We're all for a late-night hootenanny, but sometimes there's nothing better than bending the elbow with the sun on your back and a cool drink to keep things chill. And we're not alone. Sydney's rooftop bars account for some of the most popular and hard-won seats in the city, so get in quick for the glory spots with the best views.
Looking for another top-notch watering hole? Check out the 50 best bars in Sydney.
Sydney's best rooftop bars
Old Mate’s Place is a chimera, combining the best of moody candle lit drinking with the surprise element of a sunny rooftop bar into the bargain. Clock off early to score a seat up amongst the potted plants and down Negronis and Jamaican beers in the late-evening light.
It’s only once you’re sitting on the beautiful deck of this third-floor cocktail lounge that you realise that it was the missing piece of Sydney’s bar puzzle all along. The Solotel group went and made Opera Bar a suave sister in the form of Smoke – the crowning glory of Barangaroo House. Up here, things are strictly professional. You are greeted at the entranceway, shown to a seat, started a tab and possibly given a time limit until the next booking arrives (they do not follow the finders keepers rules here).
We don’t need to tell you how much Sydney loves a rooftop bar, and the top floor addition to the East Village Hotel (previously the Darlo Village) is an A-grade, lofty drinking perch. Sure, if cardio isn’t your friend you may even find you have to take a breather at the second floor, but that’s not going to be a problem because that’s where they added the Athletic Club, a vintage sports-themed bar that has a very toffy, “I went to Eton during the Downton Abbey years” vibe about it.
There are few views in Sydney that can rival the majesty of the harbour panorama from rooftop of the Glenmore Hotel down in the Rocks. It's always a good bet for when you have visitors from out of town and weekends get crowded, but we're just as keen on heading here on a Monday for a $12 steak and a quiet drink with mates.
Up on top of the newly renovated Hotel Palisade is a new bar called Henry Deane, which is taking your after work drinks in the Rocks to great new heights, and we're guessing will be a hotly contested space for the New Year's fireworks displays.
The Coogee Pavilion and its spectacular rooftop are making a serious play for our number one summertime haunt. Go here for cold-pressed juice highballs, tasty meats cooked over coals and the uninterrupted glory of the Sydney coastline.
Like Narcissus staring adoringly at his own reflection, Sydney’s a city enamoured with its own good looks, hence our obsession with rooftop bars. Happily there’s a rooftop in town where you can do just that. The open-air, top floor bar is definitely the jewel in the Light Brigade’s rejuvenated crown. The old pub underwent extensive changes since the Bayfield family took ownership a few years back, and adding the top floor bar was a power move that makes the most of the pub’s prime Oxford Street location, with views stretching from Paddington clear across to the Coathanger.
Getting to the roof of this bar is like an Olympic event, but it's worth it when you get there. Make your way to the top of this tower and be rewarded with tooth-freezingly cold Peronis and great views over the big city canopy.
Slim’s Rooftop is named after American socialite photographer Slim Aarons, though it could equally refer to the narrow stairs leading to rooftop — there’s a good amount of side-sashaying and waiting-on-the-landing as staff and patrons patiently wait to climb up or down the stairs. But don’t despair, because it’s a stairway to heaven. Slim’s is an open-air oasis with succulent plants and low walls, allowing for stunning views of the art-deco buildings on William Street and the glittery skyscrapers of the not-too-distant CBD.
It's everything you know and love about the Imperial – camp, glitz, glamour, disco, pop art and Queerdom in all its fabulousness – just one level up, with a more Italian-leaning menu and a glittery golden pizza oven. We vote yas.
Nick and Nora's is all about the numbers: it's 26 levels up in the air, has room for 300 punters, boasts a list of spirits 900-strong and 270-degree views that stretch from the Blue Mountains on one side to a teeny tiny Harbour Bridge on the other horizon.
Craft beers are all the rage in Sydney right now and there’s no better place to try a bunch of weird stuff all in one go than the Local Taphouse. Head upstairs to the rooftop bar, sit back in the warm sunshine, order a tasting paddle and really make a day of it.
