If you’ve ever experienced an African safari, you remember sundowners – the happy hour break taken wherever you happen to be when the sun begins to set. Your vehicle stops and your guide produces wine, beer, and the traditional gin and tonic. You soak in the scene – the peace and the beauty of sunset in a remote location. We have adopted this sunset tradition in all our travels since our safari in Africa. We find a spot away from the crowds, a rooftop restaurant with a sunset view, to have a reflective evening. It’s an opportunity to go over the special experiences we’ve shared, and begin our transition to home. A mini break before the flight home.
A long and wonderful journey deserves a special farewell. For us, this is sharing a glass of wine as we reminisce and watch the sunset on the final evening of the trip. We research rooftop restaurants before we leave home so we’ll be sure to have a great spot for our sunset tradition Here are a few of our favorites spots for toasting the sunset and our wonderful adventure.
Best Evening View in Istanbul, Turkey
We began this tradition in Istanbul when we discovered the Mikla bar on the rooftop of the Marmara Pera hotel. The hotel is perfectly situated with views of the minarets and mosques of the old city as well as the modern skyline on the opposite side. Though essentially a bar, there’s a restaurant one flight below. Have your dinner there and head up to the roof for an after-dinner drink.
Our guide with Istanbul on Food had recommended the bar, but we were especially thrilled upon returning home to find it featured on Anthony Bourdain’s Part Unknown Istanbul program.
Athens, Greece – sunset over the Acropolis
We lucked into this one as Windstar Cruises booked us at the St. George Lycabettus. The hotel might not be the finest in Athens but one visit to the rooftop infinity pool convinced us to make a reservation at the adjacent restaurant for our last evening in Athens. What a view. The hotel sits on Mount Lycabettus and looks over the whole city to the Acropolis. The food was excellent and the complimentary aperitif of Mastic Tears well appreciated.
But what brought us, and ALL the other diners to our feet, was the sunset. Conversation stopped as the sky turned golden over the Acropolis.
Elevator and Sunset in Lisbon, Portugal
Happenstance led us to Bellalisa Elevador, a great little spot next to the Santa Justa lift. We’d ducked in here for a quick refresher after visiting the Carmo Archaeological Museum. We were hot and the sangria was the best we’d ever tasted.
We returned our last evening and lucked into a window table as someone had cancelled their reservation. The view that night was especially dramatic as a thunderstorm darkened the skies and lightning flashed over the Castelo de S. Jorge.
Take a sunset cruise on the Tagus River. A perfect way to bid Lisbon farewell.
Zanzibar’s Magical Sunset Spot
The sunsets in Zanzibar are spectacular. But for an extraordinary dinner experience to accompany your sunset tradition, try the Emerson on Hurumzi rooftop Tea House. A traditional wedding feast is presented as you lounge on colorful pillows and watch the sun set over the ocean and rooftops of Stone Town. This is a popular spot, so make a reservation early.
Sunset Tradition on a Rooftop in Rome, Italy
In Rome we stayed at the Palazzo Naiadi, a gorgeous hotel that follows the curve of the Piazza della Repubblica. Our first night there the concierge guided us to the Ristorante Target opposite the hotel and told us to try the pizza. Best recommendation ever!!
But the last night we enjoyed a rooftop table beside the infinity pool. The view was good, not great, but the service was wonderful. We ordered light meals, and were a little put off by the price. But it soon was apparent that we would got value for our money. First complimentary prosecco, then complimentary appetizers, complimentary desserts (on a bed of dry ice), and finally complimentary limoncello.
Sunset Spot, Canal, and a Sailaway from a Rooftop Restaurant in Venice, Italy
Every place in Venice is beautiful, but we chose our hotel, the Hilton Molino Stucky after seeing images of its rooftop pool. The hotel sits on the Giudecca canal overlooking the city. We loved this hotel, which offered regular shuttles to St. Mark’s square. The shuttle itself was a fun way to be on the water enjoying Venice. We knew we’d end our stay in Italy enjoying the rooftop pool and lounge. Perfect spot!!
What made this evening extra special was the fact that we had traveled to Venice on Windstar’s Wind Surf and as we sat enjoying the sunset, the ship sailed past us, departing Venice for its next cruise. What a perfect send off!
Related: Venice Off the Beaten Path
Amsterdam, the Netherlands, a rooftop restaurant for sunset and river views
With a week long bike/barge tour behind us, we delighted in the Hilton Doubletree Amsterdam. (A modern bathroom! Wow!) The hotel is conveniently located on the Amstel river, right next to the train station. And its rooftop restaurant, SkyLounge, is rated the best in Amsterdam. The menu was limited, mainly small plates, but we enjoyed trying some Dutch specialties. As we hadn’t made a reservation we didn’t get the best table, but that didn’t stop us from walking to the railing to watch the sun set over the city.
Related: What to do in Amsterdam, Top 8
Cairo, Egypt – a farewell lunch
Mena House – OK, we didn’t make if for sunset, and it’s not on a rooftop, but what an incredible spot. To be seated by a lush garden looking out at the pyramids…sigh.
Related – Egypt and Jordan in words and photos
Other sunset spots we’ve enjoyed, or are looking forward to:
- Duke’s in Waikiki
- Tomo in Dubai
- Eyebar in Hong Kong
- Terass in Paris
- Belmond Sanctuary in Machu Picchu
- Upstairs at the Kimberly, NYC
- Le Pont de la Tour in London
- anywhere in Santorini!
And our ultimate favorite Sundowner spot:
Sanctuary Baines Camp, Okavango Delta
Related: Safari in Southern Africa in Photos
Have any suggestions for us? We not above planning a trip just to find that special restaurant!