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Each hotel is being equally honored in no particular order.

There is just something about a rooftop bar and a fabulous view. Especially when a tall, dark-haired Italian is rolling by with a tiramisu cart. I don’t even like tiramisu, but at this rooftop table for two at  JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa’s Sagra — known for both its authentic Italian cuisine and spectacular sunsets over the water — everything looks, feels, and yes, even tastes different. Succumbing to the charming pastry chef who insists his handcrafted dessert will forever change my mind, I take a spoonful of the delicate lady fingers soaked in fresh-brewed coffee and topped with crème and liquor, and I am an instant believer. Whether the tiramisu is truly superb or it is the ambiance of being high on a rooftop with a magical sunset water view over Venice, I will never know for certain. But my guess is a little of both. Following are the very best sexy rooftop bars and lounges we loved this year.

Aroma, Palazzo Manfredi, Rome, Italy

aroma rooftop at palazzo manfredi in rome italy
Image courtesy of Palazzo Manfredi

Located on the top floor of the five-star Palazzo Manfredi, a 17th-century palace hotel owned by Italian counts (and brothers) Goffredo and Leonardo Ceglia Manfredi, the Aroma terrace and restaurant offers the postcard-perfect view of Rome: an up close, direct view of the Colosseum.  The gastronomic experience by Michelin Chef Giuseppe Di Iorio is just as dazzling. His menu, featuring locally sourced ingredients, focuses on the tastes and traditions of classic Italian cuisine, while the cellar selections by sommelier Alessandro Crognale focus on Champagne and over 600 different labels.

Nubeluz, Ritz-Carlton, NYC

Located on the 50th floor of the Ritz-Carlton, New York, NoMad, Nubeluz — which in Spanish translates to cloud (“nube”) and light (“luz”) — is literally a lightbox in the sky. Offering stunning, 270-degree city views and modern interpretations of classic cocktails, this vibey rooftop bar is the brainchild of renowned chef and humanitarian José Andrés. Opt for a signature Salt Air Margarita (milagro blanco tequila, combier orange, lime, salt air) and small plates of oysters, lobster rolls, caviar, and grilled cheese. 

Rhinoceros Rooftop, Rome, Italy

rhinoceros rooftop in rome italy
Image Courtesy of Rhinoceros Rooftop

For a panoramic view of the Eternal City, move over to Manfredi’s sister rooftop terrace at Palazzo Rhinoceros — Alda Fendi’s art palace (dating back to 1600). The youngest of Edoardo Fendi’s five daughters, purchased the building in 2012 and worked with French architect Jean Nouvel to transform it into a space where contemporary art meets ancient history. The newly opened  rooftop terrace (2023) celebrates Roman culinary tradition under the guidance of Michelin Chef Di Iorio; while the lounge bar reflects the creative aesthetic of mixologist master, Christian Comparone.

ISSEI Rooftop at Radisson Collection Hotel Santa Sofia Milan, Italy

issei rooftop at radisson collection hotel santa sofia milan, italy
Courtesy of Radisson Collection Hotel Santa Sofia Milan

Forget that as an American the name Radisson Hotel doesn’t remind you of 5-star service. Full stop. Comma. New paragraph. In Europe, Milan to be precise, exists an exceptional series of Radisson Collection Hotels — both 5-star and each unique. Situated on the top floor of the Radisson Collection Hotel Santa Sofia Milan is ISSEI Rooftop — a speakeasy-esque bar with an exceptional cocktail menu mixing Peruvian and Japanese flavors with meticulous aptitude. Savor cocktails and plates carefully prepared to incorporate the character and personality of traditional Nikkei ingredients with a modern yet traditional twist. Each cocktail menu is a volume (yes, like a book) focusing on a different element of nature. From Volume 1: Mountains, try the Tupac Amaru a blend of Pisco Quebranta infused with Yerba Mate, Chicha Morada, and soda, garnished with a pickled caper leaf. Sit at the bar on the most comfortable velvet and heavily cushioned chairs I’ve ever tried, or relax and recline against black velvet couches adorned with cushy pillows at one of the six low tables all with views of the Milanese skyline. Deep ambers, low lights, and a very relaxed atmosphere with an incredibly welcoming and 5-star, service-focused staff welcome you.

Fiat Lux, Hotel Bennett, Charleston

fiat luxe rooftop at hotel bennett in charleston
Courtesy of Hotel Bennett

Count the Holy City’s notorious steeples from Charleston’s newest rooftop lounge. Opened summer 2023, Fiat Lux at Hotel Bennett offers spectacular panoramic views, and even more spectacular sunsets. Savor a southern-style specialty cocktail like the signature Palmetto Punch 22 (Bulleit bourbon, amaro, earl gray tea, orange bBlossom water, Oleo Saccharum) paired with local shrimp and  blue crab sliders. 

Hotel Raphael, Paris

What is a rooftop view if not of Paris? While the City of Lights has a plethora of swanky rooftop bars, a proverbial favorite comes with Hotel Raphael in the tony 16th arrondissement. Built in 1925, this très chic hotel is emblematic of Roaring Twenties Parisian glamor. The rooftop view is equally magnificent — think Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Sacré Coeur. The space is open only in summer when the rooftop’s lush greenery and gardens are in full Parisian bloom, and the Champagne corks are popping.

Vertigo and Moon Bar, Banyan Tree, Bangkok, Thailand 

A must see on any trip to Bangkok. Floating 61 floors above the city, the aptly named Vertigo offers a stylish, sophisticated, and vertigo-inducing setting, with truly amazing views of Thailand’s capital city. Nosh on lemongrass chicken, jumbo tiger prawn, or a grilled Wagyu burger. And try one of the local craft concoctions like the Karbie Mule, a blend of KILO vodka, lime, ginger beer, and coconut water from the Moon Bar.

High Note SkyBar at Aria Hotel, Budapest, Hungary 

We love the creative cocktail menu at Budapest’s most iconic rooftop bar. Every drink at the music-inspired Aria Hotel’s High Note SkyBar brings an artful twist. There is the Lady with an Ermine (Renaissance – Leonardo Da Vinci), Girl With Balloon (Streetart – Banksy), and even the Marilyn Monroe (Pop Art – Andy Warhol). Pair it with a Hungarian classic like roasted peppers in  romesco sauce and smoked paprika flavored maldon salt, while taking in the view of St. Stephen’s Basilica.

Cover photo, courtesy of Rhinoceros Rooftop; words by Shari Mycek.