As much as we love London's dark and dingy pubs, there are occasions when tatty banquettes and yellowed walls don't quite cut it. For a classier night of inebriation, get yourself to one of London's best rooftop bars. Here, you'll find swish cocktails, plush lounges and gourmet bar snacks galore, not to mention a front-row seat to the sexiest skyline on the planet.
RECOMMENDED: Outdoor London
The best rooftop bars in London
A brand-new rooftop bar for 2015, Roofnic offers sanctuary away from the Oxford Street rush. It’s got great tunes, fake grass and a slick white canopy for shelter from inevitable downpours. Plus, the cocktails are just £7. We have a feeling Roofnic could be pretty popular this summer.
Open Mon-Sun, 10am-10pm until SeptemberRead more
The fifth floor of Selfridges – run by the folks behind Q Grill – takes on a seaside summer look for 2015. Expect a terrace brighter than a stick of rock and beach huts straight out of St Ives. G&Tea cocktails served in tea cups suit the twee British setting, too.
Open Mon-Sat 11am-11pm; Sun noon-6pm until late SeptemberRead more
Less about the views and more about the booze, Aqua Spirit is home to two year-round terraces that work as slick and moody sunset spots. As a result, you’ll find good-looking late-night daters up here, although many instead choose to cosy up in the bar inside.
Open Mon-Sat, noon-1am, year-round (weather permitting)Read more
An events space rather than a straightforward bar, Dalston Roof Park is a multi-functional roof perched atop trendy Cafe Oto. There's a dedicated bar, a food shack and some astroturf (the closest you'll get to actual greenery in Dalston), and the venue is used for everything from film screenings to workshops. Its real appeal, however, is its calendar of parties, featuring on-point DJs and bands banging out tunes to the cool E8 crowd.
Open Tues-Fri, 5-11pm; Sat 3-11pm; Sun 3-10pm (check for events)Read more
Opened this year on 28 May 2015, Frank's Café is a summer-only bar which emerged on top of Peckham's multi-storey car park in summer 2007 as part of a sculpture exhibition. Peckham is not famed for being scenic, but sit under the illuminated red canopy at twilight and you can drink in unparalleled views across London along with your Campari-based cocktail, prosecco or bottled beer.
Open Tue-Fri 5-11pm; Sat 3-11pm; Sun 3-10pm, year-roundRead more
There's a pretty impressive rooftop bar open all year round at the Brazilian-Japanese Heron Tower hot spot Sushisamba. Expect to be competing with crowds like Rio Carnival on sunny days. The terrace’s point of focus is a tree sculpture with pretty orange leaves that sparkle when lit up after sunset. Visit the interior bar on floor 39 and you’ll be able to observe a close-up of the Gherkin that you could never tire of.
Open Mon-Wed, 11.30am-1am; Thur 11.30am-2am; Fri-Sat 11.30am- 3am; Sun 11.30am-midnight, year-round
Radio Rooftop Bar high above the Strand has secured its status as one of central London’s prime rooftop drinking destinations. But it’s also drawn its fair share of negative attention from customers stuck in queues or turned away at the door. On a Monday evening, we were up on the terrace faster than a raincloud could appear, ready to take in those extraordinary 360-degree views of every star of the London skyline.
Open Mon-Wed noon-1am; Thur-Sat noon-2am; Sun noon-midnight, year-round (weather permitting) - Booking recommended at peak timesRead more
This unsurprisingly popular spot is perched atop the Terence Conran-designed Boundary Project hot and restaurants. It was remodelled in 2013, with a weatherproof pergola allowing the bar and dining area to stay open in all weathers, and heaters to keep the chill off.
Open Mon-Sun, 10am-11pm, year-roundRead more
The South Bank is a fine place to while away a sunny evening, but perhaps the finest spot of all is this lovely, hidden-away terrace attached to part of the Queen Elizabeth Hall's Café. It's a welcome green respite from the concrete wash of the South Bank - you even have to negotiate wild flowers, fruit trees and allotments to enjoy the full, glorious views.
Open Mon-Sun, 10am-10pm,until late September (weather permitting)Read more
More rooftop bars in London
The King's Cross branch of this buzzy bar harbours one of the area's few rooftop spots, and a largely undiscovered one, at that. It's a big space with attractive decking, sun umbrellas and - most importantly - wooden shacks serving booze and food. Perfect if you need a quick breather from the funk, disco and hip hop DJ sets that regularly pulse through the bar.
Open Mon-Wed & Sun noon-midnight, Thur noon-1am; Fri-Sat noon-3am year-round (weather dependent)Read more
Perched on the top of the Trafalgar Hotel in Trafalgar Square, this smart bar has impressive views – Nelson's Column spears the skyline, plus there's the London Eye and Big Ben. However, there's an entry fee and pricey cocktails to bring you back down to earth. Tables can be booked before 5pm; after that, it's first come, first served.
Open Mon-Sat, noon-11pm; Sun noon-10pm until 30 September (weather permitting)Read more
Until this year, the rooftop bar on top of Dalston’s Netil House could only host a limited number of events per year due to its restricted licence. However, this year all that has changed, and the bar is now gearing up to make the most of the space both day and night all summer long (weather permitting), with a programme of yoga classes, outdoor cinema, one-off workshops, rooftop hot tubs and more.
Open Mon-Wed 10am-10pm; Thur-Fri 10am-11pm; Sat 12pm-11pm; Sun 12pm-10pm, year-roundRead more
The Prince of Wales Feathers may at first look like any pub – albeit one that’s been given a refurb – but it has an outdoor drinking terrace on its first floor, which is rare in central London. Granted, there’s not much to look at other than the back of a few Fitzrovia buildings, but you’ll still have to fight for a seat. Food and drink deals cement the post-work party vibes – plates of sliders come thick and fast from the kitchen on ‘Thirsty Thursdays’ (really).
