In the summer, this city’s streets get hot, humid, and filled with tourists who inexplicably love Abercrombie & Fitch. But if you want to escape all of that (except for maybe some of the tourists), all you have to do is find a rooftop. NYC has an insane number of them, so we’ve limited this guide to include only the rooftops we’d actually recommend you try. Sure, some of these get pretty crowded (especially on weekends), but once you get a drink and feel a breeze that doesn’t smell like street-level garbage, you might even see that as a positive.
There’s a lot going on at the new Freehand Hotel. It has a few restaurants (Studio, Simon & The Whale), a cocktail bar (George Washington Bar), and also takeout breakfast/lunch spot (The Smile To Go). And now it has Broken Shaker. That’s the rooftop here, and it’s currently one of the best places to drink outdoors in the city. The whole space feels like a beach house from the ’70s (but much larger, and on top of a building). Plus, there’s overachieving bar food, like an uni tray and a burger with yucca fries. You should, however, expect a wait to get into this place.
Westlight is the rooftop the William Vale Hotel in Williamsburg, and it has a view that makes other rooftops feel like windowless dive bars. So if you want to impress someone who loves staring at the Manhattan skyline, this place will get the job done. Grab a drink, look 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.
Maybe you’ve convinced yourself you’re not a rooftop person. You don’t value fresh air enough to deal with the crowds of people you’ll have to share it with, and you’d rather drink wine than an $18 tequila-soda. But Rooftop Reds might change you. This is a reservation-only wine bar on top of a roof in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and it’s full of cornhole, hammocks, and picnic tables - all with a great view of Manhattan. If you’re looking for a rooftop situation that’s relatively low-key, this is one of your best options.
1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge is right off the waterfront in Dumbo, and it has a direct view of the East River and lower Manhattan. This, of course, means that you’ll see a good number of tourists here - but it also means that this rooftop is objectively impressive. There’s also a little pool area with views of the Statue of Liberty, but you have to make a reservation if you want to hang out there. Just be aware that this place is only open Friday through Sunday, and the earlier you get here, the less time you’ll have to spend waiting in line.
If you arrive early enough or make a reservation, you can grab one of the giant pink horseshoe booths at Make Believe. They’re made out of velvet, and they’ll make you feel like you’re at a bachelor party or a really nice bowling alley (in Las Vegas). And this will be a surprisingly nice feeling. If you want to be outside, however, you’ll have to get a table on one of the outdoor patios. There’s one on either side of the big indoor space, and they have views of the entire lower part of Manhattan.
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 well-dressed people who use the word “summer” as both a noun and a verb. 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 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 be on a guest list. 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.). When the weather is nice, this is one of the better bar options in the area, and there’s a little area with a glass floor where you can look straight down at the street.
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.
If a bar is within five blocks of Penn Station, it probably isn’t going to be great. And if a rooftop bar is within five blocks of Penn Station, it almost definitely isn’t going to be great. But Good Behavior is significantly less-tacky than the majority of places you’ll find in the area. It’s on the top of the Made Hotel, it has floor-ceiling windows, and it looks kind of like the people behind it went through a summer edition of a West Elm catalog and said, “We’ll take it all.” The bar itself is inside, but there’s a big outdoor patio where you can sit amongst some potted plants and drink a good cocktail. Try this place after a game or a show at Madison Square Garden, or stop by after a long day in Midtown.
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 trouble at the door.
Unless it’s a dome or a pyramid, every building has a rooftop. And that includes The Met. There’s a very large roof at this museum, and it has both an excellent view of Central Park and a bar where you can get some beer, wine, or a cocktail. There’s also always some sort of priceless art up there, which makes drinking on this spacious rooftop a highly cultural experience. On weekdays, it closes at 4:30pm - but if you come on a Friday or Saturday, you can stay up here until 8:30pm.
Northern Territory is an Australian bar that has a big 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, you’ll be rewarded with one of the better casual rooftops 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 after-work 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 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.
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 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.