An undisputed meteorological factor for London is its lengthy summer evenings, where sunsets can last for hours until the sky is a muddled easel of deep pink and orange. To pay homage to our summer nights, we’ve rounded up a small, eclectic selection of bars to head to for that elusive sundowner—whether it’s to end the day or to kick off the evening in style.
Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden
Overlooking the Thames, opposite the Houses of Parliament, this charming spot sits on top of Queen Elizabeth Hall in the Southbank Centre. It's all about mismatched garden furniture, allotments and wild flowers, with tucked-away grassy spaces where you can enjoy a cold beer while you gaze at the London Eye.
What to drink: a bottle of beer
Who goes: young professionals and theatre-goers
River views are always a bonus, which this stylish venue has in spades. The rooftop bar, on top of Mondrian London boutique hotel, enjoys a prime position. Stretch up from your plush sofa and tear your eyes away from the British-America-inspired cocktails to gaze at St Paul’s Cathedral and its 21st-century landmark rivals. There’s live music (Wed) and DJs (Thu-Sat), too. 20 Upper Ground, SE1 9PD.
What to drink: East India Elixir (a gin cocktail)
Who goes: A style-conscious party crowd
Pergola Paddington Central
If you want to be spoilt for choice, then head to this vast alfresco bar-restaurant complex with two levels of bars and plenty of self-service restaurant kiosks. It has bags of colour and a lively atmosphere, with views of the revamped industrial surroundings of Paddington. Fancy taking the weight off your feet? Then recline on a day bed. 5 Kingdom St, W2 6PY
What to drink: A glass of chilled rose
Who goes: People who like people watching
The Spritz Garden Rooftop
If you think that small is beautiful, you could head to the bijou Bird of Smithfield. Its rooftop bar is at the top of an elegant five-story Georgian townhouse in the heart of the city, overlooking the pale green domes of Smithfield Market. Catch the beautiful evening aroma of jasmine trees as you sample the unique array of spritzers. 26 Smithfield St, EC1A 9LB
What to drink: Cocktails, such as honeysuckle fizz
Who goes: Londoners and those in the know
Ladies & Gentlemen Kings Cross
Raise your glass to warm evenings on the scenic Regent’s Canal, part of a regenerated neighbourhood near the Kings Cross and St Pancras stations. At this summer pop-up spot, the bar serves Wood’s Navy Rum cocktails, plus seafood snacks from London Shell Co restaurant (a restaurant on a canal boat) from two simple waterfront sheds. You can also book one-hour evening cruises on a canal boat (to 30 July). Ship ahoy! Goods Way, N1C 4BH
What to drink: Rum cocktails, of course
Who goes: A cool after-work crowd and sea dogs
Potted plants, mismatched furniture and a cocktail vending machine make this summer bar, above busy Oxford Street, an unusual hangout. Walk up to the fourth floor to a lively rooftop venue overgrowing with foliage and with quirky, Scandi-themed décor. At the coin-op cocktail tap, insert your token and press for either a Negroni or an Old Fashioned to fill your glass and join the fun. Uncertain London weather is accounted for with heated concrete seats and a sail-like white canopy that covers a large area. 535 Oxford St, W1C 2QW
What to drink: Old Fashioned
Who goes: Young party-loving professionals
Enjoy some Med magic at the summer pop-up Spanish Serves Bar at Camino Bankside, next to Tate Modern's new extension. With an Ibiza Whites theme, you can step onto the terrace to savour vermouth and sherry-based Spanish Serves, and Vermut Golfo, made from barrel-aged Tempranillo grapes. It’s not just the English who know their G&Ts—try some of their Spanish varieties. You can also do a Paella Masterclass on the terrace (23 Aug). 5 Canvey St, SE1 9AN
What to drink: A Spanish G&T
Who goes: Post-Tate and pre-dinner crowd
In case you need something indoors (who mentioned rain?), you can’t get a better view than the 52nd floor of the landmark Shard, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the snaking River Thames. These are dramatic enough—add to that its new Director’s Cut cocktail menu and your evening will be one to remember. The adventurous selection is inspired by great film directors, such as the Scorsese-influenced ‘Dirty Business’ (bourbon, cold-press coffee liqueur and stout) and a Coppola ‘Bullet Proof’ (single malt, sherry and liquid smoke). A couple of those and you’ll feel as glamorous as the finest movie star.
What to drink: Depends on your favourite director
Who goes: A well-heeled crowd