My Top 10 Photography Spots in London

I have been taking cityscape photos of London for many years now and with so many famous views available to photograph, I wanted to share some of my favourite spots to capture this great city.

In this article, I will be taking you on a journey along the River Thames from west to east as we visit 10 of my top spots to capture a cityscape in London including how to get there, when is best to take photos and if the locations are tripod friendly or not.

#1 The Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben) from the South Bank

As mentioned above, we are working west to east and the first stop of my top 10 photography spots in London is Westminster and the Houses of Parliament. This is a great location to capture a cool bridge shot leading you across the River Thames to the Elizabeth Tower. The photo shown below was taken in 2017 as, at the time of writing, this view of the tower is obstructed by scaffolding as a 4-year renovation project is undertaken to preserve this iconic London structure which means we will be able to admire and photograph this cityscape for years to come. Roll on 2021 when we hope the work will be complete!

The Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben) | Fujifilm XT-10 | XF18-55mm | 18mm | 4-58 Seconds (Bracket) | f/9 | ISO200

The Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben) | Fujifilm XT-10 | XF18-55mm | 18mm | 4-58 Seconds (Bracket) | f/9 | ISO200

When is the best time to photograph this spot?

If are you after a sunset photo from this location, I advise you to avoid spring and autumn months as the sun will set directly behind the buildings and create a huge amount of dynamic range which most cameras will struggle with. During the summer and winter months, the sun will set either side of the tower reducing the dynamic range just enough to capture the colours of sunset and the architecture on the far side of the river. Capturing this location in the morning is less challenging as the sun will illuminate the Palace of Westminster making it much easier to capture but you may not get such a dramatic sky.

Can I use a tripod?

Yes, you can. There are no rules that prevent the use of tripods but as the location can get busy during the day and into the evenings, you should choose your spot carefully to avoid it being bumped into by other people.

How do you find the location?

The closest underground stations are Westminster (Jubilee Line) and Lambeth North (Bakerloo Line) and from there, head to Westminster Bridge and on the eastern side (South Bank) with the bridge on your right-hand side, this scene should be directly in front of you.

 

#2 The London Eye from the Golden Jubilee Bridge

I have been photographing this second composition ever since I started photographing London. I love the way the London Eye is dominant in the frame and towers over the smaller buildings that surround it. As you can see from the image here, this is a cracking location to capture the London Eye as a long exposure which I cover in a previous post featuring my top 5 locations to capture long exposure photos in London.

The London Eye | Fujifilm XT2 | XF18-55mm | 24mm | 121 Seconds | f/10 | ISO200

The London Eye | Fujifilm XT2 | XF18-55mm | 24mm | 121 Seconds | f/10 | ISO200

When is the best time to photograph this spot?

The photo above was taken during a late summers evening which is a perfect rime to capture the colours in the sky. Although the River Thames runs east/west, this view actually faces south due to a bend in the river so sunrise is off to the left and sunset is off to the right. Both times of day are great to photograph this scene. If you want to capture the river with less traffic, then the early morning is probably best otherwise you may end up waiting some time for a clear river in the evening which is what I had to do for the shot above.

Can I use a tripod?

Yes, you can. When setting up your tripod, especially when taking a long exposure, try to keep the legs away from the edge of the bridge as it’s a popular spot for people to cross the river and its quite common for people to jump on the rails which could cause the tripod to shake at the wrong time during a capture.

How do you find the location?

There are actually two Golden Jubilee Bridges, each one flanking the Hungerford Bridge. You want to be heading for the bridge on the south side. The nearest tube station is Embankment and this composition is taken from the “north” side of the river.

 

#3 The London Eye from Waterloo Bridge

It’s always good to find different and unique views of iconic locations and the third location in my top 10 spots to photograph London provides just that. You get a fantastic view looking down the River Thames and being slightly behind the London Eye provides a different perspective. This location is also fantastic for long exposure shots as shown in my blog post My Top 5 Long Exposure Locations in London.

