Summer in the Big Apple means a spike in buzz and energy out on the city’s streets, confronting smells drifting out of subway grates and a surge in popularity for those with holiday houses in the Hamptons. Happily, it is also the time for New York’s rooftops to come into their own and share their secret views of horizons, skyscrapers, rivers and bridges with us ground-dwellers.
We’ve all read lists of New York’s best rooftop bars, but we at AWNY wanted to engage with you, our members, to come up with our own list. To us, there is something nice about going somewhere that has been tried and tested by people we trust!
Now that we have had a couple of weeks to try out this year’s rooftop bar offerings, without further ado, we give you AWNY’s 2016 Guide to Rooftop Bars in the Big Apple.
Bar SixtyFive at Rainbow Room (30 Rockefeller Plaza, 65th Floor, Midtown)
Perfect for: impressing visitors, cocktails with a view, Empire State and Manhattan views
If you are seeking the Rockefeller Center’s famous Manhattan views, you could certainly join the line for the Top of the Rock experience. Our pick is to ditch the queue, avoid the admission fare, and head instead to Bar SixtyFive at the Rock’s famous Rainbow Room. Situated a handful of floors below the Top of the Rock, and boasting the same incredible views of Manhattan from inside the bar or outside on the terrace (including a direct view straight across to the Empire State Building), Bar SixtyFive is a breathtaking setting in which to enjoy a cocktail (note – the cocktails aren’t cheap, but well worth it for the saving you make on admission to the Top of the Rock). This glamorous art deco lounge claims the title of ‘highest outdoor terrace bar in New York City’. Our tip is to time your visit so that you can take in the sunset. The crowd certainly grows on the outdoor terrace at sunset, but there is plenty of skyline to go around, and watching the lights of Manhattan start to twinkle as the sun goes down over the city is certainly a memorable experience.
Hours: Open Monday to Friday only, from 5pm to close. Walk in for drinks or reserve a table if you’re feeling peckish. But keep in mind you do need to dress appropriately – the bar recommends business casual, no sneakers.
Photo credit: Alex Eggerking
Bookmarks at the Library Hotel (299 Madison Avenue, 14th Floor, Midtown)
Perfect for: literary cocktails, cosy secret garden vibes
Owned by the same outfit that operate one of our other favorite places for a drink in the city, The Campbell Apartment, Bookmarks is an intimate space that will make you feel like you’ve been transported to a secret garden.
Located on the 14th floor of the Library Hotel, Bookmarks may not have the breathtaking views of some of our other favorite spots, but it is a great spot to sip a literary-themed cocktail on the outdoor balcony, nestled in the midst of Manhattan institutions Grand Central and the New York Public Library’s Schwarzman building. The glass-covered indoor space is also fantastic on those nights when the city is hit by a summer storm.
Note – the space is small, so it can be hard to get a seat. Our tip is to go early, or try to book ahead. We also recommend dressing reasonably well (their website advises ‘business casual’).
Hours: Sunday to Thursday: 4pm to Midnight, Friday and Saturday: 4pm to 1am.
Photo credit: Bookmarks at the Library Hotel
Le Bain at the Standard Hotel (444 West 13th Street, Meatpacking District)
Perfect for: impressing visitors, cooling off (or heating up) in the pool, rubbing shoulders with NYC’s beautiful people, Hudson River views
The views from Le Bain’s glamorous AstroTurf-covered rooftop over the Hudson River are spectacular, and ideal for watching the last rays of sun dip behind the horizon with a drink in hand (and perhaps a crepe from the Creperie). For those looking to party after the sun goes down, the ‘discotheque’ on the level below boasts a pool on the dance floor and features world-famous DJs.
Make no mistake; this is a popular spot, attracting Manhattan’s glitterati. The line can be very long at night, and the doorman can afford to be selective, so we advise either going early or preparing yourself for a wait.
Hours: The rooftop is open for ‘sunset service’ Monday to Thursday from 4pm to late, Friday to Sunday from 2pm to late.
Photo credit: Le Bain at the Standard Hotel
230 Fifth (230 5th Ave, Penthouse, Flatiron)
Perfect for: impressing visitors, rubbing shoulders with NYC’s beautiful people, pre-dinner or after-work drinks, Manhattan and Empire State views
You won’t want to put your camera away at 230 Fifth, with its amazing views of the Empire State Building, Midtown Manhattan rooftops, and downtown Manhattan, depending on where you perch. We wouldn’t exactly call it a low-key hangout – the location attracts New York’s beautiful people (and beautiful wait staff who can feel a little unapproachable at times). And the spectacular view at 230 Fifth can have a price tag to match, which is no surprise considering it is hot rooftop property. We’d say it is a perfect location for a couple of pre-dinner, or after work, drinks. But keep in mind that if you settle in for the evening, your bill will be rather exxy!
On the plus side, there is plenty of space on this rooftop, so if you arrive early enough you should be able to nab a table easily. We would recommend arriving as close to 5pm as possible if meeting for after work drinks. It is also around the corner from Eataly; can anyone say ‘gelato chaser’?
Hours: Open for drinks from 4pm until late, 7 days a week.
Photo credit: Anna McCrea
Northern Territory (12 Franklin St, Greenpoint)
Perfect for: Aussie factor, Manhattan skyline views
An AWNY rooftop bar list would certainly not be complete without mentioning one of our favorite Australian bars (which is themed accordingly) in the city. You’ve told us, and we can’t help agreeing, that the outdoor deck at the Northern Territory has one of the best views going from Brooklyn, not to mention one of the best vibes.
