(CNN) — Few experiences herald the joys of summer living like eating and drinking outdoors, or dining al fresco as Italians call it, literally “in the open air.”
But when you’ve lived through what has felt, at times, like an endless lockdown — or indeed been unable to dine out at all, for up to a year — then the thought of eating on sun-dappled terraces, elegant lawns, waterside promenades or private balconies takes on whole new levels of excitement.
The clink of glasses to the sounds of waves or birdsong. The gentle buzz of conversation, the ripples of laughter, the pop of corks. They’re back – and arguably better than ever.
From the home of al fresco in Italy to the wilds of the UK’s Lake District, cool metropolitan dining in Berlin and Dublin to ancient Greek vistas, these are some of the tables where we’d love to rock up this summer — and never have to leave.
DaV Mare at Splendido Mare, Portofino (Italy)
In the place that gave us the phrase al fresco, few dining vistas are as iconic or sought-after as those overlooking the waters of the Mediterranean. And when it comes to the waters of the Med, few destinations are as iconic as Portofino on the Ligurian Coast, a famously romantic fishing village with colorful houses.
It’s also home to Splendido Mare, a Belmond Hotel that’s just opened a new restaurant called DaV Mare in partnership with Italian culinary powerhouse Da Vittorio Group. Their open-air terrace overlooks gleaming yachts in Portofino harbor, while the menu features fabulous local seafood, signature pasta and inventive dishes like risotto with pesto and shrimp from Santa Margherita Ligure just along the coast.
Henrock, The Lake District (England)
England’s Lake District has been attracting visitors for centuries, drawn by its magnificent landscapes, walking trails and reputation for warm local hospitality. These facets combine in style at Linthwaite House overlooking Lake Windermere, England’s largest natural lake, where stylish accommodation is matched by hyper-local cuisine from renowned chef Simon Rogan at Henrock.
An à la carte menu suggests fine dining, but as always in Rogan’s restaurants, the emphasis is on a relaxed environment where stellar plates are matched by flawless, friendly service. Much produce comes straight from Rogan’s own farm in the nearby Cartmel Valley, while the views take in perfectly manicured lawns — a calling card for any self-respecting British country hotel — mountains, Lake Windermere and endlessly changing skies.
Yannick Alléno à l’Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo
Yannick Alléno à l’Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo: Millionaires’ playground view.
Courtesy Yannick Alléno à l’Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo
The storied Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo already had one of the most striking terraces on the French Riviera, but the arrival of new superstar chef Yannick Alléno has raised the bar still higher for lucky gastronomes in the Principality of Monaco. The expansive terrace overlooks the yacht-filled harbor of the famed millionaires’ playground, as well as the hilltop old town that is home to the Prince’s Palace.
Open seven days a week, the restaurant promises “fine dining without formality” and dishes that celebrate well-being. In the hands of Alléno, a chef who has led multiple restaurants to three Michelin-starred status, that means dishes like aubergine caviar, barbecued local lobster or candied rhubarb.
The Marker Rooftop Bar and Terrace, Dublin
Dublin’s Docklands area around Grand Canal Square reflect the vitality of an area known as Silicon Docks due to its growth as the Irish capital’s tech hub, with social media and search engines at every turn. The Marker Hotel sits in its heart and is an unmissable landmark thanks to its checkerboard exterior.
The rooftop bar and terrace’s proud claim is 360-degree views over the city, taking in the River Liffey, the cityscape’s rooftops, all the way out to the Dublin and Wicklow mountains and eventually the Irish Sea. Monkfish tempura, spring lamb cutlets or grilled tiger prawns with garlic and truffle fries are just some of the temptations on offer.
Chiringuito Blue, Hotel Riomar, Ibiza (Spain)
Ibiza in Spain’s Balearic Islands is a byword for nightlife, drawing cool crowds who seriously like to party. It’s not all nightclubs till dawn, however, as many locals and visitors are drawn to the relaxed feels of restaurants that celebrate brilliant local produce — and still let you kick back in style, just at a slightly gentler pace.
Looking east from Chiringuito Blue at the Hotel Riomar you’ll see the marina and port of Santa Eulalia, while south brings the coastline of the tiny island of Formentera. With waves lapping just yards away, under their awning you’ll enjoy a menu of Mediterranean cuisines from countries including Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, Italy, Greece and Spain. The kid-friendly spot is also proud of their own organic farm, which provides many of the ingredients.
