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Little Known Places to Photograph London from the Top

When I think about photographing London from the top, The Shard and the London Eye come to my mind first. These famous landmarks offer magnificent bird's eye views over the British capital if you don’t mind paying the ticket entrance, patiently wait in line for your turn to have a good look and a chance to take your own photos of the vista. However, there are a few other spots in the city that offer interesting vantage points to photograph London from the top with surprising panoramas. The good news is that they are all quite close to each other and yet offer different views.

From the top of The Monument

The Monument column stands in the City to remember the great fire of 1666 and to celebrate London’s rebirth. Christopher Wren and his colleague Robert Hooke planned for the column to be 61 metres high to symbolize the exact distance between where The Monument stands and where the fire started.

A narrow set of steps (311 of them to be precise) go up inside the column and reach a small viewing platform that offers a panoramic view over London, including Tower Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral and the nearby Gherkin. The main challenge to photograph from the small platform is placing the camera lens though the safety wire mesh to avoid any unwanted lines in the image. It is possible by choosing the right angle and a little patience! 

London Monument

If You Go
Opening Hours:
Summer (April – September), 9:30 am to 6 pm daily (last admission 5:30pm)
Winter (October – March), 9:30 am to 5.30 pm daily (last admission 5 pm)
Entrance fee:
£4
Tube Station:
Monument (District and Circle lines) or
London Bridge (Northern and Jubilee lines)
Website:
http://www.themonument.info

From the top of St Paul’s Cathedral

The monumental cathedral designed by Christopher Wren is immediately recognizable by its dominating dome. It was the tallest building in London until 1962, standing tall at 111 metres. Things have changed of course since then, but climbing the 528 steps to the Golden Gallery will give you access to the highest point of the dome at over 84 metres. You will be rewarded with a panoramic view across London and the Thames river. The most dramatic view lies towards the West where you can see the Eye, the top of the Parliament buildings and possibly some sunset colours on a good day.

If you are wondering what lens to bring, something in the range of 24-105mm can give you flexibility. At 24 mm you will capture interesting semi wide angle photos that can include the recognizable Cathedral spires within the panorama, while the 105mm gives a chance for some closer images of the cityscape with some good details.

Saint Paul's Cathedral

If You Go
Opening Hours:
Monday to Saturday between 8.30 am to 4 pm
Sunday is reserved for worship only
Entrance fee:
£16.50
Tube Station:
St Paul’s (Circle and District lines)
Website:
http://www.stpauls.co.uk

From the top of One New Change Terrace

Just behind St Paul’s Cathedral, you’ll find a shopping mall called One New Change. From the ground level, the main entrance between the reflective building walls provides an interesting view of the Cathedral. For a high point of view, take the outdoor elevator to the top and you’ll find yourself on the roof terrace graciously opened to the public. From there, you have an open and unbeatable view over the Cathedral’s dome as well as the nearby area. The terrace also has a welcoming bar where you can relax and enjoy the view until late at night. The perfect spot for some photography and a drink. 

One New Change Terrace

If You Go
Opening Hours:
Every day from 10:00 am to late at night.
Entrance fee:
Free
Tube Station:
St Paul’s (Circle and District lines)
Website:
http://www.onenewchange.com/roof-terrace

From the top of The Tate Modern 

Chances are that if you are photographing around St Paul’s Cathedral, you will also be interested in exploring the very photogenic Millennium bridge. On the other side of the Thames and at the end of the bridge stands the imposing Tate Modern Gallery of London. Of course, art lovers will be happy to visit and appreciate the many paintings and photo exhibits offered inside. Now, photographers will also be happy to know there are a couple of open air terraces and a restaurant which also offer a wonderful view over the Thames and the Cathedral.

To access it, take the escalators to the 4th floor and find your way to the terraces. From that level, continue and take the elevator to reach the 6th floor with the coffee shop/restaurant area. From there, the large unobstructed glass windows give you access to one of the best views in London, rain or shine.

Use back light to create silhouettes made by the patrons and include a typical London view in the background, or simply frame the Millennium bridge with St Paul’s at the back. As a bonus, since you are facing North to take those photos, the light is always good, morning or afternoon! 

Tate Modern Image

If You Go
Opening Hours:
Sunday to Thursday: 10:00 am to 6:00 pm
Friday and Saturday: 10:00 am to 10:00 pm
Closed 24-26 December.
Entrance fee:
Free
Tube Station:
St Paul’s (Circle and District lines)
Website:
http://www.tate.org.uk/about

London has a bold skyline and a number of great places to photograph it from the top. If you get a chance to go to these locations, we would love to hear from you and see some of your images.

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About the Author

Sophie Pasquet

Sophie Pasquet

Sophie has been a photographer, educator and traveller for most of her adult life. She founded Better Paris Photos in 2008 (which became Better Travel Photos in 2014) to deliver exceptional photography experiences to travellers.