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best places to photograph london

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night photo palace of westminster

Capturing images of the House of Parliament, or Palace of Westminster, is one of my favourite places to photograph London.  I prefer to visit the area at night because the buildings illuminate beautifully highlighting the gold tones in the stone used throughout the structure.  Like so  many other brilliant London photo locations, the area around Palace of Westminster is a treasure trove with Big Ben, Westminster Bridge, the Thames River, Westminster Abbey and Parliament Square nearby.

If I had to choose the ultimate place to take the best London photos, Palace of Westminster and the area surrounding the grand building would near the top of the list.  As a proficient night photographer, you’ll find me out and about after the sun goes down.  The reflections of the Victorian architectural masterpiece reflects beautifully in the river especially with the warm lighting tones.  The truth is, however, the entire area is worthy of a visit with your camera day or night.

In 1834, fired ravaged both Houses of Parliament along with most other building on the site.  Westminster Hall, the Jewel Tower and a few others were spared from destruction thanks to firefighters and changing winds.  

The new Palace of Westminster, what we see today, was custom-built by the Victorian architect Charles Barry.  Mr Barry was careful to combine the old with the new, so that the surviving buildings – Westminster Hall, the Cloisters and Chapter House of St. Stephen’s, and the Undercroft Chapel – formed a structure that appeared seamless.

The Palace of Westminster towers over the River Thames and is quite imposing as a symbol of power, tho’ one might question the power bit given today’s political folly.  Back in Victorian times when the Palace was rebuilt, the architecture and massive structure captivated the imaginations of the public.  It also had a significant influence on the subsequent design of various public buildings such as town halls, law courts and schools throughout the United Kingdom, and internationally.

Where is Palace of Westminster?  How Do I Get To Palace of Westminster?
Palace of Westminster GPS Coordinates :: 51.4995° N, 0.1248° W

Map Showing Location of Palace of Westminster ::

Map Showing Location of Palace of Westminster

London Colisseum illuminated at night and Red Phone Boxes

When the London Coliseum originally opened in 1904, it was London’s largest and most luxurious variety theatres.  It was referred to as the people’s palace of entertainment at the time.  Even today, with 2,59 seats, the Coliseum is the largest theatre in London.

The theatre has been used for variety shows, stage plays, musical comedies, and screening films throughout the years.  After the Sadler’s Wells Opera Company moved into the building in 1968, the name changed to the English National Opera.  Today the London Coliseum is used primarily for opera as well as being the London home of the English National Ballet.

I’ve attended numerous English National Opera productions including “The Marriage of Figaro” and “Sweeney Todd.”  What rich entertainment you can enjoy at any number of productions throughout each season, but be sure to have your camera in hand when you walk out the doors into St Martin’s Lane.

St Martin’s Lane has always been one of my favourite roads in Central London.  There is no rhyme nor reason to my fondness of this street except it seems more civilised than others and the numerous theatres dotted along St Martin’s.  Of course you’ll find the London Coliseum which is a challenge to photograph.  My best advice is to jockey yourself around St Martin’s Lane as well as the area in front of the National Portrait Gallery along Charing Cross Road.  I especially love the red phone boxes and the tall leafy trees that add interesting elements into any London photograph.

Is the London Coliseum one of the best places to photograph London?  No, not exactly.  The coliseum building itself is indeed quite stunning especially with the spinning finial like part of the structure.  The interesting part of the area is challenging yourself to capture a great photograph in and around the Coliseum area.  To top it off, Trafalgar Square is mere steps away where a myriad of fabulous London photographs await you.

Where is the ENO London Coliseum?  How Do I Get To the London Coliseum?
ENO London Coliseum GPS Coordinates :: 51.5098° N, 0.1268° W

Map Showing the Location of the English National Opera London Coliseum ::

Map Showing Location of London Colisseum

photo showing entrance to city of london

Strategically placed around the perimeters of the “Square Mile,” are statues of dragons holding the shield of St George signifying your entrance into the City of London.  No, no!  Not sprawling London as a whole, but the 1.12 square miles that make up the historical centre of trading and business.

History can take you back to when London was known as Londinium when the Romans established a settlement around 43AD.  It is safe to say the Romans were the first presence of life in London as archaeologists have found no evidence of pre-Roman  signs of significant life beforehand.  

You can find segments of the London Wall, which was built by the Romans, near Tower Hill Underground Station.  The Romans built the wall sometime around 190AD and 225AD.  The boundaries of the Roman city were quite close to this of the City of London today except the City extends further west than Lononinium’s Ludgate.  Remember also the River Thames was wider back then than it is today so the shoreline of Londoninium was slightly north of the City of London’s present shoreline.

Of course the City of London grew by leaps and bounds over hundreds and hundreds of years.  The beauty of the square mile is it continues to transform London’s skyline with modern architecture at a seemingly rapid pace.

This is a lot to say about statues of a dragon tho’ there is rich history behind them.  Are the statues themselves the best places to photograph London?  No, not really save for the one located in The Strand.  

