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There’s nothing more captivating than a glorious sunrise in London – and here’s our guide to ten of the very best of them.
Sunrise in London is such a special time to see the great old city, a time when it often seems serene, and you feel like you have it all to yourself.
The hour before dawn is one of my favourite times to be in the Big Smoke. Everything is so still and peaceful, until you head back to the Tube and meet the morning commute head-on. Nonetheless, you can head back to base with – hopefully – incredible photographs and memories to savour.
In this feature we show you ten of the best places to photograph and see the sunrise in London, advising on the best time of year to visit them, and how to get to each of them by public transport. Good luck with the weather, and enjoy.
Sunrise times in London
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Sunrise In London – When Is the Best time of Year?
Over around 20 years of shooting sunrise in London I’ve found that the shorter months – especially November to February – are the most productive for getting those rich red skies.
That said, some of the locations we describe are great for sunrise in London at other times of year, including summer.
Sunrise in London – Tips
If you’re planning to capture a sun rise, look to get to your location up to an hour before sunrise time in London
It’s the same principle as staying around an hour or more after sunset to see the afterglow – you often see the best colours in the ‘pre-glow’ period up to an hour before sunrise
This means you may have to set the alarm for 0230-0300 in summer, to allow yourself to get across the city to your chosen location
London sunrise and sunset times vary greatly – sunrise in London in June is as early as 0443 on the longest day of the year, June 21st, and at 0804 on the shortest day, December 21st
For a winter sunrise in London, I’ve found it’s best to be on location by 0645-0700 – which means you get a veritable lie-in compared with summer
For London public transport, use the excellent Transport for London website
Many of these sunrise locations in London also happen to be among the best places to watch sunsets in London – check out our companion article on this for more ideas
Best Places to See the Sunrise in London
Sunrise In London – Around Tower Bridge
1. Tower Bridge London
The most iconic of all bridges in London, Tower Bridge stands out as one of the best places to see dawn in London. The silhouette of Tower Bridge is unforgettable, but it also makes a great vantage point to view a sunrise in London.
I particularly like the effect of the first light of the day on the blue and white paint on the Bridge, and sections of it frame famous London landmarks along the river. In the case of sunrise, this means the Shard, but could also mean the skyscrapers of the City of London.
If you’re in the vicinity, take a short walk to the Tower Hotel right next to the Bridge, where you’ll find a (possibly familiar) sculpture, Girl With A Dolphin, with the Tower Bridge and Shard just behind.
When to see this sunrise
The shot of the Shard from the Bridge works best in winter, when the light hits the Bridge and Shard from an angle to the left, whereas in summer the light would be ‘flat’, right behind you. During Vhe longer months I’d be inclined to shoot using the Bridge to frame the City skyline instead.
The shot I’ve included of the Bridge and the Girl With A Dolphin was made early one morning in June.
Getting there: Tower Hill tube
2. Thames Path
Tower Bridge is one of the best-known sunrises in London, its striking silhouette ideal for early morning with a dramatic, colourful sky. I’ve shot it a few times in winter, though its location means you can see and photograph it at sunrise all year round.
It’s one of the easiest sunrises in London as you won’t have far to walk to reach it from the Tube or numerous bus stops on the north (City) side of London Bridge. I love the warm colours of a winter sunrise, and to get the best of them with Tower Bridge, get there an hour before sunrise.
Walk down the stairs from London Bridge to the Thames Path, and follow the route at along the north bank of the river. You only have to walk five minutes or so to walk from there to find an ideal spot.
When to see this sunrise:
Ours was shot in the depths of December, and as the days get longer and the sun rises earlier you need to move back, then onto London Bridge (from which you also see HMS Belfast) and around to the South Bank. In summer the sun rises to the north-east, with the towers of Canary Wharf in the distance.
Getting there: Monument Tube for the north side of the river, or London Bridge Tube for the south side.
Sunrise In London – Locations in North London
1. Archway Bridge
This is the least-known of our London sunrise locations, but it’s also one of the very best, giving an amazing overview of the City of London.
Archway is off the beaten path London for most visitors, a 19th century suburb between Holloway and Highgate named after this bridge, which links Highgate Hill with (eventually) Crouch End. Its official name is the Hornsey Lane Bridge, but its also known as Suicide Bridge.
The bridge offers one of the most inspiring views of London. It’s in the north-west of the city, and the view is south-east, with everything from the Gherkin to the Shard visible.
When to see this sunrise:
This is very much one for the winter months, from November to February, when the London sunrise time is between 0700 and 0800
Getting there: Northern Line High Barnet branch line to Archway, then a half-mile (800 metres) walk up Highgate Hill, turning right onto Hornsey Lane
2. Hampstead Heath
Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath is a great location for watching sunrise over London. It’s around a mile (1.6 km) from the Archway Bridge described above, and the view is not dissimilar, with the City of London skyline the main point of interest and The Shard some way off to the right.
