Escape the city streets and live the high life on one of Sydney’s many rooftop bars.
Rooftop bars ooze instant cool. They help us escape the hustle and bustle of the streets without having to leave the city. They also dose us up on vitamin D, expose us to fresh air, and help us feel like we’re on top of the world — even if we’re only a couple storeys up. (Feature image: @manlygreenhouse)
It’s hardly surprising then that in a city like Sydney, which bathes in close to 2500 hours of sunlight a year, rooftop bars are a popular choice. Check out our favourites below.
1. Sweethearts Rooftop, Potts Point
On the rooftop of the Potts Point Hotel, you will find Sweethearts. The urban chic decor of colour-faded picnic tables and fairy lights in the plants and trees give Sweethearts a laidback atmosphere that can really pump up when people start ordering Pimm’s on tap or the signature cocktails. The venue will be trading from 5pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and to ensure you get a seat at this popular nightspot, book ahead.
📍 33-37 Darlinghurst Road, Potts Point
2. Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel, Watsons Bay
The Beach Club at Watsons Bay is where the seaside party sails from the day into the night. Arrive for lunch, stay for sunset cocktails, and feel the buzz around you slowly rise until the sounds of good times float across the lit-up shoreline. Phenomenal views of Sydney’s skyline from the second-floor terrace are a perfect match to the classic blue and white maritime decor, which have made the Beach Club one of Sydney’s most favoured camera hotspots. But in our opinion, the daily lunch specials (the food is quality) and the variety of cocktails ($10 on weekends from 6-8pm) are our main reasons for trekking it out to Watsons Bay.
📍 1 Military Road, Watsons Bay
3. Manly Greenhouse, Manly
While you don’t need to be on the rooftop at Manly Greenhouse to enjoy the panoramic views, you’d be doing yourself an injustice by not climbing the stairs to the very top. Once there you will be surrounded by greenery and bathed in light, the fresh seaside breeze putting a spring in your step on the way to the bar, where cocktails and highballs await. While downstairs offers more food options, the rooftop focuses on pizzas, snacks and share plates to bring groups together. There’s also great music to get the party going, especially on Sundays with The Garden of Funky Delights and Grey Goose putting on a good time.
📍 36-38 South Steyne, Manly
4. Bridgeview Hotel, Willoughby
The Bridgeview Hotel, affectionately called the Bridgey by locals, is the go-to place for drinks in the sun in Willoughby. Though not fancy and swanky like some of the other venues on this list, the Bridgey is all neighbourly pub charm with coloured barstools, an astroturf terrace, and an all-weather TV mounted outside so you don’t miss any of the weekend’s sporting action. Trivia Tuesdays are back and so are cheap Schnitty’s on both Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The burger and beer special ($20) is a tempting offer running Thursday to Saturday. It’s unsurprising that the Bridgey is a must for those in the area.
📍 580 Willoughby Road, Willoughby
5. Coogee Pavilion, Coogee
There’s possibly no better view from any rooftop bar than from Coogee Pavilion’s wraparound balcony. There’s just something about being able to look out over the ocean as far as you can that is a beautiful feeling. The downside to this is that Coogee Pavilion, also right across from the beach, is one helluva popular venue. Nonetheless, it’s always worth it to try your luck and find yourself a nook or cranny among it’s four inside/outside bars sporting their own exotic flair. The food, an eastern Mediterranean-style menu designed by executive chef Jordan Toft, is also pretty damn good. And with a large selection of beers, wines and cocktails, your only concern is getting in—no bookings accepted.
📍 169 Dolphin Street
6. SoCal, Neutral Bay
Dip into Southern California at SoCal restaurant and rooftop bar without ever having to leave Neutral Bay. With a bright and colourful upstairs serving a tempting selection of (mostly tequila-based) cocktails and Latin-infused share plates, as well as Tuesday Taco specials, comedy nights and weekend fiestas, the SoCal rooftop is laidback, cool, and for the easygoing. You might not get views of the ocean, but you’ll definitely feel like you are somewhere else.
📍 1 Young Street, Neutral Bay
7. Webster’s Bar, Newtown
Up past the steampunk-style bar and the 800-strong whisky selection on the second storey, you’ll find Webster’s rooftop bar transporting you back to 1950s Australia complete with astroturf, hanging plants, long rustic wooden tables, a bbq pit and the Australiana memorabilia to match. Come up for a drink and a feed on the $15 daily specials, and enjoy the Newtown sunset over King Street.
