Just before dawn breaks, in the early-morning twilight hours, is the time to see London’s skyline at its most magical. As the sun rises, watch over the capital as it becomes basked in golden light and slowly transforms into a wash of colours.
The ideal time to snap a photograph and witness London’s beauty is just as the sun begins to rise (or set). You can enjoy the most brilliant honey hues from around the city.
Most people cluster together to watch the sunset in London however, those that wake at the crack of dawn to watch the sky slowly break into fiery colours will certainly be rewarded.
Sunrise in London: Best Times
Table of Contents
- 1 Sunrise in London: Best Times
- 2 9 Enchanting Places to Watch the Sunrise in London
- 3 9 Best Places to watch the Sunrise in London
- 4 Sunrise in London
- 5 Boutique Hotels in Londons
- 6 Getting to London and Getting Around
- 7 Getting around London
The best way to catch the sunrise in real-time is to know exactly what time, and in what direction, it will be rising from.
Take a look below at the best times the sun will rise in London during each season.
Sunrise in Summer
Months: June – August
Summer in London means you can expect beautiful long days and much warmer weather. At the beginning of summertime, the sun starts to rise as early as 4.48 am in a north-easterly direction, and come August it starts rising a little later at 5.24 am.
Sunrise in Autumn
Months: September – November
In autumn, the sun begins to rise at 6.13 am in a north-easterly direction, and come November, you can catch the sun peeking out in a south-easterly direction at 6.54 am.
Sunrise in Winter
Months: December – February
In wintertime, although chilly, London provides magical sunrises. The sun begins to rise in a south-easterly direction at 7.43 am and come February you can catch sunup around the same time.
Sunrise in Spring
At the beginning of spring, in March, things to begin to warm up. The sun starts to rise in an easterly direction at 6.45 am. And by the end of the season, it will shift earlier and begin to rise as early as 5.32 am.
9 Enchanting Places to Watch the Sunrise in London
Right, now that we’ve covered the sunrise times and directions, let’s take a squizz through the top places to watch London’s break of day – in no particular order.
NB: When I was researching this post I found that several articles mentioned spots like the top of the Tate Modern or the London Eye. I am sure the sunrise views from these spots are stunning.
However, The London Eye and the Tate Modern are not normally open to the public at the times when the sun rises in London. Unless you know someone – in which case take advantage!
Also, check public transport times when you are planning your London sunrise. The tube will generally not be running during London sunrise times in the summer. However, there are some tube lines that run 24 hours on Friday and Saturday nights.
However, there are night buses that run all night that could be helpful. And of course black cabs and ubers run at all hours.
This post focuses on the places in London that it is possible to access at sunrise all year round.
9 Best Places to watch the Sunrise in London
1. Primrose Hill
Primrose Hill is located north of Regent’s Park. It’s nestled in one of London’s many parks, and the beautiful green space invites locals and visitors alike to enjoy its phenomenal sunrises and sunsets.
Primrose Hill’s grassy green summit almost reaches 63 meters above sea level. It’s filled with unique charms nestled above the bustling city centre. The sunrises here are unique, with unbroken views stretching over the city as far as Canary Wharf.
Even on the most overcast of days, the views of the city are picturesque. It’s well worth waking up at the crack of dawn and taking a brisk walk to the summit to see the sunrise pop over this popular spot.
After the sunrise head down to Regents Park Road for lots of super cute cafe and breakfast options such as Ripe Kitchen and the Greenberry Cafe. Or if you’re a foodie check out some London Food Tours.
2. Hyde Park
Seizing a beautiful morning sunrise at Hyde Park is the best way to start your day. The perfectly manicured London parkland is peaceful in the early morning. Grab a cup of hot cocoa in your flask and head to the grassy field to watch the sun rising against the silhouette of the leafy trees.
With plenty of wildlife waking up at the crack of dawn too, you can expect to meet an abundance of squirrels and birds as they begin their day.
Head to the Serpentine and the area around it for some of the best places to stop and watch the sunrise. The Serpentine Bar and Kitchen is a great place for post sunrise breakfast and coffee but doesn’t generally open until 8am.
Top Tip: if getting up early isn’t your thing, then Hyde Park sunsets are also truly spectacular. And if you’re into seeing more of Royal London, take a walking tour to discover central London and other important Royal destinations.
3. Richmond Park
Step away from the bustling city and to enjoy peace in nature at Richmond Park. It’s London’s largest Royal Park covering an area of 2500 acres and boasting stunning vistas of wide-open spaces, clusters of deer herds, and rolling grasslands.
