Top 10 rooftop bars
Host an event on one of London's best rooftop bars or roof terraces - al fresco drinking and dining, evening screenings and pool-side parties up on high!
Last summer on a beautiful/sweltering (almost unbearably) hot evening, I was happily trundling down the Strand with three corporate clients. And then they popped the question. "Will, what's the coolest rooftop bar in London?" Bollocks. Was it a test or a genuine request? Was it hypothetical or was it a thinly disguised demand for a night out, starting right now!? Well I wasn't taking any chances. My mind was whirring as we neared the end of the Strand and I was running out of options. When a client asks me a question like this, I'm expected to know. Instantly. I made a few half-hearted attempts to mention a few half-decent roof terraces in the vicinity. And then it hit me. Hang on! I'm sure I have an old friend who just happens to be the marketing director of what was rumoured to be the coolest new roof terrace in town, don't I? Do I? Oh crap - do I have his number? Has it changed? What are the chances he'll actually be at the venue today? Or even answer his phone - it's been a good couple of years. And we're right outside and there's a queue of about 300 (smarter than us) people at the door...
Fast forward ten minutes and I was pretty much Heizenburg (and if you don't know what I mean, you need to go and watch Breaking Bad. Immediately). There we were, in our own private area of Radio roof-top bar, London's newest, coolest and most spectacular location, with a complimentary bottle of Moët. Nice. It's amazing when you're looked after like that and it's important never to forget it. Nobody helps out an asshole (unless they're immensely rich and powerful in which case it's done through gritted teeth so it doesn't count!)
So, as the temperature rises, as the tube becomes even more tropical (and starts to smell more like London Zoo than the London Underground) and as your clients become more discerning about where they want to be taken on long, balmy, sunny evenings, ask yourself where your go-to rooftop haunt is? Your high-rise oasis of calm above the bustling, simmering City, way down below? Simply because you're above all that. Your strategic vantage point that tells your client that you're the guys to hang with? Somehow, everyone else will suddenly seem to be beneath you. Your cloud nine…
Well, don't worry, because we've done the research for you. Here are our top 15 (because there are more than 10 great ones!), so you don't have to sweat it.
1. Radio rooftop bar, ME London, the Strand
Since it's relatively recent launch, Radio (the adjoining building was the site of London's original BBC broadcasting house hence the Marconi bar downstairs) has remained one of the most desirable rooftop bars in London. When you arrive in the dedicated lift from the lower lobby you are immediately faced with the apex of a giant glass pyramid, which goes right through the heart of the uber cool ME London Hotel, all the way down to the dramatically brutal first floor lobby (which is often magically lit with swirling projections of various constellations). It's a lovely shiny bar but it's the view that sets this place apart (and mostly above) the competition. It's stunning. This is because you're very much 'in' the view rather than above it. And you can see pretty much everything from up there. The Houses of Parliament, Somerset House, the London Eye, St.Pauls, the Shard, Canary Wharf....you get the picture. And what a picture it is! The plush and spacious sofa areas are wonderfully comfortable and can be reserved for small group encounters of the discerning kind.
2. The Roof Gardens
London's original roof garden is a timeless Classic, boasting three distinctly themed gardens, spanning one and a half acres, one hundred feet above the bustling Kensington High Street below. In fact, it's so ornate and spectacular that you barely realise you're in Central London. Originally constructed in 1933 above the then Derry and Tom's department store (and acting as a glorified coffee area for weary shoppers) the gardens are home to seventy full size trees (including Oaks and fruit trees), an actual flowing stream stocked with hundreds of fish and their famous pink flamingos - Bill, Ben, Splosh and Peks! Perhaps the most fascinating fact is that the entire garden is planted on just 1.5 metres of soil. And there's never been a water leak in the ceiling below - believe me, I've asked and still often wonder. This beautiful horticultural wonderland really is spectacular for events and parties of all kinds, for up to 500 guests. We recently recommended this place to Lewis Hamilton for his post Grand Prix party but it's equally suited to car launches (they can crane almost anything up to the roof) or even private dinners.
3. The Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street
So now we take things up a level. Actually thirty seven levels, all the way to the sensational Sky Garden in the heart of the City. Having opened earlier this year, the Sky Garden spans three floors, constituting a huge open sided landscaped garden, a bar, a fine dining restaurant (Heston Blumenthal and Rhubarb), a terrace and a viewing platform providing stunning views, as if the garden itself isn't awe inspiring enough! Although it has a glass roof, it's important to note that it's not a tropical hot-house. It has open vents each side and it's entirely temperate, so not too hot in the summer and perhaps not hot enough if your guests aren't briefed to wear a coat in the winter! Everything about this building is utterly spellbinding…a mini city in the clouds with a larger footprint on top than at the bottom!
4. Dalston Roof Park
This is a relatively new kid on the block and, as a self-professed 'urban utopian oasis with views across London's skyline' it had better be good - like the kid in pink football boots. In fact, it's building an immensely cool reputation. What's even cooler is that it's a sort of 'anti-club'. Membership is just a fiver for the whole summer (slightly better value than the rather more 'up its own ass' Shoreditch House down the road). What's more, you get to attend al fresco movie screenings and music events whilst pop-up street stalls are a regular feature for roof-top revelers to enjoy. A really cool place, for all the right reasons.
