Living the High Life: Rangoon’s Best Rooftop Bars
By The Irrawaddy 31 March 2017
RANGOON — The best way to soak up Rangoon’s colonial architecture, leafy parks, waterways, and spangly pagodas is to rise above the city’s crowded streets and enjoy a bite to eat or a cool drink in the fresh air of a rooftop bar or restaurant. Burma’s commercial hub is amassing quite an arsenal of rooftop venues with a number of swanky options having opened in the last year or so. Always on the lookout for the latest developments in the city, The Irrawaddy brings you a handpicked guide to eating and drinking al fresco and at altitude.
Atlas opened late last year so is a relative newcomer to Rangoon’s rooftop bar scene, though the owners have wasted no time in making it one of the city’s go-to place for sundowners. Twelve-stories up on an unassuming street in Sanchaung Township, the bar has 360-degree views of the city. Looking West, the sun sets over the Yangon River while to the East, the Shwedagon Pagoda emerges from the foliage of its surrounding parks.
The bar regularly hosts jazz nights, DJ sets, and outdoor cinema evenings, adding to the chilled-out holiday vibe. The seating is arranged in large couches with tables in the middle making it more suited to large groups than a couple hoping for a cheeky romantic tipple.
The drinks menu is posh with a whole page of champagnes—including a 2004 vintage Dom Perignon for a whopping 500,000 kyats. More realistically priced are the cocktails, which hover around the 5,000 kyats mark and include some local takes on the classics. A concise menu includes a selection of flammkuchen—a sort of German sour-dough pizza.
84 Pan Hlaing Street, Sanchaung Township
Sapphire Lounge at Alfa Hotel
Atop the Alfa Hotel, Sapphire Lounge is an old favorite of the Rangoon bar scene and wins the prize for location. It’s a short stroll from the city’s hot spots including Bogyoke Market and Shwedagon Pagoda. Nestled among the buzzing restaurant quarter of Yawmingyi, it’s the perfect option for a pre- or post- dinner drink.
The space itself is fairly basic with metal chairs and tables and a makeshift-looking bar. Its lack of swank (and loud music) make for a laidback venue for casual sundowners with a group of friends. The staff are super friendly and the seats around the edge are perfect for taking in the view north toward the Shwedagon Pagoda.
The bar’s signature cocktails were a little sweet for The Irrawaddy’s taste so you might be better sticking with draft beer—perfect to wash down the barbecue skewers on offer from the restaurant below.
41 Nawaday Street, Yawmingyi Quater, Dagon Township
Rangoon’s expat hipster enclave of Sanchaung is home to Penthouse, an upscale rooftop bar situated eight floors above the corner of People’s Park. Penthouse boasts funky design, attentive staff, an extensive menu, and regular visits from international DJs. It is a strong contender for the award of swankiest rooftop in the city.
Half of the rooftop itself is inside, providing a welcome refuge from Rangoon’s famous rain/heat. Outside, you’ll have to choose your seat wisely as only a handful offer that coveted Shwedagon Pagoda view. Though the heavy beat of house music has permeated all seats in the establishment each time The Irrawaddy has visited.
The menu is in the upper echelons of Rangoon dining, with prices to match. There’s lobster, oyster, and tenderloin steak to be washed down with wines from all corners of the globe and perfectly mixed classic cocktails.
Parkside One Building, 271-273 Bagaya Road, Sanchaung Township
Yangon Yangon is this reporter’s top pick for rooftop drinking in the city. Perched atop Sakura Tower—the closest thing downtown Rangoon has to a skyscraper—the bar offers 360-degree views of the city.
To the south, Rangoon’s fantastic old colonial buildings are laid out, including the Secretariat, the High Court, and the Port Authority. Beyond is the leafy and rural Dala on the other side of the Yangon River. In the far distance, it may just be possible to see the river meet the Andaman Sea. To the north is the sparkling Shwedagon Pagoda.
There are downsides, however. The cocktails are not fantastic and the music can be too loud. The bar’s popularity makes it a good idea to book a table if you want a prime seat on the weekend. There’s a cover charge of 5,000 kyats but you get a free drink.
Sakura Tower, 339 Bogyoke Rd, Kyauktada Township
Vista Bar on Shwegondaing is one of the closest rooftop bars to the Shwedagon Pagoda. Open until 1 am, it is the perfect place for a late night-tipple with the Shwedagon in all its floodlit glory. The tables are quite close together meaning the atmosphere could be described as “buzzing and frenetic” or “overcrowded and noisy,” depending on the punter’s mood. Choose your seat wisely as some views are more Shwegondaing than Shwedagon. The food menu is uninspiring so it’s best to stick with the drinks and shisha.
168 Shwegondaing Road West, Bahan Township
Another old favorite, Esperado Hotel’s rooftop bar gives a leafy view over Kandawgyi Lake and the fantastically bling Karaweik Palace Restaurant. The bar stools on the balcony’s edge are ideal for a Shwedagon sundowner.
Unfortunately, it’s also the perfect place to take in the crawling traffic and rampant construction around the lake. The buffet dinner is not worth getting excited over, neither is the coffee.
23 Kan Yeik Thar Road, Mingalar Taung Nyunt Township
Cocoon may be Rangoon’s first, and accidental, speakeasy. The neon sign above will guide you, but the entrance is easy to miss—an unmarked door on the side of the building. Upstairs, the café and bar is casual and understated, perhaps bordering on scruffy. There’s a decent selection of reasonably-priced cocktails and the food will fill you up. The outside seats have a great view of East toward the Shwedagon Pagoda but are limited, so call ahead to reserve a table or turn up early.
9/F, 22-24 Shinsawpu Road and Baho Road, Kyimyindaing Township