Pavilion, COMO Castello di Nero, Tuscany (Italy)
A line of cypress trees surrounded by gently rolling hills, terracotta roofs and late afternoon sun. It’s a scene from a thousand movies — “Under the Tuscan Sun,” anyone? — precisely because it’s so timeless and immediately evokes a sense of place. Tuscany is another part of Italy where eating al fresco seems the only way to go and places don’t get much more authentically Tuscan than the 740-acre estate and 12th Century castle, Castello del Nero.
Surrounded by forests, vineyards and gardens, it’s already an enchanting spot even before you get to Pavilion, one of four restaurants on site. Wild boar ragu and lobster ravioli are two of Pavilion’s signature dishes to truly whet the appetite, but with those jaw-droppingly pretty views as your appetizer — especially at sunset — dining al fresco just got even tastier.
The Garden, The Dunstane Houses, Edinburgh
Edinburgh may not be synonymous with constant sunshine, but when the sun does come out, there are few better places to soak it in. The Dunstane Houses in the city’s historic West End is a Victorian townhouse inspired by the rugged and beautiful Orkney Islands some 300 miles further north, an archipelago that also provides much of the produce crafted into dishes such as the Orkney beef burger with Orkney cheddar.
Whether you fancy a hammock, deck chair or full dining table, you can eat and drink in style on the charming lawn, surrounded by beautifully manicured gardens. Heaters and blankets are also on hand for when temperatures drop after dark, but another option to keep warm is their collection of single malts, one of the most extensive in the Scottish capital.
Rooftop Terrace, Hotel de Rome, Berlin
Bebeplatz is one of the German capital’s most historic and central sites, something that helps explain why the views from the rooftop terrace at Hotel Re Rome are so sought-after by locals and visitors alike. Housed in a former 19th century bank, the building is already prestigious and impressive, but it’s the feeling of soaring above the city that makes it a definitive place to see and be seen.
The iconic dome of St. Hedwig’s Cathedral, the flamboyant Opera House and the 1960s TV tower are just some of the highlights of the skyline’s panorama. While taking it all in, you can even sip on cocktails created for the occasion such as “Touch the Sky” with strawberries, Vermouth and champagne. The food menu is equally enticing with wood-oven pizzas, tuna steaks and generous burgers among the temptations.
Mercante, Sheraton Grand London Park Lane, London
Mercante’s address on Piccadilly in Mayfair could not be more indicative of London. While their dining terrace may be at street level, the stream of red double-decker buses and black London taxi cabs, not to mention views over to Green Park, make it indisputably a place to feel the energy and tradition of the heart of the city.
While the surroundings are unmistakably British, the menu is anything but, taking drinkers and diners instead to Italy’s Amalfi coast. Decked in greenery and fresh lemons, as well as Mediterranean blues, Mercante makes for a slice of Dolce Vita, London-style. The menu also reflects southern Italy, with zucchini and basil, creamy burrata and succulent San Marzano tomatoes all vying for attention.
Amanzoe, Kranidi (Greece)
Unquestionably Mediterranean in both feel and location, Greece’s Peloponnese is a famed peninsula southwest of Athens. On the east coast sits an ultra-luxury resort, Amanzoe, which overlooks olive groves and the shimmering blues of the Aegean Sea.
Their restaurant specializes in ethically sourced seafood, with one highlight being the catch of the day — such as freshly caught bass, bream or grouper — that is cooked in salt dough and cracked open. Local lamb and pork also feature, as do wood-fired pizzas and delicious local desserts for those with a sweet tooth. Once again though, it’s all about those views, encompassing UNESCO-protected ancient ruins, fragrant gardens and speedboats zipping between the islands off the coast.
Patio Alfonso XIII, Restaurante San Fernando, Seville (Spain)
At first glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Hotel Alfonso XIII in the charming Spanish city of Seville was a centuries-old Spanish palace. In fact, the ornately decorated property only dates from 1929, but the past 90 years or so have seen it welcome countless dignitaries and celebrities, enchanted by its romantic architecture that’s typical of Andalusia.
Nowhere is that more visible than in their stunning Patio, a sizable outdoor terrace where beautiful, intricately decorated Moorish tilework, a fountain, colonnades and more make it the place to be seen — and increasingly an Instagrammer’s dream. Irishman Brian Deegan oversees the menu, where wild sea bass with pumpkin and vanilla risotto, or truffled beef with pork belly and potato are just some of the decadent creations on offer.
