Top 20 UK locations for amazing street photography

written by Joanne Owen
updated 10/29/2021
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While images of epic, far-flung landscapes and tropical sunsets stir the soul, the same might be said of unique photography that captures closer-to-home street scenes with creative verve. And the great thing is, armed with a smartphone, a smart eye, and smart intel about where to go and what to shoot, pretty much anyone can bag stunning shots of iconic locations that present the UK in an unforgettable, un-posed (and very possibly unfiltered) light, whether you’re a point-and-shoot kind of person, or a prolific app user. To spark inspiration, we’ve identified the top 20 UK locations for amazing street photography in collaboration with Sony – from arty urban hubs, to picturesque villages, to timeless ancient harbours. And if you’re looking for the perfect handset to match your passion for street photography, you might want to check out the Sony Xperia 1 III.

1. London - Brick Lane, Tower Hamlets

Boasting a wealth of cutting-edge street art, world famous curry houses, and countless cool galleries, bars and performance venues, 21st-century Brick Lane is a far cry from its past as one of London’s most destitute slums (or as jeopardous Jack the Ripper territory back in 1888). Visit during the day to shoot its ever-changing street art, eclectic architecture and treasure trove vintage stores while absorbing the general hip(ster) and happening vibe. Alternatively, come at night to capture this distinct district in all its neon glory before heading for a legendary curry. Before you head out there, don't miss our tips on night photography.

Brick Lane, London – taken on the Sony Xperia 1 III by @cmrileyphoto

2. London -  Conduit Mews, Paddington

Though a mere hop, skip and jump from London’s busy Paddington Station, Conduit Mews presents a rainbow of vibrant terraced houses that look like something from the set of a charming children’s TV show, with a stretch of quaint cobbles running between the candy-coloured homes. Though these days buying a pad here will set you back a packet, such mews used to be the coach-houses and stables for the huge houses of the seriously wealthy. 

Conduit Mews, London – taken on the Sony Xperia 1 III by @cmrileyphoto

3. London - Godwin's Court, Covent Garden

If it’s brooding Dickensian ambience you’re after, it doesn’t get better than Godwin's Court, a row of near-perfectly preserved Georgian houses on a site that was first mentioned in 1690. Stepping onto this street from the pandemonium of Covent Garden (all those mime artists, magicians and shopping tourists) feels like you’ve slipped back in time. Though you’ll most likely have this atmospheric alley to yourself, it’s best to visit early - some Harry Potter tour guides have been known to take groups here claiming it was the inspiration for Diagon Alley (more on that later).

Godwin's Court, London – taken on the Sony Xperia 1 III by @cmrileyphoto

4. Northern England - Main Street, Haworth

Clinging to a steep hill with the brooding Pennines rising behind, West Yorkshire’s Haworth village may be remote, but it’s firmly on the map for its elite literary legacy (the Brontë sisters lived and worked here) and photogenic allure. You’ll most likely want to capture Haworth’s Main Street from both aspects - stand at the top of the hill to take in its downward wind (and that dramatic moorland), then do the same from the bottom looking up. A word of warning though - Haworth’s charms are no secret, so best to come early.

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5. Northern England - Eastgate Street, Chester

Founded as a Roman fortress in the 1st-century, Chester isn’t short of photo-worthy sites, with Eastgate Street and its celebrated Victorian turret clock sitting pretty (and we mean pretty) in the centre of town. It’s immediately clear why it’s a listed landmark, and reputedly Britain’s most photographed clock after Big Ben. Built above a Georgian arch, it boasts a rich red-and-gold surround and lace-like ironwork that invites zooming-in for close-ups. Eastgate Street is also home to the architecturally noteworthy Chester Rows. Dating from medieval times, these handsome half-timbered galleries are unique to Chester, making them another must-shoot.

6. Northern England - The Shambles, York

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One of Europe’s finest-preserved medieval shopping streets, The Shambles is a delight to amble, with your phone to hand to capture its old-world atmosphere. The intriguing name derives from the Anglo-Saxon word “shammel”, which describes the shelves that used jut from the street’s open shop fronts. Though no original features remain, restoration has been done with sensitive, historic accuracy. Supposedly JK Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley, the entire meandering thoroughfare is ripe for getting creative with angles and light.

