Raising the Roof: A Bird's-Eye View of Things to Do in London, UK

Frank's Cafe is a great place for rooftop socialising with views of London
Frank's Cafe is a great place for rooftop socialising with views of London | © Johnny Greig / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Nick Dauk
9 September 2021
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Coveted summer spots on the top of Peckham car parks, bee-buzzed rooftop terraces and bird-themed roosts with winter igloos make up our list of elevated escapes in the British capital.

Take it from the pros: London is a massive metropolis that deserves days of endless exploration. It’s easy to wander the streets of England’s capital and overlook awesome attractions hiding in plain sight. A tip when searching for things to do in London? Look up, way up, and wind your way to these rooftop spots around the city for a bird’s-eye view of one of the greatest cities in the world.

The Culpeper

The Culpeper
Courtesy of The Culpeper / Expedia

The Culpeper only has four levels, though most find themselves pleasantly content at the ground-floor pub. When visiting for the night, you’ll stroll up the stairs past the restaurant and into the second-floor bedrooms. You certainly can’t beat the proximity to a proper pint and plate of chips, but we urge you to climb one flight further to the Rooftop Garden. Everything grown in this urban space is harvested, and you’ll taste the bounty in your drink or dish.

Aviary

Restaurant, Bar, British, $$$
Nitro Espresso Martini machine at Aviary
© Roche Comms/Aviary
Flock to Aviary on Finsbury Square in Central London during any season for the view over the City, and you won’t regret it. This rooftop restaurant and terrace bar is a year-round affair, with winter igloos allowing you to indulge in Scottish salmon, hand-cut chips, and sticky-toffee pudding no matter the weather. Delightful views and delicious modern British meals are a treat, with the only thing that’ll ever run, ahem, afowl are the passerine puns roosting in this bird-themed aerie.

Duck & Waffle

Cocktail Bar, Restaurant, European, British, $$$
United Kingdom, London, the City, Duck & Waffle restaurant in Heron Tower
© Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo

Pubs close; 24/7 Duck & Waffle does not. That alone is reason enough to head over to Liverpool Street, any time of the day or night. But, when you thought that a crispy duck-leg confit and fluffy waffles were going to be the highlight of your visit, you’ll stop midchew as you gawk at the 40th-floor views of the city from the landmark Heron Tower – one of the tallest buildings in London.

Vintry & Mercer

Vintry and Mercer
Courtesy of Vintry and Mercer / Expedia

Just across the Thames from Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Vintry & Mercer is ready to spoil you with a superior room. Velvet headboards, vintage-style Marshall speakers, and walk-in showers are only the tip of the iceberg. We’d gladly detail the other amenities, but first: the afternoon tea. The Mercer Roof Terrace is a cosy place for a cuppa or a pint, either of which will pair well with the skyline views, from the Shard to St Paul’s Cathedral.

Upstairs at the Department Store

Bar, Cocktails

This plainly named Brixton bar will easily throw those not in the know off the South London scent. Cosy up to a local who has a membership, and you’ll be welcomed into an exclusive yet unpretentious space, where fantastic food and tasty tipples are worth the yearly fee three times over. If you do find your way Upstairs, the vanilla panna cotta is exquisite.

Bokan 39

Bar, Restaurant, Cocktails

Depart from the regular tourist route, and drift along the Thames to Canary Wharf, where the informal hideaway Bokan 39 awaits. Rooftop daybeds and a special gin bar are yours to enjoy. The catch? Due to capacity, you must make reservations prior to your arrival at Bokan 38 – the lower-floor restaurant – then turn up and sweet-talk the staff into moving you upstairs. Trust us, the dock-inspired tipples and striking views of London are well worth the advanced preparation.

The Boundary

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Courtesy of The Boundary / Expedia

For posh quarters and high-end dining, we know the perfect place in Shoreditch. The Boundary is everything you need it to be: a restaurant, a bakery, a hotel, a grocery, a deli and, most importantly, a dazzling place to grab a rooftop glass of scotch on the rocks. This top-tier orangery, bar, grill and outdoor terrace offers East London views, come rain or shine. The warmer months have a Mediterranean menu, while Alpine cuisine is served in chillier months.

Roof East

Bar, Snacks

Burgers, pizza and Indian street food: check. Cocktails, mocktails and all libations in between: check. Live events, cinema screenings, minigolf, lawn bowling and batting cages: double check. Roof East has so much going on that you won’t be able to help but be distracted from the views surrounding Stratford. This jovial joint opens midday, transitioning to an adults-only affair in the evening. Turn up without a plan, and we guarantee you’ll enjoy yourself.

Treehouse Hotel

Reception area at Treehouse London, Marylebone featuring a large wooden desk and red patterned rug
Courtesy of Treehouse London / Expedia

Though, tragically, not a literal treehouse, Treehouse Hotel near Oxford Street is a fantastic place to roost before branching out on a tour of Central London. All rooms are perched in full view of the city skyline and infused with the right amount of nostalgia to evoke clubhouse vibes from back in the day. The Nest rooftop bar and terrace do give you a literal 360-degree bird’s-eye view of the city. Keep in mind that the early bird gets the worm and those with the forethought to make reservations will guarantee their spot in the Nest.

Frank's Cafe

Bar, Cafe, Cocktail Bar, Restaurant, British, $$$
Customers at Frank's Cafe, the famous roof-top bar and restaurant on the multi-storey car park in Peckham, UK, overlooking the London skyline.
© Simon Turner / Alamy Stock Photo
Spend a few days in London, and you’ll grow to appreciate any hours of warm weather and sunshine. During the summer season, Frank’s Cafe is one of the best places to raise a glass to this fantastic city in the most modest of ways. Frank’s is a car park transformed into a social space that holds a special cult-like status in the hearts of locals. Expect simple food, great drinks and remarkable views among a cool Southeast London crowd. If you’re lucky, you’ll stop by during a live show, but merely watching the sunset with a negroni in hand is entertainment enough.

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