Vertical Align A Horizontal Menu in CSS

This is just a quick post on vertically aligning a horizontal menu with CSS. There are many posts out there on how to do this, but on a current project, I found that none of the tutorials I found worked. I managed to stumble upon a way that worked. I know for many this will be common sense....this post is for everybody else.


  • Horizontal menu of a fixed height
  • Elements of a fixed width
  • Text within these elements may be one or two lines
  • All text must be vertically aligned to the middle

If this whole menu was only one line, then a simple line-height and vertical-align would have been the solution, but since there can be more than one line, this would not work.

Instead I needed to go back a few years to the world of tables. Now before anyone jumps all over that, I didn't actually use tables. Instead I used the CSS property "display" to treat the links like table cells. The way tables vertically align content within them is exactly how I wanted these links to be treated to this was a good solution.

So on with the code. The HTML we'll work with is below:

    <div id="site-menu">
      <ul class="links primary-links">
        <li><a title="item 1" href="#">Item 1</a></li>
        <li><a title="item 2" href="#">Item 2</a></li>
        <li><a title="item 3" href="#">This is a two line link</a></li>
        <li><a title="item 4" href="#">Item 4</a></li>

The CSS for these links is as follows

    #site-menu {
      height: 100px;
    .primary-links {
      text-align: center;
    .primary-links li {
      width: 100px;
      white-space: normal;
      float: left;

So with what's there right now you will have a horizontal list of links which are all vertically aligned to the top. The desired result we want is to have them all vertically aligned middle. I had attempted to treat the list elements as table cells but this had no effect. On a whim I decided to throw the table cell CSS onto the anchor tags instead.

    .primary-links a {
      display: table-cell;
      height: 100px;
      vertical-align: middle;

To my surprise this worked like desired. I got a horizontal list of links which were vertically aligned to the middle. A height must be given to the anchor tag in order for this to work.


So once again my requirements were to have a horizontal menu of a fixed height, who's elements were a fixed width. The text within these elements may be one or two lines and they all must be vertically aligned to the middle. If you have similar requirements to myself I hope I just saved you some time.

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