Travelling to a new city is the perfect time to try out street photography. Amy Davies rounds up some of the best cities for street photography the world has to offer

Street photography is an incredibly popular genre, but it’s very hard to get right. Personally, I often feel a little self-conscious photographing in my own city, around potential neighbours perhaps. Somehow, that anxiety dissipates a little when I find myself in an unfamiliar city, especially abroad where I can blend in as one of the tourists quite easily.

As my colleague Isabella says in her viewpoint, street photography is a great way to get to know the heart and soul of a destination. Avoiding merely ticking off a routine photographic checklist of all the tourist hotspots and looking for the people who make a destination great can be a fantastic addition to your portfolio. The good news is that, often-times, it’s at those honeypot locations you’ll find fantastic opportunities for street since that’s where all the people are.

Next time you find yourself stressing about people being in your frame, change your thinking and photograph them instead. While it’s satisfying to add to your own collection of guidebook favourites – where notoriously popular tourist destinations always mysteriously seem to be completely deserted – personally I always leave my travels just that little bit happier if I feel I’ve got something which captures a truer essence of the place than its famous buildings and landscapes.

In the books New York Unseen, London Unseen and Berlin Unseen, published by teNeues, we get a fantastic look at those alternative viewpoints that you’re unlikely to find in your Lonely Planet or Rough Guide books. They’ve called the books ‘Unseen’ for a reason, because you’re far less likely to have already viewed the kinds of pictures taken within it.

Those are three of the big cities for street photography, but if any of those don’t float your boat – or perhaps you’ve already been there, done that – I’ve picked out a few extra highlights to give you something to consider when time you’re thinking about booking your next holiday-cum-photography excursion. Whether you’re staying closer to home, or travelling to a far-flung destination, opportunities for street photography are pretty much everywhere. If you’ve got a favourite city (or town or even village) for street photography that you think other readers would benefit from visiting too, please do let us know.

12 best cities for street photography


Gay Pride, Marylebone. © Paul Scane

Gay Pride, Marylebone. © Paul Scane

Of course we fully anticipate that many AP readers will be very familiar with London, and already know how good a location it is for street photography. There are plenty of other cities and towns in the UK which are also excellent for it, but in terms of sheer size, breadth and types of location, it is reasonably hard to beat London (I’m sure we’ll get plenty of letters which argue otherwise).
Perhaps like myself, you’re only an occasional visitor to the capital and tend to find yourselves in the typical locations most of the time. I know I do. That’s why a book such as London Unseen by Paul Anthony Scane is a refreshing opportunity to find places in the city away from those which you probably already know.

While you can find some great street scenes in typical locations such as Trafalgar Square, The South Bank and Covent Garden, it’s by stepping away from those places that you’ll tend to find London’s true character. If you don’t know where to begin, or perhaps just want a good look at how a contemporary photographer approaches it, Scane’s book is a great place to start.

London Unseen, £19.95, teNeues, hardcover, 208 pages, ISBN: 9783961713844

New York

child dancing on the subway

Subway. © Luc Kordas

There must be millions – if not billions – of photographs of New York City. With its ultra-familiar skyline, architecture and landmarks, street photography is definitely the better way to capture the soul of perhaps the world’s most famous city.

One of the great things about New York is that there are street photographers so in abundance that New Yorkers really do not seem to care if you’re pointing a lens at them, even directly in their face.

Jacob Riis Park - The Rockaway

Jacob Riis Park – The Rockaway. © Luc Kordas

Not that we’d necessarily recommend that approach, but it certainly works for Bruce Gilden. New York Unseen, by Luc Kordas, attempts to take us away from the tourist hotspots like Central Park and the Statue of Liberty and show us the real stories of the city’s residents, showing us far more than the 10,000th picture of the Empire State Building snapped in a single day could ever say. Getting out of Manhattan and into the boroughs is an easy way to head away from the tourist hotspots too.

