Obsessed with cocktails al fresco: my favorite rooftop bars

August 31, 2012 in Places,Thailand,United States,Vietnam

I first fell in love with rooftop bars in Melbourne: the city center is scattered with open-air spaces to sip a cocktail, eat dinner or watch a movie. The aptly-named Rooftop Bar was one of my favorite levels of Curtin House on a warm summer evening, while Madame Brussels plays up the springtime vibe year-round with Pimms Cup specials and a staff attire of tennis skirts.

Christine Amorose & Brian Riley at Vertigo at Banyan Tree Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand

After I left Melbourne, I started seeking out rooftop bars in every new city I visited. Rooftop drinks tend to be more expensive than other bars, but I find they’re the best place to start a night: the sunset views are always killer and fancy cocktails are more fun when you’re sober. Plus, I’d much rather pay for the view with my drink rather than just pay for a panoramic view on the top of the tallest building or whatnot.

Christine Amorose at Vertigo at Banyan Tree Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand

Vertigo at Banyan Tree Hotel, Bangkok

It’s a bit pricey, but SO worth it for a sunset drink. Signature cocktails are incredible, and the views are stunning once the city lights up as night falls. Just don’t rock up in flip-flops: the smart casual dress code is absolutely enforced.

Cosmopolitan at Level 23 at the Sheraton Saigon, Vietnam

Level 23 at Sheraton Saigon

The view and atmosphere are slightly less impressive after Vertigo, but it’s still a stunning place to watch the sun set over this sprawling metropolis. Don’t miss happy hour from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.: your second classic cocktail is free!

Champagne on the rooftop bar at the Empire Hotel, New York City, USA

Empire Hotel, New York City

A glass of sparkling and a view of the West Side was the perfect end to my first day in the Big Apple. There’s comfortable lounge seating, but it’s still a fairly posh vibe. I’ve heard it’s one of the best places in the city to catch a sunset–just an excuse to go back!

Margaritas at Bell Tower Bar at La Fonda in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Bell Tower Bar at La Fonda, Santa Fe

On a sunny afternoon, we fell in love with Santa Fe after seeing it from above while sipping on a margarita. The bar is open from 3 p.m. to sunset–and there’s no doubt that this is one of the best places in the city to see the sun set over the wide open New Mexico spaces.

View from a friend's rooftop in Washington DC

Private Rooftop, Washington DC

The best thing about rooftop bars is that it’s super easy to recreate the laid-back vibe with access to any rooftop. A couple of girlfriends and I packed a bag with cocktail fixings (including plenty of ice!) and headed up a few floors to enjoy a massive catch-up sesh, a few too many drinks and a gorgeous view of our nation’s capital city. The best part was being able to head right back downstairs and onto her couch!

What’s your favorite rooftop bar?

  • Cat of Sunshine and Siestas

    Completely agreed on the rooftop bars. They’ve only recently become a trend where I live in Seville, but I’ve always taken Chicago visitors to the top of the Hancock to enjoy the views at the cost of a drink. I went to the terrace at the Trump Tower in Chicago and was blown away at the views and the ambience – there is truly no greater place to start an evening!!

  • Absolutely agree with this! I just went to a posh looking rooftop bar in Taipei that looked right up at Taipei 101 and I was expecting snooty service and overpriced drinks. But the waiters were super friendly (despite our casual attire) and the drinks were average priced! I am now 100% on board with seeking out rooftop bars, because you’re right, you can’t beat the view! Great post~~

  • travellingbelle

    Ohhh that looks incredible! One of my favourite high altitude drinking places is Q1 at the Gold Coast! Whilst they have a few bars at heights, they aren’t necessarily open aired! However you get the most amazing view of the Gold Coast by night! Spectacular! Very nice

  • I think mine is the Hotel Gansevoort in NYC (great mojitos)! LOVE these shots!!!

  • Katie

    I can’t wait to go to Vertigo for the amazing view of the city on my first night in Bangkok this November! Thanks for the tip, I LOVE being able to look down on a city and see it from above!

  • Florentine

    I love the Panorama 51 in Toronto, especially at sunset time. And also Eiffel Tower’s restaurant in Paris!

  • Ahhh… I LOVE rooftop bars and also look them up wherever I am! I think so far I have 3 in my top list: Penthouse in ME Hotel, Madrid; SkyBar in Beirut, Lebanon and my latest addition: Bar Rouge in Shanghai!! I’d really loe to visit the many bars in that NYc has to offer.. Maybe I get the chance to do it next summer :)

  • camorose

    Ohhhh I haven’t been to Chicago in a few years–next time I visit, I’ll definitely be heading UP for a drink :)

  • camorose

    They’re so popular in Asia–that’s really where I fell in love with them, so many options! Now it’s the first thing I seek out in a new city :)

  • camorose

    Next time I’m in Australia, definitely hitting up the Gold Coast for that :)

  • camorose

    Ohhh I haven’t been to that one yet–that might be my next “sunset drink” destination :)

  • camorose

    Ohhh that will SO be the best first night in Bangkok–we absolutely loved it!

  • camorose

    Ohhh I actually haven’t been to the Eiffel Tower restaurant before–and never thought of it as a rooftop bar, but I suppose it is! Will definitely check it out next time :)

  • camorose

    There are definitely some cool ones in NYC–I’m trying to check out all of them before the weather gets too cold!

  • Kristina Mueller

    I am so planning to visit all those great rooftop bars here in Melbourne – any other favorites you want to share with me? pretty please! :)

  • I love rooftop bars and my faves are: Ku De Ta on top of the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore and Aviary in Perth, Australia.

  • camorose

    The Emerald Peacock is another fave–delicious cocktails!

  • camorose

    Ooooh can’t wait to check all of these out!

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