Like Sir Edmund Hillary scaling Mount Everest “because it's there,” every summer hordes of pale-faced Chicagoans make their ascent upwards toward the heavens. Only instead of searching for adventure and glory, they're searching for booze and vitamin D. But that doesn't make the accomplishment any less significant, does it? Not when you're doing it right at Chicago's 17 finest rooftop bars. It's why you live here.
If you're sick of the same old Downtown rooftop scene, this happening spot 13 floors above the Hotel Lincoln offers a welcome respite as well as massive lake views unobstructed by Lincoln Park if you'd rather look at trees than buildings. With a retractable roof and an excellent patty melt, this always-cool option named after one of Lincoln's bodyguards has quickly become as essential a Chicago summer tradition as drinking in the sun.
It's the best bar in the Loop, not to mention one of the city's most beautiful. So yeah, by now you know all about the stunning top-floor oasis atop the Chicago Athletic Association and its most Insta-worthy view overlooking Millennium Park. But that doesn't make you want to go there any less, now does it?
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If the thought of partying near a hospital doesn't get you all hot and bothered, this 18th floor oasis atop Northwestern Memorial Hospital is here to make you frisky anyways. Sample the Irish American-styled cocktail menu featuring drinks inspired by shady local characters with off-duty doctors and nurses (we think they're off-duty?) while taking in the massive panoramic views.
While we're still lamenting the long-ago passing of the once great late-night dive Life’s Too Short, its EDM-laced replacement does a more than worthy job keeping the good times rolling with a swanky Miami-style deck overlooking the Chicago River. Regale the eyecandy-licious servers with tall tales of partying backstage with Afrojack before renting a pontoon boat for a booze cruise on the river from the dock below the bar.
If partying with tourists lost on their way to Uno Pizzeria isn't exactly your idea of a sweet-ass time, head up from Rock Bottom's more touristy ground level to discover a little-known, laid-back patio tailor made for drinking Rock Bottom beers while watching the Cubs demolish the latest competition on the bar screens.
Granted it's possible to speak of anything related to Trump Hotel without invoking its small-handed human orangutan of a namesake. But don't let politics get in the way of a good time at this beautiful, airy playground for the well-dressed and the well-heeled. In other words, make happy hour... great again? Stop by on Wednesdays and Saturdays after Memorial Day to watch the fireworks.
While probably more restaurant than bar, Fountainhead makes the list by virtue of one of the most pleasant rooftops in the city. Yeah, we said pleasant. Got a problem with that? Well let's sort it out over a few of the 150+ whiskies or 27 beers on tap, including two hand-pulled casks. Also pleasant? Your buzz.
Like your good buddy who can always be counted on to drive you home from the bar or bail you out of jail, ZED451 can always be relied on for an all-around solid Chicago rooftop experience with everything you need in the form of drinks, a sociable crowd, and killer downtown views. Also, the gingered bourbon lemonade is what summer is all about.
Are you tired of reading articles about the best Chicago rooftop bars and always seeing Drumbar? Well too bad, because the near-unanimous accolades exist for a reason. Several, actually. Like some of the finest cocktails in the city, a sexy 18th floor vibe above the Raffaello Hotel, and a ridic outdoor lounge with primo views of the lake and downtown. Grab a seat and stay a while or, what the hell, grab a room and keep the party going.
Refreshingly less chic than your typical downtown rooftop, this affable and unpretentious space of family-style seating, turquoise banquets, and coffered ceilings is a casual hangout for ordering up the house-ground Bernie's cheeseburger paired with sangria cocktails on tap or “untranslatable” cocktails named after English words that don’t exist. One thing you can pronounce? $3 Hamm’s, available during happy hour from 4-7pm Mon-Fri.
Is it possible to attend a place called Raised An Urban Rooftop Bar without putting your arms in the air to declare your intent to “raise the roof?” If you're not a total creep, it's actually pretty easy. It's also easy to love this just-opened stunner on the third floor of the newly renovated Renaissance Chicago that has turned a formerly unused meeting space into a gleaming indoor/outdoor rooftop deck with urban gardens, wine on tap, and sexy VIP areas for sipping in seclusion.
There's no better place to get weird with the after-work crew than 24 floors above the Hyatt Centric. If you're looking for all-encompassing views of the city and Chicago-style hot dog sliders, the answer is no. Order up a Daisy Cutter on tap or My Kinda Town whiskey cocktail while relaxing on comfy sofas underneath playful umbrellas to ruminate on another day at the office with Janice from accounting.