So what if it's on top of a Westfield? You're smack bang in the centre of the city, which makes this massive Middle Eastern rooftop bar, lounge and restaurant a handy option to keep in your back pocket after a long day of shopping or if you're in need an al fresco hangout for after-work drinks. Cocktails have clever Levantine twists (cumin seeds, Turkish coffee, baklava caramel) and there's a solid menu of modern meze to keep your stomach lined, including a wicked duck gozleme.
This legendary boozer at Five Ways has been a Paddo locals' favourite for many a decade, but the roof still remains something of secret. If the climb to the top doesn't take your breath away, the skyline views certainly will – and a 2019 refresh saw the installation of a retractable roof and wine taps, which means that you can rosé all day even when the stormy weather hits.
We’re of the opinion that any high-rise in Sydney that could have a cracking cocktail bar on its roof and doesn’t is a tragic waste of lofty boozing opportunities. And one that does lobster and burgers is definitely making it onto the Christmas card list. There’s just something so much better about drinking at altitude and dinner on high.
The forces behind Salt Meats Cheese have turned their attention to the bar side of things, and Ombré is the result. There's somewhat of a shortage of rooftop drinking stops in and around Circular Quay, surprisingly, which makes this Italian-ish option all the more tempting...and so does daily happy hour from 4-6pm, free bar snacks from 6-8pm, a dedicated Spritz menu and views of the Coathanger.
It turns out there's even more to the Streets of Barangaroo than what you see at ground level. Head up to this leafy open-air spot for tropical cocktails named after birds (yes, there's a Flamin' Galah) and direct views over Darling Harbour.
There’s something about being elevated and exposed to the elements that enhances a night on the tiles, so it's good news all round that the Republic Hotel has opened a rooftop bar called Taylors. If you head here around knock-off the place is packed with people who know what good tailoring looks like. This is the place to order up chilled glass tankards of Asahi, frosty Peronis or a crisp rosé.
Sadly, the Cross is nowhere near as lively as it used to be, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't get the squad together, head up the seven flights of stairs and spend the afternoon necking Pimm's on tap and jugs of sangria.
You'll get an exceptional cocktail here – the crew behind the bar make pretty much everything from scratch. The list can get a bit la-di-da with all kinds of vanilla-infused hooey, but stand out on the deck overlooking the QVB with a Moscow Mule and be happy.
Our favourite part of the Steyne is up on the top floor, with spectacular views out over the breakers from the balcony and a stage at one end for live bands.
Everyone has an opinion about the Pool Club. But when you get down to it, the fact that you can get your gills wet up high in the heart of the city, cold drink in hand, is undeniably awesome. And there's usually a hot bod or two to gawp at.
A friendly Newtown local haunt that is not much wider than its moniker suggests; they do long necks, local wines, a few craft beers, simple cocktails and a few snacks. Prized real estate is the chilled-out open rooftop overlooking the backstreets.
If you ever want to feel like a celebrity for an evening, the rooftop bar at the InterContinental Hotel is the place to do it. What was originally reserved as a club bar for guests has been opened up to the public after 9pm, Wednesdays through Saturdays, but you will need to book.
The people behind Bondi Hardware and the Botanist are behind this Southern Californian-style restaurant and bar with a sunny rooftop for the consumption of quesadillas, ceviche, hot dogs and tacos.
Unless you are desperately afraid of heights, we recommend heading for the fifth floor at this refurbed city pub that used to be the Retro. The rooftop is the crowning glory. You’ll feel like the king of the castle under the ropes of pearl bulbs with a Wagyu minute steak sandwich in one hand, a Peroni in the other and a little Florence Welch on the stereo.
Once a wizened watering hole for elderly gents and gig-goers spilling over from the nearby Gaelic Club, the Strawberry Hills has been rebirthed as a hipster hideaway following a snazzy refurbishment and a late-night license that’s as rare as hen’s teeth. All the action is to be found upstairs out on the rooftop terrace that is open to the night sky.
The Metropolitan Hotel has reopened after extensive renovations, which means you can once again enjoy your pulled lamb sliders, fancy fish and chips and sausages and mash on the rooftop terrace that overlooks George and Bridge Streets.