Sky Bar by Seen, Tivoli Avenida Liberdade Hotel, Lisbon
Portugal’s capital seems to go from strength to strength and has firmly cemented itself as one of Europe’s coolest cities to visit. That’s thanks in part to additions to its rich cultural history, such as Sky Bar at the Tivoli Avenida Liberdade Hotel, which itself dates from 1933.
The Arrábida Mountains, Lisbon’s botanical gardens and the imposing Castelo de Sāo Jorge are some of the landmarks to look for, but it’s the views over the city’s hills and down the length of Avenida de Liberdade towards the Tagus river that really set Sky Bar apart. The cosmopolitan vibe comes from a mix of glamorous locals and visitors enjoying drinks and small plates such as lamb croquettes, ceviche of fish and lobster buns to accompany their carefully crafted cocktails.
La Terrasse, Cheval Blanc, St Tropez (France)
La Terrasse at Cheval Blanc: One of the finest places to enjoy the Cote d’Azur.
Cheval Blanc St-Tropez
The Mediterranean is at its sparkling finest along France’s famed Cote d’Azur and one of the top places to enjoy it comes from La Terrasse at Cheval Blanc, St Tropez. Dazzling views come from underneath the shade of pine trees, which are hundreds of years old, looking over the beach and towards the water. Fifty shades of blue, as it were.
La Terrasse is open from breakfast throughout the day, with all of chef Arnaud Donckele’s menus celebrating produce grown under the Provence sun. Whether it’s indulgent long lunches fueled by a bottle or two of Rosé, or perfect summer dinner plates like a chilled soup of tomatoes, strawberries and watermelon with burrata and Corsican Ham, La Terrasse perfectly distils the chic essence of the legendary coastline.
El Mirador, The Ritz-Carlton, Abama (Spain)
If you’re going to pick a spot for al fresco dining, then it doesn’t get much better than near the edge of a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. That’s the setting for the aptly-named El Mirador — The Viewpoint — at The Ritz-Carlton, Abama on Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands.
From breakfast through sunset and beyond, you’ll be watching the views towards La Gomera Island as much as the delicious plates from chef César González and team. It’s no surprise that seafood and Spanish classics like paella and arroz caldoso feature on many orders — while the restaurant even has its own secluded infinity pool if you fancy a post-meal dip.
The Dorchester Rooftop, London
The Dorchester on London’s Park Lane is a storied address with 90 years of history to its name, but this year marks the opening of their first ever rooftop restaurant and bar. With the hotel’s location right in the heart of ritzy Mayfair, the views are hard to beat and take in 360 degrees of the capital.
From the elegant green expanse of Hyde Park, the high-end royal boroughs and west London, all the way to the iconic skyline of the financial district and famed landmarks, London is laid out beneath you.
Open daily for lunch and dinner until 1 a.m., The Dorchester Rooftop is sure to see some partying, particularly with a live band and DJ also on hand.
Chefs from across the hotel’s renowned restaurants show off their skills, celebrating British, French and Mediterranean cuisines. Handily, umbrellas and blankets are also available in case London’s weather lives up to its changeable reputation.
The Gritti Terrace, The Gritti Palace, Venice (Italy)
It’s the view that has inspired locals, visitors — and especially artists — for centuries. Venice’s Grand Canal has changed very little since the famed Italian city’s heyday at the end of the 18th century — a time when the floating city was actually still a sovereign state known as The Republic of Venice.
The basilica of Santa Maria della Salute and the Punta della Dogana museum are just two of the dozens of magnificent buildings lining the canal, in addition to the constant maritime energy of gondolas, water taxis and vaporetto water buses. In addition to an impressively extensive cocktail and wine list, perfect for sipping and watching the world go by, plates may feature Venetian pasta and bean stew or even a “Hemingway style risotto.”
Mandarin Oriental, Geneva (Switzerland)
With a backdrop of soaring snow-capped mountains and sitting along the shores of a lake, Geneva is seriously picturesque. Even in the heart of the city it’s all about water, especially from the elegant terrace of Yakumanka that overlooks the flowing Rhône river just yards away and the skyline of the historic Left Bank.
The riverside restaurant at Mandarin Oriental, Geneva is led by acclaimed Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio, reflecting his homeland with a particular focus on ceviche, or fish in citrus marinades.
Yakumanka’s design deliberately reflects the colors and vibrancy of a traditional Peruvian ceviche restaurant. Other menu highlights include skewers of meat or fish known as anticuchos, or beef sauteed in the popular Peruvian liquor, pisco. Talking of which, their cocktail list has also won plenty of fans along the way.