Is there anything more magical than watching the world come to life before your eyes at the start of the day? When I lived in London, the dawn hours were one of my favorite times of day: I would rise early, lace up my running shoes, and hit the streets to run along the Thames. On weekend days, most people were still sleeping off their previous evening at the pub, and I got to watch the whole city wake up around me after sunrise in London.
Sunsets are lovely, of course, but there’s something rejuvenating about the sunrise. It marks the beginning, the opportunity, the possibility of a day that’s entirely under your control to do with as you please. This is especially true if you’re on vacation in London – no work deadlines or other demands can prevent you from having the best day you can plan.
If you, like me, love to rise early and see the sunrise even when you’re traveling or on vacation, look no further. In this post, I’ll break down sunrise times in London during different times of the year. Then, I’ll share my thirteen favorite places to see the sun rise above London. By the end of this post, you’ll know everything necessary to plan a perfect sunrise experience of your own on your trip to London.
This post was originally published in January 2022, and was updated most recently in February 2024.
Sunrise in London by Month
If you want to witness the perfect sunrise in London, it’s essential to know at what time the sun is up in the city. The London sunrise time varies considerably depending on the month and season of the year. While you’ll always have to rise and shine early, there’s a big-time difference, especially during summer and winter. Take a look at the table below to plan a successful sunrise viewing in London:
(on the 1st)
(on the 15th)
Here’s a quick recap in case those numbers are overwhelming: for early birds, summer won’t be a problem with the sun rising before 5am in June. During winter, you can stay in bed longer since the sun rises at almost 8am in December. As you’d expect considering the equinoxes happen in March and September, sunrise during those months is roughly in the middle (equinox, get it now?).
In any case, you should check the specific sunrise times for the days you plan to visit; this table just gives you a rough estimate of when the sun comes up at the beginning of each month and mid-month.
Best Places to See Sunrise in London
Now that you’re familiar with the sunrise times, you might wonder where the best spots to see sunrise are located across London. This might be of special interest to photographers who want to rise and shine to capture photos of sunrise in London like the ones I’ve shared in this post. There are lots of options – here are some of my favorites.
1. Alexandra Palace
Perched atop a hill, Alexander Palace, or Ally Pally, as Londoners call it, offers fantastic views of London’s skyline in the distance. You can simply enjoy that spectacle on the grass or indulge in the wonderful view from the bench near the Palace. You’ll soon realize is a great place for taking photos and hanging out with friends or family.
As a heads up, it can get very muddy because of the rain (ah, London) so better wear boots or old shoes – it will definitely get very dirty if the weather is bad.
2. Archway Bridge
London is filled with iconic bridges, but Archway Bridge isn’t one of them. But, for our purpose, this low-profile status is fantastic – it’s quiet and there will be no crowds.
Also known as Hornsey Lane Bridge, this bridge has a magnificent view of London and the City. Looking South, the skyline of London can be viewed from the City with St Paul’s Cathedral and many famous landmarks like the Shard visible. Looking North, you look towards Highgate Woods, with the unusual church of St Augustine’s on the right with its Tibetan Temple-style roof.
3. Bankside Beach
Bankside Beach, the sandy bank on the Southside of the Thames, is a lovely spot to watch the sunrise over London. It’s especially popular in hotter seasons when the warm spring sunshine covers the London skyline in golden hues. There are great views of the city from the beach, but it’s rocky and you might have a difficult time finding a good place, so get there with plenty of time to spare.
Be sure to check tide times; the beach is only exposed during low tides, so you need low tide plus sunrise time to see the sunrise here. (There are other some great beaches near London if you love visiting Bankside.)
4. Butler’s Wharf
An English historic building, Butler’s Wharf sits on the south bank of the Thames almost directly opposite St Katharine’s Dock. The Butler’s Wharf Pier is an excellent place to watch the sunrise in London. After the sunrise spectacle, you can head to St. Katharine Docks for a rich breakfast or stay in Butler’s Wharf and explore the area a bit.
5. Dartmouth Park Hill
If you’re in North London, Dartmouth Park Hill is a great option for watching the sunrise. The area was named after the Earl of Dartmouth who bought the land in the 18th Century, and is home to one of London’s lesser-known parks: Dartmouth Park. It’s right on the slope of the hill that rises up to Highgate from Kentish Town. This unassuming park has stunning views of London. Get your head up, and you’ll see the glass towers of Canary Wharf in the east; the Leadenhall building at Liverpool Street; St Paul’s, the London Eye… you’re up for a treat.
6. Duck & Waffle
Breakfast with a view? Duck & Waffle is a modern restaurant serving British cuisine on Heron Tower’s 40th. The ride alone to the restaurant is breathtaking and the views once you’re there are even more so. You will be in awe of how beautiful the city truly is. As a heads up, advance booking is mandatory. Duck & Waffle is extremely popular and you’ll see it teeming with diners night and day (it is open 24/7.)