Coney Island Beach in Winter

Coney Island Beach in Winter. © Luc Kordas

There of course hundreds of photographers you could draw inspiration from as well, including Vivian Maier, Elliott Erwitt, Saul Leiter, Bruce Davidson, Helen Levitt, Robert Frank, William Klein and many, many more besides. Pluck a name at random in 20th century street or documentary photography and chances are they’ve been to the city. But it’s great to pick up a new book like New York Unseen to get a contemporary look at what’s going on right now.

New York Unseen, £19.95, teNeues, hardcover, 208 pages, ISBN: 9783961714537


Kottbusser Tor berlin best cities for street

Kottbusser Tor. © Martin U Waltz

Berlin Unseen features the work of Martin U Waltz, a well-known street photographer in Germany. Like the other two books in the ‘Unseen’ series, this edition takes an authentic approach to the character of the German capital, straying off the typical tourist tracks.

Germany has a very active street photography scene, and the gritty streets of Berlin provide an excellent backdrop. Generally you’ll find most people are fine with having their photograph taken in a public place – most, like in other capital cities, will barely even notice.

Mauerpark, Berlin neon fries sign. best cities for street photography

Mauerpark. © Martin U Waltz

Touristy areas near the Reichstag and Brandenberg Gate shouldn’t necessarily be avoided, as you might also see a good blend of locals and government officials going about their day-to-day life here. The Berlin Holocaust Memorial provides opportunity for contemplative street photography, but of course you should be mindful of being respectful.

Warschauer Strasse, Berlin, best cities for street photography

Warschauer Strasse. © Martin U Waltz

Berlin Unseen shows off how the brutalist architecture of the city can be blended with capturing the city’s people to fantastic effect, and also showcases how the different seasons can affect the city and its inhabitants. If you’re thinking of a weekend away to the city, picking up a copy of the book – when it is released in April -– is a great way to get inspiration for both location and style.

Berlin Unseen, £19.95, teNeues, hardcover, 208 pages, ISBN: 9783961714544


silhouette on against orange wall on rome street, best cities

© Grant Faint / Getty Images

An ancient city like Rome is always going to be a highlight for street photographers, as the backdrops are classic, instantly recognisable and display just the right level of dirt and grime that sometimes makes a city street scene.

There are dozens of touristy hotspots around Rome, such as the Trevi Fountain and the Colosseum, but it’s also a busy working city with plenty of side-streets to explore and destinations filled with locals. Take a morning to choose a location and watch the Italian city move around you, while in the evening that beautiful Mediterranean light makes the colourful walls and Roman architecture even more spellbinding.


There’s not much that hasn’t already been said about Paris as a destination for street photography. It’s a classic for a reason, with the great and good from the history of photography all seemingly converging on the French capital at some point during their career.

couple stood in front of Louvre pyramid at sunset best cities for street

© Ludovic Marin / Getty Images

Street master Cartier-Bresson should provide you with all the inspiration you need, but also be sure to check out the work of Marilyn Stafford, Robert Doisneau and Eugene Atget. The great thing about Paris is that, a bit like New York and London, nobody will bat an eyelid if they spot a photographer standing on the streets snapping away. The beautiful streets make for an exquisite backdrop, with perhaps some bonus points if you can manage to incorporate the likes of the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame or the Arc de Triomphe.

France has strict street photography laws, but so long as you’re not planning to publish a book with identifiable subjects within France, amateurs should have nothing to worry about.

Cape Town

street photography in cape town

© Rodger Bosch / Getty Images

As our editor Nigel Atherton recently found, a trip to Cape Town isn’t complete without a spot of street photography. The city has a reputation for being unsafe, but Nigel found it to be full of friendly locals, many of which were happy to appear in his photographs.

