When the French monk Dom Pérignon first perfected the process of making champagne in 1693, he famously likened the bubbly beverage to drinking the stars. The story may be apocryphal, but it’s still beautiful—and now you can have your stars and drink them, too, at one of San Francisco’s many rooftop bars.
Once a rarity in the city (blame the weather or the bevy of other drinking destinations), rooftop bars are experiencing a resurgence, many of them in hotels.
So read on to discover your new favorite perch in San Francisco and change your perspective on what a night out looks like.
This Mission hangout put San Francisco’s rooftop bars on the map, because it’s one of the first on the scene and continues to be one of the most beloved. Its popularity can translate into long lines, so plan to arrive before 5 p.m. if you don’t want to wait for a table. Because it is next door to both Bar Laszlo and Foreign Cinema, you have some stylish destinations to entertain you while you wait—or if that Mission sun turns to SF fog.
Voted one of the best rooftop bars in the U.S. by Condé Nast Traveler, Charmaine’s also happens to be one of Mayor London Breed’s favorite hangouts. Perched above Market Street in the Proper Hotel, Charmaine’s is a true rooftop bar with an all-day menu and cocktails from the people behind the famed drink list at Trick Dog in the Mission. Thanks to its special events like endless shakshuka Saturdays and DJ sets, you’ll always find something happening at Charmaine’s. Fire pits, elegant furniture and gorgeous cityscape views make you feel like you’re in the heart of a buzzing urban core.
The gorgeous, plant-filled space rooftop bar Cavaña opened in February on the 17th floor of the new Luma hotel. The Latin American-themed bar and restaurant offers expansive views and a cocktail list inspired by mezcal and agave in a beautiful setting anchored by leafy plants, handmade ceramics and fire pits.
Lower Nob Hill
Come for the outdoor vibes; stay for the drag brunch. Even though it's more terrace than rooftop, you won’t mind the lack of height at 620 Jones, given its sprawling footprint. The cocktails are creative and refreshing, and there are a total of three bars and a full food menu, with the chicken and waffles among customers’ favorite orders.
Enjoy tropical vibes and Nikkei-inspired cocktails at the sister restaurant to the Cow Hollow Kaiyō, a rooftop bar and restaurant on the 12th floor of the Hyatt Palace hotel. Once you've settled in, it’s difficult to extract yourself from this plant-filled oasis with sweeping views from the Bay Bridge to Sutro Tower. If it’s cold, you can warm up under a heat lamp or with a Peruvian toddy that features pisco and passionfruit honey.
At Rise Over Run, a rooftop bar and a glass-roofed solarium in one, gaze out on gorgeous views of the San Francisco skyline. With its fire pits and a menu of appetizers, this 13th floor hangout at the Line Hotel serves cocktails by Danny Louie of Mister Jiu’s fame in its classy, refined space that merges the outdoor with the indoor seamlessly.
To access this bar tucked away above Hotel Zelos on the fifth floor, you need to ask for a keycard to get swiped up to Dirty Habit, a clean and modern outdoor patio that has heat lamps and an expansive whiskey list. Gas fireplaces and leather sofas add to the elegant-yet-cozy vibes. Not the best for views, but perfect for ambience and fresh air.
Julie Zigoris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org