The City of London itself is worth a day, and even a weekend, to explore with your camera.  Only about 9,400 people live within the City today tho’ about 300,000 commute to the area each day for work.  After work hours and weekends are ideal for keen creative photographers as you will have the City of London virtually to yourself. 

The end of Waterloo Bridge isn’t exactly a London attraction but if you love long exposures and capturing light trails, this is a perfect place for London photography.

When you stand at the end of the bridge with The Strand at your back, you are in a super place as the road descends into a tunnel and there is one road on one side and another road on the other.  Timing is essential to capture moving traffic in all places all at once.  Cars drive down into the tunnel leading to Holborn and London iconic double decker buses pass along on either side.

If you are easily entertained like I am, you will be certain to spend at least an hour in this spot.

image of the end of waterloo bridge

Map showing where you should stand to capture photos at the end of Waterloo Bridge ::

Map Showing the Location of Waterloo Bridge

I always want the end of Regent Street to offer incredible photographs.  The truth is the end of Regent Street (between Oxford Street and the beginning of Portland Street) is not that interesting.  The walk is sort of dull.  What a fantastic way to convince you to make this trek?

The truth is if you’re at Oxford Circus, you might as well continue the walk to All Souls Langham Place, a church, and the BBC Broadcasting House.

The contrast of old London architecture and contemporary architecture is interesting.  You can find the combination in a number of areas throughout London.  I especially love the rounded entrance to the All Souls church as it is situated as the Regent Street curves into Portland Street.  If you enjoy capturing light trails from moving traffic, this is a splendid place for you.

You’ll find the BBC Broadcasting House directly behind the All Souls church.  I find night time to be best to photograph in this area as the BBC illuminates in a fabulous cobalt blue.  I was short on time to capture images tho’ it is high on my list to return.

How do you get to the End of Regent Street?  Begin at Oxford Circus then walk northward along Regent Street.  So easy.

Map Showing the Location of the End of Regent Street ::

Map Showing the End of Regent Street

christ church spitalfields

East London is an interesting area for photography if you are keen to explore.  And, when I say explore also be ready to open your creative mind.  Know a little East London history before you go such as the bombings during World War II, the Victorian Slum Houses, Spitalfield, and yes, even Jack the Ripper.

When you understand much of the East End was leveled during air raids of the second world war, you’ll then know you will find a mixture of Old London and rapidly changing modern London.  

Spitalfield Area London

Years ago, I joined one of the famous Jack the Ripper tours.  I don’t remember much about the tour except for the guide repeatedly saying “imagine, if you will” when referring to 99% of the urban landscape.  For me, the guide’s repeated phrase was sort of a downer.  I wanted to be amongst musty old buildings, tho’ instead I had to visualise missing architecture while standing next to a contemporary building less than five years old.

To be fair, the Jack the Ripper tour was as entertaining as it was informative.  The guides are typically animated, quick witted, a wee bit dramatic and masters of London knowledge.  The vision I had of East London, however, did not match the reality of the uninspiring rebuild of the area after the world war.  And so, I scratched East London off my photography list until about ten years ago.  

I explore between Liverpool Street Station the revitalized Spitalfield Market area even today.  There are interesting areas, narrow streets, alleys, old architecture mixed with the new and mysteries you create in your mind as you trundle along.

Knowing a little East London history myself, I enjoy imagining the sights as they were before, the sounds and the smells.  I imagine  people milling about, kids playing games in the streets, a woman shouting from a window in need of repair or the sounds of the Industrial Revolution which happened mostly in the east end of the city.

Is East London one of the best places to photograph London?  If you are open to explore what is around the corner, yes.  Remember to go with your imagination and creative eye.

ballerina statue and red phone boxes in broad court

Once you’ve exhausted the photo opportunities at Covent Garden, be sure to venture further.  Take any number of streets and wander.  You can’t go wrong in any direction to find some of the best places to photograph London.

The Royal Opera House is adjacent in Bow Street on the northeast side of Covent Garden.  

low angle view royal opera house london

A walk northward along James Street will take you to the Covent Garden Underground Station and Long Acre.  Along this walk you’ll find numerous street performers and numerous opportunities for street photography.  

Once you reach Long Acre veer slightly to the right and you’ll find Neal Street.  Follow Neal Street northward and this is where the fun begins.  Neal’s Yard, narrow streets that are mostly empty at night and Seven Dials.  Each area is unique and will allow you to use your creative photographic eye.

Begin your journey at Covent Garden.
The GPS Coordinates for Covent Garden Are :: 51.5117° N, 0.1240° W

Map Showing the Location of Covent Garden

low angle view of covent garden piazza

Central London is like Disneyland for photographers.  Almost everywhere you turn you will find one of the best places to photograph London.   Covent Garden is no exception.  

