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The mesmerizing joy of the internet’s always-on livecams

Image used with permission by copyright holder

In any given moment, nothing is happening almost everywhere.

But with social feeds, streaming sites, and news services pumping out endless content from all corners of the world, it can sometimes feel like the entire planet is in a constant state of chaos, when in many ways it isn’t.

For reassurance on this front, as well as an unusual experience that’s more relaxing than you might at first imagine, I highly recommend taking a moment to tune into some of the gloriously dull live cam feeds available right now on YouTube.

Gone are the days when a live cam offered nothing but a fuzzy picture that constantly froze. Today’s setups, with their vastly improved cameras and zippy internet speeds, mean that many livestreams now feature pin-sharp footage around the clock. Some even have audio.

Many of today’s real-time feeds show everyday people engaged in everyday life on everyday streets. With the humdrum of life laid bare, you might glimpse a boisterous child running from mom, shopkeepers engaged in a friendly chat, or a person eating a sandwich. Though, admittedly, it may be nowhere near as exciting as that.

Banality at its finest

A live cam feed is not Bridgerton. It’s not The Queen’s Gambit. There is no plot. There is no protagonist. There is (almost) nothing. But somehow, despite having any sort of narrative story structure, they can be mesmerizing.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Indeed, it’s the very banality of the footage that can draw you in and engage your senses.

The longer you watch, the more you’ll notice. And the more you notice, the more likely you’ll marvel at the idea that everything you’re witnessing is happening right there and then, in the very same moment, but in another place far, far away (unless the camera happens to be outside your house, of course).

And when you glance at YouTube’s “watching” counter and realize that only a few other people on the entire planet are also looking at the same stream, you may feel a heartfelt sense of connection, secure in the knowledge that somewhere else in the world several others are also absorbed in the very same footage, savoring the ordinary.

So, momentarily banish from your mind any concerns regarding issues of privacy, security, and surveillance (that’s another article entirely), and instead dive into one of our carefully curated live cam selections, before, perhaps, finding your own favorites among YouTube’s growing collection of live video streams.

Don’t expect to fall in love with live cams from the very start. They are, like anchovies and haggis, an acquired taste. But if you have the patience and calmness of mind, you may begin to experience a feeling of hypnotic fascination, one that leaves you satisfyingly spellbound by the sheer mundanity of it all.

Skarsvåg, Norway

Livestreaming since January 2019

Live webcam from Skarsvåg, North Cape in Norway

According to the footage from this live cam feed of a small town at the very northern tip of Norway, very little happens, making it perfect for this list. While watching, admire the amazing scenery of a place that you’re never likely to visit, and then look closer for the small details and little happenings. The camera periodically pans and zooms, making this one of the more sophisticated setups in the live cam community.

Ryde Esplanade and Pier, U.K.

Since February 2021

Ryde Esplanade & Pier, Isle of Wight UK | Railcam LIVE

Located on the Isle of Wight in the south of England, this live cam has been carefully positioned to incorporate not one, not two, but three modes of transport. Viewers will see intermittent hovercraft action, occasional bus movements, and even the comings and goings of a train as it journeys almost half a mile along Ryde pier. It sounds action-packed, but it most definitely isn’t. Though, of course, that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it.

Crystal Bay, Koh Samui, Thailand

Since December 2020

Crystal Bay Live Stream From Lamai, Koh Samui, Thailand | Live HD Webcam | SamuiWebcam

There is always someone on a beach, somewhere. This live cam in Thailand proves it. The sandy bay sees a steady stream of people coming and going, with the camera also panning out across the water for an occasional change of scenery.

Nevsky Avenue, St. Petersburg, Russia

Since December 2020

LIVE CAMERA Nevskiy avenue St. Petersburg Russia Live Chat. Невский пр. Санкт-Петербург и живой чат

For a dramatic drop in temperature, head 5,000 miles northwest of Koh Samui to St. Petersburg in Russia. As you can see from the abundance of traffic and people, Nevsky Street is one of the busiest roadways in this historic city. The scene is pretty lively, so watch long enough and you’ll quickly see something that piques your interest.

Michael Weiss Street, Brasov, Romania

Since June 2020

Michael Weiss Street Brasov - Pilvax Restaurant & Wine Bar

Life in this quaint part of Brasov in Romania appears to move at a gentle pace, though during business hours, there’s still much to see in a not-very-eventful kind of way as people go about their day. The camera offers a clear view along a street, and like all of the live cams listed here, something of note can happen just when you’re least expecting it. Though it probably won’t.

Church Street Market Place, Burlington, Vermont

Since November 2020

Church Street Market Place

This particular live cam offers around-the-clock coverage of a pedestrianized area that includes mostly concrete but also several storefronts. Here, we have another camera setup that incorporates frequent panning, a feature that can be useful if you’re desperately hoping to see something happen, but also frustrating if it suddenly starts moving away from an unfolding event.

South Island, New Zealand

Since September 2020

Live Royal Albatross Cam - #RoyalCam - New Zealand Dept. of Conservation | Cornell Lab

This one is a little different from the others, but its slow pace may end up offering rich rewards for those who give it a chance. RoyalCam was set up in January 2016 by New Zealand’s Department of Conservation, with this particular feed operating since last year. It’s located on the southeastern tip of the country and shows a 24-hour livestream of an albatross nest during the breeding season. The camera appears to be remotely operated and occasionally offers wide views of the impressive scenery. But the star of the show is of course the albatross, which sits mostly still while also marveling at its lovely surroundings.

Final note: Do keep in mind that life in these places changes through the day, even through the seasons, so be sure to check back when possible to enjoy everything they have to offer.

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Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
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