Admittedly, Londoners love a dingy local boozer just as much as a classy cocktail bar, but there are occasions when neither quite hit the mark. In the summer we want to free our hair to the wind and feel the warmth of the low evening sun on our backs, but come winter, all we want is to escape stuffy central heating and sweaty tube masses for a breath of crisp fresh air. Fortunately this does not prove much of an issue, for hallelujah - London is blessed with many a rooftop and by consequence, many a rooftop bar.
There are rooftop bars spread right across the capital, offering terrace views of the city skyline from north, south, east and west. Some offer dining space too – ideal for an idyllic lunch in the sun or a few nibbles as the sun goes down.
It's perhaps unsurprising that the City of London boasts a plethora of swanky rooftop bars - from the glorious greenery of Sky Pod at Sky Garden, to the high-rise views of Coq D'Argent - catering for office workers in desperate need of an escape from lunch al desko. Don’t overlook the smaller more secretive sun-spots (which locals in the know try to keep to themselves) – for a relaxed post-work drink with a colleague or an intimate gathering with friends these can be just the ticket.
So whether it’s for a wild night out on the tiles or a civilised supper under the stars, get yourself to one of London's best rooftop bars and enjoy the great outdoors! Take a perch and gaze out over one of the most outstanding cityscapes in the world (if we may say so ourselves). Scroll down to find SquareMeal’s list of the best rooftop bars in London in which to enjoy a beverage (or three) al fresco. We’re confident that one or two of these top-floor hotspots will become regular destinations on your drinking agenda.
SKIP TO THE BEST SECTION FOR YOU
Best rooftop bars in central London
Many of these central spots offer 360 degree views of the capital – perfect for tourists looking for landmarks or office workers seeking an escape from their desks and a breath of fresh air.
The Terrace Bar at Madison, City of London
What: Beloved by the capital’s pretty young things, The Terrace Bar at Madison is one of the most Instagrammed locations in the capital - no surprise considering the views of St Paul’s Cathedral and other landmarks. The terrace is also home to a raucous party atmosphere, thanks to live DJ sets and fun cocktails. If you’re feeling peckish, order from the menu of bar snacks, which features things likes Korean fries, buttermilk fried chicken and artisan cheese and charuterie boards.
Where: One New Change, City of London, EC4M 9AF
Book now: The Terrace Bar at Madison
SUSHISAMBA, City of London
What: Home to the world's highest glowing orange tree (probably), the outdoor bar at SUSHISAMBA’s original City location has an undeniable buzz. Often packed with City types splashing the cash, plus boasting unbeatable views of the capital’s skyline, this is the place to come for cocktails with a view. Sip on a selection of Brazilian-Japanese fusion cocktails, before heading inside to feast on green bean tempura with black truffle aioli or sushi rolls topped with lobster and crab.
Where: 110 Bishopsgate, City of London, EC2N 4AY
Book now: SUSHISAMBA
Sky Pod at Sky Garden, City of London
What: Sky Garden may be known for its lush greenery (the perfect backdrop for an impromptu photoshoot), but its sprawling views of the capital are also worth a mention. The Sky Pod bar, which isn’t separated from the rest of the space, allows guests to stand around admiring the views or pull up a chair to rest their legs. All the usual drinks can be found here (including a selection of signature cocktails), while the food menu features sharing platters of charcuterie, seafood or desserts.
Where: 20 Fenchurch Street, City of London, EC3M 3BY
Book now: Sky Pod at Sky Garden
LSQ Rooftop, Soho
What: Nine floors above the buzz of the West End at 1 Leicester Square, you’ll find LSQ Rooftop. Floor-to-ceiling windows and a wrap-around balcony provide absolutely stunning London views, and the bar is exceptionally well-stocked with signature and classic cocktails, mocktails, wines, beers and plenty of fizz.
Where: 1 Leicester Square, Soho, WC2H 7NA
Book now: LSQ Rooftop
Iris Bar at The Gherkin, City of London
What: The only indoor rooftop bar in the capital to boast unobstructed 360-degree views, Iris is a bar that should be on every discerning Londoner’s ‘to visit’ list. Due to the building’s high security, tables have to be booked in advance and you also have to bring valid ID. You’ll soon forget about all that faff though, thanks to those stunning views across the capital, as well as an impressive cocktail list which features some great signature cocktails like the Iris Sunset (gin, apricot liqueur, lemon and Champagne).
Where: 30 St Mary Axe, City of London, EC3A 8EP
Book now: Iris at The Gherkin
Oxo Tower Bar, Southwark
What: Tables on the terrace at Oxo Tower’s bar can be hard to come by in the summer months especially - they're available for walk-ins only so make sure you nab a spot in the sun early. Once you’ve secured a place at this eighth-floor bar, you can admire the Insta-worthy panoramic views of London’s skyline, including St Paul’s. The extensive list of cocktails and wines appeals, but our favourite part of the experience is the accomplished bar food – think Toulouse dog with mustard mayo or a cracking cheeseburger with maple pancetta.