Find yourself a spot under one of the ancient trees, lay a blanket down and pour yourself some tea before the sun ruptures the sky with fiery oranges and reds.
The best view is from King Henry’s Mound where you’ll be able to see distant views of St Paul’s Cathedral as the sky brightens. Check out Pembroke Lodge for post sunrise coffee and breakfast.
The Roehampton Cafe opens at 9am and there are some other kiosks dotted through Richmond park.
The gates are open 24 hours to pedestrians. In summer they open at 7 am for vehicles, and at 7.30 in winter.
4. Hampstead Heath
London is quite a flat city. Its highest point is only 139 metres and it is at Hampstead Heath. Hampstead Heath is beloved by Londoners. Located in north London it is 790 acres of rolling hills, woodland and ponds.
The best place to watch the London sunrise in Hampstead Heath is from the top of Parliament Hill.
If you’re visiting in the warmer months be like a local and bring your swimsuit and head to the mixed bathing pond after for a swim. Or head to the area around Hampstead Heath tube for a delicious breakfast.
5. Greenwich Park
Lovely Greenwich Park is a great place to watch the sunrise in London for most of the year. Head to The Royal Observatory (yes this is actually where Greenwich Mean Time is measured) for the best views of the London skyline. If you see the General Wolfe Statue you are in the right place.
The Royal Observatory is super interesting and well worth a visit. Having said that it generally doesn’t open till 10am so head into super cute Greenwich instead for breakfast and some exploring.
Fun Fact: The top of Greenwich Park is the start point for the London Marathon.
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6. St Katharine’s Dock
St Katharine’s Dock is located on The Thames just next to Tower Bridge on the Tower of London or north side of the river. It is central London’s only marina.
This former dock is now a marina with apartments, restaurants, shopping and lots going on. Its location provides a good view of the sunrise and the many boats of the marina provide fantastic foreground.
And importantly St Katharine’s Dock has lots of restaurants for a post sunrise breakfast.
7. Butler’s Wharf
Butler’s Wharf is a historic building on the south side of the Thames almost directly opposite St Katharine’s Dock. The name Butler’s Wharf describes both the building and the area around it.
Butler’s Wharf Pier is a great place to specifically head to watch the sunrise. Or even better depending on the time of year (due to opening times) you may be able to grab breakfast at Brown’s which has a fantastic location right on the corner of the Thames and River Neckfinger.
8. London’s Bridges
One of my favourite places to watch the sunrise over London is from one of London’s bridges. Their positions along the Thames mean several have some fantastic views – and the bridges themselves can make for a great photo when positioned in the foreground.
The Thames is a windy river – particularly in the portion which runs through London. There are two “stretches” where it runs east to west and thus tends to offer better sunrise views.
The first is between Tower Bridge and Westminster Bridge. Tower Bridge is a great place to watch the sun rise. It would be even better if you could see it from the top of the bridge but alas most of the year the Tower Bridge Experience will not be open so head to the bridge instead.
From London Bridge don’t miss trying to get a shot with the sunrise reflecting off the modern City Hall building. And you may well be able to get coffee and something to eat first as London Bridge is next to Borough Market which opens early (or visit afterward for a more leisurely breakfast).
The next east-west stretch of the Thames is between Battersea Bridge and Vauxhall Bridge. I particularly like the Chelsea Embankment area between Battersea and Albert Bridges for sunrise shots.
Albert Bridge is my personal favourite London Bridge and can look stunning in the foreground of a shot (Chelsea Bridge is nice too). Also, from this part of the Thames you be able to capture the majestic chimneys of Battersea Power Station, also great in a photo.
9. The Shangri-La Hotel
I’ll be honest – this is my favourite option on this list! Not only does it perhaps provide the most spectacular views of the London sunrise it also provides warmth, and amazing breakfast and good coffee!
The Shangri La restaurant in London occupies 18 floors of The Shard Building, starting on the 34th floor. The Shard viewing deck generally doesn’t open until 10am and is not cheap.
However, the Shangri La opens for breakfast at 630am at its fantastic Ting restaurant. The breakfast itself is awesome and features local ingredients. So enjoy breakfast whilst you enjoy the floor-to-ceiling windows at the Ting and check out the London sunrise from multiple angles.
⇒ Heading to London? Check out my posts on 13 Unusual Experiences in London, the best London Food Tours, my virtual London Travel Blog, some great Earlsfield restaurants, 14 Things to do in Notting Hill, restaurants near Clapham Junction and Victoria Station restaurants, 16 Famous Landmarks in Europe, a mad hatter afternoon tea party and a day trip to Brighton, 18 Landmarks of London from a local, 15 Places to see Sunsets in London, 9 Places to watch the Sunrise in London, 10 Bridges in London Not to Miss and Cotswolds tour from London options.
