San Francisco has a reputation for foggy weather and biting winds, so it’s fair to say it’s not a city that’s well-known for its rooftop scene. But on those sunny days, nothing quite beats drinking al fresco – particularly when you can match it with birdseye views of the city. From iconic penthouse cocktail bars to edgy second-storey roof decks, here are our top picks for the best rooftop bars in San Francisco
The Best Rooftop Bars in San Francisco
1. El Techo
San Francisco’s beloved El Techo is located on top of the Lolinda Steakhouse in the heart of the Mission District – and it serves up some of the best sunsets in the city. It’s popular year-round too, thanks to a retractable roof and heaters. It goes without saying that the food is good here, but the cocktails are delicious. You can order them in pitchers, filled to the brim with creative concoctions like the ‘Tres Amigos’, made with sangria, grappa, lager and Mi Campo Blanco. Need we say more?
2. Dirty Habit
A rooftop bar with sparkling views this is not. Located on the fifth floor of the Hotel Zelos, the terrace at Dirty Habit is surrounded by much taller buildings so the chances of sneaking a peek at the San Fran skyline are nill. But that doesn’t matter here. The intimate hideaway features a menu of creative cocktails like the ‘Liquid Gift, made with tequila and chilli liqueur, served up in vintage glasses. With over 300 varieties of brown spirits from across the world, you’re bound to find a new tipple of choice. Plus the food is delightful – think bbq short rib with Asian pickles and thick-cut fries, asparagus in olive crumbs and blistered shisito peppers.
Heaters and firepits keep punters toasty all-year-round too.
Oeste is a laid-back rooftop bar serving up tasty food and a comprehensive drinks list. Located in Oakland, a quick trip on the BART train from San Francisco, it boasts beautiful bay side views. Inside it’s all exposed brick and sophisticated chandeliers, with a bar that takes up nearly one entire wall. The outdoor terrace is equally as charming, with decking, big comfy sofas and umbrellas to combat the sun (or rain). This is soul food at its best, with dishes like ‘shrimp and grits’, chorizo hash and southern-inspired macaroni cheese.
Best of all is the eight-hour-long daily happy hour, which includes wines, beers and cocktails.
Achingly-hip Property Hotel has an achingly-hip rooftop bar to match. Swanky Charmaine’s offers up sophisticated cocktails created by local mixology agency The Bon Vivants, with seven different cocktails in seven city-inspired categories to reflect San Francisco’s 7×7 size. Don’t miss The Unsinkable Sam, made with Jack Daniel’s, Campari, ginger beer, lager, grapefruit and lemon. They also offer a tantalizing menu of light bites, with crowdpleasers including pork belly skewers and pretzel rolls.
The stylish rooftop deck sits 120-foot (36 metres) above Market Street, with city skyline views.
Jones is one-of-a-kind. It’s only on the second storey, so it won’t be winning any awards for views but it could do for ambience. It’s the largest rooftop bar in San Francisco, with a beautiful open-air terrace decked out with fairy lights, potted plants and neon inspirational signs. Plus, it’s heated. The cocktails range from the classic (Manhatten’s and Bees Knees) to the creative (Don Juglio slushy, we’re looking at you). There’s a happy hour too, with $5 wines and cocktails and $3 beers from 4pm til 6pm.
And, even though it may be diminutive in stature, you can still get food views of the Transamerica Pyramid and the TL below. There’s also a popular weekend brunch with bottomless mimosas and breakfast martinis.
Rooftop25 offers casual, elevated cocktails right in the heart of the SoMa neighbourhood. There’s a playful menu with classic and frozen cocktails, bottled Pina Coladas and an extensive winelist. Save space for food too, with pizzas, handmade burgers and pretzel hot dogs straight from the wood-fired oven.
Outside there are communal tables, glass windscreens for windy days and heat lamps, so you can enjoy the rooftop on the frostiest of evenings. Head here for sundown for the best sunset views over the city.