Germany’s urban rooftops Close to the sky

The “20up” in Hamburg.
The “20up” in Hamburg. | Photo (detail): Oliver Heinemann © 20up

To really get to know a city, it's worth getting a look at it from above, and not just from the TV towers and church spires. Rooftop restaurants and bars are increasingly popular these days because for their unique views. Thanks to central locations they are revealing new perspectives to both locals and tourists alike.

The TV tower in Hamburg is not only the port city's tallest building, but also its most famous landmark. Since the beginning of 2011 the viewing tower has been closed to visitors, but the “20up” Skybar at the Hotel Empire Riverside near the Reeperbahn has filled the lofty void. On the corner of David and Bernhard-Nocht streets, this hotspot on the 20th floor (nearly 100 meters high) provides guests with an amazing view of the Elbe River and the buzzing Kiez district. Local drink concoctions like the Kiez Cruising help patrons at the “20up” enjoy the passing ships while the 20-meter-long bar reflects Hamburg's overall flair and sense of cool. The bar opens at 6 p.m. and is typically filled with well-dressed guests until it closes at 2 a.m. – on Fridays and Saturdays it stays open until 3 a.m.

Wings of desire

The best way to see how much Berlin has changed over the years is by going to one of the city's trendy rooftop bars. At Loeser & Wolff Haus, a former warehouse and factory for tobacco products on Potsdam Street, the elevator ride to the 8th floor takes exactly “40 seconds”, which also happens to be the name of the club. The relaxed atmosphere inside this fully glazed roof terrace invites patrons to enjoy the capital's spectacular sea of lights. The restaurant is open until 11 p.m., after which the DJ takes over with a mixture of R'n'B and soul for the late-night revelers. The various lounges and spacious patio are great for enjoying a drink, but the doormen are pretty selective. Be sure to wear your best duds if you want to enjoy the bar's 360-degree views.

On the other side of the canal, in an imposing high-rise at no. 76 Stresemann Street (at the old train station), the Sky Lounge bar and “Solar” restaurant combine to give guests a splendid 270-degree view of the city. The ride in the glass elevator gives you a taste of the visual delights that await. The trendy venue is located on the 16th and 17th floors: the lounge above is perfect for partying and the restaurant below is better for a relaxed meal and a chat accompanied by art-house films projected on the wall behind the bar and on the ceilings. Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the building had been a surveillance post used by the American secret service. Today, “Solar” is a mainstay of the creative scene in Berlin and beyond, and they rarely leave their stations until the wee hours of the night.

Rooftops with sand and palm trees

The Caribbean, on the other hand, seems to have a hold on the western regions of Germany. At many open-air bars, sand and palm trees are high on the list of must-haves. The “Sky Beach” bar in Cologne, for example, is the place to be between April and September if you are looking for a quick vacation feel high above the city. After work or after shopping downtown, guests here can take a break and enjoy exotic cocktails from the creative bartenders while chilled out tunes float in the background. On weekends, local DJs turn up to transform the 2,000-m² venue for 400 patrons into a perfect vantage point to party and gaze out at the city's iconic cathedral. The bar is open daily until 1 a.m.

About 290 km away as the crow flies you'll find the “Sky Beach” on top of a car park near Stuttgart's central station. In summer the city slows down and people take a moment to decelerate a bit. “Tourists and locals alike enjoy the 360-degree view over the Swabian metropolis,” says Christin Hug from the venue. It's no wonder. The rooftop terrace and bar has been operating year-round since 2004 featuring special events including Sunday brunch, full-moon parties and after-work soirees.

Skywalk in the Bavarian capital

Despite the fact that the “SkyLounge” in Munich's Berg am Laim district doesn't have the glass-bottom viewing platforms like the ones at the Grand Canyon, the 14th floor of the TenTowers has its own “skywalk” 65 meters above street level. Its two-sided panorama window provides a unique look at the entire city and if the weather is good you are almost guaranteed a view of the Alps. The “SkyCafé” is open between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., after which it turns into the “SkyLounge” where after-work parties take place on the dizzyingly high rooftop terrace while the lights of the Bavarian capital slowly illuminate.