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By Moé Sekiya, the professional photographer from Tokyo who swapped Shinjuku for Islington and didn't look back!
Edited by Kathryn Foley
As a professional portrait photographer, I’m always on the look-out for amazing new locations for shoots and the best places to photograph in London. I moved to this capital from Tokyo four years ago, and here more than any other city I think is a photographer’s dream. It’s the small details like a red bus or telephone box which always sneak into the frame that I find make such striking images. And despite what other people might say, I love the weather here! Grey skies really pick up the colours and can turn any location into one of the best places to photograph in London. So it’s no surprise that some of the best London photography spots are also the most instagrammable places in London. Moving around the city every day and shooting in iconic neighbourhoods and with backdrops of some of the best views in London has given me plenty of knowledge of not only where the best spots are to shoot, but where the most instagram worthy places in London are. So here’s my top 10 instagrammable spots in London!
You’ll find that some of the most tranquil and best London photo spots are along the banks of Regent’s Canal. I like to walk from Angel to King’s Cross, but there are certainly other picturesque strolls you could do. You’ll be able to snap photos of the canal and the colourful house boats which are moored along its banks; it’s a really different view of London that a lot of visitors miss so you should try to make time for a wander along the water if you can. Funnily enough, this is one of the London insta spots which I think look better when the skies are grey - you can thank the colourful boats for this!
For me, Notting Hill has such a charmingly British aesthetic that it has to be on your list of Instagram worthy places in London. I think it’s also somewhere that’s instantly recognisable as London, even to people who aren’t from here. I love taking photos of the pastel coloured terraced houses, and Portobello Road Market. You can wander around the neighbourhood or through the market; there’s so many Instagram worthy things to snap along the way! My favourites are the quieter, more residential streets though where you can see little cobbled streets called mews, which are historic, small rows of terraced houses often tucked away behind bigger houses. They’re so charming, and the cobbled roads add the kind of details which I love to my portraits.
Of course, Westminster has to be in your top 10 instagrammable spots in London. There are so many iconic buildings to snap and add to your Instagram - it would be impossible not to come here. From Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, to Westminster Abbey to walking over Westminster Bridge, this small pocket of central London has so many of the most famous sites to it’s name that you can tick off a few from your list of the best Instagram spots in London at once. Whether you want the world famous architecture to be your focal point or you want snaps of yourself in the most instantly recognisable part of London to add to your feed, Westminster is definitely one of the best places to photograph in London.
Something I adore about London, and that was so new to me moving here from Tokyo is its pub culture. The Churchill Arms is one of my favourites, but for a neighbourhood pub it actually has a reputation which is well known even to foreigners. Many of my clients ask to have their portrait taken outside, and as soon as you visit you’ll see why. Almost every inch of the outside of the building is covered with hanging baskets and window boxes which are absolutely stuffed with flowers. In spring, when everything’s in full bloom you can hardly see the walls, just an explosion of leaves and petals - it looks like the plants have a mind of their own and have taken over the place. It’s so eccentrically British, and I just adore seeing it as the seasons change. If you can imagine, it gets even more spectacular at Christmas, when the usual plants are replaced with Christmas trees draped in thousands of fairy lights - last year there were 90 trees! This quirky pub is without a doubt one of the most instagrammable places in London.
I love Somerset House, and use it as a location for shooting portraits quite a lot as it’s one of the few places in the centre of London where you can take pictures without cars getting in the way, so there’s more freedom and less distractions when you’re composing a shot. The cobblestones in the main courtyard are so picturesque, and it’s such a beautiful historic building so it makes a great backdrop. It’s definitely one of the most instagrammable places in London, and you can really see why so many shoots take place here. But if you do want the classic black cabs and red buses in your shot, you’re literally on the doorstep of The Strand, which is one of the busiest but most classically London looking streets you can find. You literally don’t need to wait more than a few seconds before a red bus whizzes by!
Kensington is a luxurious neighbourhood which has so much style and charm, and it’s somewhere my clients often request to have their portraits taken. It has so many Instagram worthy spots to photograph, whatever your style. I love Hyde Park for relaxed, natural shots but there are also the famous luxury department stores which lots of people love to have on their Instagram feeds. But I think the most charming part of Kensington is its classical, grand, white terraced houses, which are often built in a sweeping curve. They’re so beautiful and dramatic, and I think also an image people have of London when they visit for the first time, making them the perfect Instagram material!
Shad Thames is a very small street close to Tower Bridge, and I think it’s one of the most Instagram worthy places in London purely because you can’t find these kind of buildings and structures anywhere else in London. It’s a really unique street which bends into an L shape, and it was once called the ‘larder of London’ because it was home to warehouses where all the spices, tea, coffee and other produce from abroad were brought. The warehouses are all still standing, and have their original features like the small, iron bridges which link warehouses on opposite sides of the street - you can take so many cool pictures looking up in this narrow street. It’s a little piece of London’s history, and the architecture is completely unlike anything else I’ve seen here. I also love that there are so many cool food markets not far from here, so if you’re going to Borough Market, Maltby Street Market or Druid Street Market, make sure you visit Shad Thames too because it’s one of the best places to photograph in London.
For one of the best views in London, you have to go to the Tate Modern. Not many people know that this is the best spot to get a panoramic view of the whole London skyline. Most visitors stumble across it by mistake, but this is where you’ll get the most magical sunset photos over the whole city if you plan ahead a little and time it right. Of the top instagrammable spots in London, a sunset or twilight cityscape has got to be near the top of your list. The outdoor viewing platform is a balcony which wraps the whole way around the tower, so you get a 360 degree view of London, and can shoot as many angles as you like. I love it here because it’s quiet. Unlike The Shard, which has so much hype surrounding it, and so also has a high price tag and a lot of tourists to go along with it, the Tate Viewing Platform is free, and I’ve never felt like I was part of a crowd when I’ve been there. People on your Instagram will be wondering where you got such an amazing and unusual skyline shot from!
My other favourite place to come for sunset, and another of the best views in London is Primrose Hill. It’s not too far from where I live in north London, and it’s just the most relaxing spot to come, alone or with friends. It’s also one of the most instagrammable places in London, and it’s actually always full more with locals than with tourists. People come here on summer evenings and bring a few drinks and a picnic blanket. It’s the perfect place to unwind with a view, and there’s just something special about seeing the whole of London spread out below while you’re surrounded by nature. There’s such a local feel to this place, and it’s my personal favourite sunset spot.
This is my neighbourhood, but that’s not why I think it’s one of the best Instagram spots in London. There’s so many small squares and old houses which to me look just to typically London. There are parts of it that still feel like a small village, and there’s just something so charmingly British about it. Camden Passage is definitely one of the most underrated and best Instagram spots in London; it’s a narrow, stone paved alleyway which hides countless cafes, neighbourhood restaurants, chic little boutiques and florists. You can Instagram your latte at one of the little cafes whose bistro style tables and chairs spill out into the lane, or wander around the market which is held here every Wednesday and Saturday and see locals doing their fruit and veg shopping. There are so many lanes and historic houses to photograph, you could wander around Islington for hours and never take your eye from behind the lens (or the screen of your phone).
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