Some of our favorite places for spectacular architectural photography are found in London, Paris, and Rome. While it is difficult to focus on only 15-20 locations in each city, here are our top 52 selections, so pack your bags, grab your camera, and purchase your metro pass to start the European architectural photography tour in London.
We suggest that you begin your architectural photography tour in London. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes because you will cross the entire city to see these amazing buildings built during the past 1,000 years.
1. Westminster Abbey
This Gothic church has served as the location of all English and British monarchs since 1066. The abbey also hosted numerous royal weddings and provided burial places for aristocrats. The iconic architecture of the Western façade is a photo that you will want to take from many angles.
2. Windsor Castle
Located just outside London, Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world. William the Conqueror built the original castle after the Norman invasion of England in the 11th century. Additions over the years show superb examples of Rococo, Gothic, and Baroque architecture. Nowadays, the Queen visits it quite frequently on the weekends.
3. St. Paul’s Cathedral
The famous British architect Christopher Wren designed St. Paul’s Cathedral in the English Baroque style. The beautiful dome is one of London’s most famous structures of the 17th century. Until the late 1900s, the cathedral was the tallest building in London. Today, new buildings are not allowed to obstruct the view of its soaring dome. You can take excellent architectural photos of the West Front Dome from the street view.
4. Houses of Parliament
Completed in the mid-19th century, the Houses of Parliament showcase beautiful tile work, cast-iron gutter system, stained-glass windows, woodwork, and stonework. You should focus on close-up photographs of these architectural elements. If you cross the Thames River, you see the Houses of Parliament with Westminster Bridge in front.
5. Tower of London
Built in 1066, this landmark is an imposing site for your architectural photography. Historically, its 20 towers protected the structure and made it the country’s strongest fortress and prison. Today, you can also see the Crown Jewels in this historic castle. Good views for photography are from the White Tower, the Inner Ward, and the Outer Curtain Wall.
6. British Library
Home to the world’s largest collection of books, the British Library separated from the British Museum in 1973. At the moment, the Library houses a copy of every item published in Great Britain. The interior design shows bold, sharp architectural elements paired with winding and curving staircases.
7. The Gherkin
This unique building is a 40-floor structure with a curved outer design that rises above London’s financial district. You find some beautiful angles for architectural photography with this 590-foot building. Completed in 2003, the Gherkin is a famous example of British contemporary architecture.
8. Victoria and Albert Museum
At her last official public appearance, Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone of the V&A in 1899. Today, the 145 galleries house more than 2.3 million objects spanning a period of 5,000 years. Architectural highlights to photograph include the Victorian Facade, the Grand Entrance, and the Central Garden.
9. The Shard
The Shard, finished in 2012, is the tallest building in London, standing at 1,004 feet. Be sure to take the elevator up to the viewing gallery on the 69th floor where you have an amazing 360-degree view of the city. The architect, Renzo Piano, wanted the light to fall differently each day on the façade of the building.
10. British Museum
The British Museum, opened in 1759, was the first national public museum in the world. The museum’s main entrance has classical Ionic columns and Greek revival design. The Greek style portico shows 15 allegorical figures of the progress of civilization. If you stand in the middle of the entrance, you can capture these architectural elements in your photos.
11. Covent Garden
Located in the West End, Covent Garden contains shops and other tourist attractions, such as cafes, pubs, and restaurants. Originally a fruit and vegetable market, the architect Charles Fowler built a neoclassical building to house the retail structure in 1830.
12. London Eye
The London Eye, the tallest Ferris wheel in Europe, opened in 2000. Until the Shard was built, the London Eye provided the highest viewing location for architectural photography in London. Be sure to take several pictures of the steel cables, which look like the spokes of a bicycle wheel. One revolution lasts about 30 minutes, so you can capture lots of architectural photographs of London.
13. Buckingham Palace
The current British monarch lives in this amazing building, which is located in the centre of London. On closer inspection, you will notice amazing architectural elements from a time when Britain was the most powerful and wealthy nation in the world. Built in 1703 and remodeled in 1913, Buckingham Palace serves as the administrative headquarters for the Queen and as the center for state occasions
14. Tower Bridge
Opened in 1894, the Tower Bridge crosses the Thames River and stands as an iconic symbol of Victorian Gothic architecture. The two towers connect the central span, which can be raised to allow boats to pass underneath. The two side-spans are suspension bridges. You will find excellent locations for architectural photography from both sides of the river.
