Watching the sun dip below London’s iconic skyline, casting a golden hue upon the Thames and turning skyscrapers into silhouettes, is a magical experience. While many flock to common tourist attractions, the city offers some unique spots that paint the sunset in an unforgettable light.
Where To Watch The Sunset In London
If you’re looking for non-touristy things to do in London, these nine stunning places are perfect for sunset gazing.
1. Primrose Hill
Standing at 63 metres above sea level, Primrose Hill offers a breathtaking panoramic view of London. From the historic Tower Bridge to the modern Shard, the skyline looks magnificent, bathed in the golden light of sunset. With its lush greenery, it’s an ideal spot for a sunset picnic or a romantic evening with a loved one.
How to Get There: Located just north of Regent’s Park, it’s easily accessible by the London Underground, with Chalk Farm or Swiss Cottage stations being the closest.
Tips & Suggestions: Arrive early to grab the perfect spot. The park gets busy during weekends, so a weekday visit might be more serene. Don’t forget to explore the charming nearby Primrose Village with its cafes and boutiques.
2. The Shard
Rising above the city like a crystal spire, The Shard offers an unparalleled 360-degree view from its 72nd-floor observatory. The sun setting behind the sprawling city, casting long shadows and painting the glass-clad buildings in orange and pink, is an unforgettable sight. For a more luxurious experience, consider a dinner reservation at one of the building’s restaurants.
How to Get There: Easily reachable via the London Bridge Underground Station. Pre-booking tickets for the observatory is recommended.
Tips & Suggestions: While the view is extraordinary, it might be on the pricier side. For budget-conscious travellers, check out these things to do in London on a budget.
3. Greenwich Park
Greenwich Park is home to the Prime Meridian Line and offers a splendid view of the River Thames and Canary Wharf. The combination of maritime history and rich landscapes provides a peaceful backdrop for sunset watching. The Royal Observatory at the park’s high point is a favourite spot for photographers.
How to Get There: The Docklands Light Railway to Cutty Sark is the easiest way, followed by a stroll through the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site.
Tips & Suggestions: Consider a visit to the National Maritime Museum earlier in the day, and don’t miss the local markets for unique souvenirs.
4. Tate Modern
If you’re a fan of art and dramatic cityscapes, the Tate Modern’s open terrace provides both. Overlooking the Thames, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the Millennium Bridge, it’s a cultural hotspot that offers a gorgeous view of the sunset. The mix of modern art and historical architecture is truly unique.
How to Get There: It’s a short walk from the Southwark or Blackfriars Underground stations.
Tips & Suggestions: While the museum is free, some special exhibitions may charge an entry fee. The museum’s café offers delicious snacks and coffee, perfect for enjoying the view.
5. Waterloo Bridge
Affectionately known as the ‘Ladies Bridge,’ Waterloo Bridge provides an unobstructed view of the sunset over Westminster and the South Bank. Its convenient location and broad sidewalks make it a popular but surprisingly peaceful spot. The reflection of the setting sun on the river below adds to the magic.
How to Get There: Easily accessible by bus or the Underground at Waterloo Station.
Tips & Suggestions: It’s an ideal spot for a romantic evening stroll. Consider combining your visit with a trip to the nearby Southbank Centre or National Theatre.
6. Hampstead Heath
For a more rustic and wild experience, Hampstead Heath’s high ground is the place to be. This large park provides a serene setting with dense trees and ponds. The view from Parliament Hill is awe-inspiring, with landmarks like the Gherkin and St. Paul’s Cathedral visible in the distance.
How to Get There: Reachable by train to Hampstead Heath Station or the Belsize Park Underground Station.
Tips & Suggestions: It’s a great location for families and nature enthusiasts. Explore the nearby Hampstead Pergola and Kenwood House for a full day of activities.
7. Sky Garden
A tropical paradise high above London, Sky Garden offers a lush, garden-like setting. The 35th-floor open terrace gives a unique perspective on landmarks like Tower Bridge, The Shard, and the Walkie-Talkie building. Enjoy the sunset with a cocktail from the Sky Pod Bar for a stylish evening.
How to Get There: Located near Monument Underground Station. Booking a free visitor’s slot in advance is highly recommended.
Tips & Suggestions: Consider trying one of the garden’s restaurants for dinner with a view.
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8. Richmond Park
Richmond Park, London’s largest Royal Park, feels like a countryside escape. The wild deer, sprawling landscapes, and ancient trees provide a serene backdrop for sunset watching. The view from King Henry’s Mound offers a protected sightline to St. Paul’s Cathedral.
How to Get There: Take a train to Richmond Station and then a bus to the park.
Tips & Suggestions: Biking or hiking through the park earlier in the day is a delightful way to explore.
