There’s nothing better than a summer afternoon spent drinking in a beer garden, except maybe a glass of wine on a terrace overlooking a beautiful Italian city, or a rooftop dance party on a hot summer night. And while the first snowfall brings some momentary cheer, it also means shuttered rooftops and closed off patios traded for indoor lounges and wintery drinks.
We don’t have anything against cozy couches and spiked cider, but there’s something freeing about drinking outdoors. Maybe it’s the thrill of looking out on a city with the wind blowing in your hair, or the decadence of dining in a flower garden. Whatever it is, outdoor drinking is just more fun. Lucky for us, cold weather doesn’t have to mean the end of patio season. From flower gardens to beer gardens, rooftop lounges to courtyard cafes, here’s where you can continue drinking outdoors around the world this winter. Just don’t forget to bring a jacket.
Twenty-six floors up in the Dana Hotel & Spa, the Vertigo Sky Lounge embraces the frigid temps of Chicago winters. The patio turns into an ice garden, complete with sculptures, an ice couch and tables (near a decidedly not icy fireplace), and a 15-foot ice bar featuring a shot luge. Views of the Windy City skyline are stellar, but when it gets too windy to bear, head inside, where a DJ and dance floor will warm you right up.
Possibly the most picturesque place to spend a chilly evening on this list, The Roof Gardens and adjoining restaurant Babylon are open year-round and provide a colorful retreat from the city. Stroll through the Tudor Garden arches, try and spot the birds in the English Woodland garden, and forget you’re in England in the exotic Spanish Garden, complete with Moorish architecture and decorative tiles. Then move up to the restaurant terrace, where you’ll be provided with blankets and heaters while you sip cocktails and look out on London’s skyline and the gardens below.
Manhattan’s largest rooftop bar, and by far the most winter-proof, can be found at 230 Fifth. Every guest gets a complimentary, fluffy red robe on arrival and the roof is stocked with plenty of heaters, so you can take in views of the Empire State Building no matter what the temperature. Four inflatable igloo tents are available by reservation or on first come first served basis, featuring couches and holding up to 12 people.
Just steps away from the Glockenspiel, one of Munich’s most popular attractions, you’ll find Viktualienmarkt, a giant beer garden where you can drink outdoors no matter the season. Grab a warm bratwurst from a nearby food stall and sip a stein of local brew. The garden alternates Munich breweries every six weeks, and in the winter serves hot Glühwein, too.
Outdoor drinking meets fine-dining at Iron Gate, the charming patio in Dupont Circle. Fire pits and heaters decorate the wisteria covered courtyard, transforming it into an intimate, cozy spot for a winter date night. Nibble on comfort food like ricotta gnocchi and batter fried halloumi while drinking a seasonal cocktail by the fire.
Like much of Paris, Café A is for the art lovers. In the secluded courtyard of the former convent of Les Récollets, now a residence for artists, the cafe is decorated with artwork from young Parisians and open until 10 p.m. in the winter. Make sure to sit at a non-resident table to get service, try one of their biodynamic wines and work your way back to the secret garden for a cozy experience even on the chilliest of nights.
Caffé la Terrazza is famous for its 360-degree views of Florence, making it crowded in summer months. Most don’t know that it’s open in winter too, and views of the Duomo are even better when you have them to yourself. Sip a frothy cappuccino or hearty glass of red to warm up while you take in the terracotta rooftops and brilliant winter sunset.
Do residents of one of the coldest cities in the United States hibernate in the winter? Of course not. They embrace the frigid weather and party at Seven Skybar, on seventh and Hennepin in Minneapolis. The view of downtown sparkles from anywhere on the roof, which is covered with a canopy in the winter and decked out with fireplaces and heating units. On weekends, a DJ plays dance tunes even Prince would be proud of.
There’s something fun about drinking in the snow, like pretending you’re at a ski resort when you’re really in the middle of a city. At Denver Beer Co. the patio is open all year long, and if it’s snowing, patio guests get $2 off pints! The beer list changes all the time, but a good winter bet is the Graham Cracker Porter, which is “like a campfire in a glass,” according to the brewers, and tastes of mulled spices with a chocolate finish. Don’t forget to wear snow pants or sitting on the patio will not be as enjoyable as it could be.
Only locals know that the rooftop bar of The Hat hostel is open to everyone and has some of the best views in the city. Just steps from Plaza Mayor, the central rooftop runs on biomass energy, including the outdoor heaters in winter. The vibe is laid back and cozy, and feels warmer with a glass of Spanish red in hand and toasted bread with goat cheese from the menu.
Rebecca Holland is a freelance travel and food writer living in Chicago.