 
The London Eye | Fujifilm XT2 | XF18-55mm | 46mm | 1/12th Second | f/7.1 | ISO200

The London Eye | Fujifilm XT2 | XF18-55mm | 46mm | 1/12th Second | f/7.1 | ISO200

 

When is the best time to photograph this spot?

Personally, I prefer the golden hour in the summer. The sun sets just off to the right of this view which provides warm, directional light across the image and the sunsets can be beautiful when captured from this spot on Waterloo Bridge.

Can I use a tripod?

Yes, but watch out for pedestrians, especially in rush hour as the path is a little narrow and a lot of commuters cross the bridge to and from work.

How do you find the location?

From the south of the river, head across the Waterloo Bridge on the left-hand side about 1/4 of the way across. Turn to your right and the view seen here should be in front of you.

 

#4 St Paul’s Cathedral from London’s South Bank

What I like about this 4th spot in my list is how it looks at night with the artificial lighting in the landscape and along the pathway which provides quite a romantic feel to the image. You could imagine a couple walking along the path on a cold winter’s evening and capturing them just as they are under the street lamp (I think I now have a new shot idea for this coming winter so stay tuned!).

St Paul’s Cathedral | Fujifilm XT2 | XF55-200mm | 55mm | 2.6 Seconds | f/11 | ISO200

St Paul’s Cathedral | Fujifilm XT2 | XF55-200mm | 55mm | 2.6 Seconds | f/11 | ISO200

When is the best time to photograph this spot?

This is an early morning or late night-spot. If taking a night-scape like the one above, then it will need to be a late one, like after 10pm as this is a very busy walkway and capturing it without people means being there at a quieter time.

Can I use a tripod?

Yes, tripods are fine at this location but like some of the other places in this article, it is important to find a spot away from where people want to walk. When it is quieter, people are happier to walk around you but during busy periods, you are best to be out of the way.

How do you find the location?

This spot is on the south side of the Thames in between Waterloo Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge. The nearest Underground stop is Waterloo Station on the Jubilee Line but what I like to do is walk along the South Bank from Westminster and as long as you stay on the Thames path along the South Bank then you will get to this spot after only a few minutes. Once you can see the dome from St Paul’s Cathedral, Blackfriars Bridge and some of the buildings in the city, you are at the right place.

 

#5 St Pauls Cathedral from the Tate Modern viewing platform

This is one of my favourite spots to capture St Pauls Cathedral and the first of two rooftop locations on this list. The composition isolates the cathedral somewhat from “modern London” allowing it to stand proud like it once did way back when. I wrote about this image in one of my weekly photo blog posts. With a cafe up on the viewing level, it’s a great location to grab a coffee and admire the view of London.

St Paul’s Cathedral | Fujifilm XT2 | XF18-55mm | 33mm | 0.8 Seconds | f/6.4 | ISO200

St Paul’s Cathedral | Fujifilm XT2 | XF18-55mm | 33mm | 0.8 Seconds | f/6.4 | ISO200

When is the best time to photograph this spot?

If you want to capture St Paul’s Cathedral at night, then it’s a much more pleasant experience doing so in the warmer months as you are quite exposed to the elements when on the tower and it can be rather cold but with the sun setting later, you should aim to visit on a Friday or Saturday evening, when the museum is open until 21:30. Otherwise, you can catch a nice sunset or night-scape image during the winter months any day of the week, just wear an extra layer or two!

Can I use a tripod?

No, the museum has a strict rule about the use of tripods. To get a sharp image in low light, you can try to use a table top tripod like the Manfrotto PIXI which I carry in my camera bag and balance it on the corner of the railings or on the floor but just be careful as it’s a slightly risky manoeuvre. My advice is to make sure that whatever you do, you keep the camera strap on in case the camera slips.

How do you find the location?

Tate Modern is located along Thames Bankside on the South of the river, opposite St Pauls. Just use the main entrance to the museum and head to the back where you will find the lifts up to the viewing level.

