The Handbook
The Handbook

Nowadays it seems it’s not enough for a bar to serve killer cocktails, to be in the trendiest spots or full of interesting people, what the people really want is Instagrammableness.

Instagrammable interiors, Instagrammable cocktails, Instagrammable Instagram feeds, there are few bars that can rise to the challenge, but here are twenty one London bars that are truly social like-magnets. And who knows, maybe between innanely thumbing your phone you can try a cocktail and a nibble?

Sexy Fish

When you’re fishing for Instagrammable bars, you’re guaranteed to net endless social kudos if you reel in a Sexy Fish.

With two Damien Hirst mermaids guarding the corner of the bar and the giant, iconic, Frank Gehry fish floating overheard, it’s the perfect place to start hunting for Insta bars.

If you’re in the market for more than a highly filtered interior shot then why not taste from the world’s largest collection of Japanese whisky (400 bottles and counting) taking pride-of-place behind the bar?

Where: Berkeley Square House, Berkeley Square, Mayfair, W1J 6BR
Website: www.sexyfish.com

Waeska at The Mandrake

Is it a springbok or a peacock? The unusual taxidermied Springcock/Peabok may be at the heart of Waeska, the stylish bar at The Mandrake in Fitzrovia, but it’s far more than that; it’s the soul. The weird energy the stuffed hybrid gives off sums up the quirkiness of Waeska.

A glance at the hotel’s Instafeed will confirm that this is a place where the esoteric is welcome and where bizarre is business as usual. Don’t mind the arty naked people, let’s get an thnobotanical cocktail.

Great for the ‘gram, gives the distinct impression of having taken a few grams itself. And we love it for that.

Where: 20-21 Newman Street, Fitzrovia, W1T 1PG
Website: www.themandrake.com

Sky Garden

Sky Garden does exactly what it says on the tin… It’s a garden. In the sky. Which is exactly what makes it so much fun.

Officially London’s highest public garden, the vast space sits atop the so-called Walkie Talkie building, 20 Fenchurch Street, like a latter-day Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

Which makes it Instagram-perfect for combining foliage and far-reaching views. And with three bar options, Sky Pod Bar, City Garden Bar and Fenchurch Terrace you should make a DJ-backed evening of it.

Where: 1 Sky Garden Walk, The City, EC3M 8AF
Website: www.skygarden.london

The Connaught Bar

Don Draper levels of suave and sophistication go into ensuring the bar at the Connaught is one of London’s coolest.

The interior, inspired by 1920s cubism, includes dark woods and textured walls, a place that’s way too grown-up for your average Insta-famous.

The bar’s party trick is the Connaught’s signature Martini Trolley, wheeled out to impress with its own Martini sommelier.

It’s little surprise that the Connaught Bar was named  2019’s ‘Best Bar in Europe’.

Where: Carlos Place, Mayfair, W1K 2AL
Website: www.the-connaught.co.uk

The London EDITION

The London EDITION (a caps-lock malfunction styled out as an actual hotel name) contains a bar that’s part stately home and part home-from-home.

Berners Tavern, Jason Atherton’s Michelin-starred restaurant within the hotel, is dominated by a bar that’s a destination in its own right.

The ballroom style ceilings, dripping with chandeliers, make an ideal backdrop for some serious Insta-activity, but it’s the expertise of the mixologists that really propels the bar at Berners Tavern into the top flight of London drinking establishments.

Where: 10 Berners Street, Fitzrovia, W1T 3NP
Website: www.editionhotels.com

The Westbury Mayfair Polo Bar

If you’re looking to make your Instafeed sparkle, you probably couldn’t do better than Swarovski crystals. And their natural habitat is Mayfair’s Polo Bar at the Westbury Hotel.

The windows at the chic bar are draped in crystals, while the interior includes bespoke Fendi detailing. Get some great shots for the ‘gram of the reflected rainbow colours, before setting off to local Insta-haunts like fashion houses Jimmy Choo, Burberry and Vivienne Westwood. 

The Mayfair bar sits just off Bond Street, placing it in London’s Instagram heaven.

