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If tourists only take one photograph in London then it’s invariably this one: Big Ben. This is how you tell everyone that you’ve been to London, by showing them a photo of the world’s most famous clock.
But where’s the best place to stand? Most people will do it from Parliament Square, which allows them to include the Houses of Parliament as well, but we think this best shot is actually from Westminster Bridge. Walk halfway across the bridge, or over by the Boudicca statue on her chariot, and then point your camera up at Big Ben’s face.
If you don’t mind walking to the end pf the bridge then turn right onto the towpath (in front of St. Thomas̻s Hospital). That will give you a great shot of Parliament across the river.
And if you don’t mind spending a bit of money then you can get an even better shot from the top of the London Eye.Talk about Changing the Guard
When tourists come to London the first thing they want to do is see Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace. It’s almost obligatory – there must be a secret law that we don’t know about that forces them to march down The Mall as soon as they get off the plane. That explains why it’s always so packed.
If you want to get the best photograph of the soldiers then you need to stand right up against the railings. Unfortunately that means you have to get there at least 90 minutes before it starts (and that’s not an exaggeration!). Read Craig’s review of the ceremony before you go, because he goes into detail about the best time to arrive and where to stand for the best view.
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Getting your photo taken standing next to a soldier is another tourist favourite. There are actually several different places where you can do it in London, but the most popular by far is by the sentry boxes on Whitehall. You’ll find them at the entrance to Horse Guards.
If you arrive before 4 PM then the soldiers will be sitting on top of two huge military horses. Tourists take it in turns to gingerly tip-toe up to them and hope they don’s lash out (they are huge!). If they took a step sideways then they’d probably break your foot, but hey, at least you’ll get a great photo!
If you arrive after 4 PM (after the Dismounting Ceremony) then you’ll have to Foot Guards instead.
Another great place to get a photo with a soldier is outside Waterloo Barracks at the Tower of London (but they are behind a railing, so you can’t get close). The Yeoman Warders (better known as the Beefeaters) are usually happy to pose for a photo as well.
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Piccadilly Circus is one of the busiest traffic spots in London – both for vehicles and humans. People gather here whilst they’re trying to decide what to do with their day. Shall we go down Regent’s Street? Over to Leicester Square? Trafalgar Square? They sit on the steps of the Eros Fountain and mill around taking photos of the huge lighted advertising signs over the road.
Hours: 10 AM to 6 PM (Mon-Sun, Apr-Sep); 9.30 AM to 5.30 PM (Mon-Sun, Oct-Mar); Last entry 30 mins before closing – Cost: Adults £9.80; Children £4.20 (5-15); Infants free (under-5); Family ticket £22.00
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The best time to take a photo is when the drawbridge opens up for a boat, but how often is that? On average it opens three times every day, but only a handful of those are publicised in advance, so you either have to get lucky or check out our page of scheduled lift times.
There are five places you can stand for a decent shot: on the riverwalk in front of the Tower of London, on the opposite bank by City Hall, on the bank by St. Katherine Dock, or over by Butler’s Wharf. Most photographers will do it by the Tower of London, but the leafy trees tend to get in the way there. We think the best shot is actually from Butler’s Wharf, because then you get the City skyscrapers towering up behind.
The fifth place you can stand is in the middle of London Bridge. It’s quite a long way away from there, but you get the bonus of having HMS Belfast in the frame as well.
Hours: Timed tickets from 10 AM to 10 PM (Sun-Fri, Apr-Oct); 10 AM to 9.15 PM (Sat, Apr-Oct); 10 AM to 7 PM (Sun-Wed, Nov-Mar); 10 AM to 10 PM (Thu-Sat, Nov-Mar); Last entry 1 hour before closing – Cost: Adults £30.95; Children £24.95 (4-15); Infants free (under-4); Family ticket £79.95
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The Shard has got the highest observation floor in London – 72 floors up. It’s actually quite scary standing next to the window because the glass goes all the way down to your toes, and you feel like you’re looking over the edge. If you’re no use with heights then don’t even think about it!
It feels like you’re coming in to land on an airplane, on one of those business jets that fly into London City Airport. You can see all the rooftops and roads and little ant people walking over the bridge, and see the trains snaking their way along miles of thin little train tracks. How can we best describe it… imagine if you were standing on a map of London. That’s exactly what it’s like: staring at a map of London by your feet.
Check out Craig’s review of The Shard on his blog, because he’s a load more photos of the view.
Hours: Closed (middle 2 weeks of Jan); 11 AM to 6 PM (1st and 4th week of Jan, Feb-Mar, last 2 weeks of Apr, first 3 weeks of May, Sep-Nov, first 3 weeks of Dec); 10 AM to 8.30 PM (first 2 weeks of Apr, last week of May, Jun-Aug, last week of Dec) – Cost: Adults £26.00; Children £21.00 (3-15); Infants free (under-3); Family ticket £94.00
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The London Eye is another very popular photo spot for tourists. Once your glass pod gets to the top of the wheel you’ll be treated to the finest view of Big Ben in London. Parliament really does look fantastic from up here.
The other landmarks are probably a little bit too far away for a good shot, but it’s interesting to see Buckingham Palace nestled behind the trees in St. James’s Park.
A word of warning: don’t go when it’s raining because the rain runs down the curved glass in rivulets and it’s practically impossible to get a decent photo. Read Craig’s review of the London Eye for some more tips.
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The most celebrated shot is probably from the centre of Waterloo Bridge. That’s where you can see the dome standing isolated on the skyline.
Lots of people try and take a photo from one of the other tall observation floors, but we don’t think it looks so good when you’re staring down at it. You need to be looking up.
Hours: 5 AM to midnight (Mon-Sun)
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One of the most celebrated photos of Buckingham Palace is from St. James’s Park. Find the lake in the middle (it will be surrounded by bazillions of ducks) and walk to the centre of the bridge. Buckingham Palace will be peeking out from the trees with the golden top of of the Queen Victoria Memorial next-door.
If you turn around then you will have another fantastic shot of Horse Guards, but this time with the Disneyland-like turrets of the Royal Horseguards Hotel in shot. If you get lucky then they’ll turn on the fountain as well.
Craig has written a review of St. James’s Park on his blog and included both of the famous photos.
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You either have to be brave or a little bit stupid to get this next photo… for some reason tourists love climbing up on to the back of the lions by Nelson’s Column. And trust us when we say that those things are huge! They really are high – maybe fifteen feet off the ground – and if you slip off then the only thing that will cushion your fall is the concrete. But at least you’ll have a great photo to impress your friends when you get back home. And they can sign the cast on your broken leg as well.
London: A Visitor’s Guide
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