 

#6 The City of London from the roof of St Pauls Cathedral

Although this is probably one of the oldest viewpoints in London, it’s a recent addition to my top 10 photography spots in London. What I like about this location is the 360-degree views you get around London. You can capture The City, The Shard and around the other side you can capture Tate Modern and the London Eye. There are so many photo opportunities but my favourite has to be the ever-changing city skyline as shown below.

Quick Tip: Although it costs around £17 online (£20 on the door) to visit the Cathedral, UK tax payers can gift-aid the cost of the ticket and receive 12 months free access from the time of your first visit. It’s a fantastic deal if you want to visit again within the year.

The City of London | Fujifilm XT-30 | XF18-55mm | 27mm | 1/150th Second | f/4.5 | ISO160

The City of London | Fujifilm XT-30 | XF18-55mm | 27mm | 1/150th Second | f/4.5 | ISO160

When is the best time to photograph this spot?

As the opening times to the cathedral are what they are, most of the year, the Cathedral will be closed during the best of the light but there are two times of year when you can catch some epic light. First of all, during December and January, the Cathedral is open just long enough to capture the golden hour and sunset. In addition, during August, St Pauls Cathedral opens later on a Thursday until 21:30 which presents another opportunity to capture London during the best light of the day.

Can I use a tripod?

No, there is a strict “no tripod” rule within St Pauls Cathedral. Even if this rule didn’t exist, there simply isn’t enough room to set up a tripod in the Golden Gallery, right at the top of the dome.

How do you find the location?

As this is such an iconic landmark, finding the spot isn’t very difficult as the instantly recognisable dome can be seen from around the city and the Cathedral has its own tube station of the same name. More importantly, it’s about getting to the right vantage point which is the Golden Gallery, located at the very top of the Cathedral’s dome and to do so, you need to be fit and able to climb 528 steps. Although it’s not quite as high, if 528 steps are too many, the Stone Gallery offers similar views whilst knocking off around 150 steps from the climb.

 

#7 Tower Bridge from the Tower of London

Still working towards East London, location number seven is a classic view of Tower bridge. There are so many places to capture this epic landmark but the cobbled street and ornate lamp add a nice finishing touch to this composition. If you like to add people to your photos, then this spot is perfect as you can place someone walking along the path or even sitting on the bench looking out across the river.

Tower Bridge | Fujifilm XT-10 | XF18-55mm | 18mm | 1/3 Second | f/10 | ISO200

Tower Bridge | Fujifilm XT-10 | XF18-55mm | 18mm | 1/3 Second | f/10 | ISO200

When is the best time to photograph this spot?

This location lends itself to a sunrise shot in the colder months during December and January. The sun creeps into the frame on the left adding some nice sidelight to the bridge. In addition, this is the only time of day where you can catch the location free of people. As soon as you get to 8-9am, people flock to the location meaning you cannot take this shot without a bunch of people in the scene.

Lastly, if you want to capture this location at night, a word of warning, it shuts at 9pm every night and if you are set up on a tripod the guards will start to usher you out at around 20:50 so they can lock up on time.

Can I use a tripod?

Surprisingly so, yes. Even though this is private property, it seems the management team at the Tower of London are happy to allow tripods even though it can get very busy during the day which is quite refreshing to say the least.

How do you find the location?

Tower Hill is the nearest tube station located on the other side of the castle. otherwise on the south of the river, London Bridge Station is the closest. Head to the north side of the river, directly in front of the Tower of London and you will see the spot along the river.

 

#8 More London from Tower of London

This is fast becoming one of the most iconic views in London and is in my top 10 spots to photograph London for that very reason. It encompasses More London, City Hall, The Shard, HMS Belfast and in the background, London Bridge. It’s a rather modern looking view of the city with lots of reflective glass that can vary the look of the buildings depending on where the light comes from and the type of light available.