📍 323 King Street, Newtown
8. The Old Clare Hotel, Chippendale
Chippendale has become home to art galleries, posh cocktail bars, design studios and some of Sydney’s best restaurants. It’s clear then that The Old Clare Hotel, and its rooftop complete with swimming pool, sits on the classier side of life. Though the swimming pool is reserved almost always for guests, the rooftop bar is open to the public Wednesday through Sunday, serving classic and signature cocktails, as well as eastern-Mediterranean snacks and bites to eat provided by A1 Canteen. If you’re looking to lounge in style, then a visit to The Old Clare Hotel should be on your to-do list.
The rooftop bar is set to reopen to the public on October 15, 2020.
📍 1 Kensington Street, Chippendale
9. The Rooftop, CBD
Sitting atop the Shelbourne Hotel, the aptly named The Rooftop has some of the best harbour views Sydney has to offer. With a fully retractable roof, floor-to-ceiling glass windows, hanging chairs and garden vibes, you’d be forgiven for thinking you had stepped into the Hamptons. Order from the crafted signature cocktail selection and keep an eye on the weekly chef special — but really, you won’t go wrong with any of the seafood, meats or salads on the menu.
Currently, The Rooftop is only open Friday, from midday to late.
📍 200 Sussex Street, CBD
10. Ching-a-Lings, Darlinghurst
Ching-a-Lings is not like your other rooftop bars (or the ones on this list). Instead of glam views and coastal feels, this rooftop haven takes its inspiration from the loft bars of NYC, meaning underground DJs, live bands and a fun attitude for its 100 patrons, all trying to stand out on the deck regardless of the weather. (Either that or working up a sweat on the dancefloor.) Bonus points if you remember where the entrance is after a big night out!
📍 133 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst
11. The Taphouse, Darlinghurst
Drink well, drink local. That’s the driving idea behind The Taphouse, which sees them serving up beer from over 60 taps. They reckon they’ve got a beer for every occasion and, to be honest, they’re probably right. But up on the rooftop, they also do cocktails, with the list separated into gins, spritzes, the classics and cocktail jugs, so you and your friends can gather round and share the good times in the sunshine.
📍 122 Flinders Street, Darlinghurst
12. Level Seven, CBD
Another hotel rooftop, another rooftop pool — although, once again, it’s for in-house guests only. But that’s okay because, up at Level Seven, you’ll be enjoying the classic New York styled restaurant and bar. The Veuve Clicquot styling makes the Primus Hotel’s city escape one of Sydney’s most chic rooftop offerings with a carefully crafted cocktail menu and share platters to match.
📍 339 Pitt Street, CBD
13. Smoke, Barangaroo
Smoke: the bar that Sydney has always dreamed of. You will be greeted at the entrance, shown to your table and a tab will be opened for you, as all service at Smoke is table service. You will sip on classy cocktails or choose a glass of wine or champagne from a superb list of offerings (which also includes luxury spirits not found elsewhere in Sydney), all while taking in the best possible views of the harbour. If you’re feeling a little moreish, there is also a bar menu, featuring their now-famous skewers. All in all, having a drink at the top of Barangaroo House is more an event than an after-work tipple.
📍 35 Barangaroo Avenue, Barangaroo
14. Corridor, Newtown
We already know that not all rooftops have been graced with the same spectacular views. But those rooftops that miss out on a little bit of the spectacular sights make up for it with a whole heap of charm. Corridor in Newtown is no different and walking up the rickety staircase, past the intimate and candle-lit rooms, and onto the bar you’ll soon see what makes this rooftop bounce. Their so-called ‘bar-chefs’ know what they’re on about and will happily explain the finer points of their imaginative concoctions.
Reopens October 2.
📍 153 King Street, Newtown
15. The Bristol Arms, CBD
If what you’re looking for is a no-nonsense pub rooftop, then look no further than The Bristol Arms in the heart of Sydney. The rooftop, five storeys up and boasting skyline views, has both an indoor and outdoor terrace and is laid back in its design and decor. From Thursday to Saturday you’ll find the rooftop playing host to DJs playing tunes, so if you’re looking for an after-work drink to let off some steam, you know where to go.
📍 81 Sussex Street, CBD