With beautiful bright colours and an array of interesting street art, the backdrops here for people pictures really make it special. There is also poverty mixed with high beauty here on the streets, so it needs a sensitive approach in some locations. If you find yourself heading into the townships, remember to be respectful, friendly and approachable, and realise when it’s best to not take the shot.


neon lights at night in tokyo

© Koukichi Takahashi / Getty Images

The neon lights and the busy-ness of central Tokyo make it an absolute dream for street photography. The master here to turn to for inspiration is Daido Moriyama, but you could also take some inspiration from photographer Liam Wong and head out after dark.

If you can catch the city while it’s raining, play with incorporating neon lighting into your street scene for a ethereal, film-set-like quality. During the day, commuters and tourists rushing about their business are also fantastic subjects, and you’ll find them in many different districts. Head to a temple for something a little bit more traditional, but remember to be respectful of anyone wearing traditional dress – a smile goes a long way.


cyclist on havana street, best cities for photography

© Yamil Lage / Getty Images

There’s just something about the colours, the light and the people of Cuba that make it spectacular for street photography. Take a look at the work of Raúl Cañibano to get an idea of what you can expect – although he mostly works in black & white, you’ll get an excellent feel for the place.

Plonk yourself in one corner of Havana and you’ll probably find hundreds of things to point your lens at. But don’t be tempted to sit still; wander around the grid street system of the city. Locals are for the most part friendly and are used to seeing tourists taking pictures. Don’t feel you have to shoot from a distance, as most will simply ignore you as you snap away (within reason).


cyclist riding through side road in barcelona city

© Eloi Omella / Getty Images

A fantastic blend of city life and beach-side resort makes Barcelona a top place to try your hand at street photography. Classic locations include Las Ramblas, where you’ll find myriad street performers and the tourists engaging with them, and the bustling La Boqueria market full of tasty delights and customers aplenty. Of course, Barcelona is also famous for its flamboyant Gaudi architecture, which can be found across the city.

Head to Park Güell to find an array of street opportunities, while you might also stumble across some lucky finds outside buildings such as Casa Milà and the awe-inspiring La Sagrada Família. The area around Barcelona’s Arco de Triunfo is often a good place to catch skateboarders and local youths enjoying the golden hour, too.

Rio de Janeiro

two men playing with football in Rio de Janeiro street

© Carl de Souza / Getty Images

Brazil’s most-famous city is a hotbed of activity, all year round. Whether you choose to go while the eponymous Carnival is taking place or not, you’re sure to find some fantastic subjects for street photography.

The streets, squares and parks of this city are home to 100 different street photography subjects on every corner. This is another city which blends together poverty and beauty, so a mindful approach is necessary. Be careful if you choose to head into the favelas (slums) – perhaps leave the DSLR or mirrorless at home for the best results, and if possible travel with an authorised guide.


man walking with shopping in marrakech street, best cities for photography

© REDA&Co / Getty Images

A beautiful city to photograph in, Marrakech can also be intolerant of photographers. Therefore, any visitor intending to carry out street photography should do so carefully, respectfully, and with understanding that not everybody will be fine with you doing so.

Keep calm, and if someone displays visible distress at having their picture taken, don’t take it and move on to the next subject. Capturing unidentifiable figures from a distance, or the backs and silhouettes of locals, can also be a good way to evoke the spirit of the place without causing too much upset.

Taking some small change can be helpful for paying dancers, entertainers and street performers, and staying unobtrusive – such as by using your smartphone – can also be a helpful tactic employed in this city.


Talinn city photography at night

© maremagnum / Getty Images

While others are travelling to the perhaps obvious locations of London, Rome, New York and Paris, take a look at some of the smaller and less touristy capitals of Europe. Tallinn, in Estonia, for example, has some wonderful opportunities for street scenes, despite its relatively small population. Head to the old town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, for some traditional windy streets and medieval backdrops. Look out for special ‘Old Town Days’ and ‘Medieval Days’ if you want to shoot people in traditional attire, but the city’s bustling café culture is worth a visit any time of year.

Featured image: Jessica Knowlden/Unsplash

If you’re looking for a great lens for street photography, have a look at the best lenses for street photography, or have a look at the best cameras for street photography

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