Perched just above Kensington High Street in the middle of leafy West London, Kensington Roof Gardens offers 1.5 acres of green glory spread out over three separately themed garden areas high up on the 7th floor. The Babylon terrace offers vistas as well as some delicious dining options and sophisticated drinks menu, while the Spanish Garden is based on the Alhambra in Granada and has a distinctly Moorish flavour to it. Colourful British plants and flowers merge with Mediterranean trees to give the garden a Spanish feel that will lift your spirits though the harsh London winters. You can also wander through the grand Tudor Garden, comprising three courtyards with red brick walls and decorated with black and white flowers only. Finally the English Woodland is home to thousands of British native plant species, as well as ancient trees such as the American Red, Mulberry Tree and Japanese maple. With Mandarin and Carolina Wood Ducks and four resident flamingos, you won’t even feel like you’re in the same hemisphere, let alone still in the centre of London.
For some sunset respite from the frantic shopping on Oxford Street, Aqua Spirit benefits from an outstanding and historic location in what was the Dickens and Jones store overlooking the very heart of the city, yet miles away from the noise and traffic below. A glam cocktail bar with a roof terrace, Aqua Spirit is one of the chicest spots to be on a warm London summer evening. The bar itself is dominated by a striking circular counter of hand-crafted charcoal, which is symbolic of Zen purity, befitting somehow of their high-end, flora-inspired cocktail list: an Iron Lotus combines vodka, chilli, papaya and blood orange, while the decadent Rose and Li – a mix of Champagne, lychee, rose liqueur and a flowering rose bud – will transport you to Eastern lands of mystique and mystery.
For some truly breathtaking vistas – and arguably the best of St. Paul’s Cathedral – from one of Europe’s largest public open-air roof terraces, head to the Madison Bar at the top of the One New Change building just behind St. Paul’s. With superlative panoramic views of South London, the Madison enjoys a unique vantage point from which you can also spot the London Eye, the Tate Modern and the Shard.
The rooftop bar at Bird of Smithfield near the Barbican in Farringdon occupies just one level of this five-storey establishment, offering summertime BBQs, cocktails, craft beers and an impressive wine selection, plus it stays open late into the night. With the exclusive feel of a Members’ Club, this one is resolutely nothing of the sort, yet manages to still feel unexpectedly luxurious with a relaxed atmosphere and comfortable decor. Chef-proprietor Alan Bird has headed the kitchen at The Ivy, so it’s no surprise the food menu also reflects a particular kind of inventive yet trustworthy British flair.
Just a few minutes from Charing Cross, the Carpenter’s Arms Roof Garden is a soon-to-be-let-loose secret in the heart of the West End. The bar has the look and feel and friendliness of your neighbourhood local, except it’s smack bang in the city centre and is in fact a listed building with a gem of a rooftop terrace for sunny summer evening drinking. If the weather isn’t on your side, the patio is partly covered and heated, or for the truly tremulous, comfy sofas, booths and armchairs await you downstairs. Recline, relax, read the paper, play a board game or just engage in conversation with whoever happens to be your neighbour for the night.
Now you know where to head to on your spring and summer city trips to London, with every hotel Piccadilly perfectly located for reaching them all.