Best rooftop bars in NYC
Gotham’s top-notch cocktail haunts come tucked in restaurant basements, stuffed behind unmarked storefronts and hidden in hot-dog shacks. Rarely do you find quality drinks in the DJ-soundtracked, pool-soaked terrain of rooftop bars—until now. Enter Tim and Nancy Cushman, the husband-and-wife team behind Boston’s high-flying Japanese spot O Ya, who bring smart tippling to the roof deck of Gramercy’s Park South Hotel.
The transportive vibe of Sleep No More, Punchdrunk’s interactive theater piece at the McKittrick Hotel, carries over to the venue’s rooftop bar. Named for a Scottish field where accused witches were hanged, Gallow Green has the feel of a garden party thrown at an abandoned farm. Fairy lights and tattered flags hang between verdant trellises; bartenders sling cocktails served by waitstaff dressed in ghostly white. The best seats in the house are inside an artfully ruined antique railcar, whose empty windows are hung with destroyed lace curtains.
The William Vale Hotel came out of the gate hot with culinary clout. But a venture across the river wasn’t the only first for the trio—at the hotel, they also debuted their first-ever rooftop bar, Westlight, a stylish glass box capping the neighborhood’s tallest skyscraper. Take the dedicated elevator 22 stories up to the industrial yet swank space—set with black-and-white tiled floors, bright globe lights and a beamed ceiling—to experience a hotel rooftop bar that has all the goods to be a standalone New York cocktail den.
A giddy enthusiasm electrifies the rooftop bar that crowns the Freehand New York (yes, the hotel you keep hearing about). Located in the no-fun nexus of Gramercy and Murray Hill, the Miami import is packed with happy-go-lucky twenty- and thirtysomethings that just seem relieved that the Caribbean rooftop even exists, let alone that they are there. And unlike rooftops around the city with sleek designs and glass parapets, Broken Shaker is meticulously crafted to look and feel like a well-worn and snug oasis.
Almost no view is a bad one if it overlooks the Brooklyn Bridge, but this watering hole on top of Dumbo’s 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge gives you a completely new perspective on the international icon. Enjoy a cocktail or a glass of wine on top of the 10-story building while you’re basically eye level with those walking across the overpass. You can also catch sight of the Statue of Liberty, New York Harbor and the Manhattan skyline from the wood-and-stone patio, which features a shallow pool. It’s like taking a full Circle Line tour without having to set down your prosecco.
At first, it may feel awkward strolling through a quiet apartment building’s bright lobby at 9pm, bypassing the doormen and hustling into a packed elevator with three cranky, middle-aged European tourists. But once you reach the 26th floor of Beekman Tower, you’re instantly welcomed into a decadent barroom fashioned with soaring cathedral windows, jewel-tone blue walls and glass showcases filled with vintage oddities. Ophelia’s sultry old-world appeal instantly clicks when you learn that the bar—once named Top of the Tower—served oh-so-casual customers like Frank Sinatra and Frank Zappa.
Gaze at the Manhattan skyline from across the East River at this 3,000-square-foot roof deck. After a recent renovation, the aerie features a retractable glass roof, so you can hang out when it's sunny or raining. Quaff European brews that skew German as you chow down on boozing-friendly eats such as bratwurst with sauerkraut and fries.
This rooftop bar, 17 stories above ground, offers a view of the East River in the warmer months, craft cocktails and light bites by April Bloomfield’s Salvation Taco. Sip the Salvation Margarita, a tequila, agave and lime juice concoction with a guajillo chili salt rim, while gazing at the vista.
This outdoor terrace bar on the Wythe Hotel’s sixth floor affords sweeping views of the East River and Manhattan, and it’s an ideal vantage point for watching summer sunsets while lingering over a pint of Radeberger or a quaff made from local small-batch spirits. Sure, the crowd comprises mostly globe-trotting cool kids from outside the five boroughs, but consider that another avenue to finding a guilt-free summer fling.
When you tire of Williamsburg’s dive bars, head up the stairs of this French bistro for a glass of vin on the wooden terrace that’s dotted with trees. The roof deck is now more conducive to drinkers: Brunch is served throughout the week, with a special terrace menu on Saturdays and Sundays.
Although a borderline-clubby atmosphere pervades the Dale Talde rooftop bar in Chinatown, its vibe leans suprisingly convivial. There are bouncers but they are approachable; there is a DJ, but he spins head-bobbing hip-hop instead of esoteric beats; there are watery drinks but they look delicious. Groups of twentysomething friends, coworkers and a few particularly amorous couples lounged on the scores of pastel couches, chatting and snapping photos of the sweeping views of lower Manhattan.
