Here’s Conde Nast Traveller’s top choices for enjoying a cocktail while overlooking London.
Rooftop bars in London
Where? Perched on the top of the Trafalgar Hotel in Trafalgar Square.
The view: From the terrace at Vista you can see Nelson’s Column as it spears the skyline. Plus there’s the London Eye and Big Ben. Those who don’t suffer from vertigo can also look down onto buzzing Trafalgar Square.
Who goes there? Trafalgar Square is always teeming with visitors, so expect international travellers.
Best time to go: Go in the daytime and escape the hustle and bustle of the West End.
Signature cocktail: Midnight at Vista; perfect for long summer nights, this drink has Grey Goose vodka and Grand Marnier muddled with blackberry, a drop of honey and a dash of lime.
Open: Mon-Sat, noon-11pm; Sun, noon-10pm. A £5 entry charge applies after 4pm.
The Trafalgar, 2 Spring Gardens, London SW1 (020 7870 2900; www.thetrafalgar.com)
Where? High above Kensington High street, on top of the former Derry & Toms department store.
The view: The sixth-floor gardens, which date back to 1936, have panoramic views over West London, from Battersea Power Station to the London Eye and Wembley. But there is as much to see in the garden as there is beyond it: the 6,000-sq-metre space includes a Spanish garden, a Tudor-style garden and an English woodland area, and features an array of fully grown oak and fruit trees, a flowing stream and an abundance of wildlife – even flamingos.
Who goes there? Owned by Sir Richard Branson, the stylish club is well known for its glamorous patrons. Expect stars and high-flying Londoners.
Best time to go: The gardens and club open to non-members on Friday and Saturday nights, and it’s strictly guest-list only. The seventh-floor Babylon restaurant offers further amazing views from the terrace, and is open for lunch and dinner.
Signature cocktail: Lady Marmalade: Ketel One Citron vodka, cinnamon syrup, orange juice and orange bitters, shaken with a spoonful of tawny orange marmalade and Mozart dark chocolate liqueur.
Open: Mon-Sat, 12pm-2.30pm, 7pm-10.30pm; Sunday, 12pm-2.30pm
Roof Gardens, 99 Kensington High Street, London W8 (020 7368 3993;www.roofgardens.com)
Where? Set atop the former Dickins & Jones department store next to Oxford Circus.
The view: Overlooks Regent Street and offers views across London to the south. Depending on where you stand, you can see the London Eye, Liberty, the BT Tower and all the way across Mayfair.
Who goes there? Well-groomed clientele looking to escape the madness of Oxford Street after a spot of shopping, or enjoying after-work drinks in the sunshine. There are also two restaurants here: Japanese restaurant Aqua Kyoto and Spanish-inspired Aqua Nueva.
Best time to go: It is a popular venue for pre- or post-dinner drinks. Go early to get a seat and avoid the late-afternoon rush, and enjoy the sunset with a cocktail.
Signature cocktail: Japanese Velvet: pear-infused Ketel One Vodka shaken with nashi pear purée, fresh lemongrass, apple juice, lemon juice and honey liqueur.
Open: Mon-Sat, noon-1pm.
Aqua Spirit, Fifth floor, 240 Regent Street, London W1 (020 7478 0540; www.aqua-london.com). Entrance at 30 Argyll Street, opposite The Palladium.
Where? On the roof of No.1 Poultry.
The view: The roof garden was designed by Arabella Lennox-Boyd, who has won numerous awards and gold medals at the Chelsea Flower Show. The concept for the design of the striking apex garden emanated from images of ploughed fields. Look over the famous Square Mile and landmarks such as St Paul’s Cathedral, Mansion House, Monument and the Bank of England.
Who goes there? Being in the heart of the City, expect suited and booted workers to flood onto the roof garden during the week.
Best time to go: Avoid the rush and visit at the weekends, when the City is quiet. Go on a Sunday to enjoy the live jazz band too.
Signature cocktail: Swedish Flower Martini – Karlsson’s Gold Vodka with basil, lavender and almond.
Open: 11.30am-10pm Mon-Sun
Coq d’Argent, 1 Poultry, London EC2R 8EJ (020 7395 5000; www.coqdargent.co.uk)
Where? Tucked away on the 5th floor of Sanctum Soho Hotel, the wall to wall glass doors open fully onto the roof garden in the summer months.
The view: The roof bar is enclosed, so does not offer views but is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of Soho life.
Who goes there? Soho creatives and guests of the hotel.
Best time to go: Open 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Start the day with coffee and newspapers, enjoy an aperitif at dusk, or have one last drink after a night out on the town.
Signature cocktail: Russian Spring Punch with Stoli Vanilla, raspberry purée, vanilla syrup and Perrier Jouet Champagne
Open: 8am to midnight for visitors, 24/7 for guests
Roof Garden at Sanctum Soho Hotel,20 Warwick Street, Soho, W1B 5NF(020 7292 6100; www.sanctumsoho.com/roof-garden.html)
Where?Part of Peckham’s Bold Tendencies Sculpture Project, this pop-up bar is on a multistorey car park and showcases the work of international artists.
The view: Feast your eyes on Central London from afar – you can see the Gherkin, the London Eye and the Shard among the city skyline.
Who goes there? Frank’s mixes trends into one rather successfully; it is part sculpture project, part pop-up, part Campari. Expect artists.
Best time to go: There is nowhere to hide if the weather turns, but that also means that every seat is the best seat in the house. Pick a sunny day and you can’t go wrong.
Signature cocktail: Campari sponsors the pop-up bar, so anything with Campari goes!
Open: 1 July – 30 September 2012; 11am-10pm, Thu-Sun.
Frank’s Café and Campari Bar, 10th floor Peckham multistorey car park, 95a Rye Lane, Peckham, SE15 4ST (07582 884574; www.frankscafe.org.uk)