When the sun comes out in London, finding hidden outdoor drinking spots is always top of the agenda. So with that in mind we have put together a list of the best rooftop bars in London, so you can enjoy your sunshine drinks from up high. From cool cocktails overlooking the river to hidden terraces with a view, this is your ultimate guide to London’s rooftop bars.
With a name like The Rooftop, the Trafalgar St James' bar does what it says on the tin. Overlooking the lastminute.com London Eye, the National Gallery and Trafalgar Square (you're practically eye level with Nelson on the top of his column), this is one of the best sunshine spots in the heart of Central London. Be sure to make room for the Korean and Japanese sharing plates while you're there - you won't be disappointed.
The vibe: Fun, chilled and cheeky, with cracking cocktails including bespoke sharing jugs and a seasonal menu. You might have seen it on Channel 4's Made in Chelsea.
Need to know: Open year-round, The Rooftop offers an open fireplace, heaters and a selection of blankets to keep you warm and dry, even when the typical British weather is out in force.
Opening times: Mon-Sat: 12pm–Midnight, Sun: 12pm–11pm
Signature Drink: Coupette
Getting there: The Trafalgar, 2 Spring Gardens, Trafalgar Square, London, SW1A 2TS
Nearest tube: Charing Cross
Just a few minutes walk from Tower Hill, this glamorous rooftop bar has views of The Shard, The Gherkin and the Tower of London.
The vibe: Sleek and sophisticated inside, chilled and funky out.
Need to know: Tables are available on a first come first served basis, so get down there early. Alternatively, make a booking through the website to be sure you get a table.
Opening times: Main bar: 11am - 2am, outside terrace: 11am to midnight (weather permitting)
Signature Drink: Savage Spritz
Getting there: Doubletree by Hilton, 7 Pepys Street, London EC3N 4AF, United Kingdom
Nearest tube: Tower Hill
The bane of expense accounts across The City, this is a swish and sophisticated oasis bang in the heart of London’s financial centre. Tucked inside the entrance to No1 Poultry, take the funky orange lift straight up to the top for views of famous city landmarks like The Gherkin.
The vibe: Seriously suited. Popular with business lunches during the week, it is a little more relaxed at the weekend.
Need to know: Terraces along this bars famous garden are covered (and heated in the winter). There’s even a menu dedicated to its fabulous fizz selection.
Opening times: Mon-Fri: 11.30am - 11pm, Sat: 12pm-11pm, Sun: 12pm-5pm
Signature Drink: Champagne, darling!
Getting there: No.1 Poultry, London EC2R 8EJ
Nearest tube: Bank
This ultra-modern, light and bright bar has incredible riverside views across the city, from Big Ben and the London Eye, right across to The Shard. It has an exclusive feel, and has hosted celebrities ranging from Graham Norton to One Direction. If you're feeling peckish, it serves a decently priced tapas menu, reflecting the hotel’s Spanish roots. However, you can just pop in for a drink in the enclosed bar.
The vibe: Chilled out during the day and a party place at night. With a DJ spinning the tunes at volume, this is the perfect pre-clubbing venue for those looking to splurge.
Need to know: Access is from a separate side entrance of the five-star ME hotel. They operate a guest list and queuing system, as it can be up to a two-hour wait on busy nights. Reserving an outdoor table requires a minimum spend of £50 per person from 5pm (£100 from 9pm). And be sure to dress to impress.
Opening times: Mon to Wed: 12pm-1am, Thur to Sat: 12pm–3am, Sun: 12pm til midnight
Signature Drink: Bespoke seasonal cocktails
Getting there: ME London, 336-337 The Strand, London, WC2R 1HA
Nearest tube: Charing Cross
This rooftop bar is so good it even has a separate viewing area alongside it so tourists can capture the perfect picture of St Paul’s Cathedral.
The vibe: Laidback European café-culture
Need to know: After a bit of retail therapy in the New Change shopping and business centre, catch the interior glass lift six floors up to the bar. You’ll find an excellent cocktail list and comfy sofas to recline on while admiring the iconic dome of St. Paul’s across the road.
Opening times: Mon-Sat: 10am – Midnight, Sun: 10am – 9pm
Signature Drink: Rooftop (£11.50) Hendricks gin, elderflower cordial, apple and lemon juice
Getting there: Rooftop Terrace, 1 New Change, St Paul’s, London, EC4M 9AF
Nearest tube: St Paul’s
Take a break from shopping on Oxford Street and visit the uplifting Aqua Spirit. The bar has several cocktail menus, including twists on classics and a range inspired by Japanese flavours. Relax and enjoy your drinks in the sunshine with only a muffled backdrop of noise from London’s busiest street below.