Open Mon-Wed Noon-11pm; Thur-Fri Noon-11.30pm; Sat Noon-11pm; Sun Noon-10.30pmRead more
The downstairs bit of this grungy bar and club is better suited to nocturnal drinking, but walk up to the expansive rooftop and you'll find a slice of Old Habana and a sun-seeking Shoreditch crowd. For summer 2015, the space has been transformed into a Cuban paradise with rum-based cocktails such as frozen daiquiris, flavoured iced coffee, finger-licking street food and colourful Cuba references including a pastel-coloured 1950s' vintage car. What’s more, a semi-permanent cover means the the unpredictable British weather can't rain on this rooftop parade.
Open Mon-Sun 12pm-late, until late AugustRead more
The view from the 12th floor roof terrace of this snazzy hotel – now part of the Hilton brand – takes in both the ancient majesty of the Tower of London and the Shard. The view on the terrace is somewhat less diverse: City folk in grey suit jackets. This year, however, SkyLounge is hoping to at least get them to loosen their ties with a New England-themed summertime pop-up, with a beach club menu and cocktails featuring Snow Queen vodka and Lanson Champagne.
Mon-Sun 10.30am-10.30pm, year-roundRead more
This dream of a pub has a raucous, studenty feel, picnic table seating, loud music and pool; and a pleasant beer garden which spans over the pub's entire roof on multiple levels, with some parts completely open to the elements and other covered areas for rainy or windy weather.
Open year-roundRead more
Coq d’Argent is accessed via a private lift, which speedily delivers City suits to a verdant rooftop garden, complete with its own lawn, trailing vines and ringed walkway. In summer, it’s a great choice for alfresco dining: the location offers striking skyline views across London as well as regional French cooking. This summer, look out for occasional themed events taking over the bar.
Open Mon-Fri 11.30am-12am; Saturday noon-midnight; Sunday noon-5pm until late September/early October (depending on the weather)Read more
The top floor of this bar and restaurant is small, and doesn't have startling views, but it's in the open air and open all year round (weather permitting). Open Mon-Sat, noon–12am Saturday, year-round
The top floor of this bar and restaurant is small, and doesn't have startling views, but it's in the open air and open all year round (weather permitting).
Open Mon-Sat, noon–12am Saturday, year-roundRead more
Venue says: Happy hour! Tuesday to Friday from 5pm-7pm! Come and get 2-for-1 cocktails!
This Shoreditch rooftop bar does what it says on the tin: it's on a rooftop and it’s a bar – but not much else. The drinks selection includes Heineken, Sol and Desperados, while cocktails all cost £8.50. There’s no kitchen, but give them a buzz a few hours before you head down and they’ll order in sushi platters for you. That’s the kind of out-of-the-box thinking we like.
Open year-roundRead more
The Lyric Hammersmith's large roof terrace has a smart new look following a complete refurbishment. This summer, a barbecue will dish up gourmet burgers, grilled fish and the like, and the bar will serve jugs of cocktails and craft beers. The year-round food offering is overseen by Peyton & Byrne, with a menu of street food-style bites majoring in grills and salads.
Mon-Sun noon-11pm, year-roundRead more
This rooftop terrace bar in Jean Nouvel's One New Change shopping centre boasts brilliant views of St Paul's Cathedral. Cocktails range from standards (mojitos and whatnot) to concoctions with names ripe for hen-party cackles (Pornstar Martini, Hot Bitch Martini). There are also bar snacks and a more formal brasserie menu, and DJs hit the decks from Thursday to Saturday nights.
Open Mon-Sun noon-late, year-roundRead more
Admittedly, just getting here is half the fun – there’s a sense of achievement once you’ve successfully navigated entry-phone, lift and winding stairs and corridors. But what you find at the end of the journey is also pretty special. In summer, the enormous deck terrace planted with herbs and vegetables is a wonderful treat - this year, from May onwards (depending on the weather...), it will offer an evening barbecue of small and sharing plates, plus a simplfied drinks list.
Breakfast served Mon-Fri 8am-11.30am. Lunch served noon-3pm Mon-Fri. Brunch served Sat 10am-4pm. Dinner served Wed-Sat 6pm-10pm, year-roundRead more
This hip hangout may be on the bijou side, but it has a surprisingly sizeable roof space that can put 50 bums on seats. It’s not super chi-chi, so don’t expect music, heaters, or a glass roof (there is one giant umbrella though, should the heavens open). Drinks have to be ordered inside, and for most of the year, so does food (US-style hot sarnies are supplied via nearby Red Dog Saloon), though occasionally some open-air grillin’ goes down.
Open Mon-Sun noon-11pm, year-roundRead more
The Fox is a boozer that has had decline reversed by new owners with a real interest in beer, and a straightforward approach to the provision of food. Its refurbed roof terrace, which is decked and embellished with flowers isn’t huge, but it is open all year round (weather permitting) and will be packed when the sun shines.
Open Mon-Fri noon-11pm; Sat 6-11pm; Sun noon-5pm year-roundRead more
Find more bars for outdoor drinking
We've rounded up London's best beer gardens, some included for their bucolic atmosphere and fine foliage, some for their summery drinks or irresistible barbecue food, some for their riverside locations (although we also have those covered in our guide to London's best riverside pubs and bars) – and even a couple for their water features. We’ve organised them by north, south, east and west (and no, there aren't any good beer gardens in central London) so you can easily track down your nearest alfresco supping spot.Read more