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Staying on top of things with the world’s best rooftop bars

Updated: Sep 11, 2023

✦ There aren’t many better ways to spend a pleasant summer evening than on a rooftop bar, socialising in good company with, typically, wonderful views onto the surroundings below you.

In fact, scratch that, rooftop bars make a great destination no matter what time of year it is!

While rooftops have been around as long as buildings have been with us, it wasn’t until the late 1800s that they started to be used in a commercial sense by embracing social entertainment and the rooftop bar was, in effect, born.

The first such entity is widely believed to be on the roof of Madison Square Garden in New York, which offered “300 tables, multicolored electric lanterns, and the best views in the city, thanks to the Garden’s 300-foot tower,” according to the New York City history website

The first such entity is widely believed to be on the roof of Madison Square Garden in New York | Brilliant-Online
Madison Square Garden in New York is widely believed to be among the first locations to host a rooftop bar

It seems fitting that the first rooftop bar was in the megalopolis affectionately known as The Big Apple as they are, in essence, products of their environment. Rooftops bars make perfect sense in space-limited, dense, modern day cities where a tendency to build upwards has seen almost every major city in the world possess a multitude of such establishments. Here, we profile just a few:

Nowadays, many purport the best rooftops bars in New York to include Daintree, Overstory, Westlight, Ophelia and Harriet’s Rooftop and Lounge. Chicago boasts Terrace 16, Rooftop at Nobu and Z Bar among its many offerings, while Perch, High Rooftop Lounge at Hotel Erwin, L.P. Rooftop Bar, Grandmaster Rooftop, and The Highlight Room are among the best spots to visit when in glitzy Los Angeles.

Europe has more rooftop bars than you could shake a stick of celery at before putting it in your Bloody Mary cocktail! While the weather mightn’t be guaranteed, if in London be sure to check out The Rooftop St. James, LSQ, 12th Knot, Netil 360, The Lucky Club Camden and Laurel's On The Roof.

Paris also has an abundance of great spots such as Sequoia, Terrasse at the Hôtel Montmartre, Zoku, the Skyline Paris Lounge and Bar, Créatures Paris, L'Oiseau Blanc, Perruche and Le Perchoir Ménilmontant that will offer a variety of incredible views of the City of Lights.

Rooftops bars make perfect sense with limited space | Brilliant-Online
Rooftops bars make perfect sense with limited space

In Rome highlights include Terrazza Monti, Terrazza Navona, Cielo Terrace and Mater Terrae at Bio Hotel Raphael, while Sky Bar at Hotel Iberostar, Eleven BCN, the Panoramic Terrace at Hotel Colón and La Isabela at Hotel 1898 are regarded as among the best spots in Barcelona.

Asia has seen a boom in rooftop bars in recent years. Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated cities on earth and that is where you will find Sevva. Opened in 2008 and situated on the 25th floor of the Prince’s Building in Central, the wrap-around Terrace offers awe-inspiring, panoramic views of the Victoria Harbour and the city. Other spots to enjoy the legendary Hong Kong skyline include Cardinal Point, Skye, Plume, Faye and Popinjays.

Often classed as rivals in many respects, Singapore’s answer to Sevva was, up until recently, 1-Altitude Gallery & Bar which occupied the top three floors of 1 Raffles Place in the CBD and offered incredible views across and off the island. However, due to leasing complications, it closed its doors earlier this year. Alternative current options in the city state include Altro Zafferano, 1-Arden, Levant, Level 33, Atico Lounge and SKAI Bar.

Elsewhere across the region there is CÉ LA VI, The Jade Room + Garden Terrace and Marunouchi House in Tokyo; the Social Club at Hôtel des Arts in Saigon; Skye at the Menara BCA building in Jakarta; Asilo at the St. Regis Hotel in Mumbai; Il Bar at the Bulgari Hotel in Shanghai; and Vertigo and The Banyan Tree in Bangkok.

Moving Down Under, Sydney boasts a variety of cool, chic locations such as Zephyr, CIRQ Bar & Lounge, The Light Brigade, Bar Ombré, The Glenmore and Old Mate’s Place. Likewise, Melbourne has a host of great spots, including Naked in the Sky, The Stolen Gem, Ellora and Rooftop at QT.

By now you’re probably getting the picture that there are a LOT of wonderful rooftop bars in cities in all over the world, which would be impossible to cover here. And to think we haven’t even touched South America, the Middle East or Africa so if you know of any gems in these locations please feel free to let us know so we can add them to a list that is only ever likely to keep on increasing!

Wauchope local shares her Greece rooftop bar experience

Rooftop bars are a must do
Yvette recommends rooftop bars if travelling in hotter climates

Recently returning from an overseas trip with her husband, that included a visit to Greece, Yvette Buthmann told us she was amazed at the sheer number of rooftop bars and restaurants that could be found in every street.

"Athens itself is a city of apartments, so making the most of outside dining in such a hot climate is a no brainer. You need to book to get a table in the peak season as these were very crowded although not uncomfortably so," Yvette said.

Dining or drinking above the city was amazing, she told us. "Whether it was at night or during the day, the views were spectacular, not to mention cooler. These varied from simple dining to high end restaurants and bars. I should warn you though that a lot of the buildings have either very tiny, old elevators or massive amounts of stairs, which at times was entertaining after a few drinks attempting to leave."

Definitely a must to add to a bucket list if travelling.

Rooftop dining in Athens offers spectacular views, but be sure to book in peak season


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