Sunrise in London is a magical time of day, as the first light of dawn bathes its iconic skyline in a soft, golden glow and paints the River Thames in hues of pink and red.

There’s something special about standing alone in this usually bustling city, watching a new day dawn and listening to the city come to life around you.

Even though I’m not a big fan of early starts, I do love photographing sunrise. I cherish those moments, enjoying the silence with only my camera and tripod for company.

As a photographer who has lived in London for most of my life, I’ve taken many photos around the capital at dawn. In this article I share my favourite spots to get the best sunrise photos all year round. If you find this post useful, please do add a comment below!

What time is sunrise in London?

From those freezing cold winter mornings to the early dawns of summer, sunrises in London happen at slightly different times every day. Each season is different, and the changing position of the sun means that the best locations and times for sunrise vary through the year.


Months: December – March

The days are shortest during winter, and the good news is that this means you don’t need to get up quite so early to catch sunrise. At the end of the year, sunrise is at its latest at just after 8:00 a.m and rises from a south-east direction. Mornings are usually cold, quite often around freezing, and fog is more likely at this time of year as well. Once we get into the new year though, sunrise starts to get a little earlier every day.

Winter sunrises can be stunning though – the angle of the sun means it’s lower in the sky for longer, meaning more intense colours.


Months: March – June

During spring, the weather in London can be variable, with some warm sunny days giving a glimpse of summer to come, mixed in with gloomy rainy days. Sunrise is around 6:00 a.m. in March, but by the time spring turns to summer at the end of June, they are much earlier.

The earliest sunrise is around 4:42 a.m. – painfully early if you’re getting up to photograph it! By now, the sun is rising from a more north-easterly direction. The mornings can still be quite chilly though, especially if you’re photographing near the river.

Remember that the clocks go forward an hour at the end of March, which means sunrise leaps ahead from around 5:40 a.m. to 6:40 a.m. which gives you a bit more of a lie-in if you’re regularly getting up to photograph sunrise.


Months: June – September

Once we get into summer, the weather is warming up nicely but the days begin to gradually reduce in length. From the earliest sunrise at 4:42 a.m. at the end of June, they will be just before 7:00 a.m. by the end of summer in late September.

As well as earlier starts, the higher angle of the sun means less chance of a fiery red sunrise so I find summer sunrises aren’t as enjoyable as in the winter months. As summer turns to autum, the position of the sun starts to shift back towards a south-east direction.


Months: September – December

I love autumn, although it is always a little sad to realise that summer is over. But there is so much to look forward to at this time of year, including more reasonable sunrise times. These begin at just before 7:00 a.m. in late September, and will reach their latest a few months later in December when the sun comes up at around 8:00 a.m. Don’t forget the clocks go back an hour in October, meaning sunrises leap from 7:45 a.m. to 6:45 a.m. within a day.

Best places to photograph sunrise in London

There are many great spots to photograph sunrise in London, and in no particular order, here are my favourites.

One thing to bear in mind is during the summer months sunrise occurs before most public transport starts running, so it’s always best to check how you’ll get to the location. There are some tube lines that run through the night on Fridays and Saturdays, as well as night buses. Plus there is always the option of taking a taxi.

1. London Eye

The London Eye is one of London’s most iconic tourist attractions, and also features in my list of best places to photograph sunset. It’s even better at sunrise though I think, especially when the Thames is still and you can get some lovely reflections from the wheel. The best spot to photograph it from is directly opposite on the embankment near to New Scotland Yard.

London Eye Sunrise
The London Eye at sunrise

Photographing from Westminster Bridge is also a good location, especially when the sun rises more from the north-east during the summer months.

London Eye Dawn
The London Eye from Westminster Bridge

Best time of year to photograph this location

My favourite time to photograph here is autumn and spring. During these months the sun rises behind the wheel so you can get some lovely colours in the sky. Also, sunrise is still early enough that the river traffic hasn’t started to churn up the still waters of the Thames.

Can I use a tripod?

Yes, there are no restrictions on the Embankment on the north side of the river. The area directly next to the wheel is private property so you will most likely be asked to move on if you use a tripod here, but this isn’t the best location to photograph the wheel from anyway.

How to get there

The nearest tube station is Westminster, and the best spot is just along the embankment directly opposite the wheel.

2. Tower Bridge from London Bridge

Probably my favourite location of all in London, this is one you really shouldn’t miss! Tower Bridge is one of London’s most famous and iconic landmarks, and one of the most photographed too. This is for good reason though, as it’s just so photogenic. The best spot to photograph it at sunrise is from London Bridge, but anywhere along the on the south side of the river between London Bridge and Tower Bridge is good.

Here’s a video I created on one of my visits there.

From London Bridge you have a few options for composition – you can get the bridge by itself, or have HMS Belfast directly in the middle. Just wander from one side of London Bridge to the other and decide which you prefer.

