There are few things more inspiring than a city skyline. Whether we’re on a far-flung vacation or admiring the scenery in our hometown, taking in a towering cityscape can make us feel on top of the world.
It’s no surprise, then, that upon seeing a breathtaking vista, many of us will reach for our cameras in the hopes of permanently capturing that awe-inspiring feeling. Amateurs and professional photographers alike have long captured interesting cityscapes – but what is the most inspiring skyline of all? Which cities make us the most ‘shutter happy’? What location has us all rushing to Instagram and hitting ‘new post’?
Table of contents:
- What are the most Instagrammable cities in the world?
- The most photographed skylines in the UK
- The most photographed skylines in the USA
- How to photograph a skyline
- Using photos from Instagram
- Fair use statement
What are the most Instagrammable cities in the world?
To find out the most photographed skylines in the world, we compared Instagram hashtag data for more than a hundred cities across the globe, famous for their iconic horizons. By cross-referencing against annual visitor numbers and local populations, we were able to find out the most Instagrammable cityscapes; those stunning scenes that encourage both locals and tourists to pick up their cameras and click.
Some of the results come as no shock to us when we look at the total number of posts, but when we start breaking down the results by population or by annual tourist numbers, there are some hidden gems and underdogs that might take you by surprise.
Check out the rankings for the world’s most photographed skylines below and you just might find yourself your next holiday destination.
The most photographed city skylines – by total number of posts
- New York City, New York, USA – 768,226 posts
- Chicago, Illinois, USA – 313,502 posts
- London, UK – 269,786 posts
- Boston, Massachusetts, USA – 184,353 posts
- Jakarta, Indonesia – 176,012 posts
- Toronto, Canada – 143,440 posts
- Dubai, United Arab Emirates – 134,035 posts
- Frankfurt, Germany – 118,690 posts
- Dallas, Texas, USA – 94,083 posts
- Seattle, Washington, USA – 89,202 posts
- Miami, Florida, USA – 77,892 posts
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA – 66,533 posts
- Los Angeles, California, USA – 58,610 posts
- Singapore – 58,352 posts
- Atlanta, Georgia, USA – 51,335 posts
- Hong Kong – 45,189 posts
- Sydney, Australia – 43,157 posts
- Houston, Texas, USA – 38,891 posts
- Melbourne, Australia – 36,729 posts
- Nashville, Tennessee, USA – 31,958 posts
The World’s Most Photographed Skyline – New York City
The most Instagrammed skyline of all time is New York City, and we can’t say we’re surprised.
The Big Apple is renowned across the world for its towering skyscrapers, boasting iconic structures like the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and the One World Trade Center which was completed in 2014.
The instantly recognizable skyline is rapidly changing with the development of countless new apartment blocks and commercial buildings, all vying for the title of tallest building in NYC. It’s fortunate, then, that this awe-inspiring city has moved so many people to photograph it over the years, leaving behind a permanent record of the beloved New York skyline in its most iconic form.
The New York City skyline is a classic when it comes to merchandise; it can be seen on t-shirts, mugs, and even in the form of wall art in the homes of people who have never been there. If you have taken an impressive NYC skyline shot, use an image checker such as our reverse image search tool to find out if your photograph has been used for product listings without your permission. If you’re planning to create a product featuring a famous skyline, or even use a photograph in a travel blog for instance, make sure to verify the source of the image and avoid breaking any image copyright laws that could lead to hefty fines.
The Other Most Photographed Skylines by Total Number of Posts
The United States has much to be proud of when it comes to its skylines, claiming a huge 50% of the total spots in the top 20.
Chicago comes in second place after New York City, with over 300,000 Instagram posts of its famous skyline. This should come as no shock to us considering that the first ever recorded skyscraper, the Home Insurance Building, was built in Chicago in 1885.
We then have London taking the number 3 spot, garnering almost 270,000 Instagram posts across relevant hashtags. From centuries-old listed buildings like St. Paul’s Cathedral to modern additions such as the Shard, the London skyline has provided the backdrop for endless movies and TV shows, and will be very familiar to most people without ever having traveled there.
While the winners of the first, second, and third spots were certainly predictable, the rest of the top 20 list leaves us with a few surprises.
Unexpectedly, the UK is only represented once in the top 20 most photographed skylines of all time, while the US state of Texas claims double the number of entries with Houston and Dallas.
Like the UK, mainland Europe only has one representation; Frankfurt, which ranks eighth and has over 118,000 posts. Known for its futuristic skyline, the German financial capital is home to the country’s tallest residential building, the Grand Tower, standing at a staggering 591 feet (or 180 meters).
