A couple of post-work pints at your local is a given for most Londoners. But sometimes the pub just won’t cut it. Once in a while, a classier night is in order. Luckily there’s no better place for swanky rooftop drinks than London.
Picture this: you and your besties clinking glasses surrounded by the sexiest skyline in the world. Now if that doesn’t sound like a good night out…
Sure, I understand that it’s getting chilly and that you may think that rooftop bars are off the cards. But you’d be mistaken, my friend. This guide to the best rooftop bars in London reveals all, including where to stay dry and warm.
Whether it’s lounging back under the stars or snuggling up next to a fire in the sky, here are the top spots to enjoy a sky-high drink.
I couldn’t write a list about the top rooftop bars London without mentioning GŎNG Bar located on level 52 of The Shard. For one, it’s the highest bar in Western Europe. It’s also dazzlingly elegant and offers some of the most fascinating cocktails in the business.
The cocktail menu regularly embraces an exciting new theme. ‘A Miscellany of Inventions’ is the current theme, curated to pay boozy homage to machines that have changed our lives. The “Lost in Asia” is a sake, banana, and apple-infused tribute to the compass. Pretty neat, huh?
The bar also has an infinity pool overlooking the city. I mean, could it get any better? And possibly the best news of all is that the food and drinks aren’t as pricey as you might think. Unlike some rooftop bars that charge a premium for the view by hiking up prices to the heavens, GŎNG Bar keeps the quality high and prices reasonable.
The name comes from “dougong” which describes a unique structural element used in traditional Chinese architecture of interlocking wooden brackets. This is used in the bar to divide the space into intimate chambers with a cocktail bar and champagne bar.
Follow your sunset cocktails with a sky-high meal at one of the Shard restaurants and you’re set for pretty much the perfect London date night.
Sky Pod at Sky Garden
If you haven’t visited Sky Garden yet, you’re missing out. Located in the iconic Walkie Talkie, Sky Garden has a foliage-filled viewing gallery on the 43rd floor. From here, visitors are surrounded by exquisite greenery while looking over panoramic views of London.
If sipping on a Chardonnay amidst an indoor jungle sounds like your version of Eden, then be sure to make a booking at Sky Pod, Sky Garden’s gorgeous bar. You’ll sit alongside floor-to-ceiling windows that present awe-inspiring views of the famous London skyline.
From the open-air terrace, guests can watch the twinkling lights of the Thames on a warm evening. The terrace is covered which means that Sky Pod is still an option for cooler, rainier nights.
To visit Sky Pod in the evening, it’s recommended that you book a spot at the bar or a table using the online booking service. If you can’t book online, you can visit as a walk-in guest from 6:15 pm on weekdays and 9:15 pm on weekends.
For something a little edgier, Netil 360 rooftop in Hackney offers a fun, laid-back space in one of the trendiest parts of East London. It features an open-air bar where you can watch the train go by and even a loft workspace for local creatives.
If you’re looking to network with other young creative people, then this is the spot for you. There’s an array of small businesses in the building, making it the ideal hub for start-ups and creative collabs.
One thing to keep in mind about this London Fields rooftop is that it takes a bit of a walk (nine flights) to reach the top. And there’s no lift. But if you do make it up, I promise you won’t regret it.
The sweet beats, disco ball, and diverse crowd mean that Neti360 gets pretty lively as the sun sets over Hackney. If dancing doesn’t keep you warm enough, the good news is that you can shimmy on into the cosy indoor section of the bar where you’ll stay nice and toasty.
Located on the South Bank at Sea Containers London, 12th Knot is described as a true reflection of South Bank’s dynamic energy. This eclectic rooftop bar has been described as a hidden gem because you enter it through a discreet door which leads to a lift that finally takes you up to the bar. But there’s nothing discreet about the view from 12th Knot.
Picture this: you’re with your friends drinking GnTs while gazing over at St Paul’s illuminated in the magical London light. You’d be crazy not to take a few hundred selfies for the ‘Gram.
