The most beautiful places to see in London, to raise your London sightseeing game.
We’ve scoured the Instagram accounts of London’s best photographers to find the most unusual views in the city. With hundreds of talented people constantly searching for new angles on London – and keeping their eyes peeled at where their rivals are shooting – these locations have become London’s finest sightseeing icons for our time.
You’ll often see these places cryptically geotagged ‘London, United Kingdom’ by those who like to keep their secret sightseeing spots truly secret – but we’re here to reveal every last location: from street art to spiral staircases, and car parks to covered markets. Sorry guys! Consider these sightseeing spots London’s very best angles – but how many of these sights you have seen?
1. The Batman Building, More London, Bankside
Da da da da da da da da BATMAN! We’re not sure if Foster + Partners intentionally included a superhero reference in their designs for No 7 More London, but look up from the right spot and the Bat Signal is unmistakeable. The surrounding area might not exude much in the way of sightseeing heritage, but the development is rich with striking, angular geometry perfect for minimalist architecture.
2. Lancaster Road, Notting Hill
London ain’t exactly Balamory, but occasionally you’ll find a street that’s gone crazy on the Dulux. Lancaster Road is one of the most colourful, but alternatives include Bywater Street in Chelsea, Kelly Street in Kentish Town, the famous Portobello Road, and Chalcot Square in Primrose Hill. (Check out even more of the city’s prettiest streets here.)
3. St. Paul’s Cathedral from One New Change
St. Paul’s Cathedral is a classic landmark of London, with views of it from across the city protected by law. But it’s this particular angle, framed in the glassy façade of the One New Change mall across the road, that photographers love. It’s the interplay of the old and the new that makes our city special. (The view from the roof terrace ain’t too bad either.)
4. The Golden Lane Car Park, Barbican
Yes, it’s a grimy car park in a ’50s housing estate. (It might be residents only, actually.) But the pools of light shining down from the skylights make this a go-to location for those in search of a gritty portrait. Perfect for a profile pic, whether you’re a hot new rapper/model/band, or just think you’d look good as one.
5. Shad Thames
This neat little street near sightseeing favourite Tower Bridge is covered with aerial walkways, linking the (former) warehouses of Butler’s Wharf to the riverside loading bays, back when olde worlde cargo ships would dock in the area. Now it’s just a lovely sight to see. Read all about it here.
6. Brydges Place, Covent Garden
London is dotted with cute little alleyways, but at just fifteen inches wide, Brydges Place is the very narrowest. Squeeze in for a snap, or just keep an eye out for a photogenic shortcut wherever you’re wandering for a bit of Dickensian intrigue.
7. I Love U Boo at Frank’s Café, Peckham
Splashing onto Instagram feeds everywhere in 2016, Simon Whybray pepped up this dilapidated staircase in shocking pink as a love letter to his long-distance partner. Now it’s the ultimate backdrop for thirsty millennials making their way to Peckham’s summer-time rooftop bar. Wear some pink – oh, and don’t forget that view at the top!
8. Leadenhall Market, City
This beautiful covered market dates back to the 1300s and played Diagon Alley in Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone. Now days it’s host to neither a market nor particularly magical shops, but the aesthetic appeal undoubtedly remains. But if you fancy something a little different, step outside to find…
9. THAT sci-fi view, City
Just a few steps from London’s Harry Potter-est spot comes this Blade Runner-y sight to see. Glass and steel vault into the sky in modern-day temples to Mannon – stand in exactly the right spot (perhaps with a very wide-angle lens) and you might even get the whole lot in a single photo.
10. The Fake No. 10, Aldwych
Feeling under-appreciated in your own time? Step off the Strand and down Adam Street to find this dead-ringer for 10 Downing Street. Bring a podium and deliver your own strong and stable press conference – or pretend to flip the Prime Minister the bird if your politics require.
11. The sunrise from Primrose Hill
For a sunrise over London’s rapidly-changing skyline, it’s all about location. While a sunset is best enjoyed from the south-east, this hill in a ritzy north-west London neighbourhood is the perfect viewpoint to enjoy the daybreak over our city, while night lights still glow in the park itself. Contemplate your future, sip tea from a Thermos… and take a couple of photos, obviously. No wonder it was recently voted London’s most scenic view!
12. Mystery Brutal Sky Tunnel Thing, West India Quay
This has been my white whale, my Mulan dipping source. I’ve seen this brutalist spiral to the sky snapped over and over again, but the location has always been a total mystery. Until now.
For I can now reveal that location is… the Cineworld at West India Quay. Get down there and get that ‘gram.
13. Girl With A Dolphin, St. Katherine’s Docks
Taking a photo of Tower Bridge – played out. Taking a photo of this neat statue on the north bank of the Thames with Tower Bridge in the background? Insta-hotness. Accept no substitutes!
