Good drinks and great views are a given at rooftop bars -- these ones surpass expectations
Drinkeries around the world provide stellar views across rivers, city skylines, beaches and oceans
Bangkok, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, Tokyo top Asian cities for rooftop bars
New York and L.A. are good rooftop bar towns
One good thing about humanity’s obsession with building enormous numbers of buildings? More rooftops, which means more rooftop bars.
Perhaps second only to beach bars, rooftop drinks remind us that life didn’t turn out so bad. In fact, it’s pretty great. But bring us some free nuts already, won’t you?
Here are some contenders for the greatest al fresco drinks high above the streets:
1. Sir Elly’s Terrace, The Peninsula Shanghai
If you were to imagine a rooftop bar with gleaming skyline views, a glowing bar and more movers and shakers than a seaborne Yahtzee game, you probably wouldn’t be far off Shanghai’s standout rooftop drinkery.
With 270-degree views over the Huangpu River and The Bund in Shanghai, this establishment can’t guarantee the views you get in the photo above (there’s no such thing as a “smog forecast”), but it will promise good drinks, light snacks and the sense that, for an evening at least, the whole city is looking up to you.
Worth ordering two of: Up In the Clouds ($23.50): London No.1, lychee liqueur, homemade jasmine tea nectar, lemon juice.
Sir Elly’s Terrace, No. 32 The Bund, Zhong Shan Dong Yi Road, Shanghai; +86 21 2327 6756; Sunday-Thursday 5 p.m.-midnight, Friday-Saturday 5 p.m.-1 a.m.
2. Conservatory Lounge & Bar, Ararat Park Hyatt Moscow
Some of the best views of Moscow, with the Kremlin and the Bolshoi close by, can be found at this scenic terrace bar. To get a table you’ll need to arrive early, but your efforts will be rewarded. If it’s too cold, or you’re too late, there’s an indoor space with a glass wall so you can still see the view.
Worth ordering two of: Homemade lemonade ($19).
Conservatory Lounge & Bar, 4 Neglinnaya St., Moscow; +7 495 783 1234; weekday drinks, 10 a.m.-2 a.m.; food, noon-1 a.m.; weekend drinks, noon-2 a.m.; food, noon-1 a.m.
3. Vertigo and Moon Bar, Banyan Tree Bangkok
On the roof of the Banyan Tree Hotel in Bangkok, Vertigo specializes in barbecued seafood, though it also grills a mean steak and has a good vegetarian menu. Walk a few steps and you’re at Moon Bar, which has a solid cocktail and wine menu and a small seating area.
The vertigo-inducing views (get it?) at this 61st floor venue are rivaled only by those at the Sky Bar at Sirocco, another of Bangkok’s drinking “high points” placed 63 floors up.
Many a fiery debate has occurred between die-hard fans of the two hotels over the years; we’ve gone with Vertigo because at two stories lower, you can get to the bar a few seconds quicker. Drinkers also get seats, unlike at Sirocco, which since its appearance in “Hangover Part II” has become overbearingly popular.
Worth ordering two of: Vertigo Sunset ($17): Malibu, pineapple juice, cranberry juice, lime juice.
Vertigo and Moon Bar, 21/100 South Sathorn Road, Sathon, Bangkok; +66 2 679 1200; daily 5 p.m.-1 a.m.
4. Le Bain, The Standard (New York)
It’s got famous DJs, it’s got fake turf on the floor, in the summer it’s got a creperie outside and plunge pool inside … oh and it’s got those views, a New York City vista you can gawk at from funky pastel-shaded chairs that seem to adapt to whatever shape is slouching into them. The staff lend out binoculars to ensure gazing is 100% operational.
Worth ordering two of: Fraise 76 ($14): Vodka, lemon, syrup, strawberry, champagne.
Le Bain, 848 Washington (at 13th Street), New York; +1 212 645 4646; Monday 4 p.m.-midnight, Tuesday-Thursday 4 p.m.-4 a.m., Friday-Saturday 2 p.m.-4 a.m., Sunday 2 p.m.-3 a.m.
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5. Coq D’Argent (London)
Don’t mind rubbing shoulders with hordes of pinstripe-suited bankers, and have the bank balance to match? Located next to the Bank of England, St Paul’s Cathedral and Mansion House, the Coq D’Argent has a rooftop garden with lawns and ornamental box hedges.
There’s a pricey indoor restaurant, but a reasonably priced list of bar snacks. You can sit on the grass or gaze down on the suits hurrying along the streets far below.