Where: 37 Conduit Street, Mayfair, W1S 2XY
Website: www.westburymayfair.com

Blame Gloria

Poor Gloria, she’s getting a lot of stick at the moment. Not least because Leicester Square’s Blame Gloria keeps popping up in our social feeds.

The singularly psychedelic subterranean club in the heart of the West End is named after its (presumably fictional) landlady, reputed to have ‘the best legs in Soho’ and who, the narrative goes, happens to throw the best parties from her basement.

Whacky, fun and stylish, the bar beguilingly beckons to Instagrammers, and who are we to argue? Just blame Gloria!

Where: 20 Bedford Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 9HP
Website: www.blamegloria.co.uk

Hutong

Hutong, which means ‘small streets’ in Cantonese is an apt name, being located 33 floors up The Shard means that every street in town is small, with ant-like commuters going about their business as you sip a cocktail.

Putting the ‘high’ into the Shanghai Bar, the skyscraping bar is an ideal first stop before moving on to dinner at the North China restaurant. But not before you’ve taken a hundred photos of the breathtaking views.

Where: Level 33, The Shard, 31 St Thomas Street, Borough, SE1 9RY
Website: www.hutong.co.uk

12th Knot

Sea Containers London is a long-standing favourite of The Handbook, a hotel that can’t help itself but exude an exciting energy.

12th Knot sits on the twelfth deck of this Southbank hotel, the name being another nod to the nautical theme of Sea Containers. And while the Cape of Good Hope is unlikely to hove into view, the balcony vista across St Paul’s and beyond gives 12th Knot one of the best Instagramming spots in town.

Set sail to 12th Knot and enjoy live DJs, great cocktails and a night to remember.

Where: 20 Upper Ground, Southwark, SE1 9PD
Website: www.seacontainerslondon.com

Amazonico

Berkeley Square restaurant Amazonico is Insta-perfect, brimming with a-listers, ‘slebs and influencers. They go for the food, because, well, it’s great, but visitors can’t help but whip out their smartphones at any chance.

The bar at Amazonico is the first thing to greet you as you enter, replete with taxidermy pheasant, it’s highly Insta-friendly, but head downstairs to the secret club down below and enjoy the speakeasy-style bar instead. Recently opened to the public, it’s accessed via a hidden door and has a first-come-first-served door policy, so get ‘gramming early…

Where: 10 Berkeley Square, Mayfair, W1J 6BR
Website: www.amazonicorestaurant.com

14 Hills

14 floors up, this City restaurant and bar is blessed with views inside and out. It’s named after the hills you can glimpse in the distance from the height, combined with the number of floors high you are.

The entire joint is liberally scattered with vegetation, the floral trappings make great Insta-fodder, but it’s difficult not to be struck by the all-round prettiness of the place.

Officially the dividing line between the two dining areas of the restaurant, the oval onyx bar slices  between diners with one of the City’s best cocktail menus.

Where: 14th floor, 120 Fenchurch Street, The City, EC3M 5BA
Website: www.14hills.co.uk

The Perception

When you learn that somewhere has the largest disco ball in Europe you can only have two questions: how on earth do they know? And, where can I find it?

Divulging the answer to the first could have me drummed out of the disco-ball-magic-circle, but the second is easy: The Perception at the W Hotel, Soho.

Perched above Leicester Square the bar is effortlessly cucumber-cool, the cocktails are as tasty as they are pretty and as for the disco ball… it’s bloody big.

Where: 10 Wardour Street, Soho, W1D 6QF
Website: www.theperceptionbar.com

Hello Darling

There’s more theatre here than you’ll find on Shaftesbury Avenue. The restaurant and bar is designed by set builders from London’s theatre industry (it’s just yards from Waterloo’s Old Vic theatre) and Hello Darling describes itself as ‘in equal parts an intimate supper-club and a minds-&-mouth open cocktail bar’.

What they don’t necessarily mention is that it’s also flipping Insta-friendly, which is where we come in. Go down, select your favourite filter and reap the ‘likes’…

Where: 131 Waterloo Road, Waterloo, SE1 8UR
Website: www.hellodarling.london

sketch

Sketch must, hands down, be the most Insta-friendly bar in London. There’s so much to point your phone at. Part art installation, part multistorey restaurant and bar destination, sketch is the gift that keeps on giving (and taking, the prices can be a little eye-watering).

