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Swimming in the Sky: The World’s Best Rooftop Pools
Ask any hotel architect what’s better than lazily lounging in a beautifully designed infinity pool, and they’ll tell you the same thing: lazily lounging in a beautifully designed infinity pool on top of a building. For the urban hotelier of today, from Los Angeles to London, the rooftop pool is no longer a luxury extra; it’s an essential part of the package, giving guests a place, to relax, cool off, admire the view, and take insufferably smug Instagram photos as they like. Here’s our summer hit list of sky-high swimming holes.
For all-night pool parties
Downtown LA in the summer can be a heady experience. When the mercury starts to soar, some are tempted to flee the city, but those in-the-know head to the pool atop The Standard. Find a waterbed pod (akin to a shiny red spaceship – the Standard is never one to be hold back on showmanship) and order a pretzel and beer from the Biergarten. By night, expect to get swept up in some poolside debauchery (with a heavily liquored cocktail in hand) and enjoy the hotel’s impressive roster of new and established DJs.
What’s the view? The concrete jungle of DTLA.
For the effortlessly on-trend
Cult hotelier Michael Achenbaum makes his London debut with latest project, The Curtain, an edgy and indulgent urban hangout smack in the heart of Shoreditch. Cited as the opening of summer 2017, the hotel is capped with a beautifully mosaicked rooftop plunge pool that is sure to see some jostling for sunbathing space as things heat up in London town. Once you’re done lounging alongside a few music industry moguls and the nonchalant East London creative crowd, dine at the poolside Mediterranean eatery, Lido Brasserie, and enjoy the buzz of this of-the-moment private members’ club.
What’s the view? Gloriously grimy Shoreditch.
For sea-view serenity
Summer in Santorini is made for gorging on feta me meli (feta fried in filo and drizzled in honey), copious amounts of tzatziki and platters of seafood. But let’s face it, beyond the food, a large portion of any trip to Santorini should be steadfastly dedicated to remaining horizontal on a sun lounger. And why inconvenience yourself more than necessary by heading out of your white-washed abode when you can languidly make your way to the roof of Perivolas? Your challenge of the day: work out where the pool finishes and the sky begins. Or is that the ocean?
What’s the view? Azure sea and sky by day; fiery sunsets come evening.
For city-view solitude
The refreshing plunge pool nestled in Spanish gardens on the roof at Corral del Rey may be small, but swimming won’t be on your mind once you catch the views over Seville, a low-lying skyline dominated by that gloriously Gothic Unesco-listed cathedral. The pool is an essential amenity for the Seville summer when the temperatures skyrocket (the city’s not known as the frying pan of Spain for nothing). After a morning weaving through the dizzying maze of ancient streets, devote an afternoon to cooling off with your toes in the pool and a chilled cava in your hand.
What’s the view? Seville’s old quarter and beyond.
For design buffs
Architecture aficionados will undoubtedly appreciate the design of the modish Hotel Habita in Mexico City. Its exterior is wrapped in glass that glows at night, transforming the building from its past life as an unremarkable apartment block into the jet-set design destination it is today. Inside, it’s all glossy white minimalism, radiating glamour and attracting a discerning, well-heeled crowd. When the designers were indulgently befitting Hotel Habita with its stylish interior, they didn’t stop at the ceiling; they crowned it with a sparkling set of rooftop pools – two infinity-style piscinas flank a buzzy pool bar and make the most of the cityscape lookout.
What’s the view? The Sierra Madre Mountains from one pool; Mexico City from the other.
For sky-high yogis
From the rooftop infinity pool of Fresh Hotel in Athens, you can soak up the entire cityscape as you swim. Nine floors high, with boldly monochromatic decor and dotted with olive trees, the glossy poolside terrace is always a hive of activity with poolside yoga sessions to stir your chakras and start your day with a dose of om.
What’s the view? The whole of Athens, including the Parthenon and the Acropolis.
For sublime siestas
The bird’s-eye view of Barcelona from the seventh floor of the opulent 1920s-style Grand Hotel Central means you can pretty much plan your route around the city from the rooftop infinity pool. Let the cliché’s wash over you with the water and order a sangria and tapas from the adjacent SkyBar, then find a shady spot to savour that smug feeling while you look down at the sweltering midsummer tourists bustling below. The pool, bar and ever-attentive staff are exclusive to hotel guests until evening, when the water lights up in a rainbow of colour and a cocktail party ensues under the stars.
What’s the view? Play a game of sightseeing bingo – you can catch all the major Barcelona landmarks from up here.
For uninhibited luxury
Although its position in London hotel aristocracy is all but unassailable, The Berkeley has an extra string on its luxury-hotel bow – an unrivalled and unabashedly lavish rooftop pool. Circled with some of the comfiest loungers known to man, it’s heated (a prerequisite given the unreliability of actual sunshine in a British summer) and even welcomes the smallest members of the family, so couples should take note of the child-friendly hours if they’re looking for low-volume lounger time.
What’s the view? The glorious green expanse of Hyde Park.
For designer decadence
Philippe Starck’s slick Rio de Janeiro hotel Fasano Rio has its style-smart clientele sussed. Not only are they surrounded by an elegant Mad Men-esque interior (a homage to Brazil’s Bossa Nova era), but they are also treated to a transcendent view over Ipanema Beach and the city’s skyline from the white marble infinity pool eight floors up. Dedicate a day to hanging out on top of this high-rise beauty – the roof is also home to a fitness centre, sauna, massage area and coffee shop. If you’re feeling virtuous, order a freshly squeezed juice from the obliging bar staff and sip it reclined on a squishy lounger, clad, of course, in improperly skimpy designer swimwear and impossibly large sunglasses – this is Rio, after all.
What’s the view? Ipanema Beach, the Corcovado and Dois Irmãos Mountains.