Worth ordering two of: Berry Room ($20): Fresh raspberries and blackberries shaken with Old Forester bourbon, lime juice, red vermouth, strawberry jam.
Coq D’Argent, No. 1 Poultry, London; +44 20 7395 5000; Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.; Saturday noon-11 p.m.; Sunday noon-4 p.m.
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6. Sugar, East Hotel (Hong Kong)
It’s rare to find a high-octane cocktail bar with a killer view in the lesser-known parts of Hong Kong Island, and Sugar’s view contains fewer garish fluorescent billboards than you might expect in this neon mecca.
The scene is made up of ocean-going vessels floating in the harbor with a backdrop of the old airport, Kai Tak, now a cruise ship terminal. It’s best to visit the lounge-y outdoor deck before sunset to enjoy the skyline by the soft light of dusk. This way you can also avoid Sugar’s garish pink and purple lighting that takes over once it’s dark.
Worth ordering two of: Mojito Reloaded ($14): Havana Club 3 years rum, lime, peach, mint, cava.
Sugar, 32/F, 29 Taikoo Shing Road, Tai Koo; +852 3968 3738
7. The 5th Floor, The Penz Hotel (Innsbruck, Austria)
The American Bar on the fifth floor of the glass cube in The Penz Hotel is good for an al fresco summertime drink or two.
It’s like a gentleman’s club, with leather sofas and smooth jazz, but one with views of the snow-capped Alps. It has a retractable roof, but no heaters, so only the hardy venture onto the terrace after the autumn chill sets in.
Worth ordering two of: 5th Floor ($12.50): Bourbon, peach brandy, peach syrup, fresh lime juice, fresh orange juice.
The 5th Floor, Adolf-Pichler-Platz 3, Innsbruck, Austria; +43 512 57 56 57-0; daily 4 p.m.-1 a.m.
8. The Lighthouse Bar, The Oyster Box (Durban, South Africa)
Surprises are always best when they’re pleasant, even better when they’re awesome. The Lighthouse Bar at Oyster Box Hotel in Durban falls into the latter category.
Sure, it’s a well regarded hotel with a great location, but were you ready for this? With panoramic views of the Indian Ocean along Umhlanga Beach, this is a top spot for romantics, shutterbugs and those who just like to sit, sip and smile.
This bar is on the ninth floor of The Oyster Box hotel, which has its own oyster bed. So if the views, fresh ocean air and cocktails fail to tug on your romance strings, you know what to order.
Worth ordering two of: Umhlanga Schling ($6): Mainstay Cane, sugar syrup, pineapple pieces, mint leaves, mango juice, sugar cane, crushed ice.
The Lighthouse Bar, 2 Lighthouse Road, Umhlanga, South Africa; +27 31 514 5000
9. Sky Bar at KU DE TA, Marina Bay Sands (Singapore)
Marina Bay Sands is the only structure standing 200 meters high in its immediate vicinity. This means Sky Bar at KU DE TA has spectacular views into the city and over the waters and of Marina Bay Sands’ famous infinity pool.
Arrive at sunset to reap the full experience. If you’re unable to tear yourself away from the fancy night lights, you can stave off hunger with some modern Asian dishes from the nearby KU DE TA Restaurant, while being impressed by the nightly laser show.
Worth ordering two of: Berry Bellini ($18.50): Peach and Prosecco base, black raspberry liqueur, freshly muddled raspberries, strawberries, blackberries.
Sky Bar, 1 Bayfront Ave., Singapore; +65 6688 7688; daily noon-late
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10. Spa Bar, Clarion Hotel Sign (Stockholm, Sweden)
Clarion Sign is the largest hotel in Stockholm – a stylish and minimalist granite and glass affair bursting with Scandinavian design classics. The super-stylish Spa Bar is on the eighth floor and there’s a rooftop pool, too.
Worth ordering two of: Cocktail of the day ($14): Varies depending on season.
Spa Bar, Ostra Jarnvagsgatan 35, Stockholm, Sweden; +46 8 676 9800
11. Two Rooms Grill Bar (Tokyo)
The terrace at this fine dining venue in the AO Building serves some of the best Sunday brunches in Tokyo and great cocktails. The Bloody Mary is fiery and full of flavor – the secret’s in the sauce. Two Rooms is proud of its in-house mix, which can also be sampled with vodka as an oyster shot.
Brunch is another a cocktail cornucopia. Two Rooms runs late – offering classy nighttime views.
Worth ordering two of: Fresh kiwi martini ($15): Grey Goose, fresh kiwi, lychee juice.