14. Churchill Arms, Kensington
This famous pub’s 190 hanging baskets, tubs and flower-pots make it a must-visit floral vision in the summer. And it’s no less fascinating inside, with a singular ‘Thai garden with WW2-era knick-knacks’ design scheme. Pop back at Christmas, too, when the flowers are replaced by ninety fairy-lit Christmas trees. More here.
Yep, you could splash out on a ticket and take a tour of the gorgeous Kew Gardens, but this is a free sightseeing tour after all. The Barbican’s tropical conservatory is open on Sundays and is a remarkable little place to explore on a weekend afternoon. Jungle is massive. See more here.
16. St Dunstan in the East, City
After this church was bombed in the Blitz of World War 2, the authorities decided to leave it as a dedicated public garden. Now overgrown, it’s been left to stand in the City of London as a pleasant, moody spot for a picture-perfect lunch break. Check it out.
17. The Sky Garden, Fenchurch Street
For a free alternative to The View from the Shard, this viewing gallery on the 43rd floor of the Walkie Talkie offers panoramic views over London, albeit from a slightly airport-y feeling atrium. There are a couple of bars and restaurants if you want to prolong your stay, but otherwise you’re welcome to mosey around for an hour. Aim for a sunset visit to enjoy views over London by both day and night. Find out more here.
18. 10 Warren Mews
In posher areas of London you’ll find mews streets, which once housed horses, and now house horsey-types instead. They’re awfully sweet – and sightseeing catnip to pastries-and-pastels lifestyle bloggers everywhere. Try mewsing over one of these, too.
19. The Light-Up Tunnel, King’s Cross
This underpass linking St. Pancras underground to Kings Cross station is lit by a psychedelic wall, with constantly shifting colours and patterns. It’s pretty cool if you’re just passing through! If you prefer your lines, straight, however…
20. Crossrail Place, Canary Wharf
Listen, I’m not insisting you go all the way to Canary Wharf just to shoot a pedestrian overpass. (Although there is a cute roof garden and street food court nearby.) I’m just saying that literally hundreds of people have done exactly that over the last year or so, drawn in helplessly by the angular design and distant vanishing point. A Camille Walala makeover in recent times has given it even more appeal.
21. Canary Wharf Escalators
Still chasing the future? The cathedral-like space at Canary Wharf tube station has always suggested a classified alternative purpose – perhaps a night-time base for a Transformer or four. But there’s nothing more heavenly than the giant escalators taking the weak and weary up, up into the light… forever. (Or at least until 6pm.)
22. Leake Street, Waterloo
This otherwise grim tunnel beneath the railway arches of Waterloo is one of the few places where graffiti is, if not exactly legal, at least tolerated. At any given time of day you’ll find at least one artist with a spray can in hand, and the work (which is constantly being overpainted by the next person) varies from the scruffiest of throw-ups to big, ambitious and politically topical designs. As for the neon, this tunnel is also the entrance to the VAULTS alternative arts venue.
23. Chinatown, near Soho
You could take a photo of the main thoroughfare on Gerrard Street, but this is Secret London, after all – so have a peek around an intriguing corner and capture a lantern-lit scene.
24. Baker Street Underground Station
We’ve always thought the tube is quite picturesque from the right angle, and it’s the platforms at Baker Street that get photographed more than any other. Looking across the tracks, light flows from air ducts onto the benches below, illuminating whoever sits beneath them. Just sit back and wait for sleepy commuters, cutesy couples or low-key nose pickers to take their turn in the spotlight and get clicking.
25. Lets Adore And Endure Each Other, Shoreditch
There’s street art aplenty on the walls of east London but this big, slightly-ambiguous slogan might be the most photographed. Fun fact: ‘Let’s get off with and put up with each other’ was the original proposed slogan. Extra fact: that was a lie.
26. The Great Hall at the British Museum, Holborn
Oh, GO ON THEN. It’s the one of the most-visited tourist attractions in Britain, but we’d be fools to leave this one out. The gorgeous, elegant glass ceiling covers a formerly outdoor courtyard to create one of London’s loveliest spaces. It might not be secret, but it sure is beautiful. And while we’re at it…
27. Hintze Hall at Natural History Museum
PHWOAR JUST GET A LOAD OF ALL THAT. That is all.
28. The Staircase, Renaissance Hotel at St. Pancras
London has its fair share of stare-worthy stairs, but this gorgeous flight at the Renaissance Hotel St. Pancras really takes the cake – you might recognise it from the Spice Girls’ Wannabe video, but it’s as beautiful as ever.
Once you’ve ticked these sightseeing spots off your list, explore 9 incredible London landmarks that aren’t in the centre of the city.
Also published on Medium.