Some locations dominate our Instagram feeds. They’re beautiful, but often overlooked — since we see them all the time, we often naively believe we already know everything about them.
Photographer Loïc Lagarde shows us eight Instagram hot-spots around western Europe, and we tell you what the photos won’t.
HALLGRIMSKIRKJA CHURCH, ICELAND
In the world’s northernmost capital city, Hallgrimskirkja Church is a sight to behold. The Expressionist-style Lutheran Church stands 244 feet tall, and is supposed to resemble Iceland’s mountainous and glacier-filled landscapes.
The man memorialized by the statue in front of the church is none other than Leif Erikson, Icelandic explorer and the first known European to have set foot in North America. A few kroner will get you to the top of the tower, which boasts an incredible view of Reykjavik and beyond. With this photo, Loïc wanted to show that there was more to Iceland than just stunning landscapes.
This photographic favorite spot is in the bustling Westminster area of London. Home to Big Ben, the Parliament Building, and Westminster Abbey, this region is always bustling with tourists and locals alike.
The shot seen here is on the south side of the Thames, down a short flight of steps to the left of Westminster Bridge. A short tunnel connects the pathway along the South Bank, so there are always people walking, jogging, or biking by. It may take some patience to get the photo you’re hoping for, but it’s well worth the wait.
ST. PAUL’S CATHEDRAL, LONDON
The 717-year-old Cathedral in the heart of London is one of the most recognizable sights of the city. The second tallest cathedral in England boasts a distinct English Baroque style. During WWII, St. Paul’s was nearly destroyed during the Blitz, but the bomb that fell on it was removed before it could wreak havoc.
Though the ancient church has endured, the area around it exhibits a more contemporary style. Loïc thinks this particular shot of St. Paul’s captures the harmony that seems to exist in London between the old and the new.
ELTZ CASTLE, GERMANY
This medieval castle in the hills above the Moselle River has been in the Eltz family for over 30 generations (since before 1157!) and has remained almost entirely untouched since its construction. It sits at 1,050 feet, overlooking the area between Trier and Koblenz. Only two of the three sections of the castle are open to the public, as the third is still occupied by members of the Kempenich family.
Loïc discovered Eltz Castle on Instagram and visited in the winter so he could avoid all the tourists.
THE CINQUE TERRE, ITALY
Along the coast in the Liguria region of Italy sit five colorful villages, all built into the hillside and connected by a walking path. The Cinque Terre (“Five Lands”) is difficult to reach, as only a few roads lead to this part of the coast and little (read: no) parking is available in the almost completely automobile-less towns. Each village has its own train station, making it easy to hop from one to the other if you’d prefer not to walk or take the ferry.
Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore may look similar with their colorful houses, but each has a distinctly unique atmosphere if you take the time to explore. Loïc suggests staying overnight to enjoy the villages after the crowds have dissipated. Just make sure you leave yourself enough time to get back to the village you’re staying in, since the trains don’t run all night.
MILAN’S DUOMO, ITALY
Whereas St. Paul’s Cathedral has been around for over 700 years, the Milan Cathedral took almost that much time just to complete. The Gothic cathedral is the largest in Italy, and third largest in the world. The Milano Duomo actually boasts the greatest number of statues on any building in the world (3,400 statues, 135 gargoyles, and 700 other decorative figures).
Loïc traveled to Milan specifically to take this photo — he was in the Alps when the forecast called for rain, and he drove four hours just for this shot. He got it … and was soaked in the process!
LA SAGRADA FAMILIA, BARCELONA
Speaking of churches that have long construction periods … this Roman Catholic Church in Barcelona is still unfinished — after over 130 years of construction. About 70% of La Sagrada Familia has been completed, so expect to encounter scaffolding and construction materials when photographing this popular spot. The interior’s shape is meant to mimic a Latin cross, and the columns were designed to evoke trees. When architect Antoni Gaudi died in 1926, less than 25% of La Sagrada Familia was finished.
Since he had the opportunity to visit the space before it opened to the public, Loïc was able to shoot the impressive interior without the distraction of other people. Today, along with donations from private vendors, the money from ticket sales goes to funding the continued construction. Hopefully, it will be finished by 2028.
RUA AUGUSTA ARCH, LISBON
In 1755, a disastrous earthquake destroyed most of the Portuguese capital city. After Lisbon was rebuilt, the Rua Augusta Arch was constructed in triumph. The female embodiment of Glory stands atop the arch, originally a bell tower until additions were made at the turn of the century.
Loïc couldn’t resist the colorful symmetry, as it seemed to symbolize something greater about Lisbon itself.
See more of Loïc’s photography on Instagram.