More London and The Shard | Fujifilm XT-30 | XF18-55mm | 18mm | 1/45th Second | f/13 | ISO160

More London and The Shard | Fujifilm XT-30 | XF18-55mm | 18mm | 1/45th Second | f/13 | ISO160

When is the best time to photograph this spot?

The summer months are best when photographing this location as the sun is further over to the right during the golden hour. During the colder months, the sun will be directly behind The Shard resulting in the buildings being silhouetted which does not make such a good photo.

Can I use a tripod?

Yes, whether you take the photo from Tower Bridge or in front of the Tower of London, tripods are allowed. Just be careful as this area gets very busy and I advise anyone to tuck themselves out of the way as much as possible to avoid the tripod legs tripping someone up or being kicked by a passer-by.

How do you find the location?

This is one of my favourite views in London but compositionally, it can be tricky to capture and whereas a lot of people will try to capture the scene from directly opposite in front of the Tower of London, I prefer to capture this view from the north end of Tower Bridge as I prefer a slightly higher vantage point looking further down the Thames and with the Shard directly the middle, the image looks a little more balanced in my opinion.

 

#9 Tower Bridge and The Shard from The Girl and the Dolphin Fountain

Number 9 on my list is a great location to capture Tower Bridge with some foreground and background interest. The Girl and the Dolphin fountain creates a great focal point and if you stand in the right place, you can use the statue to frame the iconic bridge. If you are lucky and the clouds are moving towards you then this can make a great long exposure photo as seen below. The smooth lines created by the movement in the clouds can help frame the overall image nicely.

Quick Tip: I recommend taking a wider lens with you if you intend to shoot this location as it allows you to capture the entire fountain along with the bridge.

Tower Bridge and The Shard | Fujifilm XT-30 | XF10-24mm | 10mm | 8 Seconds | f/9 | ISO160

Tower Bridge and The Shard | Fujifilm XT-30 | XF10-24mm | 10mm | 8 Seconds | f/9 | ISO160

When is the best time to photograph this spot?

From a light and weather point of view, both morning and evening light can create great images but to make the capture process easier, I recommend a sunrise shoot as this location is very popular with tourists and in the evening, it is really hard to get a clean shot without people wandering into your frame. The location is far less busy first thing in the morning.

Can I use a tripod?

Yes, but be aware and courteous to people around you as the best composition is in the middle of the public footpath. I have shot this location many times and never been bothered by the tripod police.

How do you find the location?

The closest tube station is either London Bridge or Tower Bridge. The location is on the north bank of the Thames. On one side of Tower Bridge, you have the Tower of London. This location is on the other side of the bridge. The fountain is right on the edge of the water so you can’t miss it.

 

#10 Canary Wharf from the Blackwall Basin

Last but not least in my top 10 photography spots in London is this epic view of Canary Wharf over on the Isle of Dogs. It’s a great spot to capture the high-rise buildings such as One Canada Square and with the still water in the Blackwall Basin, you can capture some really cool reflections which is not normally possible along the River Thames due to its choppy waters.

Canary Wharf | Fujifilm XT-10 | XF18-55mm | 18mm | 3 Seconds | f/8 | ISO200

Canary Wharf | Fujifilm XT-10 | XF18-55mm | 18mm | 3 Seconds | f/8 | ISO200

When is the best time to photograph this spot?

An early morning shoot is a good time to capture this scene as the sun will light the front of the buildings. Alternatively, if capturing a sunset, aim for June or December as the sun will set furthest to each side of the frame minimising the chance of the buildings being silhouetted by the sun.

Can I use a tripod?

You can use tripods from this location.

How do you find the location?

From Canary Wharf Station on the Jubilee line or South Quay on the DLR, head east to find Preston’s Road. Head north from there and just after crossing a bridge there will be a residential area on your left where you will see the scene above


So there you have it, my Top 10 Photography Spots in London! There are so many other great locations to capture the city from down in the streets, along the Thames and up high looking over the rooftops. I will be sure to include some of these in an upcoming post but for now, feel free to leave your own top spots to photograph in London in the comments below.

Until next time…