Bar-wise the sunken pod-like East Bar is intimate and fun (sitting beneath the most Insta-famous loos in London, the famous ‘eggs’), but for maximum likes you’re going to want to place your orders down in The Glade, a secret woodland fairytale in the heart of Mayfair.

Where: 9 Conduit Street, Mayfair, W1S 2XG
Website: www.sketch.london

Aqua Shard

Aqua Shard could simply rest on its vertigo-inducing laurels and not really tried; we’d still be Instagramming the flip out of the place based on views alone.

That the restaurant and bar tries and compete with London for our attention is impressive, that it succeeds is remarkable. The 31st storey bar is (unusually for The Shard) double-height, while the 360-degree bar offers panoramic views and unmissable cocktails.

It’s arguably a legend within a legend…

Where: Level 31, The Shard, 31 St Thomas Street, London, SE1 9RY
Website: www.aquashard.co.uk

Cahoots

Pack up your selfie-stick in your old kit bag and head, demob happy, to Cahoots.

Set in a fictional tube station of the late 1940s and channelling a speakeasy vibe, the decor, the costumes and the theme will have you Instagramming like you’re Vera Lynne on VE Day.

Quirky and fun, descending into the club is like a real life version of Nicholas Lyndhurst (Rodney off of Only Fools & Horses) in Goodnight Sweetheart (#Only90sKidsWillUnderstandThisReference).

Where: 13 Kingly Court, ‘Carnaby’, W1B 5PG
Website: www.cahoots-london.com

Lyaness

What do you do when you’re voted Best Bar In The World? Rip everything out and start again. At least, that’s what you do if you’re Mr Lyan, AKA Ryan Chetiyawardana.

On winning the accolade in 2018 for Dandelyan, the bar in Sea Containers London promptly shut up shop and brought in the builders. Even if it really should be all about the world-beating cocktails, the the interior design results, from original Dandelyan designer Jacu Strauss, surely takes the bar from an Insta 9 to an Insta 10.

Where: 20 Upper Ground, South Bank, SE1 9PD
Website: www.lyaness.com

Gŏng Bar

Ride the express lift up The Shard and it’s very much a matter of going, going, Gŏng. The bar at the Shangri La London The Shard is exquisite, in form (it’s the smallest of the skyscraper’s bars as the building tapers toward it’s jagged conclusion) as well being exquisite in what it offers punters daring enough to venture to London’s tallest bar.

Best enjoyed as part of a stay at the smart Shangri La hotel, which includes Europe’s highest infinity pool. Enjoy a dip, a sky high sauna, dinner at Ting and then one of the bar’s Insta-famous cocktails…

Where: 31 St Thomas Street, Borough, SE1 9QU
Website: www.gong-shangri-la.com

Pergola Olympia

Arguably London’s most mispronounced bar, Pergola (not per-goh-ler) On The Roof is located, unsurprisingly, on a rooftop in Olympia.

If you thought that heading down to your local NCP car park couldn’t possibly generate Insta-jealousy, think again; Pergola On The Roof is perched on the top level of a multi-storey carpark but beach club vibes, plenty of foliage and all-round prettiness make it a lot less about reverse parking and a lot more about double-parking your G&Ts.

Where: Level Five Rooftop, Olympia Car Park, Olympia Way, Kensington, W14 8UX
Website:www.pergolalondon.com

Searcys At The Gherkin

One of London’s most iconic buildings, second only to Buckingham Palace, Parliament and the Post Office Tower, Norman Foster’s masterpiece, The Gherkin, is known the world over for its innovative, slightly phallic, design. And now you can eat up it.

Until recently members-only, restaurant Helix and bar Iris at the very top of The Gherkin (AKA 30 St Mary Axe) are now open to all, and it’s obviously an Insta-hit.

Foster designed the building not to resemble a pickled vegetable, but the iris of an eye (from above), hence the bar’s moniker.

Where: 30 St Mary Axe, The City, EC3A 8EP
Website: www.searcysatthegherkin.co.uk