Two Rooms Grill Bar, AO Building, 5/F, 3-11-7 Kita-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo; +81 (0)3 3498 0002; lunch reservations from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., dinner reservations from 6-7 p.m., waiting list other times
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12. High Rooftop Lounge, Hotel Erwin (Los Angeles)
The surfboard decor in the lobby of the Hotel Erwin sets the tone for this elevated hideout in one of the most eclectic, gritty and downright mellow beach/surf/skate towns in the United States.
The payoff comes when you step off the elevator and walk onto the High Rooftop Lounge on the sixth floor – no high-rises in this part of L.A. The 360-degree view commands everything from the storied beachside basketball courts of Venice Beach just below the bar to the storyboard hills of Hollywood behind it.
The expansive vista also includes some of the best public beach in Southern California, and prime sunset viewing. The vibe is Stussy not stuffy – exactly the laid-back oasis you were hoping to find when you fought L.A.’s bitter highway wars to get to this timeless pocket of SoCal beach culture.
Worth ordering two of: Summer Crush ($15): Grey Goose citrus vodka, orange juice, cranberry juice, fresh lime, fresh mint, club soda.
High Rooftop Lounge (at Hotel Erwin), 1697 Pacific Ave., Venice Beach, California; +1 800 786 7789; Monday-Thursday 3-10 p.m., Friday 3 p.m.-midnight, Saturday 1 p.m.-midnight, Sunday 1-10 p.m.
13. Skye Bar & Restaurant, Hotel Unique (Sao Paulo, Brazil)
Fashioned like an enormous boat, the Unique Hotel is just one example of Brazil’s adventurous architecture. On the eighth floor is the rooftop Skye lounge, with many places to admire the Sao Paulo skyline. It’s also a perfect spot to indulge in Brazil’s most famous cocktail, the caipirinha. Come night, DJs entertain an international crowd.
Worth ordering two of: Red Skye Martini ($13): Ketel One vodka, strawberry liquor, fresh strawberries, cranberry juice, Amaretto.
Skye Bar & Restaurant, Avenida Brigadeiro Luis Antonio 4700 Jardim Paulista, Sao Paulo, Brazil; +55 11 3055-4702; daily 6 p.m.-12:30 a.m.
14. Rooftop Lounge, Thompson Toronto Hotel (Toronto)
This Toronto stay is also a Toronto escape. The terrace that wraps all the way around the Rooftop Lounge bar gives views of Lake Ontario that whip you away from the city-feel in an instant.
Twist your head just a few inches, and you can see the CN Tower and all its chameleon color changes. It can get cold – coats are recommended – or get there early to grab a spot by a heater. The lounge is open only to hotel guests and lounge members.
Worth ordering two of: Ellipsis ($16): Bacardi 8 rum, creme de peache, Riesling, fresh lemon juice, egg whites.
Rooftop Lounge, 550 Wellington St. W., Toronto Ontario; +1 416 640 7778; daily 11 a.m.-2 a.m.
15. Cu-ba, Jumeirah Creekside Hotel (Dubai, UAE)
Cu-ba is one of the top spots for enjoying the glittering skyline of Dubai. It serves a mean cocktail too.
It’s hard to remember you’re sitting above arid desert while flicking through the wine list, considering Cuban tapas, taking in the Latin atmosphere. A chic nightclub is located inside, while couches offer a casual vibe beside the 25-meter pool outside. An extensive range of cigars and infused rum amplify the Cuban vibe.
Cu-Ba, Al Garhoud, Dubai, UAE; +971 4 230 8459; Saturday-Wednesday 7 p.m.-1 a.m.; Thursday-Friday 7 p.m.-2 a.m.; closed during Ramadan
16. Sky Bar, Cape Royale Hotel & Spa (Cape Town)
There aren’t many cities crunched between one of the world’s most photographed mountains and the ocean – so when you find one, it makes sense to head to its best rooftop bar for a sundowner. This hotel-guest-only (and their guests) al fresco area was renovated in 2013, and overlooks the Greenpoint Stadium, Atlantic Ocean and Signal Hill.
Worth ordering two of: Summer Cup ($4.50): Ginger liquor, fresh strawberries, lemons, cranberry juice, lemonade.
Sky Bar, 47 Main Road, Green Point, Cape Town, South Africa; +27 (0) 21 430 0500; daily 8 a.m.-10 p.m. (winter); 8 a.m.-midnight (summer).
Daojun Wu contributed to this article.