Beat the crowds and the heat and shoot the breeze at one of London's best rooftop bars, where the cocktails are as impressive as the views.
Rumpus Room at the Mondrian London, South Bank
For stellar views and killer cocktails, head to the Rumpus Room, a sultry bar on the 12th floor of the Mondrian London. Created by British design guru Tom Dixon, it's a glam take on a cruise ship ballroom with red velvet booths, marble tables, cutting-edge chandeliers and a striking gold bar. Shoot the breeze on the balcony overlooking the river Thames with a Clover Club gin cocktail.
At the top of the Boundary in Shoreditch - a hipster hangout that brings together a restaurant, a bar and hotel rooms in a converted Victorian warehouse - the rooftop bar is open all year round. There's a spacious open-air seating area or cozy wood-burning fireplaces and a pergola for when the weather turns sour. Take a seat in the heated orangery and pair cocktails with Med-inspired dishes in the summer months and fondue come winter time.
Radio Rooftop Bar, the Strand
On the 10th-floor of ME London, a Fosters + Partners-designed luxury hotel at the north end of Waterloo Bridge, the Radio Bar overlooks London's blockbuster buildings. Scan the skyline with a drink in hand and tick off the London Eye, the Shard and St. Paul’s Cathedral (the metal drinks menu is etched with an image of the skyline to help you identify the main sights). Fill up on tapas dishes and try one of the many gin-based concoctions. Lines (especially at the weekends) are common. To avoid the crowds, head up to the terrace in the afternoon or early evening. Hotel guests get priority and a minimum spend is required if you're booking a table.
This hip rooftop bar sets up shop on the 10th-floor of a multi-storey parking lot every summer in Peckham, south London. While it doesn't sound like the most salubrious spot, the views are stunning and the crowd is as creative as they come. Order an Aperol Spritz or a campari-based cocktail as you take in the views and the artwork (it's run by local not-for-profit arts collective, Bold Tendencies).
Another summer-only rooftop bar is the roof garden on top of the Queen Elizabeth Hall at the Southbank Centre. Overlooking the river towards the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament, the views here are superb yet it's still something of a hidden gem. This peaceful spot features a wildflower meadow and a woodland garden and is the perfect place to sip a refreshing Pimm's.
You can visit the roof terrace at the One New Change shopping mall for free but the views of St Paul's Cathedral are so good that it's worth lingering at Madison's rooftop bar for a cocktail and some tapas dishes. Open from noon until late, this is a fabulous place to soak up views of the city. Time a trip to coincide with one of the regular live music events or visit on a Sunday for the bottomless brunch.
In the City of London, Coq d'Argent has great views of City landmarks like St Paul's Cathedral, the Gherkin and The Monument. The rooftop terrace has a luscious green lawn with trimmed hedges plus a heated terrace dining area. The bar is open until 10 p.m. daily and drinks are well-priced for the area.
Dalston Roof Park, East London
Atop a converted factory in east London, Dalston Roof Park is an urban version of an English country garden complete with grass, white picket fencing and bunting. Throughout the summer you'll find food trucks and deckchairs, and an interesting line up of events including yoga classes, film screenings and comedy gigs.
Vista at The Trafalgar
Overlooking Trafalgar Square, this prime spot in central London sits on top of the Trafalgar Hotel. The skyline views take in the London Eye, the National Gallery and the Coliseum. Perch on one of the stools for the best views or kick back in a comfy chair in the shade. There's a daily cover charge of £5 after 4 p.m. but you can sneak in for free from midday if you'd rather splurge on champagne.