7. The Midlands - Steep Hill, Lincoln

If you’re looking to capture quintessential British quaintness, Lincoln’s Steep Hill - the fourth steepest in England, no less - is the perfect place to start, preferably from the bottom. Work your way up the winding cobbled route to shoot a seemingly endless stream of elegantly painted shops and beautiful brick and stone buildings of historic significance - the street’s architecture spans centuries. And don’t miss the chance to focus in on half-timbered Harlequin building, an 18th-century inn turned beautiful 21st-century bookshop, and 12th-century Norman House, now a tearoom.

8. The Midlands - Main Road, Hathersage

Located at the eastern end of Hope Valley, the pretty Derbyshire village of Hathersage has long been loved by hikers and literary types. Charlotte Brontë has links to it (it appears in Jane Eyre as the village of Morton), while Robin Hood’s right-hand man, Little John, is buried in St Michael and All Saints Church. Hathersage’s Main Street is a bustling hub with stacks of charisma - its stunning grey-stone buildings provide a fine focus for town-based shots backed by a romantic rural landscape.

9. East England - Elm Hill, Norwich

A rewarding joy to shoot at any time of the year, medieval Elm Hill comes especially recommended for responsible-minded photographers who are keen to take out of season trips (and photos) so as not overwhelm the places they visit. Visit this quaint lane of former merchants’ buildings in autumn to capture canopies of russet leaves. Then, come winter, cheering seasonal vibes emanate from the cute cafes and independent boutiques, with ambient street lighting adding to the atmosphere. A highlight here is the early-Tudor Britons Arms building. The only survivor of the 1507 fire that pretty much decimated the rest of the village, you’ll see right away why it’s a sought-after movie location.

10. Southwest England - Gold Hill, Shaftesbury

As revealed by the oft-repeated 1970s TV ad for Hovis bread, Shaftesbury’s Gold Hill is a scenic showstopper. Another incredible (and incredibly steep) example of rural England’s romantic charms, its incline snakes up a cluster of thatched and stone cottages that really do seem to be conjured from the pages of a fairy tale. After you’ve huffed and puffed your way to the top, you’ll be rewarded with stirring views across the Dorset countryside. At the summit, don’t miss the chance to shoot 14th-century St Peter's Church, and Gold Hill Museum - its award-winning cottage garden is a great spot for macro shots.

11. Southwest England - Gandy Street, Exeter

Another British shopping street that could pass for Diagon Alley (indeed, like The Shambles, there are claims that this was Rowling’s inspiration), Exeter’s Gandy Street is a narrow, winding nugget of bustling indie boutiques, bars and cafes. As is usually the case with stunning street locations, it’s best to head here early on a weekday if you prefer fewer shoppers in your shots. Alternatively, come at night to capture the attractive ambience of lights glowing from cocktail bars and brassieres.

Gandy Street, Exeter – taken on the Sony Xperia 1 III by @lloydevansphoto

12. Southwest England - Christmas Steps, Bristol

Dating back to the 1600s, Bristol’s Christmas Steps Art Quarter is suffused in a magnetic magic that’s more than worthy of its Yuletide name. Comprising seven charming streets and the steps themselves, the Quarter is a warren of medieval walkways that deliver fresh photogenic opportunities at every turn, from the views down the flagged steps, to its lantern-style street lamps. For extra atmosphere, visit at dusk when fairy lights add an extra dusting of magic to an already enchanting scene.

Christmas Steps, Bristol – taken on the Sony Xperia 1 III by @lloydevansphoto

13. Southeast England - Mermaid Street, Rye

With a steep incline of shiny cobblestones framed by quaint crooked cottages and half-timbered buildings, Rye’s Mermaid Street is another “have I actually stepped back in time?” kind of place. Besides taking a shot from the top of the hill to capture the overall old-time allure, the foliage festooning the buildings and their weather-worn signs are every bit as photogenic, not least the sign that creaks and sways outside Mermaid Inn. This iconic hotel and hostelry has been serving thirsty locals since the 12th-century.

Mermaid Street, Rye - taken on the Sony Xperia 1 III by @an.item.explores

14. Southeast England - Harbour Street, Whitstable

Photographers will be spoiled for choice when it comes to finding subjects in and around Whitstable Harbour. Being a working harbour, its appeal runs deeper than your standard chocolate-box scene, which makes it all the more interesting for photographers who like to inject more individuality to their shots. Backed by bright little beach huts and former fisherman’s huts (notable for their distinctive black clapboard façades), the shingle beach has buckets of charm, not least at sunset. A little back from the water, Harbour Street’s higgledy-piggledy jumble of shops and cafes is ideal for shooting interesting architectural details and street scenes.