Sunrise in London
The exciting part of waiting for the sun to rise is when you start to see those warm golden tones appear. During these early mornings, you’ll feel the stillness of the city, just before it starts to buzz and come alive.
Whether you’re on the hunt for the perfect picture to snap or if you’re on an early morning adventure, London will surprise you either way.
So, now that I’ve covered the top sunrise spots in London, it’s time for you to grab your cameras, a blanket, and your flasks and plan your place to watch the sunup. London sunrises are generally quite cold so make sure you have all you need to relax and enjoy the show.
Boutique Hotels in Londons
Artist Residence is located in Pimlico which is fabulously central. It is in a gorgeous 5 store regency building and has a cute bar.
The Portobello Hotel is located in one of London’s best known and cutest neighbourhoods Notting Hill. This is also the hotel where Kate Moss and Johnny Depp filled up the bath with champagne. The hotel is located on a quiet street but is a great location.
The Great Northern Hotel is ridiculously close to Kings Cross and St Pancras stations which is incredibly convenient. The hotel dates back to 1854 but has had a major refurb so it feels fresh and modern.
The Hoxton hotel is in the heart of East London in Shoreditch and a perfect base for exploration. The rooms aren’t huge but the location makes up for it – as does the great value for London with rooms starting at £99 a night.
Getting to London and Getting Around
Best Ways to get from the airport to London
London has several airports. It can be confusing and expensive to get from each of the airports into central London. And the last thing you need after a flight! It is much easier to organize tickets before you fly.
Heathrow is the most common airport for international flights. The fastest way to get from Heathrow into Central London is the Heathrow Express.
This train only takes 15 minutes to get from Heathrow to Paddington Station and runs 4 times an hour. The Heathrow Express is much faster than a cab or any other option.
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The lowest cost way to get from Heathrow to central London is the tube. The tube is actually one of the fastest options as well – and will get you the closest to your final destination.
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There is also a bus or coach option which drops passengers at Victoria Station. This is a cheap option but you will have to deal with London traffic! If you are taking this option during peak hour it could take up to 2 hours each way.
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Gatwick Airport is south of London and can be quite the distance in a car. The Gatwick Express is the fastest option into London and runs directly from Gatwick to Victoria Station.
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If you don’t need the express option there is a slightly slower-moving train that has several more options in terms of stops including Clapham Junction, Kings Cross St Pancras, and London Bridge.
⇒ Planning a trip to England or Wales? Don’t miss my posts on the 40 Top English Landmarks, The Crown Filming Locations, Most Beautiful Castles in Cornwall and Boutique Hotels in Cornwall, Boutique Hotels in Kent, Where to Stay in the Cotswolds, 61 Magnificent Landmarks of the UK, Places to Visit in South Wales, Fun Things to do in Cardiff, Luxury Hotels in Yorkshire, Spa Hotels in the South West, Day trip to Brighton, Things to do in Exmouth, Cafes in Exeter, Pubs with Rooms in the New Forest, Ockenden Manor Spa and the Best Things to do in Winchester.
The third option is the national express Gatwick airport coach transfer. This is the least expensive option but it can take some time with London traffic. There is one departure an hour and the average journey time is 90 minutes.
There are a number of Brit Rail passes available. The BritRail London Plus Pass is the best option if you are planning to base yourself in London and take a few day trips. The Britrail England pass covers all of England including getting to and from the airport.
If you are planning on travelling around the south-west of England then BritRail South West Pass is the best option. Finally, if you’re planning on travelling around England and Scotland then the best option is to buy the BritRail GB Pass.
Getting around London
When in London the tube and buses are absolutely the best way to get around town quickly and cheaply. The best way to pay for this is to get a London visitor oyster card– which you can order before you leave home.
⇒ Heading to Scotland? Check out my Scotland Itinerary 10 Days, Scotland Itinerary 7 Days, Glasgow Tours, Edinburgh vaults tour, things to do in Dumfries and Galloway, things to do in Ayrshire, my guide to Climbing Ben Nevis, 11 Places to Experience the Sunset Edinburgh style, 18 Beautiful Places in Scotland and 9 great Spa Breaks Scotland.
As I live in London, I covered all of the costs associated with writing this post. However, this Sunrise in London post does include affiliate links. That means if you click through and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. I wanted to make sure you were aware of this.