Tower Bridge at Sunrise From London Bridge
Tower Bridge and HMS Belfast at sunrise, taken from London Bridge

Best time of year to photograph this location

Any time of year works here, although if you want the sun coming up directly behind the bridge then October and February are your best options for this. I’ve got some stunning photos here on both the shortest day of the year, and also the longest.

Can I use a tripod?

Yes, there are no restrictions on London Bridge. However, if you’re photographing along the embankment near HMS Belfast, then this is private property and tripods are not officially allowed. I’ve found though that if you set up next to the embankment wall then the security guards are usually OK with it, especially early in the morning. Occasionally though one will ask you to move on, in which case it’s best to pack up and move to a different location.

How to get there

The closest station to London Bridge is unsurprisingly London Bridge. It’s also close to Monument and Tower Hill. Once on the bridge, walk towards the middle and you won’t be able to miss Tower Bridge.

3. Canary Wharf

Located in East London is the financial district of Canary Wharf, situated on the Isle of Dogs. This cluster of skyscrapers is a great subject to photograph at various times of the day, but at certain times of year it works really well at sunrise.

Canary Wharf Sunrise
Canary Wharf at sunrise

I think the best spot for photographing it is from the Thames path in Limehouse, close to the King Edward Memorial Park. There’s a large expanse of river at this point, which reflects the colours in the sky beautifully.

Best time of year to photograph this location

The best time of year for this particular photo is February to March, and September to October. This is when the sun rises behind Canary Wharf directly in front of you, and if you are lucky with the cloud cover, you’ll get some amazing colours in the sky. At other times of the year the sun is a bit further to the left or right, and you won’t get the best of the colours.

Can I use a tripod?

Yes, there are no restrictions on the Thames Path in Limehouse, and plenty of room to set up a tripod.

How to get there

The closest station is Limehouse or Wapping. Head towards the Thames path between the King Edward Memorial Park and Jardine Road. You can access the Thames Path from the park, or Narrow Street at the other end and also from Jardine Road which runs through the Atlantic Wharf apartment buildings.

4. O2 Arena

The O2 Arena is the largest indoor venue in London, and a very distinctive shape on East London’s skyline. It’s also a good subject to photograph at certain times of the day, especially sunrise. The best location is on the opposite side of the Thames to the O2, near the Blackwall Basin in Limehouse.

O2 Arena Greenwich Sunrise
The O2 Arena in Greenwich at sunrise

At certain times of the year the sun rises directly behind the curved venue with its distinctive yellow struts poking through the dome. This gives some interesting compositions with the sun directly in shot, or with some lovely pre-dawn colours in the sky.

Best time of year to photograph this location

My ideal time of year for this spot is either May or July/August. This is when the sun rises behind the dome when you’re located on the most easily accessible vantage point on the riverside.

Can I use a tripod?

Yes, there are no restrictions.

How to get there

The best spot is from the Thames Path opposite the O2, near to the Isle of Dogs Pumping Station. The nearest stations are South Quay, Blackwall and Canary Wharf.

5. Millennium Bridge

The Millennium Bridge is a good location for sunrise, and offers a few different compositions. The most popular is from the walkway leading up to the bridge, with St Paul’s Cathedral in the background. This can also be a decent sunset shot, but the advantage of sunrise is that depending on the time of year, it is usually much quieter here.

City of London Sunrise
The City of London at sunrise

During the summer, the sun rises behind the skyscrapers of the City of London from this location. If you stand just under the bridge, you can get some lovely colours in the sky above the City shortly before dawn.

This location even works whatever the weather, as moody conditions can make for some interesting shots – think of commuters walking over the bridge in the rain, snow or fog.

Best time of year to photograph this location

Any time of the year works here.

Can I use a tripod?

Yes, there are no restrictions here, although the bridge isn’t completely solid once you move away from the sides so bear this in mind when shooting long exposures.

How to get there

The closest stations are Blackfriars and London Bridge on the south side, or St Paul’s to the north of the bridge. Access to the bridge is just in front of the Tate Modern museum, which is easy to spot due to its large square tower.

6. Primrose Hill

Primrose Hill features in my list of best locations for sunset photography, however I think it’s actually better at sunrise. For several months of the year, the sun rises behind the City in the distance, and you can get some lovely colours in the sky over The Regent’s Park which is just beneath you.

Primrose Hill Sunrise
A colourful sunrise from Primrose Hill

While this location can be pretty busy in the evenings, it’s much quieter first thing in the morning and quite often you will have the spot all to yourself.

Best time of year to photograph this location

My favourite time is between October and February, when the sun rises behind the buildings of the City in the distance.

Can I use a tripod?

Yes, there are no restrictions here, and you can access the park 24 hours a day.

