25 of the World’s Most Colorful Cities
Istanbul spoils your senses everywhere, but the real feast for your eyes lies in the old district of Balat. Sloping streets are lined with wooden houses (some two centuries old) painted deep blue like the Bosphorous, bright yellow like saffron sold on market stalls, and pistachio green like the baklava sweets sold around every corner.
In a nation known for its orange desert and red-mudstone cities, the ‘Blue Pearl of Morocco’ strikes a different chord. Three hours from Fes, and high in the Rif mountains, Chefchaouen’s alleyways form such a maze of different blues, it feels almost like you’re wandering through a city in the sky.
An archive of architecture and living museum of vintage cars, Old Havana’s a carnival of colors every way you turn. If you weren’t filled with the fabulous flavors of Cuban cuisine, you’d taste nostalgic notes of buttermilk yellow, cotton candy pink, and bubblegum blue as you journey back in time through this deliciously historic city.
Charleston SC, United States
Charleston reaches its pastel-hued peak along Rainbow Row, where Dorothy Porcher Legge sparked a house-painting trend back in 1931, after transforming her home pink. Each house has its own color and tale to tell—and accompanied by flowers and foliage, it’s a true treat to wander long.
Vernazza in the Cinque Terre, Italy
Considered the jewel in the crown of Cinque Terre, the village of Vernazza sits between emerald mountains and rough-cut coastline, bedazzled with buildings painted topaz blue, tourmaline pink, ruby red, and amber yellow—all sparkling under the Italian sun.
Usually the rule for soaking up city sights is to look up. Not in Guatape. Every building here is its own work of art: painted bright colors, and trimmed at the bottom with ornamental zócalos. Each zocalo has a unique pattern, shape, or story, and these charming household staples have become so famous, the Andean town is known through Colombia as the Pueblo de Zócalos.
Venice makes you so dizzy with distractions—the square, the gondolas, the incredible buildings—that many visitors skip Burano completely. Trust us when we tell you to take the hour-long water taxi there. Surrounded by the emerald of Venice Lagoon, Burano island is brilliant: both for its lace making tradition and its painted waterside houses (a new color for each household, the brighter the better so fishermen can see home from the water.)
Bo-Kaap in Cape Town, South Africa
You’ll know when you’ve reached Bo-Kaap on your South Africa tour. Because you’ll rearrange your sunglasses to check the buildings really are this jelly-bean bright, and you’ll wonder how the flavors of kiwi green, crushed-pineapple yellow and very cherry hit your taste buds as you walk past.
They’re not exaggerating when they call this the Pink City: The maharaja of Jaipur had the whole place painted pink to welcome Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, when he visited India in 1876. He had a law passed making it illegal for buildings to be painted any other color, which remains in effect today. The palace of Hawa Mahal is a perfect example of Jaipur’s rose-hued opulence, and when dusty sunsets dye the skies to match, you won’t need rose tinted glasses to fall totally in love with this city.
Procida in Amalfi, Italy
Just when you thought the Amalfi Coast couldn’t be more delicious, along comes Procida, colored every flavor of gelato. Buildings in lemon yellow, raspberry red, and mint choc-chip green spill onto the waterfront, where painted wooden boats serve as the scene’s funfetti topping.
What makes Amsterdam all things bright and beautiful? Is it the delightful Dutch townhouses? The bikes, boats, bridges along the canal? The striking street art? The spring tulips? The Christmas lights? Or is it the infectious energy you find everywhere?
Doused in Japan‘s iconic blossom pinks come springtime and fiery oranges through fall, Tokyo glows in every color imaginable each evening, when the city lights flicker into action.
Portugal’s characterful capital contains every color of the rainbow, but yellow glows the brightest—from the custard tarts you’ll devour by the dozen, to the trams that transport you through the city, to the palatial seafront square, Praça do Comérci.
Norway’s fjord—and color—capital, Bergen bursts with bright houses, hugging the water’s edge, clinging to hillsides and lining cobbled alleyways. And the rainy, snowy climate somehow makes it shine all the brighter.
Oia on Santorini, Greece
Whitewashed buildings might be the first thing that springs to mind with Santorini, but this Greek island plays canvas to a captivating collection of colors. Oia’s buildings bring pretty pastels to the palette, then Mother Nature seizes the paintbrush, pouring vivid sunset shades all over the picture.
Between lava landscape and icy ocean, the most northerly capital on earth injects Iceland with bright colours in the form of painted walls, roofs, and eye-catching street art. Even in the depths of a snowy winter, it glows warm and bright like a gingerbread town.
One of the Caribbean’s best-preserved towns, Trinidad’s clothed top to toe in the colors of its region: the whites and yellows of island beaches, the turquoise-blues of the sea, the oranges of tropical sunsets, and pinks just like the conch shells that wash ashore.
Its mudstone Medina walls may be the meaning behind the nickname ‘Red City’, but there’s no color under the sun you won’t find in Marrakech—from ornate doorways, mosaics and gardens to market stalls brimming with textiles, lanterns and spices.
Mother Nature and mankind come together in perfect symphony in Cusco, Peru. The streets are planned according to the movement of the sun and stars, and the buildings, produce and artwork mimic the nearby natural wonder of Rainbow mountain.
A Forbidden city, fortified on the banks of Vietnam‘s Perfume River, this place presents living history in the form of lavish architecture. With striking purple, red, and gold structures, it also shows the power of color in exciting emotions and emitting an overall sense of grandeur.
More than the birthplace of Port, this city brings you a barrel-load of colors to drink in as you explore—including the grand, ancient buildings of yellow and red, the blue hand-painted tilework (AKA azulejos), and the wooden rabelo boats that dock on the banks of Portugal‘s Duoro River.
There is no denying this ancient city’s blue hue—the indigo-dyed buildings dazzle under seemingly endless sunny days (‘Blue City’ and ‘Sun City’ are Jodphur’s other names). What’s debated is the reason behind the blueness. Was it because the Pink City of Jaipur needed a counterpart? Is it a signal of India’s ancient caste system? An ode to the God Shiva? An old insect repelling technique? We may never know, but one thing’s for sure: the view from the top of Mehrangarh Fort will make your jaw drop.
It’s not a day we tend to favor, but we love laundry day in Rovinj. Because across medieval alleyways, locals adorn lines with fluttering textiles, turning the Croatian town even more technicolor than it was before. Any day you visit, Rovinj is riveting—its buildings of rich reds, oranges and yellows standing bold over shimmering sapphire sea.
Los Pueblos Blancos, Spain
White combines every color of the electromagnetic spectrum, and that’s totally palpable in Spain‘s Los Pueblos Blancos. The whitewashed town comes with flashes of bright color, in the form of painted planters with blooming flowers, colorful doorways and ornamental fountains.
Taking in the Crayola-bright colors of Copenhagen‘s historic neighborhoods, it won’t surprise you that this city housed one of the greatest fairy-tale writers of all time. The canal quarter, teeming in imagination-sparking tones, was where Hans Christian Andersen wrote some of his most famous fantastical tales.