A quarter of the top 20 are in Asia, with the beautiful Indonesian city of Jakarta coming in fifth place, and the glittering lights of Dubai taking the seventh spot.
The luxurious city-state of Singapore, known for its clean streets and lush public spaces, amassed more than 58,000 Instagram posts. With ultra-modern skyscrapers like the Marina Bay Sands Hotel mixed in with both Chinese and Colonial architecture, it’s easy to see why this visually diverse skyline has people so eager to capture it.
The Australian cities of Sydney and Melbourne were also represented in the 20 most Instagrammable skylines, coming in 17th and 19th respectively. It would be almost impossible to think of Australia without calling to mind an image of its most famous building, the Sydney Opera House. The performing arts venue, located in Sydney Harbour, is known the world over for its distinctive silhouette and is a central feature of many of the 43,000 Instagram posts of the city’s skyline.
Those are the city skylines that have been photographed most overall, but which cities are most likely to inspire tourists to take pictures?
Which cities are the most photographed by tourists?
By comparing the total number of posts to the average number of each city’s annual visitors, we can reveal which cities encourage a tourist to pick up their camera the most (figures have been rounded):
- Jakarta, Indonesia – 0.073 posts per visitor
- Frankfurt, Germany – 0.055 posts per visitor
- Singapore – 0.031 posts per visitor
- Rotterdam, The Netherlands – 0.020 posts per visitor
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA – 0.015 posts per visitor
- London, UK – 0.013 posts per visitor
- New York City, New York, USA – 0.012 posts per visitor
- Boston, Massachusetts, USA – 0.008 posts per visitor
- Dubai, United Arab Emirates – 0.008 posts per visitor
- San Francisco, California, USA – 0.008 posts per visitor
- Manchester, UK – 0.007 posts per visitor
- Chicago, Illinois, USA – 0.005 posts per visitor
- Toronto, Canada – 0.005 posts per visitor
- Mumbai, India – 0.004 posts per visitor
- Dallas, Texas, USA – 0.003 posts per visitor
- Jersey City, New Jersey, USA – 0.003 posts per visitor
- Miami, Florida, USA – 0.003 posts per visitor
- Glasgow, UK – 0.003 posts per visitor
- Madrid, Spain – 0.003 posts per visitor
- Sydney, Australia – 0.003 posts per visitor
There are some new cities being represented in the league table when we compare total posts against visitor numbers.
The captivating cities of Manchester and Glasgow make an appearance alongside London, bolstering the UK’s presence in the rankings.
Mumbai, the heart of Bollywood, comes in at number 14; the first Indian city to be represented in the rankings so far.
Meanwhile, the Dutch city of Rotterdam takes the fourth spot in the rankings, inspiring an estimated 20 skyline photographs per every 1,000 visitors.
The Most Photographed Cities by Locals
Tourism is one thing, but what about those who want to shout about the cities they call home?
By checking the average number of posts against the population, we found out which skylines are the most inspiring to the people who live there, prompting the highest number of cityscape photographs per resident (figures have been rounded):
- Boston, Massachusetts, USA – 0.066 posts per resident
- Miami, Florida, USA – 0.055 posts per resident
- Seattle, Washington, USA – 0.039 posts per resident
- Frankfurt, Germany – 0.039 posts per resident
- Atlanta, Georgia, USA – 0.025 posts per resident
- Kansas City, Kansas, USA – 0.024 posts per resident
- Chicago, Illinois, USA – 0.023 posts per resident
- Dallas, Texas, USA – 0.023 posts per resident
- Bath, UK – 0.018 posts per resident
- New York City, New York, USA – 0.017 posts per resident
- Nashville, Tennessee, USA – 0.016 posts per resident
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA – 0.014 posts per resident
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA – 0.014 posts per resident
- Toronto, Canada – 0.012 posts per resident
- Cleveland, Ohio, USA – 0.012 posts per resident
- Las Vegas, Nevada, USA – 0.011 posts per resident
- Liverpool, UK – 0.011 posts per resident
- Denver, Colorado, USA – 0.011 posts per resident
- Detroit, Michigan, USA – 0.010 posts per resident
- Dubai, United Arab Emirates – 0.010 posts per resident
We have some very interesting results when examining how the volume of Instagram photos of each city skyline stacks up against its local population.
The US once again takes up the lion’s share of the list, accounting for 75% of the most photographed cityscapes. Atlanta, commonly referred to as the Black Mecca of the USA, comes in fifth place, prompting an estimated 25 skyline photographs per every 1,000 residents.
