With the city’s history encompassing a period of nearly 2,000 years, you’ll find an unfathomable number of fascinating architecture photography spots in London. Therefore, listing only a handful of locations is merely the tip of the iceberg. But as ever, I endeavoured to seek out the crème de la crème of London architecture for you. I will be compiling related articles with different London photography themes with you so keep your eyes on my site if you love urban photography, whether you’re a professional or an avid amateur photographer like myself.
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Iconic London architecture photography locations in The City
The City of London, the oldest part of the capital, offers a fascinating juxtaposition between significant historical structures and futuristic high-rise buildings.
1. Tower Bridge
Unquestionably one of London’s most beautiful bridges, the majestic Tower Bridge is a gorgeous London icon. Not to mention one of the most famous Instagram locations in London.
This comes as no surprise really, because no matter from what angle you photograph it – whether it’s whilst standing right on top of it or further away – you’ll always get a great shot of the bridge.
Choosing to share some more unusual Tower Bridge photography locations with you, here are two great suggestions that I’m sure you’ll love!
I love how the imposing structure of Tower Bridge is used as a frame for The City skyscrapers behind it in this photo.
You’ll find this great spot just along Shad Thames which is at the south end of Tower Bridge. It’s taken from the riverside outdoor seating area of restaurant Butlers Wharf Chop House. The greenery you see in the foreground is actually one of the restaurant’s potted plants. Clever eh?
This is such a great example of puddle reflection photography!
It was taken from More London Riverside. The photo beautifully captures the reflection of one of the monumental towers with the curiously shaped City Hall casually entering into the frame on the right.
2. The City of London
Once the heart of Roman London, The City of London remains a vital part of the metropolis. Now known as the financial business district, The City is home to a great variety of photogenic skyscrapers.
Varying in size and shape, The City’s mish-mash of high-rise buildings will make every photographer trigger-happy.
Matching their distinct structures, these modern office towers bear ingenious nicknames. Can you guess what the following buildings are referred to colloquially? And don’t you go cheating now by reading their captions, I’ve got my eye on you!
Let me see a show of hands: who said it looks like a rocket? And who sees a giant pickle in it?
10 points if you answered the latter! Because, whilst its official name is 30 St Mary Axe (boringly called after its address), it’s better known by its more imaginative name of The Gherkin!
It might not be so clear from this photo as you can’t see the entire building, but this peculiar London skyscraper is called the Walkie Talkie after its contours. Measuring a whopping 160 metres in height, it has a narrower base while its top seems to fan out, creating the building’s distinct shape.
Like The Gherkin above it was very lazily named after its address and is officially known as 20 Fenchurch Street. Yet, the Walkie Talkie is no ordinary commercial office block. It actually houses one of the best free London attractions at its very top: Sky Garden London.
Located at the 35th floor, this unique public ‘garden’ is home to a free viewing platform from where you can enjoy breathtaking views over London!
3. Leadenhall Market
At only a stone’s throw away from the Walkie Talkie, you’ll find the splendid Leadenhall Market. Yes, it might be much smaller in height than the modern skyscrapers in its vicinity, but this ravishing covered Victorian market is proof that bigger isn’t always better. It’s not for nothing that it was used as a Harry Potter film location!
Built on the ancient Roman Forum, Leadenhall Market has a long history of being a thriving market place. Nowadays you’ll still find some shops here, but also bars and restaurants that are mostly frequented by the nearby office workers.
If you want the space all to yourself to take photos, then I recommend coming here on a Sunday. Since the offices are closed over the weekend, Sundays in London is the best time to wander around the empty streets of The City.
And if you’re especially interested in modern architecture photography then you’ll be truly fascinated by Lloyd’s Building. Also called ‘The Inside-Out building’, it’s one of the most interesting skyscrapers in London. You can find it right next to the old market on 1 Lime Street.
4. Barbican Estate
The raw aesthetics of the Barbican Estate architecture is quite the opposite of the previous London urban photography location. However, being one of the most outstanding Brutalist buildings in London, the Barbican is a site not to be missed if you’re looking for a unique photography spot in London.
Consisting of various eye-catching housing blocks, a prominent art gallery, conservatory and even an artificial lake that are all cleverly connected to each other, this vast building complex offers a plethora of unique photo spots.
Be prepared that you’ll easily spend hours here. And that’s only because you’re guaranteed to get lost in its intricate labyrinth! (Trust me: it even happens to seasoned Londoners.)
But at the end of your successful urban photography outing, you can enjoy some of the unique things to do at the Barbican. Whether it’s catching an arthouse film at the cinema, visiting a blockbuster gallery show or finding the famous Banksy murals at the Barbican!
Once the site of a massive 7,000-seater (!) Roman amphitheatre, the Guildhall has played a crucial role in The City of London for approximately 2000 years.