Where: Oxo Tower Wharf, Southwark, SE1 9PH
Book now: Oxo Tower Bar
Coq d’Argent Bar, City of London
What: Still the cock of the walk after all these years, Coq D’Argent’s three-pronged restaurant, bar and roof terrace space remains one of the most popular dining destinations for City workers. To drink in the views (while drinking a glass of champers), head to the grass-covered terrace, which comes complete with neatly trimmed hedges and its own fashion boutique-style soundtrack. To really get a feel for the atmosphere, we’d recommend swinging by at night when the capital’s skyscrapers twinkle before your eyes.
Where: 1 Poultry, City of London, EC2R 8EJ
Book now: Coq D'Argent
Garden Rooftop, Covent Garden
What: Towering over Leicester Square and Covent Garden, you’ll find the Garden Rooftop on the 10th floor of the Assembly Hotel. As you might expect, there’s greenery and plants everywhere, the bar offers a nice mix of signature and classic cocktails until midnight every night. A very calm and pleasant place to spend an evening.
Where: Assembly Hotel, Covent Garden, WC2H 0LS
Book now: Garden Rooftop
Best rooftop bars in south London
These trendy terraces make equally alluring destinations by day or night but be sure to make a reservation - they fill up fast.
12th Knot at Sea Containers, South Bank
What: Formerly known as Rumpus Room, imbibers at this colourful rooftop bar can enjoy stunning views across the South Bank thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows. Cocktails here are serious business and they change with the seasons, drink to a backdrop of live music on Wednesdays and DJs for the latter half of the week. Impossibly glamorous - note the glittering chandeliers and velvet furnishings – 12th Knot is full of flare and is always packed to the rafters with London’s cool set. It should be on every Londoner’s rooftop bar bucket list.
Where: 20 Upper Ground, South Bank, SE1 9PD
Book now: 12th Knot at Sea Containers
No.32 The Old Town, Clapham
What: This South London hotspot is probably best known for its Med-inspired terrace, boasting views over leafy Clapham Common. In the summer months brunch seekers will do well to secure a spot outside without booking well in advance, as the al fresco sun trap fills up fast. That said, if you want a menu that spans everything from coconut chia pudding to a full-on steak and chips with truffle macaroni cheese then No 32. The Old Town is the spot for you. Bloody Marys seem to be the principal drink of choice with jugs aplenty, but if you’re feeling fancy then why not go for a carafe of a classic Bellini.
Where: 32 The Pavement, Clapham, SW4 0JE
Book now: No.32 The Old Town
Bussey Rooftop Bar, Peckham
What: This popular Peckham drinking den is perched atop the Bussey Building, with millennial-baiting decor that includes colour pop walls, mismatched furniture and faux foliage that wraps around wooden columns. Come to Bussey Rooftop Bar for the 360-degree views of London and stay for the classic cocktails and delicious pizza from kitchen residents ‘Share A Slice’ (who donate one pizza to the homeless every time a pizza is purchased).
Where: Rooftop Unit 133, Peckham, SE15 4ST
Book now: Bussey Rooftop Bar
Best rooftop bars in west London
For those seeking somewhere sophisticated, these rooftop bars draw a classy crowd of young professionals – and offer some great dining spots too.
Aqua Nueva, Soho
What: Part of the Aqua restaurant group (Aqua Shard, Aqua Kyoto etc.), this upmarket Spanish joint boasts a stunning rooftop terrace. Perfect for bigger groups, Aqua Nueva's outdoor terrace features long L-shaped couches laden with cushions, and tables equipped with high wicker stools to rest your drinks on. Views of the London Eye and other landmarks are a further draw, as is the menu of Spanish dishes – including the likes of Iberian ham croquettes, spiced crab tostadas and classic tortilla.
Where: 240 Regent Street, Soho, W1B 3BR
Book now: Aqua Nueva
Radio Rooftop, Charing Cross
What: A place to see and be seen, this glamorous bar on the roof of the ME London hotel boasts views across the capital and a chic black and white colour scheme, offset by wicker chairs and lush greenery trailing the terrace borders. You can splash the cash by ordering from the comprehensive Champagne list, or keep things fresh by sampling a few of the drinks from Radio Rooftop’s considered selection of signature cocktails. If you’re feeling peckish, chow down on an internationally-inspired menu – think croquettes, beef sliders and churros for dessert.
Where: 336-337 The Strand, Charing Cross, WC2R 1HA
Book now: Radio Rooftop
The Rooftop at Trafalgar St. James, Trafalgar Square
What: If this hotel’s name isn’t enough of a hint, The Rooftop boasts picture-perfect views of bustling Trafalgar Square. Visitors are given a choice between either al fresco or canopy-covered seating, with the terrace featuring cosy banquette seating and a marble-streaked bar. Head here for classic cocktails and by-the-glass wines, as well as a menu of Alpine-inspired small plates and mains.