Grab an Australian or New Zealand beer, maybe accompanied by a meat pie, and head downstairs to the restaurant, once you’ve had a few, for an Aussie burger or fish & chips.
Hours: Monday to Friday 4pm to close, Saturday and Sunday 11am to close.
Photo credit: Northern Territory
Mr Purple (180 Orchard St, 15th Floor, Lower East Side)
Perfect for: cocktails with a view, cooling off (or heating up) in the pool, Manhattan and Freedom Tower views
This hip Lower East Side haunt, on the 15th floor of the Indigo Hotel, is a glamorous downtown spot to perch for a weekend afternoon of drinking in the sun. Each of the two terraces, on either side of a huge and funky interior space, will take your breath away with views of the Manhattan and Brooklyn skylines. But if you can’t decide between them and need some help, the terrace on the west side, with views up to the Empire State Building and down to Freedom Tower, also has a swimming pool for those who are in the habit of packing their swimming costumes along with their heels.
A line does form on the street outside the Indigo Hotel (which does not always seem to correspond to the space available in the bar) so we advise be prepared for a bit of a wait on those more perfect New York summer days.
Hours: 11am to various late closing times, 7 days a week.
Photo credit: Mr Purple
Refinery Rooftop (63 West 38th St, Midtown)
Perfect for: impressing visitors, live music, Empire State views
Located on the rooftop of the Refinery Hotel, the Refinery Rooftop complements its front row views of the Empire State Building with DJs and jazz performers throughout the week (check out the schedule on their website to see who is coming up).
It’s a popular spot, so our Facebook group suggests going for a first visit on a Tuesday or Wednesday and making an effort to get to know the hotel doorman. Alternatively, make a reservation online for a Friday or Saturday night (noting that there may be table minimums on certain dates).
Hours: Monday to Thursday: 11.30am to 1.00am, Friday: 11.30am to 3am, Saturday and Sunday 2pm to 1.00am.
Photo credit: Refinery Rooftop
Penthouse 808 (8-08 Queens Plaza South, Penthouse Level, Long Island City)
Perfect for: cocktails with a view, Hawaiian / Asian food, Queensboro Bridge and Manhattan views
Located on the Penthouse level of the Ravel Hotel in Long Island City, Penthouse 808 provides a gorgeous backdrop for you to revel in sweeping views of the Midtown Manhattan skyline and the Queensboro Bridge.
If you are tempted by the sound of soaking in the views while dining on Hawaiian and Asian inspired fare for dinner, brunching on a Sunday or simply sipping a well-made cocktail in the evening, there is no bad time to visit.
Hours: 5pm to 11pm, 7 days a week, and additionally Friday and Saturday from 11pm to 4am.
Photo credit: Penthouse 808
Metropolitan Museum of Art Rooftop Garden Café and Martini Bar (1000 5th Ave, 5th Floor, Upper East Side)
Perfect for: relaxing after a day at the gallery, early evening drinks, Central Park views
With perfect views over neighbouring Central Park, and unbeatable proximity to some of New York’s finest art, the Met’s fifth floor Rooftop Garden Café and Martini Bar is a perfectly civilized spot to wind down after a busy week, as you nurse a drink among rooftop sculptures on a Friday or Saturday evening.
Hours: (Through October, weather permitting) Martini Bar open Friday and Saturday: 5.30pm to 8.15pm.
Photo credit: Metropolitan Museum of Art Rooftop Garden Café and Martini Bar
Rare View (303 Lexington Ave, Murray Hill)
Perfect for: beer and sangria lovers, chill vibes, Empire State views
There is plenty of space on this Murray Hill rooftop, so in our experience there is typically no issue finding a great spot to perch while the friendly staff attends to your every need. We love this place as it gives rooftop dwellers a fabulous view of the Empire State Building with a price tag we can get behind – $10 sangria, $8 draft beers and $15 cocktails (though cocktail connoisseurs may be more impressed elsewhere).
Don’t be fooled if there is a line forming out front: the building only has one small elevator up to the roof, so be patient as the line moves up through the building, it is not necessarily packed out on top. Do keep in mind that if you head to the Rare View rooftop in daylight hours, there is limited shade, so this place does get a little toasty in the heat of summer.
Hours: 4.30pm to close weekdays, 5pm to close Saturdays. Closed Sundays.
Photo credit: Julia O’Brien
Tavern 29 (47 East 29th St, Midtown East)
Perfect for: craft beer, low-key vibe, drinking at lunch
Because we can’t be glamazons all the time, for something a little lower key head to the beer hall-style rooftop of Tavern 29 for some drinks after work, or a mid-week lunch. The rooftop is on the third floor of Tavern 29, nestled between two tall buildings, so it is a great place to go if you want to be outdoors but don’t want the sunburn or sweating to match (though for those after a tan, lunchtime would definitely be your best option here).
Photo credit: Tavern 29
O’Reilly’s Irish Pub (54 West 31st St, Korea Town)
Perfect for: happy hour, low-key vibe, drinking at lunch
Great for happy hour drinks, or lunch in the sun, O’Reilly’s Irish Pub is another low-key rooftop we love in the vicinity of Herald Square we love. Getting lots of sun, any time is a great time to head to this rooftop patio.
Photo credit: O’Reilly’s Irish Pub
Curated by the AWNY Communications Team, with input from AWNY’s Facebook group