The shot above is a close-up of the City skyline, though it has changed in the last three or four years with the addition of some of the newer most famous buildings in London, including the Walkie Talkie and Cheese Grater.
Best time for this sunrise:
Winter is the best time for the dramatic pink and red sky behind the City skyscrapers, whereas spring and summer are when you’re likely to get great early light on the buildings.
Getting there: Hampstead Heath Overground station is the closest station to Parliament Hill, and Tufnell Park and Archway (Northern Line High Barnet branch) Tube stations are around a mile away.
Sunrises In London – Westminster and Central London
1. London Eye Sunrise
It would be incredible to photograph sunrise in London from this high vantage point overlooking the river Thames and Westminster, but as it doesn’t open until mid-morning, we have to make do with seeing it at sunrise instead.
The London Eye is an impressive sight set against a glowing orange sky, and you get the opportunity to see throughout the year. Our shot – from the Victoria Embankment, across the river from it, was made in the winter months, but if you walk back along the Embankment towards the Houses of Parliament, or even onto Westminster Bridge, you’ll see something similar into the summer months.
When to see this sunrise:
Throughout the year
Getting there: Westminster Tube (Circle, District and Jubilee lines) is a 5-minute walk away
2. Victoria Embankment – Red Telephone Boxes, Big Ben And More
The Victoria Embankment yields plenty more sunrise secrets, but they are only revealed in the winter months. You don’t see the sunrise work its magic there at other times of year because the leaves on the trees block all the light.
There is a pair of perfect red K6 telephone boxes on Victoria Embankment, around halfway between the entrance to Westminster tube station and the viewpoint for the London Eye described above.
In winter the early sunlight reaches the phone boxes and the Big Ben clock tower of the Houses of Parliament. The low light at this time of year can be breathtaking, and it’s surprising how rarely this scene is photographed. It’s a wonderful sunrise in London seldom seen yet in one of the most obvious places to look.
And that’s not quite all. The famous statue of ancient British Queen Boadicea and her chariot stands on the corner of Victoria Embankment and Westminster Bridge, and looks fantastic in the early winter morning light with Big Ben in the background. You don’t always need to look towards the sun to get the best sunrise shots.
When to See this Sunrise
November to early March
Getting there: again via Westminster Tube, a 2-3 minute walk from the red phone boxes
3. Albert Embankment
The northern section of the Albert Embankment is on the south bank of the river, across Westminster Bridge from the Victoria Embankment, directly facing the Houses of Parliament.
This walkway is a superb location for sunrise and sunset in London. At sunrise, it’s all about the rich low morning light on the Palace of Westminster, always a magnificent sight. One time we photographed there we even chanced upon a near-perfect reflection – it was a pity about the one small section of scaffolding, but we can’t have everything!
For this London sunrise shot, you don’t need to venture far along the Embankment from Westminster Bridge.
When to see this sunrise:
Winter light is best, but early light at other times of year could also yield some amazing results.
Getting there: Waterloo (Northern, Bakerloo and Jubilee lines), Lambeth North (Bakerloo) and Westminster tube stations are all within a 5-10 minute walk
4. Trafalgar Square London
Despite being surrounded by buildings, there are plenty of London landmarks to make a Trafalgar Square sunrise well worth the early start.
In the longer days of spring and summer the sky sometimes glows red behind the elegant spire of St Martin in the Fields, one of the finest churches in London, which overlooks the north-east corner of the Square.
It’s worth staying around for the early sunlight, as its warm tones make Nelson’s Column, the National Gallery and Landseer’s liuons look the best they will all day.
Best time for this sunrise:
Summertime – if you don’t make the sunrise itself, get there for the wonderful rich early light
Getting there: Charing Cross Tube or a multitude of buses
Sunrise In London – West London
1. Richmond Park Sunrise
Richmond Park, on the south-western outskirts of the city, is a favourite sunrise in London location among photographers for miles around.
Don´t expect wide open vistas here – this is all about the wildlife. Autumn – October and November – is rutting season for the local wild deer, and at this time of year early morning mists often from in the forests where they roam.
I’ve only visited Richmond Park in the daytime, so haven´t experienced a Richmond Park sunrise myself, though several photographer friends have done so.
Picture the scene – a rutting stag, endowed with impressive antlers, silhouetted against the rising sun and mist, bellows to mark his territory. You won’t find another London sunrise quite like this one.
We found plenty of deer along Queens Road, which runs north-south through the west of the Park. they were roaming in an out of the wooded area along the road between Pembroke Lodge and Ham Gate Avenue. This area is a good place to start.
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