12 rooftop bars around the world with panoramic panache

There’s something instantly uplifting about rooftop bars. Perhaps it’s the fresh air, perhaps it’s the wraparound views, perhaps it's the I-could-almost-be-on-holiday feel or perhaps it’s the sheer pleasure at having escaped the working world down below. Whatever the reason, as anyone who has ever hit the rootftop knows, basking in the sun (or better yet, watching it go down), or taking in a city by night, cocktail in hand beats terrestrial bars, however stylishly assembled, any day. Here are a few high performers sure to give you a fresh perspective.

The Ned rooftop, Londno
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Ned’s Club Upstairs, The Ned

Many hotel bars employ strategies to keep outsider to a minimum, from wait-lists and limited places, to reservations only. The Ned, which is a Soho House in partnership with the Sydell Group makes it simpler. Unless you are a member (or staying in a higher-priced room), Ned’s Club Upstairs, which is adults only and has indoor seating for less clement weather, is off-limits. The building is a Lutyens and its lovingly restored interiors, many of the 1920’s period pieces, are the work of the group’s in-house team. The exterior is sharp too, with epic views of St. Paul’s and the City. Your options for enjoying it, Pimms Cup or Balvenie in hand? Cough up a kidney for the annual fee or make nice with a member. They get to invite guests.

27 Poultry, T 44. 020 3828 2000, www.thened.com

Baba Nest, Sri Panwa, Phuket

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Baba Nest, Sri Panwa

A blue tiled podium, strewn with low tables and sumptuous scatter cushions, surrounded by the ultimate infinity pool, Baba Nest, the rooftop bar at the Sri Panwa on the southeast tip of Phuket is all about the views – in this case, 360° panoramas over nearby Ko Lon and the islands dotting the Andaman Sea. Part of the drive to reclaim Phuket from mass tourism, the 52-villa property is one of the island’s finest, a Tropical Contemporary confection Geoffrey Bawa would surely admire. For the four hours it opens each day – this bar is a five-to-nine affair – it’s worth noting that Baba Nest is also all about the reservations. Without one, even hotel guests can expect to be turned politely, but firmly away.

88/5 Sakdidej Rd, Tambon Wichit, Amphoe Mueang Phuket, T 66. 76 371 000, www.babaphuket.com

Upstairs bar, Ace Hotel, Los Angeles

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Upstairs, Ace Hotel
Los Angeles

Up on the 13th floor of the Spanish gothic tower built in 1927 to house United Artists (the studio’s flagship cinema downstairs is still intact), Upstairs is a sleek Moroccan Bunker-meets-Griffith Park affair – think wicker furniture, tree-trunk tables, scatter cushions and geometric lamps. Catering to LA’s Downtown crowd, it’s known for top-class cocktails with suitably ironic names, so if a Ramalama Bang Bang sounds too risqué, a Commitment Issues is guaranteed to go down smoothly. Relaxed by day, Upstairs picks up after dark, with DJs, live music, film screenings and pool parties nearly every night. The draw? Sweeping views over Los Angeles, a backdrop that resembles Chartres Cathedral and a menu of finger food designed for poolside grazing, including a de riguer (but delicious) avocado toast.

929 S. Broadway, T 1.213 623 3233, www.acehotel.com

Sky Bar, Grand Hotel Central, Barcelona

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Sky Bar, Grand Hotel Central

So here’s the deal. Ignore the gin menu (even though Spain is in the grip of its own gin revolution and the menu features both Mare and Xoriguer, two of its best brands) and go for a signature drink devised by superstar shaker, Manel Vehí. Scion of nearby Cadaqués’ legendary Bar Boia, Vehí’s cocktails tend towards classic albeit with some kind of contemporary twist, a case in point being the Guanabana Martini, which uses tequila in place of gin and rewards drinkers with a jalapeño afterburn that almost brings a tear to the eye. Settle into a sofa, stand at the bar or trail fingers in the pool, wherever you choose to settle, you be rewarded with spectacular sea and city views.

Via Laietana, 30, T 34. 932 95 77 90, www.grandhotelcentral.com

Wine Bar & Terrace, Memmo Alfama

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Wine Bar & Terrace, Memmo Alfama

These days, Lisbon is so hot, it hurts. Pulling in admirers from all over the world, drawn to this long-underrated city by its faded colonial charm, riverfront beauty and abundance of cutting-edge design, it’s naturally come up with some equally enchanting places for them to stay. Enter Memmo, which has two properties in town, including one in the historic Alfama. A medley of white marble and dark decking, and with uninterrupted views across the jumbled roofscape to the Pantheon and out over the Tagus, the rooftop Wine Bar is all about lounging – though there’s also a pool, if you fancy a dip – and focuses on pairing traditional Portuguese nibbles, like breaded green beans and selections of smoked hams, with some of the country’s finest wines.

Tv. Merceeiras 27, T 351. 21 049 5660, www.memmohotels.com

Le Rooftop, The Peninsula, Paris

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Le Rooftop, The Peninsula

Take an intimate arrangement of chic sectional sofas and sun-shaded tables, screened by shrubs painstakingly clipped to within an inch of their lives, add views across the rooftops to the Eiffel Tower, which glitters into the night, and you’ll agree that it may be possible to find a more perfect Parisian setting than Le Rooftop, but you’ll be hard pressed to find it. Occupying the same space as the L’Oiseau Blanc, the Peninsula’s French restaurant, which is headed by Meilleur Ouvrier-awardee, Christopher Raoux, the bar attracts a well-dressed, well-heeled crowd, especially during Fashion Week. An art nouveau belle époque beauty below – the city-block-sized building was originally built to be a hotel – the cosy rooftop presents a more contemporary face, though the service remains reassuringly classical.