The state of Pennsylvania gives us two separate consecutive entries with Pittsburgh and Philadelphia’s skylines, both inspiring around 14 images for every 1000 people who live there.
One very surprising entry is the number nine spot; the relatively small city of Bath in Somerset, England, which has less than 200,000 residents. Bath might not be as well known on the world stage as other UK cities like London and Liverpool, but that doesn’t stop it from inspiring photography from locals and tourists alike.
Known for the Roman baths which give the city its name, this picturesque location is chock full of stunning architecture, and it’s easy to see why the people here are so keen to photograph their surroundings.
Having seen this unexpected UK entry, as well as the presence of a huge number of American cities in the results, we were keen to find out how the numbers stacked up when comparing cities in the UK and the USA.
The Most Photographed Skylines in the UK
- London, England – 269786 posts
- Liverpool, Merseyside, England – 10715 posts
- Manchester, Greater Manchester, England – 10019 posts
- Edinburgh, Scotland – 8268 posts
- Bath, Somerset, England – 6992 posts
- Birmingham, West Midlands, England – 3281 posts
- Glasgow, Scotland – 2422 posts
- Oxford, Oxfordshire, England – 1312 posts
- Leeds, West Yorkshire, England – 1296 posts
- Bristol, England – 1001 posts
Total posts per resident (figures have been rounded):
- Bath, Somerset, England – 0.036 posts per resident
- London, England – 0.030 posts per resident
- Liverpool, Merseyside, England – 0.022 posts per resident
- Manchester, Greater Manchester, England – 0.019 posts per resident
- Edinburgh, Scotland – 0.016 posts per resident
- Oxford, Oxfordshire, England – 0.008 posts per resident
- Glasgow, Scotland – 0.004 posts per resident
- York, North Yorkshire, England – 0.003 posts per resident
- Belfast, Northern Ireland – 0.003 posts per resident
- Brighton and Hove, East Sussex, England – 0.003 posts per resident
Total posts per visitor (figures have been rounded):
- London, England – 0.128 posts per visitor
- Manchester, Greater Manchester, England – 0.0070 posts per visitor
- Glasgow, Scotland – 0.0031 posts per visitor
- Bristol, Bristol, England – 0.0017 posts per visitor
- Bath, Somerset, England – 0.0011 posts per visitor
- Belfast, Northern Ireland – 0.0006 posts per visitor
- Edinburgh, Scotland – 0.0003 posts per visitor
- Oxford, Oxfordshire, England – 0.0002 posts per visitor
- Liverpool, Merseyside, England – 0.0002 posts per visitor
- Aberdeen, Scotland – 0.0002 posts per visitor
Once again we see Bath as the most photographed by locals, followed closely by London and Liverpool.
The Scottish city of Aberdeen makes its first appearance when we look at total posts per visitor, ranking in tenth place.
Birmingham, England’s second-largest city after London, also makes its debut in the top 10 by total posts. While the Birmingham skyline has long been defined by the Rotunda, a residential high rise standing at 265 feet, new developments will soon be shooting up and changing the face of Birmingham’s skyline permanently.
Belfast makes a surprisingly high appearance in skylines most photographed by tourists, beating out even the idyllic cities of Edinburgh and York. A mention of Belfast would be incomplete without a mention of Samson and Goliath, the yellow cranes which dominate the city’s skyline. Standing at over 300 feet, the cranes were added to the dock by shipbuilders Harland & Wolff, who were also known for having previously built the Titanic in 1912.
The Most Photographed Skylines in the USA
- New York City, New York – 768226 posts
- Chicago, Illinois – 313502 posts
- Boston, Massachusetts – 184353 posts
- Dallas, Texas – 94083 posts
- Seattle, Washington – 89202 posts
- Miami, Florida – 77892 posts
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – 66533 posts
- Los Angeles, California – 58610 posts
- Atlanta, Georgia – 51335 posts
- Houston, Texas – 38891 posts
Total posts per resident (figures have been rounded):
- Boston, Massachusetts – 0.263 posts per resident
- Miami, Florida – 0.163 posts per resident
- Seattle, Washington – 0.118 posts per resident
- Chicago, Illinois – 0.116 posts per resident
- Atlanta, Georgia – 0.102 posts per resident
- New York City, New York – 0.087 posts per resident
- Kansas City, Kansas – 0.073 posts per resident
- Dallas, Texas – 0.069 posts per resident
- Nashville, Tennessee – 0.047 posts per resident
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – 0.042 posts per resident
Total posts per visitor (figures have been rounded):
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – 0.015 posts per visitor
- New York City, New York – 0.012 posts per visitor
- Boston, Massachusetts – 0.008 posts per visitor
- San Francisco, California – 0.008 posts per visitor
- Chicago, Illinois – 0.005 posts per visitor
- Dallas, Texas – 0.003 posts per visitor
- Jersey City, New Jersey – 0.003 posts per visitor
- Miami, Florida – 0.003 posts per visitor
- Seattle, Washington – 0.002 posts per visitor
- Nashville, Tennessee – 0.002 posts per visitor
While New York City took the number one position with the total number of posts overall, when we analyze the most photographed US cities by residents and tourists, some underdogs come up to knock the champ off the top spot!