Somehow slipping under the radar on the 26th floor of the Virgin Hotel, Cerise’s posh flagship terrace wraps around three sides spanning the full width of the hotel. With offbeat art and DJs spinning under twinkling lights inside, this newish space brings a slice of laid-back LA chic to the Loop aided by pitchers of rum punch and one of the finest house gimlets in all of the land. Also, sparkling sake. Do it.
If you don't love the delightful rooftop patio above this equally delightful Lincoln Square sausage shop, you might not be human (or at least not from Chicago). With communal wooden tables and an abundance of greenery, this relaxing European-style spot is the perfect place to tackle plates of goulash and 40+ types of smoked sausage while seeing how many beers and wines you can ingest on a Sunday afternoon before dialing into work “sick.”
The 26th floor of the Dana Hotel is another mandatory addition to any rooftop roundup thanks to DJs spinning house, top 40, and live remixes amidst party accessories that may or may not include an outdoor fire pit, buckets of beer, and bottles of Cristal. If you're one of those people lamenting the seasonal loss of the winter ice luge, not to worry: there's plenty of shenanigans to last all year.
Pretty much the antithesis of the oft-pretentious Downtown rooftop scene, this little neighborhood gem is “where neighbors become friends.” In this case it's not just a self-aggrandizing web site slogan, it's true, especially when you throw in 130 beers, free Wii and shuffleboard, and sandwiches named after Steve Martin. As if you didn't already know this wasn't your typical rooftop scene, they also host monthly bingo.
No lineup of rooftop bars in Chicago is complete without the inclusion of ROOF on theWit. It's as essential to the Chicago rooftop scene as a White Castle slider atop your Bloody Mary. In other words, not very. But still nice to have as well as having live DJs, runway shows, and a retractable roof.
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1. The J. Parker1816 N Clark St Fl 13, Chicago
2. Cindy's12 S Michigan Ave, Chicago
3. GreenRiver259 E Erie St Fl 18, Chicago
4. ESTATE Ultra Bar1177 N Elston Ave, Chicago
5. Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery1 W Grand Ave, Chicago
6. The Terrace at Trump521 N Rush St, Chicago
7. Fountainhead1970 W Montrose, Chicago
8. ZED451739 N Clark St, Chicago
9. Drumbar201 E Delaware Pl, Chicago
10. Bernie's Lunch & Supper660 N Orleans St, Chicago
11. Raised: An Urban Rooftop Bar1 W Wacker Dr, Chicago
12. AIRE100 West Monroe St., Chicago
13. Cerise203 N Wabash, Chicago
14. Gene’s Sausage Shop4750 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago
15. Vertigo Sky Lounge2 W Erie St, Chicago
16. The Garage Bar & Sandwiches6154 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago
17. Roof on the Wit201 N State St, Chicago
If you’re sick of the same old downtown rooftop scene, this happening bar on the 13th-floor of Hotel Lincoln is a welcome respite with massive views of Lincoln Park and Lake Michigan. Serving excellent food (like an eponymous patty melt on marble rye) and a rotating list of speciality cocktails, The J. Parker -- named after one of President Lincoln's bodyguards -- is a warm weather must.
Cindy’s is one of the most beautiful restaurants in the Loop with views of Millennium Park and Lake Michigan, but underneath its glass dome ceiling atop the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel it doesn’t simply rely on its looks. Cindy’s has a host of gifted bartenders who whip up unexpected “potions” like the Alsatian Rustbelt (made with Del Maguey Vida mezcal, Wolfberger Amer Fleur de Joie, lagunitas, and lime) that complement its upscale, seafood-forward menu. At brunch the egg dishes, like the cast iron-made quiche with chard, leeks, and gooey emmental, are buttery and light, and at dinner the shellfish platter and the grilled salmon with horseradish crème fraîche are both rich but pleasantly light ... but the late night fried cheese curds might be the sexiest thing on the menu.
Between its stunning views of the city skyline and Lake Michigan, an Irish American-informed cocktail menu, and inventive dishes like white fish tartine with egg, radish, and celery, and sturgeon with bean ragout, turnip, and kale, there’s much to love about this swanky Streeterville spot. The space is streamlined, airy, and modern, boasting an attached terrace complete with plush seating prime for lounging over whiskey-infused cocktails.
Claiming to be Chicago’s biggest al fresco rooftop, ESTATE Ultra Bar is the ideal Noble Square destination for those looking to sip with a scenic view and trendy ambience. While food is available in the way of New American light fare, the focus here is on the drinks, as the bar slings cocktails with “skinny” variations for the health-conscious and craft brews for the bros who throw down. If you’re unwilling to peel your eyes from the sweeping views of the Chicago River, there’s bottle service to boot.
