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10 Great Cities for Street Photography
Grab your camera and head to these iconic destinations.
Discover scenic locations to photograph on your next trip.(Getty Images)
Street photography is one of the few genres that truly captures the essence and life of a city. Unlike landscapes or portraits, you can't stage the scene – all you can do is observe and capture the moments as they unfold in front of you. That's the joy in street photography: the spontaneity and excitement of simply being an observer of everyday life. However, the lack of control does make you more reliant on other elements, such as city structure, colors, composition and light. That's why these 10 cities are favorites for street photographers worldwide. While each city offers its own distinctive personality, these picks share one thing: They're cities that offer the right mix of culture, color and composition, making it easier to shoot compelling images. So, grab your camera and book your trip to these scenic locales.
Though the pastel-hued vintage cars, chipped paint walls, billowing seafront and flurry of activity in Havana make for an incredible street scene, it's the locals who bring each image to life. Cubans are passionate, funny and humble, which can easily be captured by observing locals' daily interactions. Take in the essence of the city, the people and the breathtaking coast by shooting sunsets along the Malecón, which comes alive with students, families and residents taking in the stunning views.
With a rich heritage and world-renowned art, nightlife and food scenes, Berlin is a multi-faceted city home to stunning contrasts, making it the ultimate place to capture the city streets. On one side of the city, you'll find historic architecture and quaint cafes you've come to expect from Germany, while on the other, you'll be met with deserted amusement parks and an inspiring street art scene. Though these scenes seem divided by time and culture, they blend together to create the urban mecca of Berlin today.
Istanbul offers a rich melting pot of cultures and a unique blend of old versus new. Go back in time with a visit to the city's many spired, staggering mosques, which soar above the skyline. Or, for a completely different scene, visit the city's working-class neighborhoods for a glimpse of modern life for the locals who live there. Though navigating the city can feel overwhelming, some of your best photos will come from a visit to the Grand Bazaar, which is home to hundreds of bright, busy and beautiful street stalls selling everything from rugs to lanterns.
Motorcycles weaving in and out of lanes, elderly vendors pushing wheelbarrows of multi-colored fruits and vegetables, kids running in the streets, peddlers selling stacks of bright, detailed saris and cooks mixing fragrant curries from movable street food carts… this is Mumbai. Mumbai is colorful and chaotic, making it an excellent place to take sharp street shots. Carve out some time to visit the many markets and bazaars found across the city, such as Chor Bazaar and Liking Road, to watch how daily life unfolds for so many locals.
[See: 9 Ways to Travel Better.]
There's an old-world charm found in Paris, a city that gleams with glamour and history. The city provides such a dazzling array of unique backgrounds and interesting subjects on nearly every corner. Although cliché, great photos can be found on the lawn of the Eiffel Tower, near the Notre Dame or along the famed Seine River. However, truly authentic (and inspiring) photos will come after hours of wandering the cobblestone streets and hidden alleyways of the city's local neighborhoods and streets, such as Le Marais or Rue des Abbesses.
With a population of more than 8 million, the sheer number of people weaving through the busy streets of Bangkok make it an excellent backdrop for street photographers. At all times of day, the city's colorful streets are filled with constant activity, from tourists shopping the markets, locals darting through traffic or, if you're lucky, a string of monks out for a morning walk. For an aerial perspective of the busy scene below, visit the Dome at Skybar. Or, if you're seeking iconic street shots, wander through the Soi Cowboy or down Yaowarat Road in Chinatown.
One of the most diverse and naturally beautiful cities on the list, San Francisco offers awe-inspiring sights across its varied street scenes. Stroll along the lush lawns surrounding the stacked and brightly painted row homes on Broderick Street or the floral speckled gardens lining the winding Lombard Street for the perfect photo ops. Or, watch the blur of tourists run, bike and walk past you as you take in the majestic Golden Gate Bridge. San Francisco's streets are contrasting hubs of bustling activity and serene coastal beauty.
For a Western photographer, the buzzing streets of Tokyo are fascinating, with diverse sights, smells and sounds on nearly every block. The crowded avenues, string of neon lights and tall skyscrapers tell one story, while the peaceful neighborhoods, temples and garden parks tell another. Plan a trip in the springtime so your busy street shots are flanked by the millions of pink and white cherry blossoms that burst into bloom in and around the city.
Mexico City is nothing short of resilient. Though there are pockets in the city to avoid, most of Mexico City beckons to tourists and photographers, offering a wide range of incredible scenes to capture. Visit the Xochimilco section of the city to watch the trajineras (or brightly painted gondolas) sail through the canals, photograph the street artists outside of the Zócalo or walk along the trendy Roma and La Condesa neighborhoods, which are lined with eclectic cafes, restaurants and bars.
[See: 9 Ways to Travel Better.]
New York City
There's a reason New York City is a mecca for street photography. With vibrant scenes to capture, New York offers varied and striking cityscapes. Uncover the colorful street art that's painted on the old brick buildings of the Lower East Side, get lost in the chaos of Times Square, buzzing with neon signs and ever-changing billboards or stand still in the Financial District, where you'll uncover a flurry of suits rushing to and from work. New York has a pace that brings new scenes and sights to life, offering ideal backdrops for professional and amateur shutterbugs.
About En Route
Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.
Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.
Edited by Liz Weiss.
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