I don’t know why, but there’s something about drinking on a rooftop that is simply far more exciting than drinking on a ground floor. It could be the incredible views, or the fact that you can unashamedly stare at the world and people below or simply feeling like you’re part of this secret club up in the sky. Whatever it is, I love rooftop terraces, and luckily for me, London has plenty of amazing ones. Here’s my top 10 of London rooftop terraces where you may very well catch me with a chilled glass of vino this summer!
1. Madison at One New Change
The gigantic rooftop terrace at One New Change was my little secret for a long time when it just opened. It offers the best views over St. Paul’s Cathedral and pretty much the whole of London’s skyline – and it was always very quiet. These days the secret’s very much out and it does get very busy on sunny days (very popular with the City crowd), but it’s still one of my favourite places in London. The Madison Bar has expanded and now occupies a large chunk of the terrace, which makes it a great place for a sunny tipple with a view (and City boys in suits…).
Madison Rooftop Bar
One New Change
London EC4M 9AF
2. Aqua Kyoto & Aqua Nueva Rooftop Bars
Not only is Aqua Kyoto my ultimate favourite restaurant in London (if I got to choose my very last meal, it would be their Black Cod), it also boasts a pretty chic rooftop terrace. Along with sister restaurant Aqua Nueva next door, they have 2 large outdoor bars on the 5th floor overlooking Regent Street. Great for pre-dinner or post-shopping drinks, incredible nibbles and relaxing away from the hustle and bustle of Regent Street and Oxford Street.
Aqua Kyoto Rooftop Terrace
30 Argyll Street
London W1B 3BR
3. Vista at the Trafalgar
Living in London I tend to avoid touristy spots. Trafalgar Square was pretty high up on my to-avoid-list, but since discovering the amazing Vista bar on top of the Trafalgar Hotel I seem to be heading that way a lot more… Not only is the space itself beautifully designed – a slick outdoor lounge bar – the view tops it all off – Nelson’s Column on one side, Big Ben on the other, and a lot of amazing buildings in between. And best of all, not a single tourist asking for directions. It does get busy on sunny days so get there early if you want a seat!
Vista At The Trafalgar Hotel
2 Spring Gardens
London SW1A 2TS
4. Dalston Roof Park
Just a couple of steps away from Dalston Kingsland station lies the Print House, which plays host to Dalston Roof Park in summer. It’s a slightly kitsch space with astroturf, coloured deckchairs and even a giant flamingo. There’s also an edible garden, the produce of which is used in cocktails, whilst exciting street food vendors provide the food. Throughout the summer there will be outdoor film screenings and unplugged sessions to keep you entertained (check out the events schedule here). It can be a little hipster-y at times, but then that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Dalston Roof Park
18 Ashwin St
London E8 3DL
5. Big Chill House
Perhaps I’m a little biased about this one, because I happen to live quite close to it, but the Big Chill House rooftop terrace is a wonderful little surprise just steps away from King’s Cross station. The Big Chill House is a maze of different floors and bars and atmospheres, and gets packed especially on weekends, but at the end of the day, it’s always good fun. The terrace at the back seems to get a transformation every year, so I don’t know what this summer season has to offer, but it’s the perfect place to… chill on a sunny day (See what did there?)
The Big Chill House
257-259 Pentonville Road
London N1 9NL
6. Radio Rooftop Bar at ME Hotel
On the 1oth floor of the ME Hotel on The Strand sits the Radio Rooftop Bar (named in honour of the former BBC HQ location) and it is definitely the slickest, snazziest rooftop bar on this list. Fancy as it may be, the panoramic views over London are its ultimate selling point. There’s plenty of white sofas and nibbles and drinks and music and an indoor option should it ever rain – oh, as if! – and wonderful as they all may be, it wouldn’t even matter if it only had the view. But it does have all of those things, which makes it all the better.
Radio Rooftop Bar at ME London
336-337 The Strand
London WC2R 1HA
If you’re scared of heights, this one may not be for you… Sushisamba’s rooftop terrace is on the 38th floor of the Heron Tower and possibly one of the most spectacular places I’ve ever visited (and the Japanese-Peruvian-Brazilian-combo food isn’t too shabby either). If you do have the guts to go outside, the birds-eye view over London, the Gherkin, The Shard, The Olympic Stadium (I once went during the Games), Tower Bridge and other landmarks is of postcard quality. The main outdoor bar is based around a giant bronze tree
8. Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden
Southbank has a tendency to get a little bit crazy during summer days, and so a visit to the Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden is always a welcome break from the madness below. Just follow the bright yellow staircase to the top floor and you’ll be transported to a different world: it’s a real garden with allotments, fruit trees and wild flowers, boasts an incredible front-row view of the river. It also has a cafe/bar, and as it’s a public space you can also just bring your own picnic or drinks if you wanted to – or you could even do some gardening if you were so inclined. A real gem in an unexpected place.
Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden at the Southbank Centre
London SE1 8XX
9. Queen Of Hoxton
The Queen of Hoxton’s rooftop is definitely one for the Shoreditch party people -there’s DJ’s, BBQ’s, a massive heated wigwam (during winter) and a rumoured hottub for summer. There’s regular events – check out their Sports Day in July) and a massively popular Rooftop Film Club (check out the schedule here). It does get really busy, but it’s a must-do for a sunny Shoreditch night out. The rooftop reopens for the summer season on May 20th.
Queen of Hoxton Rooftop
1-5 Curtain Road
London EC2A 3JX
In the heart of Shoreditch lies the Terence Conran designed Boundary Project – there’s The Albion cafe downstairs, Boundary restaurant in the basement, a boutique hotel above, and to top it all off, a rather fantastic rooftop terrace. It’s a great place for a sunny meal, surrounded by lots of green, as well as heaters and even a fireplace to keep you warm. It’s also a great alternative to members-only Shoreditch House next door – it may not have a rooftop pool, but then who really swims in it anyway? And if you’ve had one too many tipples, you can always just take a room in the hotel below. Win-win.
2-4 Boundary Street
London E2 7DD
Any amazing rooftops I’ve missed? Let me know! All in the name of research, of course :)