15. Big Ben
Big Ben is the largest of five bells in the Clock Tower on the north side of the Palace of Westminster. The bell first rang in 1859. Be sure to capture several photographs of this British cultural icon that has come to represent the parliamentary democracy of the United Kingdom. This is a good structure to view at night when the four clock faces are illuminated.
16. Lloyd’s Building
Designed by Ricard Rogers, the Lloyd’s Building is made of concrete, stainless steel, and glass. Rogers famously included a grand central atrium with escalators connecting the floors. The stairs and other services are seen on the edges of this rectangular structure. The views of interiors will make superb inside photographs.
17. Liberty Department Store
Located on Great Marlborough Street in the West End, this famous department store shows Tudor-style timbers made from two Royal Navy ships. The small rooms with fireplaces make it an appealing shopping destination, particularly in winter, for tourists to shop and take a break from commercial pursuits.
18. Tate Modern
This modern art gallery, converted from the old Bankside Power Station, opened in 2000. It houses one of the largest collections of modern and contemporary art in the world. Visitors can enjoy an impressive panoramic view of the city from the balcony. Be sure to take your camera up to the top floor.
19. Christ Church Spitalfields
Christ Church Spitalfields is a beautiful example of English Baroque architecture. Designed in 1729 by Nicholas Hawskmoor and completed in 1729, it stands above neighboring townhouses. Remember to take photographs of this impressive building.
20. St. Pancreas Station
Opened in 1868, this Victorian Gothic masterpiece by Gilbert Scott remains one of the most elegant train stations in the world. The building attracts travelers from all over Britain. In fact, with the opening of the Channel Tunnel in 1994, the government selected St. Pancreas Station as the terminus for the Chunnel Train.
While you are waiting in St. Pancreas Station to board the Eurostar train for Paris, you might want to enjoy a light snack and coffee on the lower level, or if you are really hungry, visit the elegant restaurant on the upper level for a three-course meal. The trip to Paris takes just 2.5 hours. Enjoy your ride!
We hope you liked the train trip. Paris is the next stop of your architectural photography tour. You will disembark at the Gare du Nord train station and head right out to see the sights.
21. Eiffel Tower
Designed by the engineer Gustave Eiffel, the tower opened as the entrance to the World’s Fair in 1889. At 324 meters tall, the Eiffel Tower is the tallest structure in Paris and stands at the same height as an 80-story skyscraper. Take the elevator up to one of the three viewing platforms for some spectacular architectural photographs of Paris.
22. Notre-Dame Cathedral
The construction of this famous church began in 1160 and was completed in 1260. Notre-Dame’s Gothic architecture shows rib vaults, flying buttresses, and rose windows that distinguish its style from the earlier Romanesque architecture. Excellent views of the exterior and the interior will complement your photography album.
23. Arc de Triomphe on the Champs-Élysées
The Arc de Triomphe stands at the western end of the famous and fashionable Champs-Élysées avenue; it marks the intersection where 12 streets and boulevards come together in the shape of a star. Designed in the Neoclassical style of architecture, it honors the soldiers who died during various French wars. Good architectural photos include the sculptural groups, the reliefs on the façade, the engraved names of great battles and victories, and military leaders. Take an elevator to the top where you can enjoy a superb panoramic view of the city.
24. Sacré Coeur
Located at the top of Montmartre, the highest point in the city, the Basilica of Sacré Coeur opened in 1914. The architecture may be seen as an interpretation of Roman-Byzantine with circular domes and rounded arches. You have another wonderful panoramic view of the city from the top of the dome.
25. Moulin Rouge
Near Montmartre, you will find the Moulin Rouge cabaret house, which dates from 1889. It is noted for its iconic red windmill on the roof, and it is considered the birthplace of the can-can dance, which has been performed there for more than 100 years. Titles of shows since the 1960s all begin with the letter F, like Féerie, Formidable, Femmes, Femmes, Femmes, Frénésie, Follement, Festival, Fantastic, Fascination, Frisson, and Frou-Frou.
Located in the Latin Quarter, the Panthéon is a superb example of Neoclassical architecture. It was originally a church, but today it contains the relics of famous French citizens. The designer modeled it after the famous Pantheon in Rome, which you will see during the next leg of your architectural photography tour.
The Palace of Versailles, 12 miles outside Paris, was the royal residence beginning in 1682 until the start of the French Revolution in 1789. Be sure to visit the Hall of Mirrors, the Marble Court, and the Royal Apartments. Also of note for good outdoor landscape and architectural photographs are the formal gardens, sculptures, and fountains, as well as the smaller pavilions of the Grand Trianon and the Petit Trianon.
