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7 of the best urban rooftop pools

South Beach style
In a city of frenetic excess, The Betsy provides a refreshing antidote

Want incredible views of the world’s best city skylines? CATHERINE FAIRWEATHER rounds up her favorite hotel pools for catching a cool summer breeze

Lifestyle

THE BETSY South Beach, Miami

The rooftop pool at this beloved South Beach institution is a feat of architectural imagination, seemingly floating mid-air like a bridge across the linked buildings that make up this Art Deco hotel on the beach. The antithesis of the bold, brassy and bling that has become a signifier of Miami, The Betsy, with its traditional clapboard-and-shutters design, honeypot buzz and intimate vibe, feels both like a retreat and a hub. With its vivid roster of arts and cultural events, from live jazz evenings to ‘meet the artists and writers’ sessions in the library, the place has all the creative energy of a Manhattan club. The rooftop pool, strung with bistro lights, taps into the unique glamor of Ocean Drive, with sweeping 360-degree views of the downtown skyline, great cocktails and a varied menu. On the adjacent Ocean Deck, the spa offers holistic treatments in private cabanas, with complimentary sunrise yoga for hotel guests four times a week: the perfect sanctuary in a city of frenetic excess. thebetsyhotel.com

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THE SAVOY Yangon, Myanmar

Yangon is one of the fastest-growing cities of Asia, and its electrifying energy, heady scents, people and traffic can be as overwhelming as they are thrilling. The Savoy provides a much-needed escape; in the shuttered colonial-style rooms with cool, whirring overhead fans, peopled by solicitous staff padding about on polished teak floors, time seems to slow down, measured out by the calming chimes of one of the many antique clocks in the hotel. It’s like walking into a Graham Greene novel, and this leafy neighborhood, a stroll away from the city landmark of Shwedagon Pagoda and People’s Park, is a haven from the same era. The swimming pool is in the elevated courtyard garden, overlooked by two restaurants and shaded by jasmine bowers and magnolia. Traditional lacquered bamboo sun parasols and courtesy ‘pith helmet’ hats protect against the sun, making it the perfect spot to cool off or relax for a sundowner. Book through redsavannah.com

The Great Escape
Yangon’s Savoy: effortlessly bringing colonial splendor to poolside lounging

HOTEL GRANDE BRETAGNE, Athens

More than a hotel, the Grande Bretagne is an institution and landmark, sitting in all its neoclassical splendor on the city’s main square. All the most important political seismic events – war cabinets, peace processes, renegade protests – have swirled within and just outside the hotel walls. But it’s also the sort of place that offers a chance for escape and gossip, with an old-school hair and nail salon, barber shop and cigar room seemingly created for this very purpose. The rooftop pool is another delightful sanctuary, open from May to October (weather permitting) and with staggering views to Lycabettus monastery. By night, head to the GB Roof Garden to sip a classic martini under the moon, gazing out over the extraordinary sight of an uplit Parthenon. marriott.com

HISTORIC SIGHTS
Eat breakfast while gazing on to the Acropolis, Lycabettus Hill and the Parliament at the Hotel Grande Bretagne

HOTEL BROOKLYN BRIDGE, New York

With its driftwood design and textured glamour, 1 Hotel is one of Brooklyn’s hippest stays – and that’s before you reach the plunge pool and its views stretching over the East River and Manhattan’s glittering skyline. The Dumbo ferry terminal is beside the hotel’s main doors if you want to make a grand entrance by private yacht (or perhaps a more democratic arrival by ferry); either way, it’s good to remind yourself that Manhattan is an urban jungle built around water. There is invariably a pool party happening on the roof – legendary events that attract hotel and non-hotel guests alike – with a Bamford Haybarn spa offering numerous feelgood eco treatments to detox afterwards. 1hotels.com

THE HIGH LIFE
Hotel Brooklyn Bridge offers amazing views of the New York skyline

GRAND HOTEL YEREVAN, Armenia

Yerevan is a magnificent yet underrated city, with sunny, fountain-studded piazzas and leafy boulevards bordered by lofty neoclassical mansions like the Grand Hotel Yerevan, the city’s oldest and most striking hotel. Summer stretches well into September and October here, making it the perfect late-season weekend break. The streets, alfresco cafes and nearby Republic Square buzz with life (not to mention balloon sellers and toy makers), and on Charles Aznavour Square you’ll also find food stalls and strollers. The Grand looks on to the latter, with its theatrical columned steps and entrance taking pole position. The hotel’s main restaurant offers shaded white-clothed tables looking on to the square – the perfect spot for a lingering breakfast or lunch. Inside is all Italianate splendor, with marble and chandeliered interiors and fine Armenian carpets. The rooftop pool is a bit of a hidden find – underexploited and therefore rarely crowded – and is a welcome oasis in the bustling city, with views, of course, and a friendly bar serving bites and drinks until late. Book through Small Luxury Hotels

POOLSIDE PEACE
Shhh... Grand Hotel Yerevan’s rooftop pool is something of a well-kept secret

THE NORMAN, Tel Aviv

This is a thrilling city for art seekers, foodies, party animals and lounge lizards, and the hotel concierge at The Norman can map it all out for you. Though with its own art collection, resident DJ and rooftop party scene you may not want to step away from this, the city’s first boutique hotel, which can be found in a historic building in the White City area of Tel Aviv. It’s a magnet for beautiful people, and even the staff, female mixologists and poolside waiters look like they’ve been recruited by the Models One agency. The infinity pool itself offers uninterrupted views of the city center and sea in the distance – plus its restaurant, Dinings, serves the best Japanese food in the country. thenorman.com

BLISS OUT
The Norman’s considered wellness program includes access to its tranquil open-air pool and sundeck

WHITE CITY HOUSE, London

Rooftop pools are as much a Soho House signature as its organic Cowshed products, capturing the relaxed sociable community spirit that is in the group’s DNA. Situated above the iconic former BBC Television Centre in west London, the White City House branch opened last summer: a club and 45-bedroom hotel that houses two 17-meter pools – one in the basement and the other on the 10th floor. The rooftop deck opens up a whole new perspective on London’s newest neighborhood, with views stretching all the way to the Shard. It’s the place for the see-and-be-seen crowd, with a horizontal vibe by day and a healthy buffet for breakfast that rolls into lunch and dinner. whitecityhouse.com

HIDDEN OASIS
Aside from the rooftop pool, guests can enjoy a fully equipped gym and a screening room at White City House