London Calling: 15 Travel Spots to Take Photos in The Big Smoke
From double-decker buses to historic museums, traveling to these locations will elevate your trip to the UK.
Attracting millions of tourists each year, London is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. The bustling capital of England has a complex history that dates back to the Roman era, but even with a deeply-rooted past, London is regarded as one of the most modern and innovative cities of the 21st century. It's similar to other European cities, like Paris, yet London's diversity stands out, appealing to any type of traveler. Those interested in monarchy can learn about the city's royal lineage and tour regal buildings that have been around for hundreds of years. Visitors with a more contemporary appetite can feast their eyes on the ever-evolving skyline that boasts staggering skyscrapers, like The Shard (also known as the UK's tallest building).
Whatever your travel desires may be, we recommend starting your trip traveling to London virtually. Scroll through the Explorest app to see all of our UK locations and below, you can check out the 15 places we've deemed the best travel spots to take photos while you're in The Big Smoke.
London's climate is often rainy, but with all of those showers comes the after-effect of blooming flowers throughout the city. The colorful flora brings life to local restaurants, elegantly climbs around residential façades and bursts out of window sills—as if their cheerful presence can no longer be contained. The flowers are also one of the first signs of spring, meaning that as soon as they can see the blossoming plants, Londoners know that the grim winter is finally over and the new, warmer season has arrived.
One of the most Instagrammable pubs in the city, The Churchill Arms, is not only covered with flowers on the exterior, the interior is also adorned with plants that hang from the ceiling and wrap themselves around the restaurant's decor. Whether you're dining al fresco or eating your meal inside, you'll feel like you just stepped into a European jungle!
After grabbing a bite to eat at either The Churchill Arms or Crown & Anchor, continue to embrace the flower power and stroll over to the residential streets of Kensington (specifically on Canning Place) to snap a photo of the famous magenta-hued wisteria that snakes around the charming architecture. Kensington is delightful any time of the year, but in the spring, the neighborhood is one of the top travel spots to take photos in London.
credit: @a_ontheroad — discover The Churchill Arms Flower & Vine-Covered Façade on the Explorest app
credit: @a_ontheroad — discover Vine-Covered Wisteria House on Canning Place on the Explorest app
credit: @a_ontheroad — discover Neal Street view of Crown & Anchor Flower-Covered Façade on the Explorest app
The Natural History Museum has been a staple in London culture since its completion in 1873 and amongst tourists, it's renowned as one of the most photogenic travel locations. It's situated on South Kensington's Exhibition Road, which is where you can also find the Science Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum. While the two other aforementioned museums are worth checking out, The Natural History Museum is our personal recommendation. The manicured lawn is the perfect place to have a picnic and inside the museum, you'll find some of the world's most treasured artifacts. In addition to rotating exhibits, the museum has rocks as old as the solar system, a 129-million-year-old Mantellisaurus (dinosaur fossil) and slices of a 101 meter-tall giant sequoia tree.
Hintze Hall, where the skeleton of Hope the Blue Whale is displayed, is arguably The Natural History Museum's greatest attraction. The cathedral-like space is one of the grandest halls in London—especially if you're a photographer. Marvel at the palatial staircase that leads to the featured view of the skeleton and take in the space that's home to thousands of years of history.
Before you leave, don't forget to ride the escalator that emerges from the giant glowing globe in Earth Hall. The structure is truly out of this world!
credit: @elensham — discover East Lawn view of Natural History Museum on the Explorest app
credit: @chrisjdalton — discover Hope the Blue Whale Skeleton, Hintze Hall at Natural History Museum on the Explorest app
credit: @antbuchet — discover Natural History Museum Earth Hall Globe Escalator on the Explorest app
As we mentioned before, London's climate can be quite rainy. On a day when the weather isn't nice, take your explorations indoors and get inspired by ornate interiors. The Painted Hall, which has been named the "most beautiful banqueting hall in Europe", is one such masterpiece that lures visitors in with its prominent architecture and hand-painted ceilings that took Sir James Thornhill nineteen years to finish. Art fanatics even refer to the location as "Britain’s Sistine Chapel", named after the original work of art that was created by Italian painter Michelangelo in the Vatican Palace.