Where: 2 Spring Gardens, Trafalgar Square, SW1A 2TS
Book now: The Rooftop at Trafalgar St. James
Best rooftop bars in east London
Edgy east London is where the cool kids hang out. Climb up to some of these quirky rooftop hotspots and embrace your inner hipster with a bottle of something cold.
The Queen of Hoxton, Hoxton
What: The Queen of Hoxton is a three floor party palace featuring a basement nightclub, a buzzy ground-floor bar and this expansive roof terrace which usually has a seasonal theme. The vibrant design outside throws it back to childhood with an Art Attack-style rainbow colour scheme, along with coloured bunting and communal wooden tables. Sink down frozen Margaritas while tucking into the snacky likes of soft tacos and loaded fries, all the while enjoying the regular live entertainment.
Where: 1-5 Curtain Road, Hoxton, EC2A 3JX
Book now: The Queen of Hoxton
Savage Garden at DoubleTree by Hilton Tower of London, Tower Hill
What: Boasting not one but two terraces with 360 degree views of London, Savage Garden has a prime location at the top of the DoubleTree Hilton at Tower Bridge. The bar does a solid line in unusual cocktails, too, which must be good because Savage Garden is pretty busy on most evenings. Be aware that there is a dress code, so go smart casual to avoid disappointment at the door.
Where: 7 Pepys Street, Tower Hill, EC3N 4AF
Book now: Savage Garden at DoubleTree by Hilton Tower of London
TT Liquor, Hoxton
What: From cocktail making and tasting to underground silver screen cinema evenings, TT Liquor is a Shoreditch bar that really does it all. If you walked past the unassuming front, you'd have no idea that this Kingsland Road cocktail bar was hiding a beautiful little rooftop bar. Designed in collaboration with award-winning landscape designer Taina Suonio, the space is covered in summery wooden decking and plenty of foliage to create a secluded garden feel. There are also covered and heated booths available for guests to enjoy the space all year round.
Where: 17b Kingsland Road, Hoxton, E2 8AA
Book now: TT Liquor
Bokan at Novotel Canary Wharf, Canary Wharf
What: 39 floors high, the wrap-around terrace at this sky-high restaurant and bar is worth the trek to Canary Wharf. You can expect plenty of buzz when you visit Bokan, thanks to bookable daybeds and a specialist gin bar. The cocktail list pays homage to the area’s history with short explanations of the cocktail names written on the menu. Sips to try include Chaos on the River, which is a blend of Campari, Orgeat and lemon.
Where: 40 Marsh Wall, Canary Wharf, E14 9TP
Book now: Bokan
Boundary Rooftop Bar, Shoreditch
What: Open all-year round, the rooftop space at Boundary consists of a glass-walled orangery and an outdoor terrace, as well as a bar and grill restaurant. Boasting views of East London, Boundary’s menu changes with the seasons, meaning grilled meats and fish and vibrant salads in the summer, and Alpine-themed fare come the winter – think fondue and warm cocktails. Twinkling lights and house plants lined along the terrace borders add a romantic touch, making Boundary a good spot for date night.
Where: 2-4 Boundary Street, Shoreditch, E2 7DD
Book now: Boundary Rooftop Bar
PocketSquare Skyline Bar, Aldgate East
What: Located between Whitechapel and Aldgate East, cocktail bar Pocket Square can be found on the ninth floor of Hyatt London City East and offers sweeping views of London’s impressive skyline. The gin-led bar offers eight expertly crafted signature cocktails (alongside your traditional favourites), each with their own story and accompanying food pairings - try the Taiyo (Roku gin, yuzu and plum wine) with the steamed tiger prawn bao bun, or the Marketa (Maker’s Mark, roasted pineapple and 1757 Rosso) with candied bacon bites.
Where: 9th Floor Hyatt Place, Aldgate East, E1 1DU
Book now: PocketSquare Skyline Bar
Aviary, City of London
What: Finding its nest on the rooftop of the Royal London House Hotel, tenth-floor Aviary is a chic and sleek rooftop bar, boasting an outdoor terrace that attracts the suited-and-booted folk of the City. The terrace is dotted with tables for two flanked by cosy white chairs, and boasts an impressive view which overlooks the likes of The Gherkin, the ‘walkie-talkie’ and The Shard. All your favourite drinks are taken care of with cocktails, wines and Champagnes all featuring, but note that Aviary is now totally cash-free.
