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.
Sydney's best rooftop bars
For an old pub, the Bridgeview scrubs up nicely. A bit of an upgrade has resulted in a welcoming public bar, an amiable dining room and a rooftop, because everyone loves booze with a view. There’s even an all-weather TV up on the Astro-Turfed terrace so you can kick back on the picnic tables and barrack for your team under the open sky.
Unless you are desperately afraid of heights, we recommend heading for the fifth floor at this newly refurbed city pub. 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.
The tricky thing about this small bar is finding it, but hey - no sign, no line. They don't do cocktails and don't be expecting a wine glass for your sauvignon blanc - it's all about wine in tumblers, mixer drinks and Coopers longnecks. The main bar area seems much less popular than the wooden outdoor deck, even on a particularly wet and chilly evening.
There's a bit of an Alice in Wonderland, garden party feel to the Darlo patio, with Astro-Turf on the floor, chintzy white metal lawn furniture and Chinese lanterns, big citrus green walls and pink flamingos scattering the 'lawn'. Warning though: if you don't like breathing a few clouds of Marlboro Light, avoid.
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.
The new-New Brighton Hotel is a fresh-faced and shiny as a debutante. But this four-storey pub on the Corso is well-versed in the Manly boozing scene. That means there's a craft beer and cocktail bar on level one, a nightclub on level two that is open late and a rooftop garden bar with views to Shelley Beach.
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.
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.
When you think you're at the top – keep walking. That's what you need to know if you're taking the stairs to the peak of the Sugarmill, where you'll find new barbecue joint and rooftop bar, Sweethearts. Cheap backyard party drinks (shandies!) and big-boy barbecue food from chef Robert Taylor.
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 rose.
The Workers is decked out like a Mad Hatter's tea party with plants growing up the walls, red vinyl booths, oversized dining chairs and tartan carpet. And there's also near-billboard-sized pictures on the ceiling of Hawke, Whitlam and Wran, for that political touch. But the best seats in the house are in the rooftop “garden” – a faux-grassed outdoor terrace.
Sometimes you can turn an average drinking session into something special just by adding a flight of stairs. The sunny Cloud 9 bar at ZanziBar is decked out with wrought-iron furniture, spiky potted plants and terracotta tiles – squint (hard) and you could almost be drinking in Marrakech.