There are few finer views to be had in London than one from above, when the crowds and traffic are reduced to silent ants and you can enjoy an uninterrupted panorama of the city’s iconic sights and structures.
The scenic vistas are only improved with a tantalizing tipple, and the British capital boasts a surprising number of terraces tucked away among the rooftops. Here are some of the best.
With sweeping views of the River Thames from its 12th-floor perch at the elegant Mondrian London at Sea Containers, the evocatively named Rumpus Room is certainly a hot spot for those looking for a good time.
This British-American-themed bar serves up a sharable selection of dishes, such as tuna tacos, sloppy joe sliders and buttermilk popcorn chicken, while the extensive drinks menu has something for everyone, from non-alcoholic cocktails (the fruity and spicy Innocent Pleasure) to an eight-person rum punch (Thanks A Tot!).
And with a calendar of events, including Fourth of July parties, live music and resident DJs, this picture-perfect terrace provides a lively hangout in one of the prettiest destinations in the city.
Spanning levels 37 through 39 of Novotel London Canary Wharf Hotel, this three-floor restaurant and bar recently celebrated its first anniversary. Head straight to the rooftop terrace where, from the comfort of a day bed, you can enjoy some of the best views over Canary Wharf.
The cocktail menu at Bōkan takes its inspiration from the London Docklands setting, evoking the exotic treasures traded within what was once the world’s largest port and the mythical stories told by sailors of the time. We suggest the Harpy, a refreshing mix of gin, pine, rhubarb and lime.
With a covered bar just one floor below serving a casual menu of modern European fare, this scenic venue makes a great option, rain or shine. As access to the rooftop is on a first-come, first-served basis, we recommend heading there early to guarantee a spot to watch the sun go down.
Savor a flavorful sip among the foliage of London’s highest public garden when you visit the 37th-floor bar of the 20 Fenchurch Street skyscraper. The modern, Rafael Viñoly-designed structure — also referred to as “the Walkie-Talkie” for its unique look — is a striking addition to the skyline, crowned with the three-story Sky Garden that offers 360-degree views across the British capital from its glass-domed locale.
There are various restaurants and bars onsite, but for the best vistas, make a beeline for the Fenchurch Terrace, a fantastic setting to enjoy a sundowner as the cityscape lights up in the evening.
This season, the venue is hosting a Mediterranean-inspired pop-up in partnership with Italian spirit brand, Italicus, featuring three herbaceous cocktails (the Italicus Spritz pairs well with a warm summer’s night) and a curated menu of themed bar snacks.
Walk-in tables are available, but it’s best to reserve your spot in advance so you don’t miss out.
The newest addition to London’s rooftop bar scene (unveiled in June 2018), this trendy lounge sits 12 stories above the city streets on the top floor of DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel London — Tower of London.
This all-day bar and cocktail lounge is decked out in striking décor (marbleized stone, metal and wood) that was inspired by the surrounding urban landscape, and made even more cozy with a moody color palette, soft velvets and punchy flora.
Expect similarly theatrical cocktails, such as the Horny Beast (gin, rum, cinnamon soda and rhubarb) and a meaty menu, offering charcoal bun beef sliders, pork tomahawk steak with black pudding fries and tempura oysters.
The large, north-facing terrace has a retractable roof in case the weather turns, while the south-aiming gin patio affords 360-views across the city, including familiar façades such as St Paul’s Cathedral and the Shard. A roster of DJs and musicians provides a pleasant soundtrack.
The Garden Room
If you enjoy a cigar with your tipple, pop over to this outdoor heated terrace at Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star The Lanesborough. Situated on the ground floor, it’s the one exception to the rooftop bar rule here; however, it’s a worthy addition.
Sit back and relax in one of the racing-green leather armchairs, select a cigar from more than 50 different types (around 7,000 sticks) on display in the walk-in humidor or be guided by one of the knowledgeable cigar sommeliers. Pair your smoke with a single-malt whisky or one of the rare cognacs, some of which date back to 1770.
Open to both hotel guests and the public, the alfresco lounge doesn’t take reservations, so your best chance of snagging a seat is to arrive between 8 and 10 p.m. (it’s busiest pre- and post-dinner).
Carrying a mouthwatering menu of Asian-inspired small plates and English-themed drinks (try the Gunpowder Plot, made with gin, vermouth, amaro, grapefruit bitters and woodsmoke), this alfresco perch provides Instagrammable vistas of the London Eye, the Shard and the mighty 169-foot Nelson’s Column — an iconic reminder of the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar, after which this section of central London takes its name.
With outdoor heaters and blankets rolled out come winter, this splendid rooftop is one for all seasons.
The Roof Terrace
Among the ruckus of Mayfair, this leafy, fourth-floor destination within Ham Yard Hotel provides a tranquil urban retreat. Surrounded by a tree-filled garden, the alfresco lounge is home to two beehives (the honey is used in the cocktails) and a Kitchen Garden, providing year-round produce for the restaurant and bar.
After sundown, the rooftop terrace comes to life with sparkling lights, hanging lanterns and a cozy ambiance, offering a picture-worthy venue for a night out.
It’s a hidden spot, usually only accessible to guests staying at the hotel, though a series of ticketed pop-ups — such as evening masterclasses with English sparkling wine producer Rathfinny Estate and Rosé on the Roof, a tasting dedicated to the quintessential summer tipple — opens the private space up to the public between July 28 and September 1.