The NYC streets get extra-mean in the summertime. Tourists, hot garbage, mosquitos, bands of interns learning how to drink - it’s rough out there. But there’s a place where you can get away from it all. Actually, there are 18 places, and they’re all rooftops. Here’s our list of the best rooftop bars in NYC. These aren’t the clubby spots where you pay a cover to dip your feet in a pool the size of your kitchen. They’re the places where you’ll actually want to hang out, drink, and feel a breeze on your face that, magically, doesn’t smell like garbage.
Check out the rest of our 2017 Summer Guide here.
Westlight is the rooftop the William Vale Hotel, and it officially has the best views in Williamsburg. It’s fancier than the other bars in the neighborhood, so this might not be your new go-to after-work drink spot, but if you want to impress someone, this will get the job done. Grab a drink, stare across the East River, and eat some fancy bar food. Or maybe have your next birthday here. Westlight gets crowded on weekends, but you can make a reservation if you don’t feel like waiting in a line.
This rooftop shares a chef with Harold’s Meat + Three, the ground-floor restaurant at the same hotel (Arlo Soho), although Surf Shack is more of a bar. It’s supposed to be surf-themed, and, to that end, they have a few slushy drinks, a few lawn flamingos, and a kiddie pool on the patio. Mostly, however, it just feels like a nice, accessible downtown rooftop that’s just the right amount of trendy (not impossible to get into, but also not lame). The views aren’t mind-blowing, but it’s a good spot for a relatively low-key outdoor drink downtown.
The Heights is the rooftop bar at the Arlo Nomad, but it isn’t the sort of place where you have to buy a bottle or know a DJ. It’s really just a plain Midtown rooftop with some nice views and a few couches where you can sit and drink a cocktail that’s named after a neighborhood ending in “Heights” (Prospect, Morningside, etc.). Stop by for some drinks the next time you’re seeing something at Madison Square Garden. When the weather is nice, this is actually one of the better bar options in the area.
Hotel Hugo is in the relatively quiet area between the West Village and Tribeca, and it has two rooftop bars: Bar Hugo and Azul. Bar Hugo looks more-or-less like your typical upscale hotel rooftop, but Azul is vaguely Cuban-themed. You aren’t going to drink too much and suddenly think you’re in Havana, but they do have some fun, colorful decor as well as a few tropical cocktails. Think of this place as a slightly less sceney alternative to Le Bain, and get drinks here the next time you want a view across the Hudson.
Mr. Purple is the restaurant/bar on top of Hotel Indigo on the Lower East Side. They do lunch, brunch, and dinner, and there are two terraces where you can sit outside. There’s also a little pool. You probably aren’t going to swim in it, but it’s nice to know that you could. This place isn’t as cheesy as a lot of the rooftop bars you see out there, but it does get crowded. So, unless you come early, you might have some trouble at the door.
Yes, this is the bar on top of the hotel where Sleep No More takes place, but you aren’t going to have to wear a mask here. This is a laid-back rooftop bar with some nice shrubbery and plenty of places to sit. It’s also one of your best drinking options in Chelsea (especially when you want to hang outdoors). Sure, the Frying Pan is only a few blocks away, but this bar feels less like a frat party. Stop by for dinner, drinks, or a serve-yourself brunch.
Northern Territory is an Australian bar that has a spacious roof with views of Manhattan. The only catch is that it’s in Greenpoint, and most people don’t think very highly of the G train. But if you’re willing to head over (the G isn’t that bad), you’ll be rewarded with one of the best casual outdoor drinking spots in Brooklyn. They also serve brunch and dinner, and there’s room for all your friends.
If it’s warm out, and you’re looking for a place to drink near Kips Bay, walk over to the Park South Hotel. The rooftop feels kind of like the common area of a condo building where all the residents work in advertising or PR and run into each other at spin class sometimes. There’s a fireplace, a bunch of tables, and a nice view of lower Midtown. It’s a good spot for afterwork drinks, especially for the area.
Our expectations for a rooftop bar in Murray Hill are set exceedingly low, and Pod 39 easily surpasses them. It’s actually a great place to hang out, and it doesn’t feel too gimmicky. Just look at the design. The outdoor area is surrounded by big brick arches, and there are some excellent views of the city. Just know that there aren’t a ton of seats and, depending on when you go, you might have to wait to get in.
The Jane Hotel is an old brick building, and it feels a little like a clubhouse for explorers or steampunk enthusiasts. Which isn’t to say it’s not fun. The downstairs bar gets legitimately crazy on weekends, and the rooftop is a great place to watch the sun set over the Hudson. And now that it’s open to walk-ins, you can stop by and get a drink without having to book a room here.
The main draw of this place is the fact that they serve popsicles in glasses of prosecco. They also do other drinks, but that’s the house speciality, and it actually isn’t the worst combination. Seeing as how this is the bar on top of the Conrad Hotel in Battery Park, you can expect to see some finance-types in addition to the people who come here specifically to Instagram the popsicle drinks (you?). And while the name might technically be dumb, this rooftop does have a view of the Statue of Liberty. That counts for something.
The Press Lounge is sleek and spacious, but it’s also a little bit out of the way. Although if you can convince all of your friends to meet you here, you can enjoy some truly top-notch views. This is the bar on the roof of the Ink48 Hotel in Hell’s Kitchen, and it’s a little more upscale. Not black-tie upscale, but your drinks aren’t going to be cheap. There might be a wait to get in, but it’s worth checking this place out the next time you catch a show at Terminal 5 or see something on Broadway and feel like grabbing a drink after.
Jimmy is on the roof of the James Hotel in Soho, and it’s better-looking than your average rooftop bar. It also tends to attract good-looking people. So put on something nice and try to meet someone who owns a boat. Or, you know, just people watch. There’s an indoor lounge with floor-to-ceiling windows, and there’s an outside patio with a pool in the middle. Bring a bathing suit if you’re really going for it, just be aware that this place gets pretty busy.
The Refinery Hotel is surrounded by about 1,000 different office buildings, so you’re going to find a lot of people trying to hang out out here after work. You might even have trouble getting a table. If you want to play it safe, make a reservation. This is a pretty casual rooftop with some brick walls and comfy chairs, and there’s both an indoor and an outdoor area. It’s great for groups, so find a bunch of coworkers you don’t mind, and bring them up here. If someone’s hungry, there’s a lot of decent bar food. Flatbreads, kale salad - that sort of stuff.
Spyglass is only a few doors down from the Refinery Rooftop, and it’s a perfectly good outdoor-drinking alternative. It’s a little bit smaller, but it still has some great views of the Empire State Building. This is the rooftop lounge at the Archer Hotel, and it feels like a nice little cocktail bar that also just happens to on top of a building. Bring a date if you’re in Midtown and you’re looking for something classier than an Irish pub.
To be clear, this place is not a hotel. It’s more of a multi-level restaurant/nightclub with a rooftop where you can drink and eat amongst a bunch of people who just turned 21. Stop by for an outdoor brunch on the Lower East Side. It’s great for when you want to day drink and not feel guilty about doing so. Because there will always be someone sloppier here.