See London From Above
London is famous for its wonderful views, whether you are looking down at the capital from the peak of Primrose Hill or from the top of Western Europe’s tallest building at The View from The Shard. There is something special about enjoying the vista with a drink in one hand, as you look out onto the greatest city in the world. So, when you no longer have the energy to pound the pavements in the heat, here is a guide to which rooftop bars you should visit so you can sightsee in style.
For a close-up view of St Paul’s Cathedral – and a glimpse of the Coca-Cola London Eye – you can’t beat the rooftop terrace at Madison, on the top floor of the One New Change mall. On a sunny afternoon, treat yourself to a pitcher of Pimm’s and sit on banquettes and cubes in the shade of parasols, or go later in the day to catch the sunset – heaters and blankets will keep you warm after night falls. Trees and a ‘living wall’ of plants liven up the space.
The French restaurant Coq d’Argent is just down the road from St Paul’s. Its rooftop garden has a walkway, topiary and a manicured lawn. Parts of it are heated and covered with large parasols, while the open-air section has views of the Walkie Talkie, Cheesegrater and Gherkin skyscrapers nearby, as well as The Shard in the distance. Come here for summery cocktails such as the Pothecary: gin, sparkling wine, rose syrup and strawberries.
This bar atop the Mondrian London hotel has great views of St Paul’s Cathedral through its floor-to-ceiling windows. Drink cocktails on the balcony above the River Thames and spot the city’s iconic landmarks. The bar has live music on Wednesdays and DJs Thursdays to Saturdays.
For a more laid-back, playful vibe, head to Skylight at Tobacco Dock – a short walk from St Katharine Docks and the Tower of London. It has three floors, each has bars serving seasonal cocktails alongside spritzes, beers, pitchers, punches, bubbly and wine. There’s also street food on offer, including Greek dishes from Yiro and gourmet burgers made by Flip Side. Skylight is ideal for groups, as you can play croquet and pétanque, watch major sporting events on big screens and enjoy live entertainment. DJ collectives Gold Teeth and Coastal Haze play later on, too.
Queen of Hoxton
The three-storey Queen of Hoxton bar in Shoreditch – close to Dennis Severs’ House – also has a rooftop area, where you can drink and play games. This summer, the roof will transport you to the world of ‘Lost Vegas’ in 2030, as if the Las Vegas strip has been left to ruin and consumed by a jungle. Set in a post-capitalist era where eco-warriors rule and plants and animals flourish, you can sample vegan hot dogs from an abandoned yellow school bus bar, meet Elvis in an overgrown Little Vegas Wedding Chapel, play slot machines and buy boozy ice pops, canned cocktails, wedding rings and divorce certificates from vending machines. You can also take workshops on sustainable living, try life drawing with Art Macabre, join a silent disco and watch a film screened by the Rooftop Cinema Club.
OXO Tower Restaurant, Bar & Brasserie’s 76m-long terrace rivals Rumpus Room’s, and is just next door. It’s the perfect spot to take a photo of Waterloo Bridge. Enjoy a glass of wine as you sit on artificial grass and unwind.
This rooftop bar with 850 seats is on the other side of town. While the panorama is mostly of surrounding rooftops, to get there you’ll stroll through the tranquil canal area of Little Venice and along the Grand Union Canal, or via Paddington Station, where you can spot a statue of Paddington Bear. Order a beer from one of the two bars beneath the pergola, then grab a bite to eat: take your pick from burgers at Patty&Bun, duck dishes at Canard, Vietnamese delights at MAM and tacos at DF/MEXICO. Then head to the roof, bag a day bed and watch the sunset. At night, fairylights flicker and a DJ plays at weekends.
If you like exploring new parts of town, this is the place to see street art and mingle on communal tables with hipster twentysomethings. It’s been open every summer since 2008. Located on the top of an old car park in Peckham, you can watch the sun set over the city and spot London’s famous landmarks in the distance.