I’m of the opinion that London’s skyline is the best in the world. Whichever vantage point you stand on – Hampstead Heath, Primrose Hill, the top of the Shard – London’s past, present and future is spread out right in front of you. From the ancient domes of St Paul’s Cathedral to the gleaming Gherkin, and the mammoth cranes promising more to come, London’s past wonders and present vibrancy is best experienced from somewhere high. Which makes a skyline bar, experienced at sunset with a cocktail in hand, an essential addition to your summer social diary. These are six of our favourites.
Social24 at City Social
Located slap bang in the middle of the City, Social 24 gives you a front row seat to the glories of the Square Mile’s buildings, both old and new. Part of City Social, the 24th-floor bar offers sweeping views, from the Gherkin on one side to the Royal Exchange on the other. They’ve also recently introduced a vibrant new menu inspired by the landmarks you can see from the bar. Try the Tate Modern, a fruity take on the Pisco Sour with elderflower, passionfruit and orange falernum, featuring multi-hued sugar paper to mimic a painting you might find in its namesake. The Shard, with Bacardi Heritage, lime, watermelon and mojito granita on top, is also a long, cool choice for a hot summer’s day.
The Boundary Rooftop at Boundary Project
In the heart of Shoreditch, the Boundary Project is so much more than just a hotel. Formerly a Victorian warehouse, it comprises 17 individually designed bedrooms, three restaurants, two bars and a grocery, bakery & deli. Its crowning glory, however, is the rooftop bar, offering breathtaking views of the City on one side, and the spread of east London on the other. Whether you want to stay in the heated glass orangery, or soak up some rays on the outside terrace, it’s the ideal spot for pre-dinner cocktails as the sun goes down. There’s even an outdoor fire and blankets, if you want to watch the skyline light up as night falls.
Piculpeper at The Culpeper
You wouldn’t think it, but traditional East End boozer The Culpeper is the place to head for enthralling skyline views this summer. You need to aim for the roof, where they’ve recently relaunched their rooftop bar, Piculpeper, for the summer, in collaboration with interior designers Studio Stilton. The theme, uniquely, is pickles, cleverly riffing on the landmark that’s visible front and centre, and the cucumbers that grow on its roof. As the summer weather makes them abundant, Piculpeper serve up them up across across cocktails, dishes and nibbles, in both cucumber and pickle form. They’ve also recently unveiled their own eight-foot gherkin mascot on the roof, making this an unmissable (and endlessly Instagrammable) spot for a sundowner with pals.
The Southbank isn’t all tourists and dodgy street performers. Escape the crowds by retreating skywards to the Rumpus Room – unlike the name suggests, it’s a civilised haven of plush sofas, lush greenery and the best river views in London. Order drinks from the carefully considered cocktail menu, and settle back to enjoy the view of the Thames just below. Are you more of an Away From The Craze – sloe gin, port wine, cacao and citrus – or a Dick’s Dry Martini, with Grey Goose L’Orange, Amaro di Angostura, coffee and Martini Ambrato? This is the perfect spot to find out.
Trafalgar St James
Hidden away in the heart of St James, this skyline bar looks out on the great Nelson himself. Far up above the pigeons, Trafalgar is a rooftop bar that lives up to its rarefied surroundings. Ideal for a nightcap, and for taking in the lights of the surrounding city, the bar serves up a mixture of classic and innovative cocktails, from a classic Negroni to the Lords, Ladies & Commoners – a delectable concoction of pistachio vodka, cacao blanc and cream. Outdoor heaters and blankets make it welcoming even when the temperature inevitably drops after dark.
A South London icon in its own right, Frank’s Cafe is located unassumingly on the top floor of an old multi-story carpark. But hear us out: on a summer’s day, Frank’s is the place London’s movers and shakers head for. With the all-new Peckham Levels below to visit for tasty street food, Frank’s does a great line in well-priced cocktails, beer and wine – perfect for whiling away a long, sunny afternoon with the gang. The sunset’s pretty great from Frank’s, too.