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: Find more fun in the sun in our guide to outdoor London
The best rooftop bars in London
What is it? Slick bar on floor 12 of Sea Containers hotel.
Why go? Drink champagne cocktails with St Paul’s Cathedral smiling in the background.
Open: Year-round, 5pm-1am Tue-Wed, 5pm-2am Thu-Sat.
What is it? Peckham’s most popular summer-only bar, unglamorously perched on a multi-storey car park.
Why go? Frank’s has gained cult status, and its reopening kind of heralds the start of summer. See you there for a Campari at sunset.
Open: May 30-September 21, 5-11pm Tue-Wed, 2-11pm Thu-Fri, 11am-11pm Sat-Sun.
What is it? This buzzy rooftop oasis offers swoonsome views of the city’s skyline from its position near Waterloo.
Why go? With fairy lights, communal benches and a frozen cocktail list, this rooftop bar is party central.
Open: Year-round, 5pm-midnight Mon-Thu, 4pm-midnight Fri-Sat, 5pm-midnight Sun.
Venue says Help support our fundraiser and you could get a matching bar tab to use in the future, merchandise & other rewards. View site for more info
What is it? You’ll get double the gherkin at this idyllic inner-London spot, since The Culpeper’s rooftop space is used to grow veggies for its kitchen. Last year it took on a pickle theme, too (yes, seriously). This year, they’re promising to change things up again – stay tuned for further info.
Why go? The cocktails from the cute greenhouse bar are of real quality and pack in loads of herbs from the neighbouring beds.
Open: Year-round, 11am-10.30pm Tue-Sat, 11am-10pm Sun.
What is it? This rooftop space is perhaps better known for its resident cinema (Rooftop Film Club), but it also hosts some serious summer parties.
Why go? Plenty of plant life and cocktails and craft ales make this more than a back-up plan for when nearby Frank’s is heaving.
Open: Now-Sep, 5-11pm Mon-Fri, noon-11pm Sat, 5-11pm Sun.
What is it? A hub for creative start-ups that just happens to incorporate a kick-ass rooftop bar with street-food stalls, fun cocktails and rough-and-ready bench seating.
Why go? Combine sweet beats with the best views from nine flights up and an east London crowd worth getting in with.
Open: April-December, noon-10pm Wed, noon-11pm Thu-Sat, noon-10pm Sun. Reduced hours in winter.
What is it? City sky bar with a pineapple-inspired decor.
Why go? Asia-influenced cocktails and views right across to The Gherkin.
Open: Year-round, 5pm-1am Mon-Tue, noon-1am Wed-Sat, noon-midnight Sun.
What is it? E8’s happening rooftop bar with a cause has snowballed into a multi-faceted events space.
Why go? Beer from 40ft, natural wine from Newcomer, a dedicated cider bar – new for summer 2019 and from chic French producer Sassy – pop-up food offerings and a roster of poetry readings, alfresco cinema, record label takeovers and more.
Open: Now-Sep, 5-10pm Monday, 5-11pm Tue-Thu, 5-11.45pm Fri, 5pm-midnight Sat, 3-10pm Sun. Check website for events line-up.
What is it? One of London’s most hyped rooftop bars. Popularity is sustained by way of swanky signature cocktails and 360-degree views of London’s skyline.
Why go? See all the London landmarks – if you book ahead, that is.
Open: Year-round (weather permitting), noon–1am Mon–Wed, noon–2am Thu-Fri, 11am-2am Sat, 11am-midnight Sun.
What is it? This tequila house attached to live music venue Omeara is modelled on the watering holes of Central and South America and features a neat, pergola-decked, first-floor bar.
Why go? For Latin flavours near London Bridge and in the shadow of Southwark Cathedral and The Shard.
Open: Year-round, 5pm-midnight Mon-Wed, 5pm-1am Thu-Sat, 5pm-midnight Sun.
What is it? Sky-high rooftop bar on the thirty-eighth floor of the City’s Heron Tower – named the Tree Bar thanks to the prettily lit tree at its centre.
Why go? On sunny days it attracts crowds like Rio Carnival, but it’s worth the scrum for the serious cocktails and sensational widescreen views.
Open: Year-round (weather permitting), 11.30am–1.30am Sun–Tue, 11.30am–2am Wed–Sat.
What is it? Aqua Spirit is home to two year-round terraces that work as slick and moody sunset spots.
Why go? Less about the views and more about the booze. Enjoy exotic cocktails on high.
Open: Year-round (weather permitting), noon–1am Mon–Sat, noon–8pm Sun.
What is it? Roomy open-air terrace with views up on floor ten, which brings all the City workers out from their offices.
