Chicago has no shortage of awesome things to do in the summer—by which we mean drinking on rooftops with a great view of the city. But even if all you can see is surrounding buildings, these spots are worth a visit. From a cocktail bar to beer bars, here are our picks for the best rooftop bars in Chicago.
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Best rooftop bars in Chicago
This restaurant and bar from the group that brought Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog to New York has a terrace that seats 90, situated on the 18th floor of a Northwestern Medical Center building. With lunch service in addition to dinner service, you can while away the afternoon with delicious cocktails.
This indoor/outdoor garden lounge on the third floor of the Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel serves up fresh cocktails, craft beer, small plates and a unique view of the city's skyline. The bar menu features New American snacks with an emphasis on frites and steamed buns, while the beverage program caters towards the local with drafts brewed in Chicago.
The rooftop restaurant and bar at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel offers some of the best views of the city, with an expansive look at Millennium Park and the Lake. The drinks, from Nandini Khaund, are mostly balanced, and very pretty, while the American food is also well-executed and comes in massive portions designed for sharing.
In the summer, Gene's opens its glorious rooftop and serves canned beer, grilled sausages, potato pancakes and pretzels. The beer is icy cold, the sausages are showstoppers, and the only concern is managing to finagle a table big enough for all your friends.
Sip an innovative cocktail while enjoying a breathtaking view of Chicago's skyline at the rooftop lounge of Wicker Park's Robey hotel. Try the Coyote, a powerfully smoky blend of Ardbeg Scotch and grapefruit bitters, named after the tower in which the hotel resides. If sweet is more your style, order a Kid Koala or a Sweet Boys Only—the drinks are built around eucalyptus and pineapple, respectively. Be prepared for a wait—the lounge only seats 35 people—but when you get to the front of the queue, also be prepared to be blown away.
Cerise, the Virgin Hotel's posh rooftop bar, is perched on the 26th floor of the downtown abode. Beyond the spectacular views, there are plenty of cocktails and "drunken" canapes to go around after a long workday. A mix of rotating DJs and super comfy furniture are huge bonus points that make lounging around all night way too easy.
The gorgeous 18th-floor bar of the Raffaello Hotel boasts three prime sections: a handsome, dim interior full of tufted leather banquettes; a chic exterior deck lounge with open fire pits; and a narrow indoor-outdoor corridor where the marble floor and arched windows play against contemporary green stools. You'll be happy drinking the expertly made cocktails in any space, but in summer, the outdoor lounge is the place to be.
Joy District, the latest project from 8 Hospitality, features New American cuisine and unique cocktails in a space with private enclosures, a rooftop deck and a late-night lounge. The menu plays host to twists on staples like ostrich meatball ramen, fried chicken and champagne and potato gnocchi mac and cheese while the cocktail selection includes inventive takes such as whiskey apple cider and Illegal Joy, a mix of Illegal Mezcal, Cruzan Coconut, ginger liquer and pineapple.
The rooftop of Streeterville's Loews Hotel is a fun summer spot to sip cocktails and play games like pétanque and oversized jenga while taking in city views. The roof has two bars and two lounge areas, so there's plenty of space to spread out and relax over cocktails. The catch? The rooftop is only open in the summer.
At seven stories, the garden at NoMI isn’t as high as some of the newer hotel bars in town. And yet this is still the premier place to get a drink above ground. Chalk it up to the Park Hyatt’s unparalleled service, or the snacks (if you can call pristine dishes like prosciutto beignets and fried kale "snacks"). The fact that the view isn’t all that exciting just speaks to the garden’s appeal—even on ground level, this place would shine.
On the one hand, the BOKA Restaurant Group’s year-round rooftop bar is unlike any other in the city: It boasts destination-themed cocktails, seasonal small plates and sweeping, mesmerizing, breathtaking views of Lincoln Park from the 13th-floor roof of the Hotel Lincoln. On the other hand, it’s still a rooftop bar, which means on a gorgeous day, you might need to sacrifice your first-born just to get a seat.
In a city full of sweeping views, everyone wants to be on top. But this tri-level venue is the tippy top of all rooftop bars. Located on the 21st floor of the London House, LH Rooftop offers a stunning look at the architecture along the Chicago River and along Michigan Avenue. The only downsides: You'll have to get there early if you expect to find a seat, and the drinks aren't cheap. We recommend staying for a glass of bubbly, enjoying the view and moving on.
Find more of the best rooftops in Chicago
The best rooftop restaurants offer both great food and city views, whether you're gazing at views of the Chicago Loop or glimpses at neighborhood architecture. From one of the best Italian restaurants in the city to a spot for brunch in Chicago, here's where to head this summer.