Where: 22-25 Finsbury Square, City of London, EC2A 1 DX
Book now: Aviary
Golden Bee, Shoreditch
What: Booking a table is a pre-requisite for experiencing Golden Bee’s swish rooftop terrace, which should give you an idea of the VIP feeling a place like this evokes. A buzzy spot (pardon the pun), Golden Bee pulls in the crowds with its palm trees that are festooned with twinkling lights and the promise of sushi sharing platters for the table. The terrace closes at midnight, but guests who aren’t ready for the party to end can head downstairs to the Main Bar, where music and dancing rumbles on to the wee hours.
Where: Singer Street, Shoreditch, EC1V 9DD
Book now: Golden Bee
What: Stratford is short on upmarket joints, so restaurant, bar and roof terrace Allegra is a welcome breath of fresh air. Seven floors up, the extensive wrap around terrace is a sleek space featuring an abundance of plants, water features and neutral wooden tones and it’s also something of a sun-trap during the summer months. For the optimal Allegra experience, bag one of the oversized deck chairs and take advantage of a glass of fizz and a plate of oysters.
Where: 20-22 International Way, Stratford, E20 1GQ
Book now: Allegra
Jin Bo Law Skybar, Aldgate
What: 14 floors high, the outdoor terrace at Jin Bo Law Skybar is a long and narrow space, but it's just as well suited to private catch ups and dates as it is to big parties. It does offer expansive views of the City though, taking in London landmarks like The Gherkin and The ‘Cheesegrater’. Signature cocktails include the likes of the Old Tokyo Fashion - a blend of Japanese whisky, cacao nibs, honey, marmalade and orange bitters - and there's an extravagant line of other drinks, including hefty Champagne bottles that stretch well into four figure price tags.
Where: 9 Aldgate High Street, Aldgate, EC3N 1AH
Book now: Jin Bo Law Skybar
Mercer Roof Terrace, Blackfriars
What: If you don’t have the energy to stay standing all night (we feel you), then opt for the glamorous Mercer Roof Terrace, where you can combine sky-high drinking and dining. Settle in at one of the tables and explore the seasonally changing menu of modern British dishes, which might include roasted chicken with stuffing and roast potatoes, followed by apple and blackberry crumble for pudding. Wash it all down with a cocktail, a glass of Champagne or your pick of the European-led wine list.
Where: 19-20 Garlick Hill, Blackfriars, EC4V 2AU
Book now: Mercer Roof Terrace
The Culpeper, Spitalfields
What: Becoming a #plantparent is one trend that is showing no signs of slowing down and the botanical surrounds of The Culpeper’s rooftop bar are sure to delight any plant enthusiasts. The rustic-chic space features a greenhouse and soil beds which are used to grow vegetables that are then utilised in the pub’s kitchen. All of the expected wine, beers and spirits are available, while you can also enjoy some wonderful rustic gastropub cookery, and a great roast on a Sunday.
Where: 40 Commercial Street, Spitalfields, E1 6LP
Book now: The Culpeper
Best rooftop bars in north London
There are gastropubs aplenty in North London but these venues’ rooftop rafters make them a cut above the rest.
The Fellow, King's Cross
What: Another of King's Cross’ busy little gastropubs, The Fellow is a well-frequented boozer popular with North Londoners looking for somewhere a little off the beaten track. The exposed brickwork and trendy lighting make it a cool hangout at anytime of day and the all-day menu produces solid versions of all the pub classics; steak and ale pie, sausage and mash, fish 'n’ chips. Upstairs the ‘secret’ rooftop terrace is anything but secret, drawing in a regular bunch of imbibers for post-work cocktails, particularly in the summer months.
Where: 24 York Way, King's Cross, N1 9AA
Book now: The Fellow
The Rooftop at The Standard, King's Cross
What: The astro turf rooftop at one of London’s quirkiest hotels is back for another year. Amazing skyline views from King’s Cross are the perfect backdrop for cocktails, fizz on tap and Spanish street food via Decimiño - a bright red taco truck with easy-going tapas devised by Casamia's Peter Sanchez-Iglesias.
Where: 10 Argyle Street, King’s Cross, WC1H 8EG
Book now: The Rooftop at The Standard
The Abbey Tavern, Kentish Town
What: Rooftop bars are notoriously difficult to nab a table at (particularly on a summer’s day), but thankfully the space at The Abbey Tavern is expansive enough to accommodate plenty of imbibers. Another perk is that the roof terrace has its own bar, so there’s no need to head inside to order a pint, while a menu of street-style burgers will keep your post-alcohol grease cravings satisfied. No need to worry about getting home either, as this boozer is only a short walk from Kentish Town tube station.
Where: 124 Kentish Town Road, Kentish Town, NW1 9QB
Book now: The Abbey Tavern
If you prefer somewhere more secluded and cosy for a tipple then you might want to check out our list of the best cecret bars in London instead. Or if the weather is really good, make it more than just a drink and nab a table at one of London's best rooftop restaurants, or at the very least, one of London's best outdoor restaurants.