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Europe's Best Rooftop Bars

08/27/2012 07:04 am ET | Updated Oct 27, 2012

The views from this new breed of European hotel rooftop bar are so good, you could even call your afternoon drinks "sightseeing." These chic rooftops are taking European cities' nightlife to new heights for locals and guests alike with decadent designs, master mixologists, and (of course) stellar city views. Soak in the skyline atop some of the continent-across-the-pond's poshest perches with a cocktail in hand. Here are our picks for the best hotel rooftop bars in Europe.

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Lisbon: BA Terrace at Bairro Alto Hotel
With its prime platform for surveying Lisbon's hilltop Bairro Alto district, the boutique Bairro Alto Hotel's sixth-floor BA Terrace offers a quiet oasis above the bustling bars, eateries, and live music venues below. Lounge music and comfy chaise chairs add to the relaxed atmosphere, perfect for soaking up the picture-perfect Portuguese capital, with its aging rooftops and flowing Rio Tejo.

Florence: SE-STO on Arno at Westin Excelsior
Newly reopened in May atop Florence's Westin Excelsior hotel (set in a former 13th-century mansion), the SE-STO on Arno rooftop restaurant and bar delivers peerless panoramas of a city silhouette defined by church spires, bell towers, romantic rooftops, and that iconic dome, spilling over still to the Arno River, Ponte Vecchio, and Tuscan hillsides. Indulge in carefully crafted cocktails or Italian wines for a traditional aperitivo in the lounge area or terrace, and stick around for the mouthwatering Mediterranean-inspired cuisine in the retro 1960s-inspired, glass-enclosed dining room.

London: Vista at The Trafalgar Hotel
Set on London's pulsating Trafalgar Square, The Trafalgar Hotel's stylish Vista rooftop bar is an A-list and hipster magnet. It more than doubled in size last year, offering more patrons optimized sixth-floor views over Nelson's Column, jutting up from the square below, and iconic London landmarks like Big Ben and the London Eye. Several cocktails get their ingredients from the newly installed Vista herb garden (opened in July)--couple an innovative blend (or one of the bar's wide range of spirits, wines, and beers) with a bite from the newly launched Graze menu, offering Mediterranean and North African cuisine.

Berlin: Roof Top Terrace at Hotel de Rome
Set in the history-rich Mitte neighborhood of Berlin, the Roof Top Terrace at the Hotel de Rome presents sweeping views of city rooftops and sights, the State Opera House, St. Hedwig's Cathedral, Berlin Cathedral, and the Television Tower, among them. Kick back on comfortable Dedon furnishings with a coffee, frappe, or milkshake in hand, or imbibe from the creative wine and cocktail menu, rich in Champagne-, vodka-, and fruit-based elixirs. Live bands amp up the atmosphere Wednesday through Saturday nights.

Moscow: O2 Lounge at Ritz-Carlton, Moscow
Survey Moscow's churches and historical buildings, including the Kremlin and radiant Red Square, from the Ritz-Carlton's lavish 12th-floor O2 Lounge. Set under a dramatic glass-and-steel dome, the design-heavy space-age-y lounge invites guests to see-and-be-seen, to puff away on crystal Hookah pipes, and to dance to the beat of top international DJs; an outdoor terrace serves as a dance floor on weekends. The cocktail list offers international and local favorites, whipped together with natural ingredients (like fresh-squeezed juices and berries); predictably for Russia, expect one of the world's largest vodka selections. Or, splurge on bottle of champagne and have select bottles opened with a saber upon request. (As you do.) Sustenance comes from the sushi bar, which sources ingredients from Tokyo's top fish markets.

Munich: China Moon Roof Terrace at Mandarin Oriental
Set on the eighth floor of Munich's Mandarin Oriental, the Asian-inspired China Moon Roof Terrace opened this May with a newly designed bar and menu. Up that high, you'll pair 360-degree panoramas of the twin domes of the Munich Cathedral, Parliament buildings, and Munich's alpine horizon with Asian and Mediterranean eats (created by a chef who has racked up some Michelin stars) and creative cocktails. Or pair those views with a daytime dip in the rooftop pool.

Paris: The 7th at Terrass Hotel
Perched on the seventh floor of the Montmartre neighborhood's Terrass Hotel is The 7th, a rooftop with a picture-perfect Parisian panorama, with views that sweep across the Seine to the Eiffel tower and beyond. Now in its second season, advance table reservations are recommended to secure one of the best seats in the house at this rooftop oasis--a surprisingly rare rooftop lounge in this city. In addition to delightfully handcrafted cocktails, a light fare menu features tapas, salads, and more.

Oslo: Q Lounge Rooftop Bar at First Hotel Grims Grenka
Brisk Norwegian temps might not be the natural breeding ground for the chic rooftop bar trend of other European capitals, but at the Hotel Grims Grenka in Oslo, the Q Lounge Rooftop Bar provides a design-savvy exception to the rule. Expect sleek Scandinavian minimalist design, with wooden platforms and furnishings, and plush white and red cushions and umbrellas. Sip cocktails and champagne under the midnight sun, while ogling Oslo's city center, including the Akershus Castle and Oslo Fjord. Friday and Saturday nights are more upbeat with live DJs; plus, the bar partners with area nightclubs for free admission for all bar guests in search of a happening post-party.

Prague: Terrace at Hotel U Prince
Take in Old Town Prague from the terrace at the opulent Hotel U Prince, with romantic vistas of Prague Castle, Old Town Square (and its picturesque Astronomical Clock Tower), the Powder Tower, Petrin Hill, and more. Specialty cocktails pair well with an eclectic international menu; just note that table reservations are taken for dining only. The fun continues through inclement weather and into the cooler winter months, too, when the terrace is covered and heaters are installed.

Madrid: The Roof at ME Madrid
Crowning the graceful architecture of the ME Madrid hotel, high above the buzzing tapas bars of Plaza Santa Ana below, The Roof--the ultra-chic brainchild of American nightlife impresario Rande Gerber--beckons trendsetters from near and far to its panoramic seventh floor perch. The coveted plush white daybeds and tables outdoors require reservations; an air-conditioned indoor lounge provides a respite from the rain--or heat. Show up early, or prepare to queue up with the rest of the beautiful people who flock here in droves.

-- Elissa Richard

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Photo courtesy of First Hotel Grims Grenka