7. Emirates Air Line
Popularly known as the Dangleway, the Emirates Air Line is a cable car link Going straight over the Thames in London and offers spectacular views of the river and the O2. The cable car operates from 7 am Monday to Friday in winter – except on Saturdays which open at 8 am and Sundays, which open at 9 am. Transport for London operates the car line, so you can pay with an Oyster card (or bank card. The ride lasts about 10 minutes, giving you time to capture beautiful photos of the sunrise in London.
8. Greenwich Park
Greenwich Park grants beautiful sunrise views year-round. A Royal Park, Greenwich Park sprawls over 183 acres, providing tons of space to enjoy spectacular views of London. When it comes to sunrise, head up to The Royal Observatory to get a glimpse of London’s skyline and the sun rising behind it.
9. Hampstead Heath
One of the highest points in London, Hampstead Heath is a green space running from Hampstead to Highgate, with its highest point being 440 ft. Parliament Hill is inside the Heath and it has been consecrated as one of the best viewpoints to take in panoramic views of London. You’ll find lots of garden space to lie down and chill. So, bring a blanket and wait for the magic to happen.
10. Hyde Park
Hyde Park is truly a gem in the heart of London. This sprawling green oasis offers a delightful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. The serene Serpentine Lake, lush lawns, and iconic statues create a picturesque landscape. Needless to say, the trees turn a vibrant array of colors with the first morning light, creating a stunning backdrop for your sunrise.
11. Millennium Bridge
Millennium Bridge, with outstanding architectural design, provides one of the best ways to truly appreciate the River Thames and the cityscape. It is London’s first pedestrian bridge going north to south. While you’re here to appreciate the dawn, make sure to look in all cardinal directions. You can catch amazing views of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, and The Shard getting the first drops of sunshine.
12. Potters Fields Park
A tiny public park, Potters Fields Park sits right next to Tower Bridge. Naturally, it grants a perfect angle view of Tower Bridge, but it’s also a good spot to see many famous buildings. I think Potters Fields Park is an excellent spot if you want to experience sunrise scenery on the River Thames. It is truly beautiful, with the water mirroring nearby buildings and the sun’s light.
13. Primrose Hill
Primrose Hill is another of London’s best viewpoints. The hill sits north of Regent’s Park and its summit reaches 210 ft. Some people find the walk uphill a bit strenuous, but it is worth it as Primrose Hill offers stunning views over almost the entire skyline of London and even better ones at sunrise. It is very popular during the summer months when the grassy land and amazing views lure locals into an afternoon outdoors.
14. Queen’s Walk Between London & Tower Bridges
The Queen’s Walk is a promenade situated between Lambeth Bridge and Tower Bridge. The promenade provides splendid waterfront views of the opposite bank of the Thames and excellent photo opportunities. The good news is that the walkabout has plenty of cafes and restaurants along the way to grab lunch after watching the sunrise.
15. Richmond Park
Richmond Park is London’s largest Royal Park and governs around 2500 acres. The nature here is gorgeous, being one of the few places in London where you can spot deers. You’ll find the best view of King Henry’s Mound. However, the whole park offers stunning views of the sky. All you have to do is bring a blanket and wait for the sky to become a riot of color.
16. St. Katharine Docks
St Katharine Docks is right next to Tower Bridge. With its privileged location and closeness to the City, it is quite an exclusive area. Surrounding the water are lots of former warehouses that have been converted into offices and flats with bars and restaurants on the ground floor – perfect for breakfast after your sunrise session. The moored-up yachts, cruisers, and narrowboats provide a unique landscape to watch the sunrise.
17. Tíng at the Shangri-La Shard
The Tíng at Shangri-La Shard is yet another opportunity to enjoy breakfast with a sunrise view in London. Tíng is the fancy Asian eatery of the Shangri La hotel. It opens at 6:30 am– right on time for sunrise if you’re visiting in spring– and offers unmatched views of London that you can appreciate through its floor-to-ceiling windows.
18. Tower Bridge
A walk across the iconic Tower Bridge will give you panoramic views of the River Thames and surrounding areas. The bridge is a popular spot for watching the sunset, but it isn’t as much for catching the sunrise. I suggest you head to the Tower Pier for a unique perspective of the river scene and the best sunrise views.
19. Victoria Embankment
Victoria Embankment is on the North side of the River Thames; it stretches from Blackfriars to Westminster and the Houses of Parliament. After the sunrise, take a walk and you will see all the lovely sights of London from here!
It is a very pleasant alternative to the well-trodden tourist path that runs along the south bank of the Thames (from the Westminster Bridge to beyond the Tower Bridge). This specific walk will provide you with a different perspective of the river, as well as the opportunity to visit some lovely gardens, see some interesting monuments, and spot a few curiosities.
That wraps up my list, and you now know all the best places to see sunrise in London. Have any questions about planning your excursion to watch the sunrise in London? Let me know in the comments below!