If your style isn't as formal as The Painted Hall or Foreign & Commonwealth Office Staircase (also pictured below), then visit one of the many trendy restaurants in the city. One of our favorites is Brunswick House Restaurant. The black and white tile, deep-red decor and various hanging lights in this antique-filled Georgian mansion provide the perfect location to photograph a playful, yet historical, interior. Another bonus of taking photos inside eateries: you get to try the food! Brunswick House Restaurant is known for serving up some of London's best meals and for all the dessert lovers outs there, they have an entire menu dedicated to their pudding specials.
credit: @theliamman — discover Painted Hall Staircase in the Old Royal Naval College on the Explorest app
credit: @crazycatladyldn — discover Brunswick House Restaurant on the Explorest app
credit: @rontimehin — discover Foreign & Commonwealth Office Staircase on the Explorest app
A visit to The Big Smoke wouldn't be complete without capturing the iconic red symbols of the city. The telephone boxes, double-decker buses and cherry-colored accents, like painted doors and gates, are a few of the bright statements that work together to establish London's signature hue. The shade represents courage, love, danger and passion—all things that can be used to describe the history of the city and its residents. Years ago, red was even used on maps of London to mark where the wealthy reside, so it's always been a prestigious color in London.
There are a plethora of telephone boxes around town, but the featured locations below stand out as two of the best travel spots to take photos. At one location, you can see the Royal Courts of Justice, and since Explorest always gives you the inside scoop, we don't just lead you to the front of the Royal Courts of Justice where all of the other visitors go. Instead, we take you around back where you can capture the baroque, Victorian-Gothic architecture without having the masses in your shot.
credit: @a_ontheroad — discover Royal Courts of Justice on Carey St on the Explorest app
credit: @rontimehin — discover Westminster Bridge view of Big Ben & Double Decker Red Bus on the Explorest app
credit: @antbuchet — discover Red Telephone Box on Parliament Street view of The Palace of Westminster on the Explorest app
When the sun sets, London comes alive with a glistening, futuristic cityscape that pops against the darkening sky. The nighttime view of the metropolis appears sleeker—with the more traditional buildings hidden away in the shadows of the illuminated modernized structures. The entire city becomes a hot spot for photo locations and it's an ideal time to experiment with leading lines, lighting conditions and shadows.
If your goal is to photograph the bright lights of The Big Smoke, we suggest starting at One New Change shopping mall. You'll be able to capture an epic view of St Paul's Cathedral at Blue Hour, with the yellow tint of the interior lights complementing the blue-gray sky.
Next, head on over to the London Bridge Stairs. It'll be darker outside by the time you get there, which will enhance the silhouette of the urban landscape. One building in particular, The Shard, will be in your direct line of view, giving you the opportunity to snap a picture of one of the tallest buildings in Europe behind the glass-like waters of the River Thames.
The last stop on your nighttime tour of London should be Canary Wharf. This waterfront hub of businesses, retail shops, restaurants and apartments is filled with things to do. Adams Place Bridge, known by locals as the "Star Wars Tunnel", is one of the main attractions of Canary Wharf. When the sun has completely set the ultra-modern tunnel offers up countless angles to help you get your perfect shot.
credit: @bemorephotos — discover One New Change view of St Paul's Cathedral on the Explorest app
credit: @theliamman — discover London Bridge Stairs view of River Thames & The Shard on the Explorest app
credit: @theliamman — discover Adams Place Bridge & One Canary Wharf from Crossrail Place on the Explorest app
If you're looking to discover new photo spots, download the Explorest app today. We provide insider recommendations to help you capture your travels, near and far.