If you are interested in street photography, visit this top tourist attraction during the day into early evening.  There will be plenty of visitors and street performers waiting to be unknowingly captured when you click your shutter button.  If you’re keen to capture the city void of people and appreciate London’s old architecture, be sure to visit after dark.

It’s obvious I love London night photography.  I perfected the craft by spending innumerable hours exploring the city at night.  Covent Garden is one of my top London photo areas as I love the cobblestones, the low angle perspective, the simple architecture and columns as well as the open space around the perimeter of the piazza.  You can spend hours at this famous market turned retail space.

You have to love Covent Garden for its history and I can’t help but visualize the fictional Eliza Doolittle singing “Wouldn’t It Be Luverly” on the doorstep of St Paul’s Church in the wee hours of the morning.

st paul's church covent garden

Be sure to move all about the perimeter of the piazza as well as stepping inside as the glass roofs are great fun.  When the building illuminates at night, magic happens that only a photographer would appreciate.  

The Covent Garden Piazza  offers ample photo opportunities.  Take your time.  Go high.  Go low.  Go when or after it rains.    The area is very safe tho’ don’t be surprised if a passerby asks what you’re doing.  A lady once got down on the ground to see what I was doing and then told me I was a spy.  Also, don’t be surprised if a concerned policeman stops to ask if you’re ok especially if you’re lying on the ground. 

Where is Covent Garden?  How Do I Get To Covent Garden?
Covent Garden GPS Coordinates :: 51.5117° N, 0.1240° W

Map Showing the Location of Covent Garden:
Map Showing Location of Covent Garden

photo of london county hall at night

London County Hall is a grand building along the Thames River that was once home to the London Council.  Like any good city revitalisation, the county hall is now an entertainment centre and home to two hotels.   It is now the home of the London Sea Life Aquarium, London Dungeon, a Marriott Hotel and Premiere Inn.  If you don’t know the building as the London County Hall building, you certainly know the London Eye sits right next to it.

photo of london eye and london county hall across river thames

The building is on the South Bank of the River Thames and reflects beautifully in the water when it is illuminated at night.  It faces west toward the City of Westminster and is close to the Palace of Westminster.  Stand in front of the building and you’ll have nice photographic views of Big Ben and the House of Parliament building.  Westminster Bridge is directly next to the county hall building, heading south.  The area is easily reached via Waterloo or Westminster London Underground stations.

Grab your camera and be ready for a photographic feast in this area.  If you like architectural features, be close to the building.  For a wider view, be sure to cross over Westminster Bridge to Victoria Embankment to capture images across the Thames River.  You will want to stop along the way as the views from Westminster Bridge are incredible.  You’ll have super photo opportunities of Big Ben, the Palace of Westminster, London County Hall, the London Eye as well as the fabulous Golden Jubilee Bridges.

All along Victoria Embankment you’ll find a low and wide sturdy wall with a ledge.  So, if you’re without your tripod for night photography, you’ll have no problem whatsoever.  You’ll find a fantastic view of London County Hall and the city’s newest icon, The London Eye.  Visit at night to be treated to colorful reflections from the illuminated buildings across the water.  And don’t forget, the lights from the Golden Jubilee Bridges and Westminster Bridge are nice as well.  What’s more, is you can also capture light trails from boats as they pass down river.

side view of london county hall and london eye

Where is London County Hall?  Where Do I Find London County Hall?
London County Hall GPS Coordinates :: 51.5011° N, 0.1192° W

Map Showing the Location of London County Hall
map showing london county hall and london eye

 

the scoop in more london estates in london

The Scoop is an entertainment amphitheatre set below the surface near London’s City Hall.  It is set amongst the More London Estate along the River Thames.

The More London Estate area is in itself a treasure trove of London photo opportunities if you appreciate  modern architecture.  A plethora of  angular glass building surround The Scoop for you to practice your architecture photography skills.

The Scoop itself looks as though the City Hall building was dipped into the ground and when it was pulled out, a cool entertainment venue was created.  Steps lead down into the stone stage area and are illuminated with blue light.  A large rounded contemporary railing surrounds the perimeter of the amphitheatre which offers you the chance to test your creativity. 

Keep your eye open as you move around.  One key tip is do indeed move about.  Go down steps into the amphitheatre; walk around the wide perimeter of The Scoop; and be aware of your surroundings.   With each step you will find a new wonderful photograph to capture.  

Your keen photography eye will find The Shard, the City of London, Tower Bridge, London City Hall, and numerous modern buildings as backgrounds while you are capturing The Scoop. 

I have spent many an hour photographing  The Scoop at More London and City Hall.   The curves are brilliant.  The blue hues emanating from the large railing are fabulous.  You can’t go wrong.  Move all the way around and keep your photographer eye open.  There is a photo to be taken everywhere.  This area is indeed one of the best places to photograph London.

Where is The Scoop?  How Do I Get To The Scoop?

The Scoop GPS Coordinates : 51.5050534,-0.0813969,17

Map Showing The Location of The Scoop at More London :

The Scoop in London Map