Bar/fly: London

By Sophie Christie

Sophie Christie reports on London's best rooftop bars.

A number of new open-air skyline bars have recently opened across London. Illustration / Rod Emmerson
A number of new open-air skyline bars have recently opened across London. Illustration / Rod Emmerson

When it's summer in London the rooftop bars come into their own. From the West End to the city and east to the hip neighbourhoods of Shoreditch and Hoxton, a new wave of open-air skyline bars has opened. These are the coolest places to eat and drink in the capital right now.

1. The recently opened Radio Rooftop Bar, on the 10th floor of the ME London hotel in Aldwych, features some of the best panoramic views of the city.

With tapas and cocktails on offer and occasional live DJ sets, this bar is the perfect place to soak up the afternoon sun or the dazzling city lights at night.

Booking's essential.

2. The Queen of Hoxton reflects the laidback urban feel of Shoreditch.

With artificial turf, a barbecue kitchen and a very successful film club showing cult classics almost daily, its rooftop bar is a great hang-out.

3. The Boundary Rooftop Bar and Grill is another Shoreditch favourite, but far swankier than its neighbour. It is on the roof of the eponymous hotel and is open from midday to 11pm all year, regardless of the weather. But there is a weatherproof pergola if clouds gather, and vines, flowers, wild herbs and real fires.

4. Vista at the Trafalgar Hotel overlooks Trafalgar Square, and is open from midday to midnight, Monday to Saturday. It's popular with well-heeled Londoners who don't mind spending on the drinks menu. Check the weather forecast before heading down.

5. On the fifth floor of the former Dickins & Jones store on Regent St is Aqua Spirit. Its inventive cocktails are favoured by businessmen and socialites.

6. For somewhere quirky and different, London's most famous skyline space, The Roof Gardens in Kensington, fits the bill. Owned by Sir Richard Branson, it offers extensive woodland and Spanish and Tudor-style gardens and has a stream with flamingos. This wacky rooftop bar and club is popular with the rich and famous so expect pricey food and drinks.

7. For good value, try Coq d'Argent in the heart of the City, which has spectacular views of St Paul's and the Gherkin. The rooftop terrace has a well-kept lawn and perfectly trimmed hedges to emulate a summer country setting.

8. Similar to the Queen of Hoxton, Dalston Roof Park in east London is perfect for those who prefer a more relaxed atmosphere. Although the views aren't the most impressive (the building is not very high), the rooftop bar provides an ecological retreat. It's marketed more as a social space: regulars can help manage the rooftop garden, tend allotments and run events.

9. Despite its unpromising location on the 10th floor of a multi-storey car park in Peckham (near Peckham Rye station), Frank's Cafe and Campari Bar is a superb place for panoramic views of London from the south.

The rooftop is almost completely uncovered, so don't risk it if the weather looks ominous.

10. Sitting out of sight on top of the Southbank Centre, The Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden is a hidden gem. With the London Eye a stone's throw away, the views are sublime, and the roof garden, with allotments, fruit trees and wild flowers, will instantly appeal.

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