The vibe: Fabulous fusion in chic and chilled surroundings
Need to know: The discrete and slightly intimidating entrance (think moody lighting and velvet curtains) is right opposite the Palladium Theatre. But don’t worry, a warm welcome awaits when you venture in and take the stylish lifts to the top. Walk past the charcoal-ringed bar through to the two wonderful roof top terraces where you can grab lunch - Japanese (on the Kyoto side) or Spanish (on the Nueva side) – you won’t need a reservation to sit outside.
Opening times: Mon-Sat: 12pm - 1am, Terrace Lunch: Mon-Sat: 12pm- 3pm, Terrace Drinks: 3pm onwards
Signature Drink: The Emperor (Johnnie Walker Blue Label whisky, maraschino, amaro, Cynar, Campari)
Getting there: 5th Floor, 30 Argyll Street (entrance opposite The London Palladium), London, W1F 7EB
Nearest tube: Oxford Circus
With the highest outdoor terrace in Europe, this has to be on the list. With breathtaking views across the City and contemporary cocktails with a twist; this is outdoor drinking in London on an epic scale.
The vibe: Dress to impress
Need to know: This destination bar has a finely tuned cocktail list and a fabulous fusion menu, taking in Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian cuisine. It has three small bars, including the outdoor roof terrace, which are accessed by taking the express glass lift on the side of the building straight up to the 38th Floor. Yes, it’s that high! You don’t have to book to visit the bar, but entry is based on space availability.
Opening times: Mon-Sun 4pm–1am
Signature Drink: NINA FRESA® (£13) An updated SUSHISAMBA classic with Ketel One vodka, strawberry, grapefruit and guava shaken with rhubarb bitters, lime and sugar. Served ‘up.’
Getting there: Floors 38 & 39, Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate, London, EC2N 4AY
Nearest tube: Liverpool Street
This incredible rooftop bar is tucked away down a side street at the top of a boutique hotel (catch the lift from reception). Expect wooden floors and chic furniture, along with a pretty vine-entwined canopy; a stylish surprise hidden away from the urban sprawl outside.
The vibe: Mediterranean meets East London
Need to know: Open all year round thanks to its new weatherproof pergola, you can begin with brunch (10am-12pm Sat-Sun), sample their seasonal cocktails, or tuck in to their Mediterranean lunch and dinner menu. They don’t take bookings for small tables in the bar, so walk-ins are welcome. Booking is advised for larger parties.
Opening times: Mon to Fri: 12pm-11.30pm, Sat-Sun: 10am-11.30pm
Signature Drink: Earth and Smoke: Montelobos Mezcal, Patron Silver, lime juice & sugar syrup (£12.50)
Getting there: Entrance on Redchurch Street, 2-4 Boundary Street, Shoreditch, London, E2 7DD
Nearest tube: Shoreditch High Street
As well as being a cultural treasure, The National Theatre also has a very high-up terrace with romantic riverside views. The theatrical influence can be seen in the seasonal cocktail menu, with drinks being themed around the plays being performed. If the mixologists can’t tempt you, then try the locally brewed Meantime beer or choose from their decent wine list.
The vibe: Post work, pre theatre
Need to know: The NT is bigger than you think, so head straight to level 2 on the Lyttelton side of the building. Booking is advisable for eating, they do a great range of cheese and charcuterie if you want something to share. Otherwise, just pop in, order a drink and head out onto the terrace.
Opening times: Mon to Sat: 5pm to 11pm (also opens for Midweek and Sat matinees noon to 2pm)
Signature Drink: Prosecco with Wild Hibiscus
Getting there: National Theatre, South Bank, London, SE1 9PX
Nearest tube: Waterloo (from the south side of the river) or Embankment (north side of the river)
There are roof gardens…and then there are roof gardens. Where else can you enjoy a drink and outstanding riverside views of the London skyline in the middle of an English meadow?
The vibe: Casual. Sit back and relax.
Need to know: Open from April through to September, venture above the Brutalist concrete architecture of the Southbank Centre to discover 100 native UK species of wildflowers and woodland while you drink. This huge space is the perfect place to while away the hours surrounded by nature.
Opening times: 10am-10pm (depending on the weather)
Signature Drink: For an English garden, it has to be gin & tonic - chin chin!
