The world's most photographed cities (pictures)
New York City
Sightsmap is using data from the Google-owned photo-sharing site Panoramio to create a heat map of the most photographed cities and sites worldwide. We took a look at the top 20 most photographed cities and then zoomed in on the most photographed sights in those places. Panoramio was founded and is still based in Europe, which may be why European cities dominate the list. New York City, however, ranks the most photographed town in the world. But you might be surprised to learn that the most popular place to take a photo in the Big Apple is the (admittedly striking) Guggenheim Museum. Sorry, Lady Liberty.
Rome is Panoramio's most photographed city in Europe and the second-most photographed place in the world. The place you're most likely to see people framing a perfect shot is the Trinita dei Monti, probably not the most famous Renaissance church in Italy, but it stands with a certain gravitas above the Piazza di Spagna Rome and popular "Spanish Steps," which also round out Rome's top three spots for shutterbugs.
Who can visit what many consider Spain's most elegant city without a camera? While it's worth noting Panoramio's origins as a Spanish startup might have helped two of the country's cities make the top 20, it's hard to deny the draw of Barcelona's Park Güell, a large garden complex designed by legendary architect and hometown hero Antoni Gaudi.
The only thing shocking about Paris making this list is perhaps that it ranks so low at No. 4 in the world. Apparently, Panoramio users feel they've seen enough shots of the Eiffel Tower already, or perhaps they're just more into the nightlife, which is why the legendary Moulin Rouge is the city's most photographed site.
When visiting Istanbul, there's a good chance you'll want to stand on the edge of the Strait of Bosphorus, where the European and Asian continents meet, and somehow document this watery continental divide. Fortunately, the historic Maiden's Tower sits on a small island at the southern entrance to the strait, only 220 yards from the Asian coast.
The famed gondolas of Venice don't stay in one place, but the bridges over the city's canals do, which is perhaps why Ponte dell'Accademia, a bridge over the Grand Canal, draws so many snapshots from Panoramio users.
James Bond fans will recognize the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo, which has become synonymous with luxury and high rollers in its more than 150 years. Even kids may recognize the building from its cameo in the animated film "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted."
While Piazzale Michelangelo (Michelangelo Square) is technically the spot where the most photographs are taken in Florence, it's really the city itself that is the most photographed site (and sight). The square offers an easy way to save a buck or two on postcards by providing an epic panorama of the city.
The Caminito is the most colorful street in La Boca, which is itself the most colorful section of Buenos Aires. Tourists flock here to feast on Argentine beef while watching a tango show. Locals descend on the surrounding area to support their celebrated soccer team, the La Boca Juniors. Both phenomena have led to a rainbow of colors being painted on most available structures and surfaces.
No surprise here that when people visit Budapest, one of Europe's most historic cities, they tend to document one of its most grand structures, St. Stephen's Basilica, easily the most important church in Hungary.
Fans of nerdy history will appreciate that visitors to Prague love to capture the Prague astronomical clock, or Prague orloj, a medieval astronomical clock that was initially installed in 1410. It is the third-oldest such clock in the world, and the oldest one that still works. Takes 600 years of lickings, and keeps on ticking...
Madrid's Plaza Mayor dates back to the Habsburg period and competes with another famous plaza, the Puerta del Sol, just a few blocks away. It was a site Spaniards wanted to see even before every smartphone had a camera -- the residential buildings facing the plaza have a total of 237 balconies from which to enjoy the view.
The only North American "city" to make the top 20 that's not really a city, Niagara Falls gives New York state 1.5 spots on the list, and Canada .5.
Plenty of people visit Sydney armed with cameras, but apparently they've decided that we've all seen enough shots of that famous opera house. Instead, Panoramio users seem to find the upscale Westfield shopping center, which has been getting a major makeover of late, to be the site most worth documenting.
Just as a modern commercial space is a popular photo subject in Sydney, London's Piccadilly Circus provides plenty of opportunities to shop and to take pictures of all those opportunities to shop. There's a bit more history behind this particular intersection, though, which dates back to 1819.
Great Pyramid of Giza
The Great Pyramid of Giza is the only site on the African continent to make this top 20, and the second that's not really a city unto itself. Also known as the Pyramid of Khufu or the Pyramid of Cheops, this ancient structure is the oldest of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and the largest pyramid in the Giza Necropolis. It's also the last of the ancient wonders to survive mostly intact. If it were located in Europe, it certainly would have placed much higher on this list.
Unlike most entries on this list, Chicago and its massive art museum, The Art Institute of Chicago, likely draw photographers because of what can be captured inside. Its permanent collection of just about every category of art has made it impossible for thousands to resist snapping a shot and sharing. No doubt plenty of Instagram users are also capturing famous impressionist works and running them through filters to create their own post-modern meta-impressionism.
There are many sights in Shanghai, but the beauty and easy access of Yu Garden (literally "Garden of Happiness") in the old section of the city make it a top choice. It's also next to Yuyuan Tourist Mart, which is actually not a place where locals can purchase tourists, but instead another popular garden complex.
With its proximity to the Great Wall of China and nearly countless other notable sites related to both ancient and modern Chinese history, it seems as though Beijing should rank higher, and if not for certain language and geographic biases in Panoramio's user base, it probably would. But for those that did make it to the Chinese capital, the Temple of Heaven was the site that absolutely had to be captured more than any other. The temple complex was used by Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for annual harvest ceremonies and other events.
I once bet someone that all reasonable tourists would find San Francisco far more interesting than Chicago. I still find it hard to believe that Chicago ranks higher, while the city by the bay just barely makes this list. Like its Italian counterpart, Florence, the top photo spot in the city isn't really a site, but rather a great spot to capture a panorama of one of North America's most beautiful and vibrant cities (and home to CNET!). To San Francisco: I still love you; Chicago: we should talk; Jim: I owe you a beer.