London’s best rooftop bars & terraces with killer Thames-side views

As Londoners, we often take for granted how impressive the Thames really is. Soak up the river’s grandeur in style at one these rooftop dining spots or terrace restaurants that offer dynamite views of one of the most iconic cityscapes there is… 

Photo: 12th Knot at Sea Containers

Bar Elba is a huge rooftop terrace in Waterloo with great cocktails and street food. Photo: Bar Elba

1 Bar Elba, Waterloo 

This vast rooftop across from Waterloo Station – reached by climbing one heck of a flight of stairs – added a new mezzanine year, boosting its capacity from from 375 people to 600 people and bolstering its panoramic views across London. The vibrant rooftop bar, which takes Napoleon’s hedonistic exile to the Mediterranean island of Elba as its inspiration, is ideal for long evenings of cocktails, with pop-up music, food and drink events. 

Mercury House Rooftop, 109-117 Waterloo Road SE1 8UL; bar-elba.co.uk 

2 OXO Tower Bar, South Bank 

Eight floors up at the OXO Tower Bar is a fantastic 200ft Thames-side terrace serving cocktails and bar snacks – it’s a great spot for a cocktail and a bite while overlooking the Thames and the iconic London skyline. Summertime means sassy collaborations, like last year’s St-Germain Summer in Bloom terrace. This year the venue is offering a three-course menu and a cocktail for less than £40, and have teamed up with Beluga vodka for some quaffable cocktails. 

Barge House Street, South Bank SE1 9PH; harveynichols.com 

3 The Ivy, Tower Bridge 

The Ivy Tower Bridge offers accessible, sophisticated all-day dining with a Parisian-style alfresco terrace that seats 50 and directly overlooks the Thames and Tower Bridge. The modern British menu is all-encompassing including breakfast, elevenses, lunch, afternoon tea, weekend brunch, light snacks, cocktails and dinner. Should the weather turn, you can retreat indoors and still enjoy the same lovely views through the floor-to-ceiling windows. 

One Tower Bridge SE1 2AA; theivytowerbridge.com 

4 12th Knot at Sea Containers London, South Bank 

After a year’s hiatus due to the pandemic, 12th Knot at Sea Containers London has partnered up with Bombay Sapphire and Fever-Tree to reopen with the Sunset Series, a programme of live music and gin-based cocktails – one of the ultimate tipples for a sundowner. A range of sharing and grazing plates are also on offer, including ceviche tacos, oysters and charcuterie boards. Also on at 12th Knot is Spritz Before Six, where you can try the £10 Fiver Tree Spritz Menu with small bites for two. Running until September, it’s on every other Wednesday.

20 Upper Ground, South Bank SE1 9PD; seacontainerslondon.com 

5 Art Yard Bar & Kitchen, Bankside 

Art Yard Bar & Kitchen, the design led all-day dining restaurant and bar in London’s Bankside Hotel, has a great terrace perfect for long, sunny evenings. For this summer, the team have partnered with El Rayo agave tequila for modern Mexican-inspired evenings. The drink of the day here is the tequila and tonic,  with a wedge of grapefruit for extra zing, a refreshing libation designed to be savoured slowly, rather than just shotted down and hoping for the best. The kitchen are serving up small plates including the Latin American classic, ceviche.

Art Yard, 2 Blackfriars Road SE1 9JU; artyardbarandkitchen.com 

6 Southbank Centre Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden 

Most South Bank amblers don’t even know it’s there, but The Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden, designed by the Eden Project and maintained by Grounded EcoTherapy gardeners, is an excellent find. With plenty of leafy greenery including a wildflower meadow, mini allotments, alongside riverside views and a cafe-bar, it’s one a great spot in the sun. The Riverside Terrace outside the Royal Festival Hall is a great summer spot for a quick drink too, but it can be tricky to find a table. 

Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road SE1 8XX; southbankcentre.co.uk 

Mezemiso has great views over Westminster and a shisha and cigar terrace. Photo: Mezemiso

7 Mezemiso at Crowne Plaza London – Albert Embankment 

Perched on the 15th floor of the Crowne Plaza London – Albert Embankment and blessed with panoramic views over the River Thames and the Houses of Parliament, Mezemiso brings together Japanese and Lebanese cuisine. Mezemiso’s Cigar and Shisha Terrace occupies one of the most desirable spots in the restaurant. With an extensive cigar and shisha menu to match the unparalleled Westminster view, the 20-seat outdoor terrace is a great spot to try Mezemiso’s signature cocktails. 

10-11 Albert Embankment SE1 7TP; crowneplazalondonalbertembankment.co.uk

8 Tavolino, Riverside

The terrace of Tavolino, a neighbourhood Italian restaurant and bar offers a smashing view of the majestic Tower Bridge – you could bask in that view for days. It also offers a sweeping view of the Thames including HMS Belfast, which could be an option if you want to escape the bustle along the bank. The upstairs dining area also offers the same spectacular vista. Currently, the venue has a summer drinks and food menu, inspired by the Capri coast, featuring cocktails by Italicus.

2 More London Riverside, SE1 2DB; tavolino.co.uk