Bars with a View
Whether you crave mountain vistas, city nightscapes or mellow beach scenes, there are bars around the globe where patrons are as happy to see out the windows as they are to be seen. From luxury hotels in the world's most glamorous cities to a humble shack on a Caribbean beach, these spots will have you ordering another round.
Delaire Graff Estate, South Africa
It doesn't take a jeweler's eye to see that the views of Simonsberg Mountain from the Delaire Graff Estate's bar and restaurant are world class. Diamond dealer Laurence Graff saw the heart-pumper of a vista in South Africa's Cape Winelands, razed the existing buildings, planted grapes and hired haute interior designer David Collins -- Madonna's and Tom Ford's BFF -- to decorate 10 lodges, a restaurant and bar. With cozy grape leather banquettes, modern art from Graff's private collection, and a panoramic view of vineyard valleys and the mountains beyond, this bistro-chic bar is a rare gem.
Lobby Lounge, Intercontinental Hong Kong
With steep mountains, a deepwater port, piercing skyscrapers and neon lights, the view across Victoria Harbor from the Chinese mainland to Hong Kong Island is so dramatic it has commanded the attention of empires. The plush over-water Lobby Lounge at the Intercontinental has unrivaled views each night at 8 pm, when the territory holds a harbor-wide Symphony of Lights display. Some 40 buildings on both sides of the harbor flash and dance to a sound and lights extravaganza replete with laser beams, searchlights, and synchronized neon displays celebrating the everyday energy and overwhelming spectacle of Asia's commercial capital.
House Without a Key, Oahu, Hawaii
The ideal hotel beach bar must include sunset views, flawless service and a potent shot of local culture; in Hawaii this translates to hula, ukulele and epic mai tais. The House Without a Key bar at the Halekulani on Waikiki Beach meets these requirements and more, serving up a perfect Pacific sunset every night to accompany your cocktail. When the last lingering pinks of nightfall give way to a sky full of stars, locals slow-dance under a kiawe tree that has shaded Waikiki beachgoers for over a century.
Tate Members Room, London
Membership has its privileges, and at London's Tate Modern art museum, members are entitled to a private bar with stylish views across the River Thames to the City of London. Membership is steep (fees start at around $82 a year), but we say befriend a local with a guest pass. After a long day of getting your culture on, settle into the boxy leather sofas and mid-century modern tables to sip a cool Pimms and lemon or a single malt while watching the art of the everyday: a dazzling international city aglow with history and sophistication.
Bomba Shack, Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Some beach bars stand out for their simple charm and empty beach views. A lonely shanty of driftwood and corrugated tin, painted with happy dayglo slogans, the Bomba Shack on Tortola's Cappoons Bay succeeds on the merits of little more than great vistas and good vibes. With a long stretch of talcum powder sand, deep azure waters, and the hunky surfers that gather the rolling swells, Bomba's has better sea-views than any other down-home surf shack in the Caribbean.
Mandarin Bar, Las Vegas
The lights of the Las Vegas Strip will never lose their hold on the hearts of travelers. The Mandarin Bar on the 23rd floor of the Mandarin Oriental hotel in the new CityCenter complex frames that bright boulevard of excess in its most flattering light: elegant, ambitious and hopeful. With three walls of floor-to-ceiling windows, guests can drink in the drama of Vegas, along with a signature cocktail. Try the Golden Leaf, an Asian-inspired martini with gin, muddled mandarin and pineapple.
Plunge Rooftop Bar + Lounge, New York
The Big Apple is rife with rooftop bars and sexy city lights, but the windowed floors on the balconies of Plunge at the Gansevoort Park Avenue could instill high anxiety in even the most powerful master of the universe. With bespoke cocktails and beautiful people to match, the views up at the Empire State Building and down to taxis on the street below get the attention of even the most jaded Manhattanites.
Top of the Mark, San Francisco
Though there is no official count, the number of nightly proposals at the Top of the Mark seems higher than at the average hotel bar. Credit the romantic views over San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge and the bay for quickening the heartbeats of even the most reluctant lovers. But it is the Mark's historic hospitality, not to mention the expertly mixed martinis, that draws couples back to those windows for their anniversaries year after year.
Altitudes Bistro, Grouse Mountain, Vancouver
The prime spot to see Vancouver cycle through its seasons is from the bar and restaurant atop Grouse Mountain. The drop off the peak is vast, with views stretching from Washington's Mt. Baker to the Gulf Islands and out to the Pacific. At sunset, the city glows in honeyed light, and though the room is large, Altitudes Bistro's many fireplaces make for an intimate evening. If you started your day by challenging the Grouse Grind, the infamous hiking trail up the 4,040-foot mountain, you'll deserve that drink.
Red Sea Star, Eilat, Israel
The Red Sea is the home to some of the most elaborately colorful sea life on the planet, with a protected marine park that has become a must-see for beach-happy snorkelers and SCUBA divers. In the Israeli resort town of Eilat, this underwater bar is dedicated to this ocean world, some 650 feet off shore and around 15 feet below the surface. Eye-to-eye with the creatures of the coral reef, patrons sip cocktails in an aquatic-themed bar, comfy on sea urchin-printed cushions and romantically lit by both the ocean's waves and star-fish light fixtures.
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- Winter Cheer: 15 Fantastic Photos from America's Cold Spots[National Geographic]
- 6 Ways to Survive Holiday Travel[Reader's Digest]