From a social hub it became the centre for local politics over time. Today, it’s still the stage for prominent political events and state dinners. Once you’ve seen the grandeur of its Grand Hall, you’ll understand why!
Most of the buildings you see here date back to the 15th century so it’s quite the contrast to the modern London architecture photo spots in this article. However, as a London history buff, I appreciate the great level of detail of such historical buildings. And it’s always quite mind-blowing learning about their remarkable past.
Despite its influential role, Guildhall London isn’t that well known amongst tourists. Heck, it even took me some years to learn about it! So, if you’re keen to find secret London spots, then the Guildhall should definitely be on your list.
You can see the remains of the amphitheatre in the subterranean gallery for free, but even the courtyard and exterior of the surrounding buildings are worth a visit.
6. St Paul’s Cathedral
Similar to Tower Bridge at the very top of this list, St Paul’s Cathedral is one of the most popular must-visit attractions in London.
Dominating the London skyline with its immaculate white exterior (at least from a distance) and grand dome (it’s one of the largest church domes in the world!), I can just imagine how impressive it must’ve looked in the past when there were no other tall buildings around.
But even today, its dignified appearance beckons both amateur and professional photographers to have its picture taken.
Serving as the perfect Instagram London backdrop, you get striking views of it from Millennium Bridge. Especially when standing at the base of the bridge at the other side from the river of St Paul’s Cathedral.
This creates an exceptional vista like in the photo above. To me, this is the perfect marriage between the hyper modern footbridge and approximately 350-year-old-cathedral.
You get a more unusual view of St Paul’s Cathedral from the nearby One New Change shopping centre like in the photo above. Again, the modern building creates a wonderful contrast to the old. In this case not only by framing it but also casting several reflections, almost turning it into a triptych.
Dazzling architecture photography locations in London
You can find captivating photo spots in London all over the city. Here’s a small selection of my favourite buildings worthy of a photo shoot.
7. Tate Modern
One of my favourite museums in London, Tate Modern is again a prime example of Brutalist architecture in London. You’ll find it south of the river right opposite of St Paul’s Cathedral, at the other end of Millennium Bridge.
Originally built as a power station, it opened as a gallery in 2000. Today it’s one of the top museums for modern art in the world! As a member, I come and see most of their exhibitions. But the main star of each show is by far the building itself.
Although there’s no trace of its heavy machinery anymore, you can just feel its energy and power when you’re inside the building. Especially standing in the vast Turbine Hall, which is now used as an iconic gallery space for striking temporary art installations.
While the entire building lends itself perfectly for taking interesting shots, the stunning Blavatnik Building is the must go-to destination for architecture photographers. This part of the building, designed by world-renowned architects Herzog & de Meuron, opened in 2016.
Seek out its spiralling concrete staircase and Vault gallery space for some outstanding shots. And just wander throughout the building, not forgetting to look up the remarkable ceiling which is just pure eye candy for eager photographers.
8. Kings Cross Gasholders
Now one of the most curious things to do around Kings Cross, the modest-sized Gasholder Park is a surprising photo spot in London.
While the ‘park’ itself isn’t particularly noteworthy, you might find inspiration from its industrial features: the authentic Victorian iron-wrought gasholders.
Some of them have been carefully transformed into unique circular luxury apartment building.
However, the largest of them all, Gasholder No. 8, has been kept in its original state. Standing along Regent’s Canal towpath, it might just be the most remarkable feature in a public park I’ve ever seen before.
9. British Museum
One of the absolute must-visit museums in London, the British Museum holds many cultural treasures. Many tourists come here specially to find the world-renowned collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts in London. In the end, they are completely blown away by the striking appearance of the building itself.
I’m not exaggerating when I say British Museum is humongous – it’s one of the largest museums in the world. But if you want to take iconic photographs of the British Museum like the ones I’ve chosen here, then simply go to Courtyard.
The overview shot uses the spectacular glass roof and spiralling staircase in the rotunda as its main subjects.
But if you really want to highlight the remarkable architecture of the British Museum, then take your shot standing on the staircase like in the second photo below. Following the curved lines of the domed ceiling and staircase, it makes the jagged balustrade and Greek columns truly stand out.
10. Serpentine Pavilion
Located in Kensington Gardens next to Serpentine Galleries, the annual Serpentine Pavilion is a highly anticipated design and architecture event in London.
Since 2000 prestigious architects from around the world have been commissioned to create a temporary inviting public space boasting innovative design.
The first architect to participate in this exciting project was celebrated Zaha Hadid. Following architects and artists included the likes of Ai Weiwei, Frank Gehry and also Spanish architect studio SelgasCano (pictured below). This latter duo also designed the wonderful and unique Libreria Bookshop, one of the best independent East London bookshops.