How to get there

Primrose Hill is just to the north of Regent’s Park. The best spot to get panoramic views of London is from the top of the hill itself, and most of the paths within the park lead up to this spot. The nearest tube stations are Swiss Cottage and St John’s Wood, both on the Jubilee Line

7. Richmond Park

Located slightly furether away than the other locations in my list, Richmond Park is the largest too. One of London’s Royal Parks, it is a fantastic place to explore at any time of the day, but is especially magical first thing in the morning. It was here that I took my National Geographic Traveller (UK) award-winning photo, so it has a special place in my heart.

Deer in Richmond Park at Sunrise
A deer in Richmond Park early in the morning

Best time of year to photograph this location

My favourite time of year for photographing Richmond Park is autumn, into winter. October is a good option as the leaves of the trees are changing colour. There’s also a good chance of frost or mist in the morning. You might even see some rutting deer during this time!

Richmond Park Misty Sunrise
A misty sunrise at Richmond Park

The park is closed overnight from 1st Nov and 1st Feb for a period of up to 6 weeks for deer culling. It doesn’t open until 7.30am during this time so is not ideal for sunrise.

Can I use a tripod?

Yes, there are no restrictions here.

How to get there

The closest station is Richmond, and from there it’s a 15 or so minute walk, or short bus ride. The park is very large, and there isn’t a specific location that you need to be in. I’d recommend walking around and seeing what looks good. A good starting point though is along Beverly Brook (especially if it’s frosty or misty), or anywhere around Pen Ponds.

If you choose to drive here, it is possible to park on some of the local residential roads free of charge. The park gates and car parks don’t open until 7 or 7:30 a.m. but you can access the park 24/7 through one of the pedestrian gates.

8. Tower Bridge from the Tower of London

You might have noticed by now that Tower Bridge features quite heavily in my list of best places to photograph. One of my favourite locations for sunrise photography is from the front of the Tower of London. The only downside is that this stretch of path (known as Tower Wharf) is only open from 7:00 a.m. This means this spot is best during the autumn and winter months when sunrise is later in the day.

Tower Bridge From Tower Wharf
Tower Bridge at sunrise from the Tower of London

Not only do you get Tower Bridge in the background, but there are also lots of interesting compositions to be found. There are cobbled stones, benches, trees and even canons as foreground interest. At the start of autumn, the trees go a lovely orange and brown too, and quite often you can get some large autumnal leaves on the floor too.

Best time of year to photograph this location

My favourite time to photograph from this spot is around the last week or so in October before the clocks go back an hour, and then from mid-November through to February. It can be quite cold here, especially next to the river, but the views are worth getting cold for.

Can I use a tripod?

Officially tripods aren’t allowed to be used in the grounds of the Tower of London, but usually the staff there ignore it. Just bear in mind that you might be asked what you’re doing, and may possibly be asked to stop.

How to get there

The closest stations are Tower Hill and Fenchurch Street. Tower Wharf is accessed from either the main gates by the entrance to the Tower of London, or the archway underneath Tower Bridge. This is close to the Guoman Tower hotel next to St Katherine’s Dock.

How to take the best sunrise photos

Here are a few of my tips to get the best results when photographing sunrise in London.


It may be possible to hand-hold your camera once the sun starts to rise but you’ll have to use a large aperture and high ISO to get a fast enough shutter speed. To get the best results I’d advise using a tripod. There are many different options available at a whole range of price points. I’d recommend one that is sturdy but not too big and heavy as you’ll most likely be carrying it around a fair bit.

I usually use a carbon fibre Gitzo tripod but also sometimes use a smaller and lighter Manfrotto Element travel tripod which is much easier to carry.


As you’ll often be shooting towards the direction of the sun the sky will be brighter than the foreground. While it is often possible to balance this out when you process the photos later, I much prefer to get the exposure correct in camera to start with. To do this, you can use what’s called an ND grad filter. This reduces the exposure on the dark half of the filter by 2 stops. The filter I usually use is a 2-stop ND grad. If you line up the filter to the horizon the sky will be 2 stops darker, but the foreground will remain the same exposure.

I use Lee filters, however there are a number of alternative options available such as Kase, Nisi and Cokin. These can be rather expensive, but this Cokin kit is very good value.

Get there early

Quite often the best light is around 20-30 minutes before the sun comes up. I always like to get to the location around 1 hour before sunrise. This gives me plenty of time to pick my composition and set everything up. It also gives you the opportunity to shoot several shots before, during and after sunrise – or even a time-lapse.

Map of the best sunrise photography locations

How to use this map: Click on the icon in the top-left corner of the map to reveal a list of locations. If you click on one of the locations in the list, or one of the pins on the map, you can get more information or directions to it.

Click on the star just to the right of the title to save to your Google Maps account. You can then view the map on your phone or computer by opening Google Maps, clicking the “Saved” icon and then selecting Maps. You’ll then see this map in your list.

To open a larger version of the map in a new tab, click on the icon to the top right.

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The Best Spots For Sunrise in London
The Best Spots For Sunrise in London
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About the Author

An award-winning travel and landscape photographer from London.

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