On cooler nights, there’s plenty of room inside the eclectic bar to keep warm perched on teal velvet sofas beneath dandelion chandeliers. Don’t worry – the views are still right there, totally visible through the massive windows.
The bar hosts live music every Wednesday, and live DJs from Thursday to Saturday. Keep in mind that they have an over 21 age policy and proof of identity may be requested. Walk-ins are welcome and are on a first-come basis, so arrive early to secure your piece of magic.
Duck & Waffle
If you’re keen on heights, then Duck & Waffle is for you. It’s on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower, making it one of the highest bars in London and Europe, for that matter. And guess what? It’s open 24-hours a day. Yep, that’s right. You can sip on cocktails whenever you like.
If you love the thrill of being high up, this next part is definitely up your street. You can take a sky ride up 40 floors to the bar. The ride is a transparent lift, making you feel as though you’re being projected into the sky. It’s something straight out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
If this all sounds a bit much, there are alternative ways to get to the top. It’s safe to say that when you get to the top, the views from the 40th floor are pretty mind-blowing.
From sunrise to sunset guests can enjoy the changing views of the capital stretching from the Shard and St Paul’s downstream, to the London Eye and Big Ben. I can’t think of many other things I’d rather be doing.
Coq d’ Argent
Coq d’ Argent is my go-to rooftop bar when Mother Nature isn’t playing her part. Come rain or shine, you’ll be safely tucked away on their cosy covered terraces. It’s also one of the most spacious and greenest rooftop bars in the city. Although it’s big, it still feels intimate and inviting, which is probably due in part to the lovely warming heaters.
They have an impressive selection of spirits, wines and better-than-average bar food. Their scrumptious grill menu is available during the week from 11:30 am to 3 pm on the bar terrace. Evening bar snacks are on offer from 5 pm to 11 pm.
If you’re looking for a bit of Friday night revelry, join in for their live DJ sets from 6 pm until the early hours. It can turn in to quite the party. It’s got to be one of the best rooftop bars in London for a bit of booze and a boogie.
Radio Rooftop Bar
This is one of London’s most popular rooftop bars. And for good reason. Swanky cocktails, great food and live DJs combine to make this an upmarket and upbeat rooftop experience. It’s situated on the roof of the ME London Hotel and has been described as “impossibly glamourous” with some of the most striking views of London’s skyline.
On cooler nights, the bar hands out blankies (pretty blankies). So, you’ll be warm and chic all at once.
If you’re looking for a quieter time at Radio Rooftop, then visit during the weekend for brunch. Their brunch is something of a London secret. Alternatively, pop in on weekdays for arguably the most scenic London lunch you’ll ever eat.
Be sure to book ahead. It’s worth it. You’ll get a 360-degree view of the London Eye and Big Ben. Just imagine the selfies.
You know it’s summer when Frank’s Café opens for the year. Perched on top of a massive multi-storey carpark, Frank’s offers spectacular views of the whole of London (pretty much). It’s utterly breathtaking when you emerge from climbing what feels like a million steps to the top of Bold Tendencies. The creative space plays host to pop-up art exhibitions and a range of dance and music events.
Luckily, Bold Tendencies hosts art-related events throughout the year. While Franks Café is only open during the sweaty months, the centre as a whole remains open and alive with creative possibilities. For these reasons, Peckham locals rate it as one of the top rooftop bars in London.
This is the perfect rooftop hangout if you’re in the mood for something cool, laid back and bit grungy. Although, in my opinion, there’s nothing grungy about sipping a Campari surrounded by art, watching the sun set over London.
Frank’s has gained a kind of cult status, so get there early on warm days to ensure a sweet spot.
The View for You
As far as I’m concerned, drinking in the capital’s most impressive sights at the same time as drinking alcohol should be a year-round activity.
Winter doesn’t need to be a period of mourning for your social life. Instead of staying cooped up waiting for summer, venture out and up to a few of these drinking spots in the sky. London boasts some of the best rooftop bars for socialising, relaxing and simply enjoying that sweet city life.
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Written by Anya Hollands