Philadelphia’s skyline was photographed the most when comparing the total to annual visitor numbers, with around 15 skyline photographs being taken for every 1,000 tourists visiting the City of Brotherly Love. However, when we look at posts per resident, Philadelphia drops out of the top ten entirely, beaten to the tenth spot by its neighboring city of Pittsburgh.
When it comes to proud locals, Boston takes the lead with 26 cityscape shots for every 1,000 residents. The Massachusetts city, home of Fenway Park and the bar from beloved sitcom Cheers, has several notable skyscrapers, including the John Hancock Tower and the Prudential Tower, towering at 790 feet and 749 feet respectively.
There were some unanticipated contenders too – Jersey City beat Miami and Seattle as the cityscape that is Instagrammed the most when comparing against visitor numbers. Meanwhile, Detroit trumped the glitz and glamour of the Los Angeles skyline.
While the research showed us some firm favorites coming out on top of the rankings, we also found a few hidden gems when discovering the most Instagrammable skylines. The results go to show that every city has something to offer to photographers, whether it’s the blinding lights of NYC or the cobbled streets of Bath.
How to Photograph a Skyline
When photographing a cityscape or skyline, arguably the most important aspect to get right is your vantage point. You may need to head out of the city to find a suitable angle that’s wide enough to take in the entire view.
Take a look at the city map and check for any hills, parks, or even islands outside of the city limits and take the trip to see how the view looks. You may even find a new favorite spot that you would never have come across otherwise!
You should be aiming to take your skyline image during the “blue hour” – the time when the dusky blue sky hasn’t gone completely dark, but the city lights have already come on and created an attractive twinkle.
Make sure that your gear is suitable before you go. A wide-angle lens will be invaluable in taking the perfect skyline shot, and a tripod will be hugely useful in preventing any blur (and stopping your arms from getting tired!). Depending on the location and weather, you might want to consider waterproofing measures to protect your equipment. If you’re planning to head off the beaten path, make sure to invest in suitable photography insurance, so you’re protected if anything should happen to your camera.
Try to use a manual focus when taking a skyline shot to avoid inaccuracies in the automatic settings, which might set the focus on the wrong building or even zone in on something as small as an animal or a passing truck in the foreground and ruin your image.
A long exposure will allow you to capture plenty of light and could even create some pleasant light trails from cars which add to the atmosphere of your photography.
Most importantly is to experiment and try a number of different lenses and exposures until you find the perfect settings for your ideal skyline picture. When you do get that perfect shot, make sure to monitor it if you post it online; this will help you avoid your image being used elsewhere on the internet without your permission.
Using photos from Instagram
If you’re wanting to use images from social media, remember that the original photographer owns the copyright. With so many repostings of the same image across various Instagram accounts, locating the copyright owner can be a bit of a minefield. Using an image checker will help you find an image source and correctly attribute the image you want to use, but make sure to get familiar with image copyright laws first.
If you enjoyed this research, why not take a look at our study exploring the world’s most photographed national dishes?
Pixsy researched cities across the world with famous skylines to draw up an initial list, before searching relevant hashtags in Instagram (such as #nycskyline and #chicagocityscape) and pulling the total number of posts with each hashtag assigned to it.
These figures were then compared against official population data recorded for each city, as well as average annual visitor estimates.
This data was gathered in September 2021, with the figures accurate at the time of research.
Fair use statement
Do you think your audience would like to hear about this research? If so, feel free to share the information on your website or social media accounts, and please credit with a link back to this page so they can easily access the original research in full.
Permission to use these images of skylines on the Pixsy site has been granted by the original photographers. If you would also like to use these photos on your website, you should contact the photographers directly to seek authorization to do so.