The Louvre, the world’s largest art museum and the most visited museum, began as a castle in the Middle Ages. It was the royal residence in 1546 until Louis XIV moved his household to Versailles. Since 1783, additional wings were built to create an area of 72,000 square meters. Today, the museum displays an amazing collection of 35,000 paintings, sculptures, and other artistic objects. In 1989, I.M. Pei designed the glass pyramid in the main court, a site that draws on average 15,000 visitors per day.
29. Luxembourg Palace and Gardens
Originally built in 1645 as a royal residence for Marie de Medici, the Luxembourg Palace currently houses the French Senate. The Gardens contain 25 hectares of landscaped lawn and ponds. If it is a nice day, enjoy a rest in one of the chairs around the gardens.
30. Port Dauphine Métro Entrance
The Paris metro has 16 lines that connect 302 stations across the city. The Art Nouveau style of the Port Dauphine station shows one of the three remaining iconic dragonfly roofed entrances. Take a photo of this whimsical entrance and buy a metro pass to access the rest of these famous architectural sites.
31. Pompidou Center
The Pompidou Center is a modern-designed complex of buildings that houses a vast public library, the national museum of modern art, and a center for music and acoustic research. The team of Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers, and Gianfranco Franchini won the project in 1971. Its completion in 1977 shows brightly colored elements on the outside of the building; plumbing fixtures are green, climate control ducts are blue, electrical wires are yellow, and safety devices are red.
32. Musée d’Orsay
Originally built as a train station in the late 1890s, the building opened as a museum in 1986. Today, it houses French art created between 1848 and 1914. Musée d’Orsay’s collection has some of the best Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces in the world. The Beaux-Arts architect designed the sunlit interior barrel vaults of the museum, as well at the giant clock in the upper arch.
Designed in 1238 in the Gothic style, the royal chapel shows soaring 15 huge stained glass windows along the nave, as well as the large circular rose window on the west side of the building. Be sure to capture some of these spectacular architectural elements in your photographs.
34. Montparnasse Tower
This modern skyscraper stands 210 meters tall with 59 floors. Despite criticism about its ugly, stark architecture set against the more classical buildings of the city, the terrace on the top floor is an excellent location for panoramic views, so you can capture lots of architectural photographs.
35. Palais Garnier Opera House
Opened in 1875, this theater includes elements from Baroque and Renaissance architecture. Allegorical figures adorn the main façade. On the inside, you will see rich decorations in velvet, gold leaf, and marble. Be sure to take note of architecture in the Grand Staircase, the Grand Foyer, and the Auditorium.
36. La Grande Arche de la Defénse
This modern arch on the west side of the city is a 110-meter tall cube that forms a direct line to the Arc de Triomphe just 4 kilometers away. Inaugurated in 1989, the structure’s concrete frame is complemented with glass and marble. The rooftop includes a restaurant and an exhibition of photojournalism.
From Paris, you have the choice of taking a train or plane to Rome. We recommend booking a flight since the overnight train trip averages 14-15 hours in duration, and you would have to change trains in Milan. The flights are just slightly more than 2 hours with budget-friendly fares.
We hope you enjoyed the plane trip. Rome is the next stop of your architectural photography tour. You will disembark at Fiumicino Airport and take a taxi into the city center to see the sights.
37. St. Peter’s Square
Located in Vatican City, St. Peter’s Square remains the most famous outdoor square in Rome. Each year, people gather in the center of the square to hear the Pope speak. Bernini designed the iconic Baroque architecture with colonnades forming an elliptical shape in the 17th century. You will see the Egyptian obelisk in the center of the square that Emperor Augustus brought to Rome.
38. St. Peter’s Basilica
Constructed from 1506-1615, St. Peter’s Basilica is a gigantic Renaissance church with ceilings 400 feet tall, making it the largest church in the world. Michelangelo designed the dome, and Bernini designed the canopy over the Papal Altar, known as the Baldacchino. Be sure to climb to the top of the dome where you will find excellent views of the skyline of Rome.
39. Vatican Museums
The Vatican Museums began as a collection of sculptures in the 1500s; however, today, its 54 galleries also house several centuries of important Renaissance masterpieces. Important sites to see include the Spiral Staircase, the Raphael Rooms, and the Sistine Chapel. Be careful as you study the work of Michelangelo; it can be quite crowded in the Sistine Chapel.
40. Castel Sant’Angelo
Originally built as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian and his family in 123 BC, it became a papal fortified castle and prison in the Middle Ages. Since 1901, it has housed a national museum. You will find excellent views for architectural photography from Castel Sant’Angelo towards Vatican City.