If partying with tourists lost on their way to Pizzeria Uno isn’t exactly your idea of a sweet-ass time, head up from Rock Bottom’s more touristy ground level to discover a lesser known, laid-back patio tailor made for drinking Rock Bottom beers while watching the Cubs demolish the latest competition on the large bar screens.
Another special occasion spot with out-of-this-world unobstructed views, the Terrace at Trump is pretty spectacular when it comes to looking points of Chicago. The unrestrained views of the river, lake, and city peer through the skyscrapers and over the bridges, creating an awe-inspiring feeling of depth in a city oasis. Note: you’re paying for the view and the venue, not the drinks, so opt for wine over cocktails. Also, having a Lobster Maitake Roll and the K-Chick Steam Bun can't hurt.
This Ravenswood tavern is a mahogany-ensconced destination for craft beer and beer-focused comfort cuisine (burgers, fried chicken, steak frites). The beer list, which features a mix of local gems and international brews, is always fantastic, and there's an equally robust selection of whiskey if you're looking for something a little stronger. During the warmer months, the rooftop garden is always happening.
Housed in a mammoth, blonde-wooded former churrascaria, ZED's a "contemporary steakhouse" that swipes Brazil's shining achievement: tableside all-you-can-eat rotisserie.
Not only is Drumbar one of the sexiest rooftop lounges in Chicago, the 18th-floor bar atop the Raffaello Hotel has a brag-worthy selection of whiskey, scotch, bourbon, and cognac. The sleek spot has a cozy den-meets-gentlemen's club decor with dark leather couches, wood-paneled walls, and a marble bar. During the summer, the seasonal outdoor patio makes it even more of an after-work drinking destination near the Magnificent Mile.
Bernie's brings Mediterranean style flavors together with seasonal vegetables & sustainable meats for their menus. The name may only say lunch & supper, but keep an eye out for their brunch and wine menus.
What was once an unused meeting space in downtown's Renaissance Chicago Hotel is now an indoor/outdoor rooftop bar. The third-floor lounge serves bar snacks and shareable plates alongside cocktails, tap or bottled wine, and local Chicago beers. Raised offers impressive views of the Chicago River, and the outdoor space is equipped for chilly nights with space heaters and fire pits.
There's no better place to get weird with the after-work crew than 24 floors above The Hyatt Centric. If you’re looking for all-encompassing views of the city and ridiculous seafood towers, the answer is no. Order up bottle service or a Ghostface Killah rum cocktail while relaxing on comfy sofas underneath playful umbrellas to ruminate on another day at the office with Janice from accounting.
Perched atop the swanky Virgin Hotel Chicago is the even swankier rooftop bar, Cerise. The sweeping space spans the full width of the hotel and comes equipped with a terrace that wraps around three sides. Stop by for drinks and the shareable Izakaya inspired snacks including “hot mame” edamame with bacon and ghost pepper, beef short rib sliders and Hamachi sashimi.
If you don’t love the delightful rooftop patio above this equally delightful Lincoln Square sausage shop, you might not be human (or at least not from Chicago). With communal wooden tables and an abundance of greenery, this relaxing European-style spot is the perfect place to tackle plates of goulash and 40+ types of smoked sausage while seeing how many beers and wines you can ingest on a Sunday afternoon before dialing into work “sick.”
On the 26th floor of the Dana Hotel, this rooftop lounge is one of the best party spots in the Chicago hotel bar scene. In the winter, Vertigo turns into an indoor/outdoor ice bar where you can do necessary winter drinking activities like take shots on an ice luge. The rest of the year, it returns to its ultra-luxe penthouse vibe with DJs, bottles of Cristal, buckets of beer, and an outdoor fire pit.
The Garage Bar & Sandwiches is a gastropub offering 130 beers, free Wii, shuffleboard, and sandwiches named after Steve Martin. It doesn't stop there-- the industrial venue also includes a roof deck. Yes, there is no heat. And yes, service may be limited. But the patio at this Norwood Park neighborhood gem doesn’t officially close in the winter, which means you can keep going up there for as many winter months as you can handle it.
Do you like models, bottle service, and DJs? If so, theWit's rooftop lounge is for you. More than just a glitzy bar, the 27th-floor hotspot features a retractable roof (it's open year-round, after all), a 3D video-mapping wall, and a sleek bar that turns into a runway. The food and drink menu is equally fit for a glam squad, serving up flatbreads, seafood towers, fancy craft cocktails, and punch bowls.