London - A photographer's Travel Guide for your City Trip
London is one of my most favorite cities and one of the few in which I would want not just to visit but even live in! From old buildings and churches, to shopping and food opportunities London has a lot to offer. I will describe the must-visits from the west to the east along the Themse river and then go on with some nice parks, museums and market places.
Parliament, Big Ben And Westminster Bridge
The London Parliament or Westminster Palace with Big Ben is one of London’s top sights. You get the best views from Westminster Bridge or from the opposite side of the Themse. This is a good spot for shooting Londons doubledecker busses as you have Big Ben in the background. Especially during the blue hour or at night you can take cool pictures with longtime exposure of the red busses and the Parliament. This is a good place for sunset, too.
The church is located behind the Parliament building and is quite nice. We got some sun rays there in the morning. Another cool spot to shoot busses or London taxis is on the crossover from Broad Sanctuary to Parliament Square. From there you have a view of the Big Ben, the British flags and even the London Eye.
St. Jame’s Park with Buckingham Palace is just a short walk from the Parliament. The park itself is nice and offers a good opportunity for a picnic or lunch. If you want to visit the Changing of the Guards you probably won’t have enough time for that as you have to be there quite early if you want to catch a place with a view directly in front of the Palace. Changing of the Guards starts every second day at 11 am (April and July daily, can get canceled due to rain!). If you come late, not everything is doomed as you also get a good view of the guards marching towards the palace from the Victoria Memorial, from the Mall street sides or all around the square. Of course, it is a bit boring when the guards are inside, as you won’t see much from anywhere except directly in front of the fencing. If you’re more into horses you should watch the Changing of the Guards in front of the Horse Guards Buildings on Horse Guards Parade Place. It starts every day at 11 am (on Sundays 10 am). Even though there are lots of people it is worth visiting one of these daily events at least once.
The London Eye is a nice photo spot. At night when it is illuminated in various colors it looks especially great. You can also take a ride with the ferries wheel. From up there you have a beautiful view over the city. From Westminster and Lambeth bridge you have a nice view on the London eye, the river Themse and the Parliament in the background.
Millenium Bridge und St Pauls Cathedral
Millenium Bridge is a pedestrian bridge over the river Themse that leads from Tate Modern Art Museum to St. Paul’s cathedral with its distinctive cupola. At night and daytime, you can take long time exposure shots of the bridge and the moving people, which makes them look like ghosts and looks pretty cool. St. Pauls Cathedral itself is worth a visit, too.
The Shard und London More
London More Riverside is a new and modern part of the Themse promenade with the London City Hall, some bureau comülexes and The Shard. The highrise building contains luxus apartments, a hotel, and bureaus. On the very top, there is a viewing platform from which you get magnificent views to the east of London along the river Themse. The Tower Bridge and the Tower of London can be seen from up there as well as St. Pauls Cathedral and the bridges to the West along the river Themse. I would recommend staying from sunset until it is dark and all the lights get on. The Riverside Complex offers a nice view of Tower Bridge. In summer you can get food and drinks at the stalls and watch some kind of show at the Scoop (a little amphitheater there).
Tower of London and Tower Bridge
The Tower Bridge and the London Tower are also top sights. The Tower Bridge can be viewed from all sides and has the best light in the afternoon. This bridge is a nice opportunity for getting great pics of the red doubledecker busses and London taxis. From the bridge, you can take nice shots of the London More Riverside complex with the Shard. From there you can also view Leadenhall Building and the other skyscrapers in that complex. It is especially nice at sunset. The Tower itself is famous for containing the Crown Jewels of the Queen. If you like the history of the British monarchy you should visit the Tower. Be aware that it is pretty crowded most of the time.
Canary Wharf is an office complex built on docklands. Behind Reuters Plaza with the big Reuters Skyscraper you can find a Star Wars like pedestrian bridge, the Adams Placa Bridge. It leads to a park built on Crossrail Place at Canada Square One that looks pretty cool, too.
Greenwich lies in the east of London and is a beautiful small town. Photo spots are the ship Cutty Sark (now a museum), the Old Royal Naval College and the Queens House with the famous Tulip Staircase. If you’re into Steam Punk I would recommend visiting the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. A tunnel that leads from one side of the river Themse to the other. In Greenwich also lies is the famous prime meridian and an observatory.
London has a number of markets that offer all kinds of street food and other things to buy. Camden Market is one of the biggest and most well-known markets in London. It is formed by six different market areas where you can shop, sit in one of the many cafes or have lunch. Covent garden is a small but photogenic market hall in London’s West End. For really cool photos you need to visit Leadenhall Market, which has a market passage similar to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan. At Boroughs Market you will find a ton of food stalls and drinking opportunities as well as fresh food. The food there is cheap and good so you should definitely stop for lunch! Another nice tiny place for shopping or sitting in a cafe is Neil’s Yard. It is a small courtyard with lovely colorful photogenic houses, a few shops, and restaurants.
London is also famous for its big English parks and gardens. Hyde Park may be the most famous one in London. It is quite big, but in my opinion there are many parks in London that are more beautiful. When you visit Buckingham Palace you will most likely pass St. James Park or Green Park. St. James Park has a nice lake with good views of Buckingham Palace with the park. You can stroll through the park, take a rest on a bench, and feed the squirrels. Regent’s park is a typical English garden. It is lovely to take a walk there and in summer the rose garden is filled with hundreds of different roses, which makes it even more lovely. It is a bit off the track but is worth a visit.
For a rainy day (which isn’t that uncommon in London) you should definitely visit one of the many museums. London has plenty of them starting with scientific museums on to art and of course the famous Madame Tussauds! You probably have heard of Madame Tussauds already, there you can see hundreds of Film Stars, Musicians, Politicians and many more famous people conserved for eternity as wax figures. You should definitely go there when you visit London. Another famous museum in London is the Natural History Museum which features a big dinosaur skeleton in its photogenic entry hall. The British Museum is another very interesting scientific museum in London where you can see the famous Rosetta Stone. For photographers the entrance hall with its modern cupola is worth to visit. To see some modern art, the Tate Modern Museum is the place to go. The building itself also makes for nice photos.
Side Trip: Brighton
For all of you, that have more time in London you should add a trip to Brighton to your To-Do List. Brighton is a lovely town by the sea just a short train trip from London. It has lovely cafes and pubs and of course nice photo spots! You can stroll around the Brighton Palace Pier and watch seagulls while having some fish and chips. Afterward, take a walk on the beach. The colorful beach houses are a good place to take some photos on the beach. The most famous sight in Brighton is the Royal Pavillion which makes you feel as if you had just jumped right to India. A great photo spot is in the garden by the ponds where you can mirror the whole building nicely.