Why go? In colder weather, you can cuddle up on modernist furniture under blankets and heaters or refuel indoors at the venue's swanky restaurant.
Open: Year-round, 6.30am-midnight Mon-Fri, 7am-midnight Sat, 7am-11pm Sun.
What is it? Boundary does rooftop drinking in style, with a glass roof for protection from the elements in winter.
Why go? In warm weather, get in the posh pitchers of Aperol spritz and inventive cocktails such as a salted caramel julep.
Open: Year-round, 11.30am–11pm Mon–Sun.
What is it? A charming roof terrace full of twinkling, festoon lights and pergolas on the first floor of a Draft House pub.
Why go? Nibble on cheese paired with craft beer while overlooking what was once Bedlam asylum.
Open: Year-round, Noon-11pm Mon-Thu, Noon-midnight Fri-Sat, noon-10.30pm Sun.
What is it? Hotel bar on high, overlooking Trafalgar Square and with slick decor and a be-suited crowd.
Why go? For drinking and dining whatever the weather thanks to a retractable roof. And all in the eyeline of Admiral Lord Nelson.
Open: Year-round, noon-midnight Mon-Thu, noon-3am Fri-Sat, noon-7pm Sun.
What is it? The downstairs bit of this grungy bar and club is better suited to nocturnal drinking, but the covered rooftop space is themed to match the seasons.
Why go? 2019’s summer theme is inspired by Mexico. Arriba!
Open: Year-round, 4-10pm Mon-Thu, noon-10pm Fri-Sun.
What is it? This rooftop bar in Shoreditch has a bit of an Ibiza feel (plus pollution) with its palm trees, rattan furniture and DJs playing out house hits.
Why go? Happy-hour cocktails and buckets of beer, plus customers who bring the craic.
Open: Year-round 5pm–1am Tue-Wed, 5pm–2am Thu, 5pm–3am Fri-Sat.
Venue says Contact us now to get discounted rates on corporate events!
What is it? A surprising rooftop terrace bar in the One New Change shopping centre. It attracts a crowd of City slickers.
Why go? Brilliant close-ups of St Paul's Cathedral, if you don’t mind generic house beats and a fair few suits.
Open: Year-round, 11am–midnight Mon–Thu, 11am–1am Fri–Sat, midday–9pm Sun.
Venue says A cocktail bar and eatery situated on one of the largest public roof terraces which offers unique views of London’s skyline and St Paul’s
What is it? King’s Cross gastropub with a rooftop, ideal in a part of town where you’ll appreciate getting up above street level.
Why go? The views are nothing special – or so we assume, since the panelled walls are built too high for drinkers to see over. But there’s a lively rooftop barbecue in summer and plenty of lounge seating.
Open: Year-round, 5pm–midnight Mon–Fri, 6pm-midnight Sat.
What is it? A dinky top-floor bar on the roof of Smithfield's five-floor dining venue.
Why go? A delicious and extensive bar menu dedicated to London's new-found summer favourite – the spritz.
Open: May-Sep, noon-10pm Mon-Sat.
What is it? The King's Cross branch of this buzzy bar harbours one of the area's rooftop bars – an expansive, attractive space with wooden shacks.
Why go? Graze on modern pub grub such as halloumi fries and bulging burgers, plus boozy brunches on sunny weekends.
Open: Year-round (weather permitting), 11am–midnight Sun–Thu, 11am–3am Fri-Sat.
What is it? There’s a secretive beer garden on the roof of this small but handsome, wood-pannelled pub.
Why go? It’s not the most glossy or bucolic spot, but it’s a handy retreat from the comings and goings of King’s Cross station, with ample parasol-laden benches.
Open: Year-round, noon-11pm Mon-Sat; noon-10.30pm Sun.
What is it? The Alexandra, a south London all-rounder, has a roof terrace that’s the pride of SW19 and has a burger menu and a craft beer range all of its own.
Why go? Crucially, The Loft has patio heaters, a sheltered bar and lots of seats to squabble over.
Open: Year-round (weather-permitting), 9.30am-11pm daily.
What is it? A brightly painted first-floor drinking terrace at a modern Fitzrovia pub.
Why go? This skyward space is a rare asset in this part of town.
Open: Year-round, noon–11pm Mon–Sat, noon–10pm Sun.
What is it? Half the City heads up here in summer, and although many come for its restaurant, the bar also slings out a solid amount of Pornstar Martinis.
Why go? Coq d’Argent’s verdant rooftop garden has a neatly trimmed lawn, trailing vines, a ringed walkway, and stunning London-wide views.
Open: Year-round (heated terrace only in winter), 11.30am–midnight Mon–Thu, 11.30am–1am Fri-Sat, noon–4pm Sun.