(Visit London Blog, 5 Jul 2013)
When the sun is out in London, the city comes alive – and the last place you want to be is indoors. As well as rooftop cinemas, London is home to some amazing rooftop gardens. And with amazing views over the capital, it still counts as sightseeing – even if you are sipping a cocktail at the same time!
The Roof Gardens
The Roof Gardens are located 100 feet above Kensington High Street and are in a word: incredible. There are three lush gardens in total spreading over 1.5 acres: the Spanish Garden, based on the Alhambra in Granada; Tudor Garden, with sweet-smelling roses, lilies and lavender; and English Woodland, home to four flamingos. The gardens are free to enter – but call in advance to check there’s no private event booked in. Alternatively, reserve a table in the award-winning Babylon restaurant, which looks over the English Woodland Garden, for a feast of fresh, seasonal British cuisine.
Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden Cafe/Bar
Many people walk along London’s Southbank in search of a café without realising there’s one above their heads: the Roof Garden Cafe/Bar perched on top of the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Designed by the Eden Project, it boasts amazing views over the river Thames, plus a café/bar, allotment, fruit trees and wild flowers. Pop in for a lunchtime sandwich, afternoon sweet treat or evening cocktail.
Amid the hubbub of London’s historic financial district sits the oasis that is Coq d’Argent. Far from the madding crowds below, you can enjoy classic French cuisine al fresco on the restaurant’s outdoor terraces. There is also additional seating in its landscaped garden, with fantastic views over the old and new architecture of the City of London.
Dalston Roof Park
With a café, bar, public barbecue, volunteer-managed garden and solar panels (which power the building), Dalston Roof Park is an eco-friendly haven in this hip and happening corner of east London. Before you go, check the events calendar and sign up for membership on the Dalston Park website. It’s only £3 and the money goes towards the charity behind the park, Bootstrap Company.
Japanese-style garden at SOAS
SOAS is London’s renowned School of Oriental and African Studies, so it’s not surprising its rooftop garden (atop the Brunei Gallery) nods to Japanese culture. While you’ll find few plants beyond creeping wisteria and lemon thyme, the bespoke design and stone arrangements make it a calm, peaceful spot – perfect for meditation or some thinking time. Look out for the Kanji character, meaning forgiveness, engraved on the garden’s granite water basin.