10 popular locations where photography is banned
Think before you snap.
From carefully curated photos of famous monuments to snaps of your latest meal, photos are an integral part of travel.
Sometimes even the most innocuous holiday photo can land tourist in trouble.
Here are some popular tourist locations where photography is banned.
Taj Mahal, India
Built as a mausoleum for the wife of a 17th-century Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, the Taj Mahal is one of the most photographed buildings on Earth. Visitors will have to settle for photos of its impressive exterior as photography is prohibited inside the main mausoleum and mobile phones are also banned during night tours. This should not disappoint tourists as there is enough intricate detail on the outside of the buildings to satisfy the most snap-happy photographer.
Sistine Chapel, Italy
The Sistine Chapel is a highlight of any trip to Vatican City but all types of photography are banned in the official residence of the Pope. Famous for its fresco ceiling created by Michelangelo, the Sistine Chapel signed over exclusive media rights to Nippon Television Network Corporation of Japan (NTV) in return for $4.2 million to restore the prized artwork. While NTV’s exclusive media rights expired in 1997, the ban is still enforced today. Visitors to the chapel will hear a constant refrain of security guards and museum docents shouting “No photos!” at snap-happy tourists.
Almost everything, North Korea
It comes as no surprise that photography is heavily restricted in North Korea. One of the main rules is you can only take full-length photos of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-Il statues and iconography. Cutting off feet or only photographing the head and shoulder of a statue is forbidden. Photography is also restricted at government and military buildings and you may be prevented from taking seemingly innocuous photos, such as snaps of rural villages or people going about their daily lives. Travel is highly restricted in North Korea and all tourists must be accompanied by minders who can check and delete your photos at any time.
Ho Chi Minh’s tomb, Vietnam
As one of the most-visited attractions in Hanoi, a trip to Ho Chi Minh’s tomb is essential for tourists to Vietnam’s capital city. Despite Ho’s wish to be cremated, the Vietnamese leader’s body has been embalmed and displayed to the public for more than 40 years. Photography is prohibited in the mausoleum so, after going through security scanners, you will need to stow your bags at the entrance to the museum. The tomb is heavily guarded and visitors are required to keep moving so you won’t have a chance to sneak a photo.
Eiffel Tower, France
The Eiffel Tower is one of the most iconic landmarks in the world but anyone who has taken a photo of the famous building at night has technically broken the law. Under European copyright law, works of art are protected for the lifetime of the artist plus an additional 70 years. The lights on the Eiffel Tower are classified as an art installation and were fitted by artist Pierre Bideau in 1985 so it’s still protected under copyright law. The tower itself entered the public domain in 1993 so photographing it during the day is perfectly legal.
The Valley of the Kings, Egypt
Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs, including Tutankhamun, Seti I and Ramses II, were buried in The Valley of the Kings in Luxor, Egypt between 1539 – 1075 BC. Photography is strictly forbidden inside most tombs at the ancient burial site as flash photography can damage the more than 3500-year-old artefacts and hieroglyphics. Visitors are required to check their camera in at a kiosk at the entrance to the tombs but travellers have reported security guards allowing visitors to take their cameras in then ‘catching’ them taking photos and asking for a significant bribe to return the camera.
Jewel House, United Kingdom
Home of the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London, Jewel House accommodates the present and past crowns belonging to Sovereigns, Consorts and Princes of Wales, sceptres, rings, swords, orbs, spurs, robes, bracelets, and gold and silver plates. Security is high at Jewel House and visitors will enter a vault containing electronic beams and two-tonne steel shutters – it’s even said to be able to withstand a nuclear blast. Wardens of the Jewel House are on hand to enforce the strict no photography rules. Visitors are also prohibited from taking tripods or selfie sticks into the Tower of London complex.
Golden Gai district, Japan
Packed with more than 200 tiny bars, some only big enough to accommodate four people, along a series of narrow alleyways, Tokyo’s Golden Gai district must be seen to be believed. Signs throughout the district warn tourists that photography is strictly forbidden on public streets as well as inside the shoebox bars.
Lenin’s mausoleum, Russia
If you’re lucky enough to visit Lenin’s mausoleum on a day it’s open to the public, be prepared to put the camera away. You will have check in your camera and phone at the ticket booth before entering the tomb of the first leader of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Russian military armed with machine guns are on hand to enforce the photography ban so save your snaps for the other highlights of Red Square, including the Kremlin and St Basil’s Cathedral.
Westminster Abbey, United Kingdom
Photography is banned in Westminster Abbey as it’s a working church and the burial place of more than 3000 kings, queens, poets, musicians, scientists and politicians. The Chapter and Dean of Westminster, which manages the Abbey, believe that allowing photography would diminish the sacred and intimate atmosphere of the building, however, they have provided a number of high-quality photographs on their website which can be downloaded for free.