham Multi Story Carpark, 133 Rye Ln, SE15 4ST,

Radio Rooftop Bar, The Strand

Come up in the evening for a high-end Ibiza feel: there are plush white sofas and big bucket seats galore, as well as a few tables for couples. The drinks are pricey, and the music might not be for everyone (there's that Ibiza theme again), but the view includes the London Eye, Big Ben, the Shard, the Gherkin and more. With London landmarks like that and flickering candles, it's a very decent date night spot.

Info: 336-337 Strand, WC2R 1HA,

Coq D'Argent, Bank

A favourite among city types, D&D's Coq D'Argent has a menu of classic French food and a respectable wine list. The restaurant itself is fine, if a little dated, but the garden is lovely and built for an afternoon of cocktails – you'll leave in high spirits and with an empty wallet.. They've gone in for the floral theme this year, as part of D&D's Blossom City campaign. This year, they're hosting morning yoga sessions too.

Info: No.1 Poultry, London EC2R 8E,

Sushi Samba, Bishopsgate

The glamour here is only hampered if you're scared of heights: at 39 stories up, it's somewhat vertigo inducing. Still, they've a glorious views over London and an excellent (albeit very pricey) cocktail list. You'll have to fight your way through yah-yah types to get outside to the bar, but it's all part of the ridiculousness, which is part of the Sushi Samba experience.

Info: Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate, EC2N 4AY,

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