15 Al Fresco Bars in London for Summer Soirées

Did someone shout happy hour? Skip juggling pints on a pub pavement this summer and head to one of these top-notch drinking dens instead.

It only takes a marginal break in the clouds for Londoners to get straight on the "sun's out, guns out" booze bandwagon. While jugs of Pimm's, ice-cold pints and litres of rosé are as characteristic of British summertime as Wimbledon, finding an uncrowded spot for an early-evening tipple can be tricky, to say the least. Make sure you're not left jostling for space on a pub pavement by heading for one of these SUITCASE-approved watering holes instead.

Our pick of the 15 best sun-soaked al fresco bars in London

NORTH

bar

Heads + Tails

West Hampstead

Setting the city's cocktail scene aflutter, Heads + Tails' split personality makes for the best hangout in NW6. The brainchild of Will Partridge and Chris Dennis, this two-floor bar slots two entirely different vibes (plus an outdoor terrace) under one roof. On the ground floor, you'll find the airy Heads cocktail bar. Think walls splashed in shades of eggshell blue, plush, gold-laced bar stools and, centre stage, a long, turquoise-tiled bar. For a much more sultry set-up, slip downstairs to Tails, the sophisticated, lower-level bar - all wooden beams, exposed brick and matte-black walls, plus a lengthy list of short and stirred options. Or, for something light and fresh, sit outside and order the pearl martini.

Address

175 West End Ln, NW6 2LH

The Garden Gate

bar

The Garden Gate

Hampstead

After a long, lazy Sunday stroll across Hampstead Heath, a pub lunch is always in order. Our favourite spot to nurse wobbly legs? The spacious beer garden at The Garden Gate. Conveniently backing onto the heath itself, this is the place to enjoy Pimm's on tap and a huge selection of craft ales. If you don't own a dog, borrow one. You'll feel left out without a snoozing pooch at your feet in this countryside-esque stalwart.

Address

14 S End Rd, NW3 2QE

bar

The Albion

Islington

We can think of few more idyllic city activities than drinking and dining among the flowers in the hanging garden at this N1 beauty. Something of a local institution, the convivial spot might be at the top of many people's summer hit list, but remains no less desirable for it. Great food and good cocktails make it a mainstay for discerning sun-worshippers looking for an al fresco base camp.

Address

10 Thornhill Road, N1 1HW

EAST

bar

The Culpeper

Spitalfields

A short walk from Spitalfields Market, The Culpeper is the ideal hangout for post-work pints. With a verdant rooftop terrace practically touching the Gherkin, this is an East End boozer and then some. Everyone loves a seasonal food menu, but one that showcases ingredients picked straight from its own greenhouse? Don't tease us. To best enjoy the modern-English menu, come hungry and wash it all down with your pick of the flavour-packed tipples.

Address

40 Commercial Street, E1 6LP

bar

Netil360

Shoreditch

A regular on east London's summer scene, Netil360 offers more than just a place to kick back with your friends. Adopt its blue-sky policy with a visit to the on-site co-working space during the day, then, by night, savour heady beats, a hip crew and a revolving pizza menu. The best part? No bookings are required. We'll race you there.

Address

1 Westgate St, E8 3RL

Golden Bee Shoreditch

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Golden Bee

Shoreditch

When a bar as stylish as this one graces Shoreditch's Singer Street, it's bound to cause a stir. Subtle hints to its name come in the form of octagon-shaped mirrors and honey pots lining the walls - this is a hive where the hip and happening come to play. The setting sun burns the terrace amber, before outdoor fire pits are lit and DJs kick things off with house, R&B and soul tracks.

Address

Singer St, EC1V 9DD

bar

Dalston Roof Park

Dalston

This Dalston club venue is not the place to go if you're after a quiet one - be it because of the strength of the cocktails, the thumping audio system or the chiselled hipsters, an evening here always ends in mischief. Originally a community allotment, the astroturf-clad venue has recently installed a retractable roof, meaning you can pull up a deckchair and have a pint whatever the weather. Although it doesn't open until 2 June, it's worth the wait - trust us.