9. London Eye
For a unique experience, watching the sunset from the London Eye’s moving capsules is thrilling. As the giant Ferris wheel slowly rotates, you’ll get different perspectives of the city, including Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and the Thames.
How to Get There: A short walk from Waterloo or Embankment Underground Stations. Pre-booking tickets is advised.
Tips & Suggestions: When planning your visit to the London Eye, consider a combined ticket with other attractions like the Sea Life Aquarium if you’re spending the day in the area.
Sunset Photography Tips
Watching the sun set over London’s skyline is not only a breathtaking experience but also a golden opportunity for photography enthusiasts. Here are some tips to help you capture the perfect sunset shot:
1. Plan Ahead
Capturing a great sunset photograph starts long before the sun begins to dip. Planning your shot in advance can make a significant difference in the final outcome.
Research your location, identifying the best angles to shoot from and using apps to determine sun direction and time. Keep an eye on the weather as well; clear or partly cloudy skies often create the most dramatic sunsets.
2. Golden Hour
The golden hour, which refers to the hour before sunset, is a magical time for photographers. The soft, warm light that bathes everything during this period can transform an ordinary scene into something extraordinary. Arriving during this time will give you the opportunity to experiment with silhouettes, long shadows, and of course, those warm, golden tones.
3. Use a Tripod
Stability is essential when shooting in low light. A tripod keeps your camera steady, allowing for sharp images, even with longer exposures. If you don’t have a tripod, look for a stable surface like a bench or wall to rest your camera on.
4. Foreground Interest
A sunset by itself can be beautiful, but incorporating an interesting foreground can add depth and context to your image. Frame the sun with objects like bridges, trees, or people to create a more compelling composition. Reflections in water or glass can further enhance your image, adding an additional layer of interest.
5. Experiment with Settings
Don’t be afraid to play around with your camera’s settings. Using a smaller aperture (higher f-number) can create a striking starburst effect with the sun. Experimenting with shutter speed can lead to captivating motion effects in clouds or water. Keep the ISO low to minimise noise, but be ready to adjust it as the light decreases.
6. Composition Techniques
Composition is key in any form of photography, but especially in sunset photography, where the subject is so well defined. Techniques such as the rule of thirds, where the sun or horizon is positioned along one of the third lines, can provide a balanced and appealing image. Utilising leading lines, like paths, rivers, or architectural lines, can guide the viewer’s eye towards the sun, creating a more dynamic photograph.
Finally, don’t overlook the power of post-processing. Even a slight adjustment to contrast, saturation, or exposure can transform your sunset photo from good to great. Whether you’re using professional software or a simple app on your phone, spending some time in post-production can truly elevate your work.
Soak Up London’s Beauty
From historic parks to modern skyscrapers, London’s sunset spots cater to every taste and offer an experience that transcends the ordinary. You’ll soon see the city in a whole new light!
Frequently Asked Questions
When is the best time to watch the sunset in London?
The best time to watch the sunset in London can vary throughout the year. Spring and autumn are generally favourable seasons, offering clearer skies and often more vibrant colours. During these times, the weather is typically more stable, providing ideal conditions for photographers and sunset enthusiasts. The exact time of sunset changes daily, so using a sunset calculator or similar online tool can help you plan your outing precisely.
Are these spots kid-friendly?
Most of the locations highlighted for sunset viewing in London are suitable for families. Some spots, like The Shard or Sky Garden, may be more appropriate for older children or teens due to height and safety considerations. Parks and open spaces are generally perfect for younger children to explore and enjoy the view.
Do I need special equipment for sunset photography?
While having a DSLR and tripod may give you the best possible results, even smartphones with manual settings can capture stunning sunset photos. Sunset photography is about creativity and vision more than the equipment. Optional accessories like filters or a remote shutter release can provide more control but are not essential for beautiful photographs.
What are some safety considerations?
Safety should always be your priority when choosing a spot to watch and photograph the sunset. Being mindful of your surroundings, especially near water or the edges of high platforms, is crucial. Respecting local rules and guidelines, particularly in parks or private properties, ensures a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone.
Are pets allowed at these locations?
Pets, especially dogs, are often welcome in many of London’s parks, such as Richmond Park and Hampstead Heath. However, other locations might have restrictions or specific rules regarding pets. Checking in advance with the location or their website ensures a smooth experience if you plan to bring your furry friend.
Can I visit these places for sunrise photography as well?
Many of the locations that offer stunning sunset views are equally mesmerising at sunrise. While the accessibility might differ early in the morning, particularly concerning opening hours and public transportation schedules, a sunrise shoot can be just as rewarding. Researching and planning your trip the night before can result in some unforgettable photographs.