Best bars with a view: Buy a cocktail and get the view for free

Published March 4th, 2016

One of my favourite things of all time to do when travelling is find a bar with a breathtaking outlook. There is just something so decadent about sipping a mojito to the iridescent glow of city lights from a high vantage point.

It always makes me feel like I am the star of a really amazing 80s movie, minus the shoulder pads, bouffant hair and Michael Douglas. Another reason it's a great option is that you can often avoid the cover charge going up to observation decks by simply visiting the bar, which is generally only a few floors lower.


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Why pay $20 for the view when you can spend that money on a cocktail, and get the view for free? The best thing to do is make yourself look at least a little decent, perhaps save the thongs and wife beater for the beach, and bring out the crumpled collared shirt, or that little black dress that has shrunk in the hostel dryer.

You’ll get served everywhere anyway, but you might as well attempt to not get looks of disdain from the wait staff.

Here are a few top bars around the world with an awesome view that I reckon are well worth a visit.

London - The Shard

Built in 2014, The Shard is one of a handful of skyscrapers you will find in ye old London town. Even its name screams trendy sophistication. Boasting an epic view along the Thames towards Tower Bridge, the fact that it costs nothing to go up to the bar makes the London Eye look like a bit of a rip off.

Up on the 31st floor you will find hordes of hip professional Londoners pretending not to eye off the window-side tables, whilst they strategically edge their way closer. My friend and I got one hell of a greasing from a woman who had obviously been waiting forever for the premium spots, when we effortlessly slipped into one of these revered tables.


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It’s a dog-eat-dog world up there, and one thing that woman should never have done is taken her eye off the prize: you snooze you lose lady! It’s best to get there before 5pm if you want to score yourself a good seat. The cheapest glass of wine equates to roughly $15, so sip that thing for as long as you can before relinquishing prime real estate.

Tokyo - The Park Hyatt

Have yourself a Lost in Translation moment at this iconic hotel. Enjoy the panoramic view of Tokyo’s bejewelled night sky from the 41st floor, and grab a beverage at the same time.

It’s the perfect hotel for a complete cheapskate as between 5pm and 9pm you can delight in a range of canapés and all you can drink, including cocktails, for around $40 Australian. If you load up on enough canapes to satisfy then there’s your dinner, drinks, and view for a measly $40. More champagne... yes please! Arigatou.


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Shanghai - Captains Bar and The Bottle Opener

Shanghai has an amazing cityscape. I like to think of it as Hong Kong on crack. A short walk from Shanghai’s central shopping district, you will find the reasonably priced option of the Captain’s Bar.

It’s actually a hostel bar and it’s only on the 5th floor, but it is impressively decked out to look like the inside of a junk boat, and has a balcony area that delivers a pretty fantastic outlook of the cluster of luminosities on the other side of the river.

Another bonus is that it is super cheap for the drinks so you can settle back with a few cheeky steins, and let the Shanghai skyline deliver its light show spectacular for a small price.

If you have a little cash to splash on your holiday in Shanghai then definitely make your way over the other side of town to the bottle opener (its real name is the Shanghai World Financial Centre but its nickname is the bottle opener because, yep you guessed, it looks like a bottle opener).

It’s about $20 to get in and the cocktails are fairly pricey but the view from the 100th floor is awe-inspiring.

Honolulu - Sky Waikiki

Nothing beats a Hawaiian sunset so you might as well try to see it from its best perspective. Sky Waikiki, nestled in the heart of the town’s famous beach strip, is the perfect spot. On the 19th floor you will find an expansive balcony bar setting that gives you a 180 degree view.

There’s no entry fee and the cocktails are actually pretty darn cheap so it’s well worth the visit. Best advice: get there before the sunset fades, obviously.


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Sydney - Sydney Tower 360 Bar

Smack bang in the middle of the city, the Sydney Tower is one of the best locales in town when looking for a view. If you want to avoid paying the entry fee for the observation deck, make your way to the restaurant/bar reservation area and tell them you’d like to partake in a beverage at the bar, pretty please.

Then fan your face with a wad of cash... not really necessary but can’t hurt. Up they will send you to the 88th floor, where you can enjoy your drink whilst revolving around the city. As you would expect, the drinks aren’t that cheap so if you can make one cocktail last for a full rotation then you’ve got yourself a bargain.

This selection is the tip of the iceberg for bars with a view around the globe, therefore always have a good Google when you arrive in a new city; you are bound to find a bar with an awesome view that has no cover charge. Even when travelling on a budget you don’t need to deny yourself life’s small pleasures. Cheers to that!


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Odette Des Forges

I am a travel nut that is always looking for the next big adventure, and the next cheap cocktail. Once the plane hits the landing strip on a return journey, I’ve already mapped out an upcoming trip in my mind. And in my mind it is miraculously free somehow, which helps as travel makes me chronically broke.