Riddle me this; what is it that makes being on the roof so fun? Is it the novelty of the height, the view, the unexpectedness of it all? Is it because it feels illicit and secretive; or elitist and exclusive? Looking down on all the minions on the streets below you, who are unable to afford the £15 cocktail you forged as your waiver into the skies of aristocracy.
Maybe this is the reason why rooftop haunts are often overcrowded and overwhelming. But pretentiousness aside, there’s many spots that don’t forge a mortgage to enjoy. On a meager budget of peanuts and high-fives, I’ve managed to enjoy the following hotspots this summer. I promise my heads still screwed on.
Queen of Hoxton
This little beauty was brought to my attention for its evening rooftop cinema sessions. Late in the evening in the summer months you can curl up on the roof with your popcorn and mojito and watch cult classics – I went to Top Gun.
Besides the movies however it’s bright and multi-colored, is adorned with fairy lights, has a student vibe and serves your drinks is plastic cups. The venue is well-known for vintage pinball, games of ping pong, fringe theatre, and sweaty live music gigs.
Young professionals gather here to relive their university days and shrug off the corporate suits that embody their current lives – and unfortunately this now includes me. Half the fun is ordering a range of outrageously names drinks off a chalkboard in the basement then heading to the somewhat classier rooftop to waste away the long evenings.
Frank’s is a popup bar on the roof of a multistory carpark. A location that is seemingly difficult to find, and also well known for notorious lines on sunny afternoons
You negotiate a questionably dodgy carpark with elevators that look like the scene of a 1960’s horror movie and emerge into glorious sunshine on the 6th or 7th level for a midsummers night dream.
A concept like this just wouldn’t fly in New Zealand as you’d have people throwing cups off the roof and making enough noise to wake the dead; but in London, somehow, the crowd seems civilized and respectful enough to party on a rooftop without compromising its legitimacy.
The crowd at Frank’s is also welcoming to all fashion senses, tastes, and interests, and doesn’t discriminate against those who aren’t in suits or are banking professionals. It has a relaxed carnival vibe with wooden picnic tables and a red plastic canopy, an no one would look twice at you if you spilled your drink.
Great views, super strange long-drop toilets, mid-priced drinks, and good for an afternoon session.
Radio at ME London Hotel
This one’s a little more pretentious and trendy, but shouldn’t go astray if you’re looking for one or two delicious cocktails and an unbeatable view of the city.
The white glitzy décor and art deco vibes are reminiscent of it’s past, where BBC programming was first broadcast in 1922.
Plush sofas, craft beers, heat lamps and the sparkle of the seductress city’ll surround you in the evening and this is an ideal spot for a date!
Its luxurious and you’ll want to be well dressed – not a location for slumming it in your mid week trackpants and worrying about the price of drinks.
Best known for its rentable outdoor beach huts that are reminiscent of tropical island destinations. Fully equipped with secret nooks and crannies, hideouts and treehouses, this is a popular spot for lazy afternoons – although be mindful that you often have to book.
Grand Union has a chain of fabulous rooftops across the city including in Brixton and Kennington. They host giant screens for sports enthusiasts and retro mis-matched furniture. The burgers look amazing but I haven’t had the pleasure of sampling just yet.
Others to Frequent
- Exchange Rooftop
- Boundary Rooftop
- Aqua Sprit
- Golden Bee at Old Street
- TAMESIS Dock
However, sometimes all it takes to liven up your summer is a ladder and a dose of adventure to find an accommodating rooftop above your doorstep… literally.
So just remember kids, you don’t always have to drink expensive cocktails and climb onto rooftop carparks to find the roof experience of your summer
Challenge: Find the best rooftop in London and share you story with me. I’d love to hear your aboveground secrets.