41. Spanish Steps
Constructed in 1725, the Spanish Steps are a series of 135 steps on three levels that connect the Piazza di Spagna at the bottom with the Piazza Trinità dei Monto on the top, where you will see the church by the same name. At the base of the steps you will discover the Fontana della Barcaccia by Bernini. John Keats lived in the house at the bottom right of these marble stairs, which were renovated in 2016 with funds from the luxury design house Bulgari.
Constructed under the reigns of the Roman Emperor Vespasian in 72 AD and his son Emperor Titus in 80 AD, the Colloseum is a major tourist attraction. Historically, more than 50,000 people could gather in this elliptical amphitheater to watch the gladiator fights and other forms of entertainment, such as sea battles and animal hunts. Today, it remains the largest amphitheater in the world.
Built in 126 AD as a temple for all Roman gods, the Pantheon has served as a Catholic Church since the 7th century. You can see its famous oculus in the ceiling that lets in sunlight. You can also trace the path of the sun across the floor from dawn to dusk. It remains the largest unreinforced concrete domes in the world. The portico shows you excellent examples of Corinthian columns made of granite.
44. Roman Forum
The Roman Forum was the center of ancient Rome where politicians gave public speeches, held triumphal processions, and interacted with the public. Important architectural ruins to photograph include the Arches of Septimius Severus and Titus, the Temple of Antoninus Pius and Faustina, and the Temple of Saturn. During your visit, you will have the opportunity to photograph architectural fragments and ruins.
45. Piazza Navona
In this grand square, you will see a fine example of Baroque architecture for your photographs. In the center stands the Fountain of the Four Rivers by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Two other fountains are located at the northern and southern sides, respectively. Be sure to catch some focused shots of the sculptures on the fountains. It was once flooded to host theatrical events. The pavement level was later raised to make it the site of the city market.
46. Trevi Fountain
Designed by Giuseppe Pannini in 1762, the Trevi Fountain is the largest fountain of Baroque architecture in the city. Many famous movies have set scenes in front of this famous fountain, which was the terminus of one of the aqueducts that brought water to ancient Rome. It was restored in 2015 with funds from the luxury design house Fendi. It is supposedly good luck to toss a coin with your right hand over your left shoulder, so you will have lots of good photographic shots of tourists feeding the fountain.
47. Villa Borghese
The Villa Borghese houses an art gallery of paintings, sculptures, and other classical objects that Cardinal Scipione Borghese collected in the mid-1600s. To complement the grand villa, you will see a formal English garden set across 200 acres. The Pincian Hill at the south side of the part provides a spectacular view of the city for architectural photographs.
48. Vittorio Emanuele II Monument
Built in 1925 and located in the Piazza Venezia to honor the first king to unify Italy, the Victor Emmanuel II Monument houses two museums. The Neoclassical architecture shows Corinthian columns, fountains, and sculptures. There are excellent views of the city from the top of this structure, so be sure to capture the architectural elements in your photographs.
49. Circus Maximus
The Circus Maximus was a large oval structure that hosted ancient Roman chariot races and other forms of public entertainment, such as performances by dances and musicians. Today, the site is a public park, and you will have excellent views of the Palatine Hill, where, according to Roman mythology, Romulus and Remus were born.
50. Boca de la Verità
The Boca de la Verità, also known as the Mouth of Truth, is a gigantic marble mask depicting the face of the Roman sea god Oceanus. You will see it against the left wall of the entrance to the Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. Be sure to take some photographs of tourists putting their hands in his mouth.
51. Baths of Caracalla
Emperor Caracalla built these giant public baths in the 3rd century. They operated for free for more than 300 years with a water supply coming from aqueducts feeding into cisterns. Today, you can see the ruins of soaring rounded Roman arches, which inspired the architects of modern buildings like the original Pennsylvania Station in New York City and Union Station in Chicago.
52. Santa Maria in Trastevere
Thought to be one of the oldest churches in Rome, Santa Maria in Trastevere dates from the 4th century. Today, the church houses an impressive collection of medieval mosaics. The church and tower are illuminated at night, so plan to eat dinner at one of the restaurants in the square and capture the views of sunset into dusk.
53. Campo de’Fiori
The name of the Campo de’Fiori literally means “field of flowers.” This square, located to the south of Piazza Navona hosts a daily produce and flower market. You can buy fresh vegetables, as well as fish, meat, flowers, and spices. There are numerous cafes and restaurants, so plan to spend some time there capturing colorful photographs of Italian people and food.
We hope you have enjoyed this photographic tour of many wonderful architectural sites in three of our favorite cities.