Getting there: Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, London, SE1 8XX
Nearest tube: Waterloo
A fun and funky bar with fabulous views over Canary Wharf, you’ll certainly need a drink after climbing up all those stairs. They’ve brightened it up for the summer, and then some. The summer themed-bar, Bangarang, is inspired by Peter Pan, with the Lost Boys' hideout housing the bar and a pirate ship to explore.
The vibe: By day – chilled out sunshine. By night - jam-packed for post-work drinks with pals
Need to know: Now open rain or shine thanks to some additional cover, if sticky –glazed ribs, burgers and fairy-themed cocktails sounds like your kind of afternoon / evening, then you can’t go wrong. Visit the “Rooftop Summer Club”, where organisers have created a space to forget your responsibilities and be spontaneous doing crafty workshops. On some days, they close at 9pm for their Rooftop Film Club screenings (www.rooftopfilmclub.com) so check before you go.
Opening times: Mon-Fri: 4pm Sat-Sun: 12pm daily during the summer until late (check their Twitter or Facebook pages for changes to times)
Signature Drink: Changes every winter and summer - depending on the theme
Getting there: 1-5 Curtain Rd, London EC2A 3JX, United Kingdom
Nearest tube: Liverpool Street
For post-work or pre-club drinks, the Golden Bee’s large rooftop garden is hard to beat. Think comfy sofas and wooden decking, along with a cracking cocktail menu, and all within a stone’s throw of Old Street station.
The vibe: Laidback clubbers
Need to know: Tuesday through to Friday they have a happy hour between 5 and 7pm. Although the rooftop closes at 12am, you can head down the spiral staircase to one of the club nights at the weekend. It’s free entry before 9pm but afterwards door charges apply. When the sun goes down the fire pit and moveable heaters will ensure that the atmosphere remains warm and welcoming.
Opening times: Tues-Thurs 5pm-Late, Fri: 5pm–3am, Sat: 5pm-3:30am. Rooftop closes at 11pm
Signature Drink: Golden Bee (£9)- Tequila, banana liqueur, passion fruit, sugar, lemon & cloudy apple juice
Getting there: Singer Street, Shoreditch, EC1V 9DD
Nearest tube: Old Street
Describes itself as a urban utopian oasis; and who are we to argue. This is basically a park on a roof with amazing views across the East London skyline. So either pull up a plastic chair or find a nice grassy spot to relax on – it’s perfect for groups of friends looking for a fun evening in the sunshine. And it's been newly refurbished for 2017, so why not head down to see what they've done with the place.
The vibe: Laidback people enjoying a bit of Park-life in Dalston.
Need to know: When you think “membership” you think big bucks, but here for the princely sum of £12 you can have access to a host of free music, movie and lifestyle events throughout the summer; check their Facebook page for listings as sometimes it is ticket only. It might seem like a magical mystery tour to get to the top, four floors and no lift, but it’s well worth the climb.
Opening times: Closed Mon eve. Mon-Fri 9am to 3pm, 5pm to 11pm, Sat: 3pm to midnight, Sun: 3pm to 10pm
Signature Drinks: Keep it local with the Meantime Brewing Company’s lager and pale ale.
Getting there: 18 Ashwin Street, London, E8 3DL
Nearest tube: Highbury and Islington – but right next door to Dalston Junction on the Overground.
This is a place for both day and night time - as its now part workspace, café, gallery and bar. You can watch the sun set over East London where you get glorious views. Take a pew on the wooden seating and try some local drinks.
The vibe: East London culture vultures
Need to know: At the top of Hackney's Netil House, they got a license in late 2015 which means they can put on pop-up parties throughout the year. Try and combine a visit with a trip to Netil Market which takes place on Saturdays.
Opening times: Closed Mon-Tue.Open Sun & Wed 9am to 9pm, Thur-Sat: 10am to 11pm Signature Drinks: Local drinks from independents: Beers from Five Points Brewery, spirits from East London Liquor Company.
Getting there: 1 Westgate Street, Hackney, London E8 3RL
Nearest tube: London Fields or Cambridge Heath
Frank's Cafe, Peckham has an annual summer residence at the top of Peckham Multi Story Carpark (133 Rye Ln, SE15 4ST).The Culpeper pub in Aldgate has a rooftop garden where it grows organic food for its bar and restaurant food offerings. You can also have a drink up there (40 Commercial St, London E1 6LP).
Find more things to do in London in summer here.
Please let us know your thoughts on our best rooftop bar selection by leaving a comment below. Have we have missed off one of your favourites? If so we would love to hear about it and any other outdoor bars, pubs or terraces we haven't discovered yet.