Few places have as much power to attract and inspire as a rooftop terrace, a retreat nearest the stars. You can escape the noise of the street and take a breath of fresh summer air with the city at your feet. It’s the ideal spot for special moments spent with friends or a romantic rendezvous, often with a 360-degree breathtaking view to enjoy as well. In short, it’s all good when it comes to “timeout” time on a rooftop terrace!

Throughout the ages, elevated living has fascinated people. It may be the myth of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon—one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World that has never been exactly located—that inspires so many architects. Although documented in the writings of several Greek and Roman authors, the gardens have yet to be excavated, despite the early 20th century discovery of suspected traces of the ancient city in southern Iraq. Nearly 2,500 years later, the famous French architect Le Corbusier made a rooftop garden one of the five pillars of modern architecture, which he expressed so sublimely in his plans for the top of the Cité Radieuse in Marseille. 

Hanging Gardens of Babylon (print after an 1880 woodcut by Sidney Barclay)

MY ROOF, MYSELF

As the world’s major cities become increasingly congested, agitated and noisy, the rooftop terrace provides a welcome way to escape the hustle and bustle of the busy streets. Space to build within cities is increasingly scarce and expensive, and so the roof serves as a sensible solution not only for individuals, but for hotels or restaurants as well. In northern regions, residents of major cities look forward to the opening of rooftop terraces, which marks the return of summer and all that warmer weather brings.

City dwellers often have little or no outdoor space. Adding a rooftop terrace full of sun, fresh air and greenery provides an ideal place in which to entertain or simply chill out, and is also a very wise real estate investment. Beyond being a pleasurable add-on to the summer lifestyle, a rooftop terrace can play a role in waterproofing and thermal insulation, which greatly increases the resale value of a property or business.

A TOUR OF THE WORLD’S "TERRASSES"

MONTREAL 

View of the Observation Deck Au Sommet Place Ville. Photo credit: jesuisunenfantterrible.com

Many terraces dot the Montreal cityscape. At the top of Place Ville Marie, enter the spectacular glass-enclosed terrace and enjoy the urban garden at any time, or dine at the Les Enfants Terribles bistro. If you're not a fan of skyscrapers, head to the Société des arts technologiques rooftop terrace for a drink or creative plate at its Labo culinaire, or “Culinary Lab.” The sprawling Complexe Sky, located in the heart of the gay village, culminates in an exceptional rooftop terrace. Is Old Montreal more your thing? For a chic ambiance, try the Place d'Armes Terrace; for a New York-style atmosphere, head to Terrasse Nelligan; and for an unobstructed view of the Old Port, the Jacques-Cartier Bridge and the fireworks, opt for Terrasse sur l'Auberge.

TORONTO

The Drake Hotel provides access to its roof and the Sky Yard. There may be a different theme every year, but a festive atmosphere can always be found.

CHICAGO

The rooftop terrace of Cindy’s Restaurant at the Chicago Athletic Association’s hotel. Photo credit: cindyrooftop.com

With a view that overlooks the famous Grant Park and facing Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate (the famous "Silver Bean") sculpture, Cindy’s Restaurant at the Chicago Athletic Association’s hotel is a timeless jewel in the heart of the Windy City. In 2015, it was installed in the Gothic architecture of a former sports club active from 1893 to 2007. Head to the summit and enjoy a cocktail or romantic dinner, or simply take in the spectacular view.

NEW YORK

High atop 230 Fifth Avenue, enter one of the four-season igloos for a drink with friends and enjoy a breathtaking view of the Empire State Building. And, in the Chelsea district the Hotel Americano’s 360-degree terrace includes a pool and stunning views of the Manhattan skyline.

DALLAS

Up on the roof at Joule, a luxurious neo-Gothic-style hotel, you’ll find a swimming pool, a part of which is cantilevered to float 10 storeys above street level.

PARIS

High atop the Centre National d’Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou, the Café Georges restaurant offers an exceptional view of Paris and the Sacré Coeur.

BARCELONA

The rooftop terrace of Casa Mila (La Pedrera) in Barcelona, a work by master architect Antoni Gaudi. Photo credit: Google

Hotel Pulitzer displays its eco-consciousness with a rooftop terrace done up in teak and bamboo and adorned with bird of paradise flowers and olive trees. The view overlooking the roofs of the capital, Catalonia, is magnificent. A must-see: the chimneys and winding staircases on the roof of Casa Milà, also known as La Pedrera, a building by master architect Antoni Gaudi.

LONDON

In the heart of the English capital, the ME Hotel's avant-garde terrace provides an extraordinary view of the city. Alternatively, opt for the Victorian atmosphere of Terence Conran's Boundary Hotel (founder of the Habitat shops) and its rooftop terrace with century-old olive trees. Or, take in the Kensington Roof Gardens and the themed plantings: Spanish Garden, Tudor Garden and English Woodland (open to the public free of charge).

FLORENCE

The rooftop terrace of Continentale Hotel. Photo credit: lungamocollection.com

On La Terrazza atop the Continentale Hotel, you can stop for a drink while watching the Arno River flow under the legendary Ponte Vecchio.

MUMBAI

At Aer Lounge on the roof of the Four Seasons Hotel, the view of the most populated city in India is truly vertigo-inducing. This futuristic terrace provides a striking contrast with life at ground level.

PHUKET

The rooftop of Sri Panwa Resort. Photo credit: sripanwa.com

Perhaps the most beautiful terraces in the world are found at the Sri Panwa Resort, along with luxury accommodations, gourmet cuisine, bar, lounge and a spectacular infinity pool. There, one may also appreciate a view overlooking the sparkling Andaman Sea.

FUKUOKA

The Acros Foundation building in Japan is a veritable urban jungle of layered green terraces and houses a remarkable cultural centre.

MELBOURNE

At 252 Swanston Street in the downtown area, go up on the roof to see the movie stars … under the stars at Rooftop Cinema.

JERUSALEM

The rooftop terrace of the Mamilla Hotel. Photo credit: mamilla.com

In the Old City, the Mamilla Hotel offers a rooftop terrace and a restaurant with 360-degree views of the historic district.