The Serpentine Pavilion is open in the summer from June to October and is free to attend. While design and ingenious architecture are key, at heart, the pavilion is a meeting place and meant to be a social hub. So don’t be surprised to hear those typical blaring barista sounds coming from the café. Or some gentle music design even as the 2021 edition of the Serpentine Pavilion featured a sound installation by celebrated British composer Brian Eno.
11. Design Museum
With a name like this, it’s quite evident that the Design Museum in London boasts some outstanding architecture.
Based in the former Commonwealth Institute, this world-leading museum opened the doors of its new premises here in 2016.
The key feature of the building is its extraordinary roof, characterised by swooping lines and peculiar form. Located next to the vast green space of Holland Park, the design of the roof was intended to mimic the image of a pitched marque in the park. And it was thanks to this state-of-the-art construction that the building was listed as an outstanding piece of modern architecture by English Heritage.
Striking London architecture photography locations outside of the city centre
Moving further away from the city centre, you’ll still find plenty of inspiring urban photography locations in London.
12. Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Purpose-built for the 2012 London Olympics, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford is still a vibrant area welcoming families, athletes and recreationists.
While some of the Olympic stadiums were torn down again not long after the Summer Olympics, six of them are still in use. Possibly the most striking of them all is the Velodrome, all thanks to its singular paraboloid-shaped structure.
Besides sports venues, the Olympic Park in Stratford is also home to the UK’s tallest sculpture: the ArcelorMittal Orbit. This curious creation, designed by celebrated sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor and engineer Cecil Balmond, is made of 60% recycled steel.
Standing at 114 metres tall, visitors can climb up the red sculpture and enjoy incredible views over the surrounding area.
And if that doesn’t sound just adventurous enough to you, you can even go abseiling from here!
Or to get your heart seriously pumping, I suggest you book yourself for a ride on The Slide. This 178m-long tunnel designed by Anish Kapoor and Carsten Höller has the honour of calling itself the longest slide in the world.
The slide certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted as you’ll get to travel down at speeds going up to 15 miles an hour during this 40-second ride!
13. Canary Wharf
Straddling the river Thames in the southeast of London, you’ll find the city’s second financial district Canary Wharf. Dominated by towering office blocks, including London’s third tallest building One Canada Square, this is not quite a typical tourist destination.
In contrast to The City, London’s historical heart and financial centre, Canary Wharf is a modern business district consisting of merely of skyscrapers and contemporary structures. While perhaps not so interesting for tourists, this almost futuristic neighbourhood is the perfect spot for architecture photography in London!
I ventured down here for a photography shoot when I was invited to participate in a gallery photo show. I took the two photos in Canary Wharf Station here. The second one which you see here below was selected to be displayed in the gallery.
Also Adams Plaza Bridge, one of the most striking bridges in London, is an extraordinary photography location!
14. American Embassy
Having outgrown its previous building in Central London, the US Embassy moved into its brand-new premises in Nine Elms.
I happened to be in the area on 12 September and when I passed the US Embassy, there were armed security there. Quite an intimidating sight and sad to think it might be a necessary preventive measurement.
It didn’t distract me from the stunning shiny new Embassy building though. It was designed by Philadelphia-based architecture firm KieranTimberlake. Their designed the US Embassy architecture as a ‘translucent crystalline cube that gives form to core democratic values of transparency, openness, and equality.’ (source)
The pond where the building sits in blends in harmoniously with its surrounding greenery and wild flowers. And see the buildings in the background? If you look closely, you’ll be able to spot the extravagant elevated swimming pool that bridges the two apartment buildings.
15. Neasden Temple
Finally, but certainly not the least, we finish our overview of London architecture London spots at the surprising Hindu temple in Neasden. Often referred to as Neasden Temple after the northwest London neighbourhood it stands in, its official name is BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir.
The stunning temple opened in 1995 and is the largest active Hindu temple outside of India. Fortunately, it is also open to non-Hindus and everybody is welcomed here for a visit.
Just be aware that indoor photography is strictly prohibited. You can take photos of the intricately decorated exterior from the beautifully manicured gardens but only with your smartphone! Cameras will need to be checked upon arrival. So, if you’re planning to visit Neasden Temple, it’s not worth bringing your camera. You’ll still get some decent shots just using your mobile though!
There you have it, an extensive overview of some of the best places to take interesting photos of architecure in London. If you’re into photography, then I hope it whet your appetite! And for those just interested to learn more about London, I hope it managed to inspire you to seek out slightly different places and sights.
I’d love to hear which of these buildings tickled your fancy.
Let me know in a comment below!
Thanks, Zarina xx
*Photo credit featured image: Brandon Wong / Unsplash