Named after Australia's topmost tip, this brick-walled Down Under pub features hand-painted murals from Bushwick street artists and—yes, here too—a rooftop bar for warm-weather boozing. Oz-bred beers including Foster's and Cooper's are available at the L-shaped bar, and the kitchen turns out pub grub like beef pies and grilled skewers.
Most rooftop bars rely on their expansive vistas to woo the crowds, noting the sky-high vantage as the main attraction. For Magic Hour, the spot from TAO Group that crowns the Moxy Times Square hotel, its view of midtown and the Empire State Building is just a footnote. The team plays up the idea of an “urban amusement park” in its palatial 10,000-square-foot space, with rotating carousel seating, a topiary garden and Foreplay, a putt-putt course filled with animal statues in NSFW positions.
There are few better ways to enjoy New York than from above, cocktail in hand, gazing across the lights and landmarks that define the city. One such landmark is the historic Knickerbocker Hotel, onetime haunt of American elite like F. Scott Fitzgerald and John D. Rockefeller, which serves as base of this 7,800-square-foot rooftop bar and terrace. Named after the late-19th-century hotel that originally occupied the Knickerbocker space, the outdoor space is outfitted with plush "sky pods" (VIP lounges built into corners of the roof), and metallic-finished wood floors."
This massive rooftop beer garden, located 14 stories above the Italian megastore Eataly, offers a direct line to one of the world’s most exciting new beer regions: an unprecedented stash of beers from the Boot, as well as innovative house-made ales reflecting trends on both sides of the Atlantic. Hops-heads will geek out over the proprietary cask-conditioned ales brewed on the premises. But you don't have to be a beer nerd to appreciate the views of the Flatiron and Empire State buildings while sipping on the unpasteurized, unfiltered suds.
The 31-stories-up casual lounge inside the Arlo NoMad hotel serves cocktails named after different New York neighborhoods that end in Heights: The Brooklyn Heights comes with tequila, lime, lemon and fresh-pressed watermelon juice, and the Jackson Heights is made with rosemary-infused gin, Thai basil, honey and lemon. The outdoor area has expansive views of the skyline and close-ups of the Empire State Building, and, thanks to a glass floor, views of the street below.
The Strand Hotel’s 21st-floor drinkery boasts an uninterrupted sight line of the towering Empire State Building and first-come, first-served benches that offer a front-row seat. Don’t let the imposing main attraction blind you to the rest of the skyline—to your left is the lit-up crown of Langham Place at 400 Fifth Avenue, and over to your right is the illuminated double-fin roof of the Epic. If you’re rolling deep, reserve a cabana and don’t worry about the weather, a retractable glass roof ensures a warm viewing platform safe from the elements.
The 15th-floor bar that crowns the Hotel Indigo takes its name from the late guerilla-gardening icon Adam Purple. Detractors claim that Purple—a modern-day hippie who dedicated years to fighting urban decay—would have scoffed at such an appropriation of his name, while the owners defend the choice as being in-line with their commitment to the nabe. Name dissention notwithstanding, the reality is that Mr. Purple is neither as wild as naysayers would have you believe (there’s no dance floor) nor as exclusive as its proprietors surely hoped it would be (it’s refreshingly unpretentious).
Dig out your cravat when hitting this year-round 14th-floor lounge. You’ll want to look the part when quoting Dostoyevsky in one of two greenhouses or on the outdoor terrace at this upscale, literary-themed bar. Order the Hemingway cocktail, with aged rum, lime juice, mint and champagne; dig into the book collection; and let your imagination soar like the midtown buildings around you.
Sufferers of vertigo beware: Access to Hôtel Americano’s rooftop pool bar on the 10th floor is by an external glass elevator. Those who brave that ride, however, get to appreciate a view of Chelsea—including the High Line—while sipping specialty cocktails. Keep cool by dipping your toes in the four-feet-deep pool. Keep an eye on the website for announcements about live music and deejayed parties that last until 1am in the summer.
While the music pounds downstairs, this LES rooftop offers a palm-studded oasis with white chaise lounges. On Saturdays between 10pm and 1am, the spot is often packed with large group reservations (fortune, it seems, favors the popular and organized).
You'll find sweeping views of Manhattan and a wine list curated by bar director Francis Verrall. Like those offered downstairs at the hotel’s fern-bar revival, Oleanders, the roof’s cocktails harken back to a bygone era: a view of Manhattan and a selection of beers ranging from Narragansett lager to Firestone Walker Easy Jack IPA.
Want to drink at rooftop bars in other cities?
Elevate your drinking game at our favorite rooftop bars across the country, from elegant aeries to bare-bones patios