Harbour Street, Whitstable - taken on the Sony Xperia 1 III by @an.item.explores

15. Wales - Smithfield Street, Dolgellau

Located in Snowdonia National Park, the Welsh market town of Dolgellau may be small in size, but it’s immense in history and photogenic appeal. Formally the centre of the thriving Welsh wool industry, and famed for Welsh gold through the 19th-century, the town is home to over 200 listed buildings, most of which were constructed from striking dark slate and grey stone. Photographers with an eye for light and shade would do well to stroll Smithfield Street to shoot dozens of these stunners, with the rich tones of their natural materials shifting throughout the day. If that wasn’t enough, the town sits beneath the awe-inspiring Cader Idris (Chair of Idris) mountain.

16. Wales - Lower Gate Street, Conwy

The historic Welsh town of Conwy presents a uniquely captivating juxtaposition of the big and the small. There’s no missing the huge UNESCO Heritage Site castle that looms large over town, or the chunky 13th-century wall that encircles it. For contrast, down on the quayside, Britain’s smallest house is tucked in a terrace of cottages on Lower Gate Street. Alongside taking fun photos of this cute and quirky attraction (it’s a mere 72 inches wide and 122 inches high), the quayside also presents great opportunities to shoot Conwy Castle’s medieval mightiness with Snowdonia’s majestic mountains rising in the distance. 

17. Scotland - Mary King's Close, Edinburgh

Steeped in otherworldly ambience, exploring Edinburgh’s Mary King’s Close is a highpoint for visitors who like to (literally) dig deep into the destinations they visit - this warren of atmospheric alleyways is located beneath the City Chambers. Laying bare how its inhabitants lived, worked and died between the 16th and 19th-centuries, the tunnels are almost a buried time capsule, with stories of the plague, local legends and ghostly goings-on revealed along the way. Dimly lit, Mary King’s Close presents photographers with tonnes of chances to conjure cool (and creepy) shots that play with light and shadow. Best to visit early and out of season, though.

18. Scotland - The Royal Mile, Edinburgh

Running through the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, the Royal Mile is the artery that connects Edinburgh Castle with the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The castle itself is a stunner, and offers excellent opportunities to take panoramic shots from its elevated position. Along the Mile, there's a huge variety of subjects to be inspired by - the towering tenements that flank it, the tiny lanes that slip away from it, the bronze reliefs on historic buildings, the lofty statues. To get off the beaten track (let’s face it, there’s nothing new about treading the Royal Mile), take a de tour into gorgeous Dunbars Close Garden. Accessed via a quaint cobbled path, and landscaped in the style of a 17th-century garden, it’s a truly tranquil place, with lots of elegantly nurtured nature to inspire photographers.

19. Scotland - Ashton Lane, Glasgow

What a combo - classic cobblestone charm, plus piles of contemporary cool makes Glasgow’s Ashton Lane a picturesque playground for photographers who like to mix things up. Visit during the day to capture the lane’s funky (and thought-provoking) street art in natural light, including work by Scotland’s answer to Banksy, The Rebel Bear. Come dusk, a canopy of fairy lights adds extra magic as bars and restaurants take it up a notch (or ten). With so many vibrant places to hang out, it’s the ideal spot to take some lip-smackingly attractive shots of food and drink - think elegant cocktails, decadent fondue, Shetland mussels, and haggis curry. Like we said, this is a place to mix things up and get creative.

20. Scotland - Main Street, Tobermory

Candy-coloured buildings backed by wooded hills and fronted by a curvaceous bay - Main Streets don’t come much more scenic and serene than Tobermory. Capital of the Isle of Mull, this picture-perfect fishing port found fame as the location of the hit children’s TV show Balamory. While the iconic buildings look a dream at any time of day, there’s something special about capturing them as the sun slips low and lights begin to twinkle on the water. Head to the pier for a sweeping shot that takes in the harbour and soul-stirring views of the Scottish mainland.

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written by Joanne Owen
updated 10/29/2021
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Joanne is a Pembrokeshire-born writer with a passion for the nature, cultures and histories of the Caribbean region, especially Dominica. Also passionate about inspiring a love of adventure in young people, she’s the author of several books for children and young adults, hosts international writing workshops, and has written articles on the Caribbean and inspirational community initiatives for Rough Guides. Follow her @JoanneOwen on Twitter and @joanneowenwrites on Instagram.

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