Cities are fantastic places for photographers. And Europe is arguably the most comprehensive continent for iconic metropolises.
There are so many memorable cities in Europe that are perfect for photography that this list could be ten times longer. But I’ve whittled them down to my 10 favourite European cities for photography.
If you have ever visited London, you’ll know there is arguably no other city in Europe and possibly the world with the diversity that London has. Not just in its residents but also in the array of things that you can do and photograph.
Do you want to photograph landmarks? London has that in abundance. Or are you interested in street photography, architecture or even markets? Perhaps you are a nature photographer, so you can visit one of the many Royal Parks to photograph a variety of birds. Or you can visit Bushy Park, where you will see vast flocks of deer roaming and occasionally fighting during the breeding season.
Simply put, London covers every scenario that a travel photographer will want.
The “City of Love” is on most photographers' lists to cover at some point in the photography journey. And when you see photos of Paris, it’s easy to know why that is. From the iconic Eiffel Tower to Notre Dame or the glass pyramid of the Louvre. Or the mesmeric museums and beautiful bridges to simply walking the streets and capturing city life, it’s no wonder that artists and photographers have been flocking to Paris for centuries.
When you visit Rome, it feels like you are stepping into an outdoor museum. Every street corner seems to be picturesque. And no matter how many photos of the Colosseum or the dome of St Peter’s Basilica you see, you can still end up with unique images. Add to these historical sites the iconic visual elements synonymous with Rome, like Vespas, and more often than not, you will end up with memorable shots.
It’s hard not to love Amsterdam as a photographer. Mainly because it’s difficult not to capture beautiful photos with minimum effort; for example, stand on one of its famous bridges for a few minutes, and you will see a cyclist or a boat to add a point of interest to your photos. Or, if you prefer clean shots devoid of people, head out early in the morning or hang around for the blue hour when quirky and colourful buildings reflect in the canals.
Like many iconic European cities, Prague sits perfectly on a river (Vltava River) which straight away means stunning cityscape shots from bridges. Wandering around this gorgeous city will have you burning through your memory cards so quickly that you’ll always wish you had more. But the most memorable shot, if the conditions are right, is from the Charles Bridge looking towards the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Centre. Capture an image in gorgeous light or even on a misty morning, and it will have that “wow” factor.
Venice is a marvellous city to photograph, and during its annual carnival, it’s also one of the best places in the world for anyone who loves portrait photography. The combination of the extravagant masks against the beautiful architecture makes for fantastic photo opportunities. And one of the best things about it is that even if you are shy about taking photos of strangers, you needn’t worry as people want their pictures taken and would happily model for you.
And of course, like most cities, there are plenty of iconic shots to be had, like photos of gondolas and gondoliers.
Remarkably, Warsaw was almost entirely flattened by the Nazis during World War II. But incredibly, the city has been rebuilt and, in the case of the Old Town, in the same style as its pre-war days. What awaits photographers are delightful, colourful buildings, horse-drawn carts and cobbled piazzas. There is a perfect lookout overlooking Sigismund's Column, the Old Town and the Royal Castle.
Move away from the Old Town, and you’ll still find remnants of the old Soviet era at the towering Palace of Culture and Science.
Germany has no shortage of cities that would fit into this list. But my favourite German city to photograph is Berlin. Beyond its iconic buildings like the Brandenburg Gate, the Berlin Wall and Berlin Cathedral, for me, there is an energy around the city that is almost unmatched anywhere else in Europe. Whether people are dancing by the river, locals are whizzing past on bicycles, or even boats on the river, these points of interest can bring your photos of Berlin to life.
Anyone who has visited Dubrovnik will understand why it is called the “Pearl of the Adriatic”. The city isn’t only photogenic because of its historic and beautiful architecture, its turquoise waters and golden beaches, but also the array of street photography opportunities. Dubrovnik is another city that makes good photos easy to come by and somewhere you will want to visit again and again.
It’s tough to include just one city from Spain on this list. Who in their right mind would argue against Barcelona, Granada or Bilbao? But for me, there is something magical about wandering the old streets of Seville or wandering into a tapas restaurant to photograph the locals or delicious plates of food.
There are also some incredible old buildings such as Plaza de España, the Royal Alcázar of Seville and Catedral de Sevilla that almost guarantee great photos every time.
It is always tough putting a list like this together. So many other places could and maybe should be on the list. For example, Tallinn, Florence, Dublin, Edinburgh, Bruges and even Moscow are all beautiful places to photograph. So, why not get your own list together and see how many of the cities above you would include in the top ten list of the best European photography cities?
- AuthorKav Dadfar
Kav is a full-time photographer and author of 400+ articles. He is also a judge on the Wanderlust Magazine Photography of the Year competition and leads small group photo tours around the world.View all articles