Nothing beats exploring an unknown city by foot, but we recommend taking the elevator to the rooftop.
From here, it all begins to make sense: how the streets fit together, where land touches sea. You spot ancient wooden junk boats and elephant herds — then turn around and order a drink. All this can happen at the spots listed here, where luxury is a given and the views are always spectacular.
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But don’t take our word for it — go see for yourself. The Hong Kong skyline at night can feel like your own private light show. And nothing can rival the thrill of getting sweaty on a dance floor overlooking St. Isaac’s Cathedral.
You won't want to leave these rooftops, but who could blame you. Linger a while longer and you just might see the sun peek over the red roofs of Old Town Dubrovnik.
Park Hyatt Sydney, Sydney, Australia
This elegant 155-room retreat has a stellar location going for it, along with some jaw-dropping views.
“You see the Sydney Opera House in constantly changing light,” said Lisa Lindblad, owner of Lisa Lindblad Travel Design in New York City, and the service, as one would expect, is truly top-notch. Clock in some pool time on the rooftop, where the Opera House looks so close you could reach out and touch it.
Grand Ferdinand, Vienna, Austria
One of few boutique hotels to boast its very own garden oasis, Grand Ferdinand lives up to its name with an infinity pool overlooking prestigious Ring Boulevard. Though not open to the public, the pool is worth the price of admission — bathrobes, towels and slippers are offered to guests free of charge. Nathalie Nagy, an agent with Protravel who lives part time in central Europe, said the outdoor dining experience is not to be missed.
Shoreditch House, London, England
What the bedrooms of this trendy boutique hotel lack in floor space its rooftop restaurant more than makes up for with sweeping views of east London and the city. Flooded with sunlight and adorned with lush greenery and lavender beds, the space adjacent to the pool feels like a hip greenhouse tucked away in the sky, said Greg Tepper, founder of Exeter International in Tampa, Florida.
InterContinental Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
Some say the location is the draw of this superb five-star luxury hotel; for Lynda Turley of Alpine Travel in Saratoga, California, it’s the dazzling rooftop view that’s the main attraction. The Kowloon side, with expansive views of Hong Kong Island, is “especially stunning at sunset,” she said, “when you can watch the lights of the city come alive.”
Hotel Stari Grad, Dubrovnik, Croatia
This eight-room boutique hotel offers arresting views of the stone streets and ancient red roofs that define the Old Town, said Tepper. Dinner at the romantic Above 5 Rooftop Restaurant is a must, but be sure to reserve in advance, as there are only 10 tables available.
Aria Hotel Budapest, Budapest, Hungary
Seated next to St. Stephen’s Basilica, this contemporary boutique hotel designed by Zoltan Varro features Neo-Baroque-style furnishings and the High Note SkyBar. One of the few rooftop bars to stay open year-round, SkyBar serves delicious small bites and cocktails, said Nagy of Protravel.
Grand Bretagne, Athens, Greece
This luxurious eight-story hotel offers a rooftop experience as indulgent as its regal interiors. The five-star GB Roof Garden Restaurant has first-rate views of the ancient Acropolis, bustling Syntagma Square and the Parliament, not to mention the original Olympic Stadium. Dinner at night is especially dreamy, said Turley of Alpine Travel.
La Sultana, Marrakech, Morocco
The views from this swanky rooftop demand to be seen, said Andrea Malis, a travel advisor with Camelback Odyssey Travel in Tucson, Arizona, especially at sunset, when you can hear evening prayers in the background. “Seeing the rooftops of Marrakech while hearing the sounds, smelling the spices and flavors cooking below and as the skies turn pink is an amazing experience,” she said.
The Silo, Cape Town, South Africa
London designer Thomas Heathwick added multi-faceted windows to the historic grain silo complex to give it the illusion of being slightly inflated. Six floors above Table Bay harbor, guests swim in an infinity pool and enjoy Sunday Roast served by chefs on carving trolleys in The Granary Café, said Lindblad.
The Alpina Gstaad, Bern, Switzerland
Guests feel as if they’ve entered a fairytale at the new 56-room Alpine retreat, said Lindbland. The pool supplies ample views of the German-speaking canton’s snow-capped mountains, rolling hills and red deer year-round. Don’t miss the Panorama Suite, where the lounge opens onto a large private terrace.
ol Donyo Lodge, Kenya
For unrivaled views of the plains near two popular national parks — Amboseli and Tsavo East — this 20-bed eco-lodge is hard to beat, said Turley. Rebuilt and redesigned in 2008 with help from the conservationists and filmmakers behind Great Plains Conservation, ol Donyo encourages guests to bike alongside giraffes and go on horseback safaris.