Best rooftop bars 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.
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 to the local with drafts brewed in Chicago.
The beer and whiskey-focused North Center bar has a rooftop bar that opens in the summer with tables and bar seating. There's a more streamlined food list, along with lots of beers on draft and in cans.
Perched atop Ace Hotel in the West Loop, Waydown is a funky-cool joint that's best enjoyed with an amaro and root beer in hand. Guests can find cozy couch seats on the covered outdoor deck or hide from the elements indoors. No matter where you find a pop a squat, the friendly servers will keep the drinks and bar snacks flowing.
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.
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.
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 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.
Sip otherworldly cocktails in swanky environs at this lounge situated atop dana hotel and spa in River North. The drinks here are served with a side of whimsy and include colorful garnishes like cotton candy toppers, plastic butterflies and beautiful flowers. Choose your own or share a large-format sipper with a friend. If you can, request a couch by the modern fireplaces so that you can last long into the evening if things get chilly.
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.
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.
By day, this sunny rooftop escape serves mimosa-fueled brunch bites like crab cake Benedict, sweet potato hash and chilaquiles. Come back after the sun goes down for a lively party in the sky. Guests can opt to mix and mingle or secure a table with bottle service.
Situated on the fifth floor of the Gwen in River North, this posh 3,000-square-foot rooftop offers a unique view of the city, surrounding its guests with some of the city's coolest architectural gems. Expect inventive cocktails from the bar, including our personal favorite, the Bear Champ with bourbon, honey, lemon, earl grey tea, grapefruit and nutmeg. Small bites—like edamame hummus and Spanish octopus—round out the experience.
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 was recently revamped to include crave-worthy hits like avocado crab toast, lobster roll sliders, customizable mac and cheese and a Nutella dessert pizzza.
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.
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.
A rarity in Wicker Park, this second-story rooftop is a popular place to knock back fluorescent frozen drinks and try to drink your way back to the halcyon days of your youth. When you've had too many, head next door to Cheesie's Pub for an ooey-gooey grilled cheese. Look out for movie screenings on the rooftop come summer.
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.