5. Aspers Sky Bar
I first came across this place, nestled atop the Stratford Westfield Centre in early 2012 because of its extraordinary location. The USP for the Sky Bar is the fact that it's extensive Barbecue terrace, which can cater for up to 250 guests, looks straight down Olympic Avenue to the iconic Olympic Stadium. What a vista! Talking about vistas...
6. Vista, Trafalgar Square
Perched neatly on top of the Trafalgar Hotel, Vista is a stunning open air rooftop bar. Perhaps the most charming thing about Vista is that it really does offer a 'vista' rather than just a view. The neo-classical connotations of the name are wholly appropriate in that it offers views of 'old London' rather than the rather more generic, albeit spectacular, new age skyscrapers. The majestic classical landscape includes the National Gallery and Nelson's Column, amongst many other iconic buildings in and around Trafalgar Square. It's a small, intimate and sophisticated space, ideal for one-on-one cocktails or small champagne receptions. Understated style in a wonderful location.
7. Madison, One New Change
This place may boast one of the largest public roof terraces in Europe, but it's the sensational and iconic view of St.Paul's Cathedral (which, incidentally, you can also hire for events) that this bar is fast becoming famous for. With a super-slick, hi-tech feel, accentuated by the dramatic sloping windows and it's angular glazed exterior elevations, Madison is a hidden gem in the heart of the City. Perfect for relaxed dining in the tapas bar or just hanging out with a cocktail on the stylish and sophisticated roof terrace. Cosy and cool.
8. The Berkeley Hotel rooftop pool & spa
Ok, so not technically a bar, but you can order drinks up there, poolside, so in my book it still counts! Oh, and those drinks are of the healthy variety too - fresh smoothies and the like. The venue is stunning though. With a retractable roof (how cool is that?) and views just above the tree line over Knightsbridge towards Park Lane and Hyde Park, I've always imagined it'd be a spectacular location for a (soft) drinks reception or even a product launch. Pretty original too...
9. Aqua Kyoto & Aqua Nueva, Regent Street
Consisting of two restaurants side by side, one Japanese and the other, somewhat strangely, modern Spanish, this slick rooftop oozes seductive style indicative of its Hong Kong heritage. The rooftop view is more 'West End' than 'City', resulting in a quintessential London experience rather than the more international, high-rise glass and aluminium style of, say the Shard or the Heron Tower. It's clientele are generally highly stylish too and the terrace takes on a distinctly 'chilled Ibiza' feel (complete with resident DJ) once the sun has set.
I've avoided using the over used word, 'breathtaking' in this feature. Until now. This place is simply....erm....breathtaking. It's quite literally perched on top of the world - well, the Heron Tower at least which, although not the prettiest tower in the City, benefits from sensational views of all the more aesthetic erections that surround it. Inside, it's magnificent but the fact that you are allowed to go outside is simply awe-inspiring. I'm referring to their two external dining terraces overlooking the City on one side and the Olympic park on the other from their vantage point, 175 metres above street level, which makes them the highest in Europe. Wow!
11. Boundary, Shoreditch
Situated in the heart of uber-cool Shoreditch, Boundary is a stylish Terence Conran boutique hotel with a 'secret' rooftop bar mostly frequented by hotel and restaurant guests. However, if you book ahead you can host private events up there for groups of up to 60 guests (40 for a sit down meal) and for larger-scale events they can accommodate up to 90 guests, but this is by special request only. Ideal for Christmas and summer parties as well as being a great location for film and photo-shoots, Boundary is a modern classic and a rooftop experience to....erm…experience!
12. Queen of Hoxton
Possibly the most authentically urban roof space in town, this place is actually quite nuts! Throughout the summer it’s a really vibrant place to be, simply fizzing with effervescence. What's more, it can be the noisiest rooftop in London, without any noise, due to their ingenious 'headphone holiday silent discos' complete with celebrity DJs. It's all about creativity, team-building and engagement - perfect for the new age of corporate ‘edutainment’. In autumn they erect a gigantic (yet very cosy) eight metre high Wigwam inspired by the Northern Lights complete with projections in which you can entertain your guests with all sorts of strange and exciting activities. From 'spoon carving' to 'speed listening'. Told you!
13. Broadway House
For perhaps London's most secret rooftop hideaway, check out Fulham Broadway's only private members' club, Broadway House. With two stunning rooftop BBQ terraces and an innovative 'stretch tent' retractable roof, this beautifully cool decking-clad haven is the ideal 'indoor' or outdoor roof-space. Perfect for Al fresco parties and, as we all know, the West is the best...
14. Smiths of Smithfields
This New York warehouse-style emporium of exposed brick, steel girders, gigantic windows and wide open spaces is well situated in what is technically the City's own 'meatpacking' district. Perhaps the most intriguing event space is the Top Floor Restaurant & Terrace with it's substantial and commanding rooftop with a capacity for up to 200 guests for exclusive hire – perfect for BBQ's and far reaching views of iconic City landmarks from The Shard to St.Paul's.
15. The Prince of Wales
This uber-cool Brixton outpost has a couple of massive terraces reminiscent of the aft decks of an ocean liner. Having been recently refurbished, the Prince of Wales is a sun kissed Ibiza style rocking rooftop which is consistently fun fuelled and fabulous…
Will Broome CEO
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