Address

The Print House, 18-22 Ashwin St, E8 3DL

bar

No. 35 Mackenzie Walk

Canary Wharf

A menu dedicated to gin? We're sold. The design of this place (and, yes, the name) is a giveaway that it's from the same team behind No.32 The Old Town and No.11 Pimlico Road. As the sun goes down, lounge on one of the heated waterfront seats while glugging down a fish-bowl-sized pink grapefruit-flavoured pomelo gin.

Address

29-35 Mackenzie Walk, E14 4PH

SOUTH

bar

Frank's Café

Peckham

You haven't truly visited this rooftop rite of passage unless you take a picture on the stairwell, which is London's answer to LA's pink wall. Set atop a multi-storey car park in Peckham, this is the perch to flock to for craft beers and cocktails, ox-heart kebabs and brown-sugar hot wings. The dusk skyline views rival that of Manhattan, so get down early: this place has the south London cool kids queuing round the block. FYI: Franks Café reopens for the summer season on Friday 20 May.

Address

7th-10th Floor, Peckham Town Centre Car Park, 95A Rye Ln, SE15 4ST

WEST

bar

The Prince

Hammersmith

This pub is unlike most in London. Part bar, part food market and part restaurant, it's arranged around a central dance floor and offers a plethora of food trucks to choose from. We're pegging The Prince as west London's hottest hangout (thanks to sunny days and charmed customers). The sunny spot comes from the same people who brought us Pergola on the Roof, and these guys really know how to deliver on a blissfully chic summer hideout.

Address

14 Lillie Rd, SW6 1TT

bar

The Waterside

Fulham

Within easy reach of Chelsea Harbour, The Waterside is perfect for a midweek brunch date. Head to the large, heated terrace - decorated in arresting shades of blue - to gaze across the Thames. Bag a seat on one of the sapphire-leather sofas, before ordering an extra-large pinot.

Address

Imperial Wharf, The Blvd, SW6 2SU

bar

The Crabtree

Fulham

A stone's throw from the legendary River Café, between the Hammersmith and Putney bridges, this chichi spot has a sombre, Victorian interior - though you'll hardly notice it, the main attraction being the enormous Thames-facing garden. Head here on a summer evening, find a spot beneath the weeping willow and gaze across to Barnes and the leafy London Wetland Centre.

Address

Rainville Rd, W6 9HA

CENTRAL

Dalloway Terrace

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Dalloway Terrace

Bloomsbury

Named after Virginia Woolf's character Mrs Dalloway, this venue's dreamy interiors channel all the elegance and charm that the eponymous character lacked. Outside - which is doable come rain or shine, thanks to weather-protecting foliage and heaters - attentive staff ensure five-star service, making it a good spot for a date. Set in the literary heart of London, this is the kind of place your parents would love, too.

Address

16-22 Great Russell St, WC1B 3NN

bar

Lyaness

South Bank

Ryan Chetiyawardana continues to reign over the British bar scene. Located on the ground floor of South Bank's swish Sea Containers London is the seductive Lyaness. It can be a challenge to find a setting whose interiors are as impressive as its menu offering, but not so here, where electric-blue furnishings complement an enormous marble bar. Special occasion on the horizon? Check out the Spirited Tea slots, during which cocktails embellished with rose petals are a highlight of a classic afternoon tea.

Address

20 Upper Ground, SE1 9PD

bar

34 Mayfair

Mayfair

Looking for a wild drinking session? You'll find it at 34 Mayfair, where past tricks have included a dine-in bauble grotto, levitating Boris Johnson dolls (seriously) and floral extravaganzas that would put the Chelsea Flower Show to shame - even the menu looks like an entry to the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition. Decor aside, the spirits here are something to scream about. We suggest ordering the something tropical colada: one gulp and you'll be (mentally) transported straight to the Caribbean.

Address

34 Grosvenor Sq (entrance on South Audley St), W1K 2HD

This article was updated on 18 May 2022.

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