19 Avenue Kléber, T 33. 1 5812 2888, www.peninsula.com

High Note SkyBar, Aria Hotel, Budapest

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High Note SkyBar, Aria Hotel

In the shadow of the neoclassical splendour of St Stephen’s Basilica, one of the tallest buildings in Budapest, the High Note SkyBar at the equally neoclassical Aria (yes, the hotel’s theme is music) specialises in panoramas that will have you singing a medley of your own. The landscaped, split-level terrace overlooks a garden courtyard on one side and the tiled roofs of the Inner City on the other. Perfect for sundowners or even a bite to eat, it’s just as much the place to pair some Gougeres, cheesy puff pastries, with a crisp glass of Tokaji as it is to sip seductively on a chocolate-infused Chocoladier. Popular with visitors and locals alike, book ahead.

Hercegprimás Utca 5, T 36. 20 438 8648, www.highnoteskybar.hu

Silo Rooftop, The Silo Hotel, Cape Town

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Silo Rooftop, The Silo Hotel
Cape Town

Perched atop Cape Town’s stunning Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, which was carved out of the old Grain Silo on the V&A Waterfront by Thomas Heatherwick, this hotel looks like a series of multifaceted, bezelled glass jewel boxes stacked neatly in a brutalist concrete grid. Occupying the former grain elevator, no trace of which remains, its astroturfed industrial chic rooftop, which has a guests-only pool, is open to non-residents on a reservation basis. Once through the doors, a menu of pool treats ranging from pulled pork and Vietnamese rolls to tempura bites and fresh oysters is accompanied by a comprehensive selection of wines. The Rooftop doesn’t come cheap, with some of the most jaw-dropping city, mountain and sea views in town, it’s worth every penny.

Silo Square, V&A Waterfront, T 27. 21 670 0500, www.theroyalportfolio.com

Observatory Bar, Anantara Kihavah, Maldives

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Observatory Bar, Anantara Kihavah

In a resort that barely grazes the treeline, the thrill of a ‘rooftop’ bar might seem limited. That’s why the Observatory Bar is located on a pillared podium over the sea. Downstairs, the crystal-clear seas permit the perusal of brightly coloured fishes and apex predators swimming circles, perhaps in the hope that an inebriated guest might take a swim. The real thrills happen after dark, when the ceiling above the bar becomes emblazoned with a glowing starmap, an invitation to the rooftop and its sprawl-friendly sofas, where on clear nights, the universe puts on the lightshow. More than some clever name, a fully functioning observatory, complete with a 16” telescope and resident astronomer, occupies an adjacent podium where guide guests are invited to journey across the skies.

Kihavah Huravalhi Island Baa Atoll, T 960. 660 1020, www.anantara.com

The Roof, PUBLIC, New York

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The Roof, PUBLIC
New York

Sexy and sophisticated, the buzzy rooftop bar at PUBLIC is exactly what you’d expect from Ian Schrager. Outdoors, it’s low-slung sofas, block-like tables and stylish communal benches, ideal for enjoying the hotel’s weekend barbeques. Indoors, the dimly-lit interior encourages gazes to focus on the stunning views through the floor-to-ceiling windows, while the electric blue LED floorstrips and downlighting offset the golden glow of the bar, adding Studio 54 flair. Reservations are essential after 8pm as current policy is to keep the terrace from becoming crowded, allowing you to concentrate on your conversation and your cocktail. Like the rest of this stylish Herzog & DeMeuron-designed property, The Roof is a place to be seen.

215 Chrystie Street, T 212. 735 6000, www.publichotels.com

Flair, Ritz Carlton, Shanghai

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Flair Bar, Ritz Carlton

It’s hard to think of a skyline more electrifying than Shanghai’s Pudong, and while the Ritz Carlton stands in the middle of the neon glow, its view of the surrounding area, especially of Ji Huan Chen’s retro-modernist Pearl Tower, is impressive for after all, this is the highest rooftop bar in an increasingly vertical city. Flair’s split-level, prow-like terrace points across the Huangpu River towards the mini-Manhattan rising behind the Bund. Shanghai’s art deco heritage is reflected in the hotel’s design but Flair is the work of Tokyo’s Super Potato. Their Jenga-esaque walls, concrete tabletops, rainshower light chandelier and lush red furnishings may not conjure the 1930’s but do make sampling a little Golden Happiness or Eternal Peace – in their cocktail form, at least – a genuine pleasure.

Shanghai ifc, 8 Century Avenue, T 86. 21 2020 1778, www.ritzcarlton.com

Sirocco Bar, Lebua, Bangkok

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Sirocco, Lebua

The Lebua’s rooftop bar has been a roundup staple since the hotel opened in 2006. The glowing backlit circular bar is probably one reason, as are the godlike views, but most likely this is because the only other place on earth where you can drink outdoors on the 63rd floor is at SkyBar – and that’s on the same terrace, next door. Sirocco does Mediterranean cuisine but for those determined to keep dinner liquid – the Forgotten, a whiskey cocktail, is most memorable – the bar is just separate enough to feel distinct, and occupies a circular podium that juts vertiginously into the ether. From here, the only way is down (by lift, we mean) but as locations go, this one barely requires spirits to leave you lifted higher.

63rd Floor, Lebua at State Tower, 1055 Silom Road, T 66. 2624 9555, www.lebua.com/sirocco

Middle East Editor