The Knoxville bar scene has expanded by leaps and bounds in just the last couple of years. From breweries and taprooms to CBD-infused beer bars, speakeasies and kitschy rum cocktail joints, Knoxville isn’t short on fun places to go when you want to wet your whistle. However, when it comes to sipping spirits while sitting sky high overlooking the scenic sites of our Scruffy City (say that 5 times fast?), these rooftop bars TOP my list. (See what I did there?) Keep reading for a bird’s eye view of all the places in Knox that will give you… well, a bird’s eye view.
1.) Five Thirty Lounge
First off, let’s talk about the newest addition/expansion to Knoxville’s rooftop bar scene, the Five Thirty Lounge, located above the Hyatt Place Downtown Knoxville on Gay Street. If you’re looking for a stylish, elevated experience, this place is it. The Five Thirty Lounge offers indoor and outdoor rooftop bar areas, delicious signature cocktails (the prickly pear margarita is my go-to) and an upscale bar menu of snacks and small plates. Comfy seating areas to get lost in conversation? Check. Stylish design and a glittering gold bar? Check and check. String lights and a fire pit outside to keep you warm on cool summer nights? 100%.
However, my favorite thing about this bar is the view from their Mountain Terrace outdoor bar area. Even if you’re sitting inside, you can still take in views of the Smoky Mountains as the indoor bar is surrounded by 15ft glass windows. It. Is. A. Vibe.
Pro-Tip: This place gets busy so make a reservation and you can choose which area you would like to experience.
2.) Radius Rooftop Lounge
The next rooftop bar on my list is just a short walk from Five Thirty Lounge across Gay Street to Radius Rooftop Lounge. Similar to the FTL, it is located above a hotel (Embassy Suites by Hilton) and also offers indoor and outdoor rooftop areas. However, the vibe at Radius is a 180º turn from Five Thirty Lounge. On the weekends that I have ventured here with friends, I was glad I was wearing my party pants as the patrons do skew a bit younger and this place can get LITTY (am I using that right? Yeet?) and loud. The 360º circular bar is fun and aesthetically pleasing and hanging out next to a rooftop pool makes me feel bougie AF.
They also host live music in the lounge on certain weeknights and another Pro-Tip: you can nom on some of Knoxville’s best tacos as they serve CJ’s Tacos on the roof! Music and tacos on a rooftop?! Does it get any better? Yes, yes it does. Because in addition to all that, you get a lovely view of the structure that defines the downtown Knoxville skyline, the Sunsphere. *chef’s kiss*
Now, let’s say fancy schmancy hotel rooftop bars aren’t your scene. No worries. Knoxville, in true “scruffy” fashion, has got you.
3&4.) Pres Pub & Bernadette’s
A 3-minute walk to Market Square from Gay Street will take you to the next rooftop bars on my list: Preservation Pub and the adjacent Bernadette’s Crystal Gardens. Preservation Pub (known to locals as either Pres Pub or P-Pub) is Knoxville’s longest running rooftop bar owned by locals Scott and Bernadette West. These two have a fun and infamous story that I’ll save for another day, but they definitely know a thing or two when it comes to creating a rooftop ambiance. A large tree with sprawling limbs (dubbed the Magic Beer Tree) greets you once you get to the third-floor rooftop in the “Moonshine Roof Garden” on the Pres Pub side. Bernadette’s has a 4th floor lounge as well and there is something that will catch your eye in every inch of this space whether it’s the bar tops, hand painted bathrooms or all the gemstones that adorn everything. My favorite thing at both of these places is just how quirky and truly unique they are; you never really know what will be in store for your time spent here (except that it will include shenanigans).
There are several Pro-Tips I could offer up about these spots but here’s one specifically for the rooftop: This is the one you will want to be on when the temps go up this summer due to their misting fans and large triangle sun shades.
5.) Scruffy City Hall
Right next door to Pres Pub and Bernadette’s is a third rooftop option in Market Square: Scruffy City Hall. While this rooftop may not have fire pits or beer trees, it still sports something truly unique. Friends, you must experience the “CinePub Under the Stars on the Scroof” where a projector plays movies and other various kinds of entertainment on the side of the building next door. Scruffy’s “Scrooftop” is a perfect place to watch an old timey black and white film or a sports game, and there is ample seating to bring a crowd.
Sunspot on the Strip and Hi-Wire Brewing in South Knox. While these two establishments definitely have options for getting above ground level to a rooftop area, they are not especially known for being “rooftop bars.” However, since both are great spots for so many other reasons, the fact that they have rooftop access in addition to their other offerings is basically just a bonus. Sunspot is a great choice if you are near UT, have a vegetarian in your squad, or are just looking for a delightful little brunch spot. Meanwhile, Hi-Wire is one of my favorite breweries here in Knoxville. They have two soccer pool tables, table tennis, shuffleboard, pint nights, yoga, trivia and oh yeah… a delicious selection of craft beer. AND they are in a perfect walkable location to hit up all your other fav spots in SoKno. Need I go on?
In conclusion, rooftop bars and summer make a perfect match. And while rooftops that are 60 floors high with infinity pools and swim up bars make for some magical vacations – we’ve got some pretty cute places to elevate your cocktail experience, take in the serene setting of East Tennessee, and get your staycation on right here in Knoxville. Cheers!
Nena’s Fun Fast (and Tall!) Facts:
- The Sunsphere, built for the 1982 World’s Fair, is 266 feet tall.
- The First Tennessee Plaza is the tallest building in Knoxville at 327 feet with 27 floors.
- Downtown Knoxville is 936 feet above sea level.