If you’re anything like me, you love anything colourful. I often find myself clicking through Pinterest boards looking at anything pastel or rainbow coloured. What really appeals to me is colourful cities. There’s something so cool about scaling up an area of colour to an entire city or place. Colour is so unique and can really make a place iconic. I always associate Vancouver, for example, with the glossy aquamarine of the skyscrapers, and the grey of the sky. Nothing brightens up a place like a little colour. So, I thought I’d round up a list of places I need to visit: the world’s most colourful cities.
The first of the world’s most colourful cities is in Africa. Underneath the Rif mountains of Morocco lies the incredibly unique city of Chefchauouen. It’s so recognizable thanks to the spread of blue-washed buildings across the village. While it’s slowly becoming more visited, Chefchaouen’s medina drips in Moroccan authenticity. This is thanks to its red roofs, narrow lanes, and blue buildings. There’s also plenty to do, from exploring the green hills to wandering the streets and sampling local kif.
Bo Kaap, South Africa
One of South Africa’s most distinct neighbourhoods, Bo Kaap is on the outskirts of Cape Town’s city centre. Originally known as the Malay Quarter, the area dates back to the 1700s. This is when rental houses were built and leased out to slaves. These slaves were brought over from Malaysia, Indonesia, and Africa to work in Cape Town. This makes it the cosmopolitan place it is today. The colourful houses are both Cape Dutch and Georgian architecture in beautiful rainbow coloured rows. Originally, the rental houses were white while on lease. When this rule was lifted, the slaves could buy the properties. As a result, the houses were painted bright colours to express their freedom.
Just a short distance from Venice in Italy, the island of Burano is a great place to spend a short trip from the Italian city. It’s undoubtedly one of the world’s most colourful cities. With brightly painted buildings, legend has it families used to paint their homes in vivid colours for two reasons. One is to reflect where their family’s quarters ended, and their neighbours’ began. Second, it’s to make the properties easy to spot from the sea. Nowadays, Burano is a beautiful concoction of rainbow coloured streets that is perfect for photography. Even to this day, it retains its local vibe. You’ll spot fishing boats and local women watching tourists from their colourful houses.
Havana’s colours reflect the vibrancy and fun of the Cuban culture itself. With colourful buildings from blue to green and yellow, they go against convention by being a little brighter than the pastel colours common elsewhere in the Caribbean. It really makes Havana’s historic buildings pop. And the colour isn’t just in the beautiful buildings. You’ll also see it in the vintage cars, the parades, and the clothing of locals. From ‘Havana blue’ to bubblegum pink, you’ll find block colours of vivid pastels throughout the city.
Izamal in Yucatán, Mexico is one of the world’s most colourful cities thanks to its nickname as the ‘yellow town’. This is thanks to the ochre and white buildings that make up the city. Local belief is that the yellow walls of the colonial buildings capture the city’s light and propel it into the future. Walk the ochre streets, take great photos, and finally bask in the yellow glow.
Notting Hill, London
Along with ‘Rainbow Row’ and various other streets in one of London’s most affluent neighbourhoods, you’ll find a plethora of colour. Head to Portobello Road (and catch the market). Walk its side streets for row after row of beautiful pastel coloured houses. Each of these incredible properties come in at around £3million to £10million, thanks to their iconic architecture and location. It’s certainly on the wealthier end of the spectrum when it comes to the world’s most colourful cities. It’s not, however, one to be missed.
A little like Chefchaouen in Morocco, the Indian city of Jodhpur is famous as the ‘blue city’. There are two key reasons for the city being awash with shades of blue. Firstly, the blue coloured houses of the old city were originally painted by the Brahim priest caste who believe the shade of blue was lucky. The other primary reason is that many homeowners chose the pale shade of blue in order to keep them cool in the heat of the surrounding desert. Either way, the result is a very striking and beautiful city. Climb Mehrangarh Fort for the best views across the city’s wash of blue houses.
Spilling over the Mexican mountainside, you’ll find one of the world’s most colourful cities. Introducing Guanajuato, Mexico. A UNESCO World Heritage city, Guanajuato is full of elegant colonial buildings and brightly coloured houses on the slopes. Each and every house is a different shade of colourful paint, which makes it such an incredible place to see. Walk through the cobbled lanes, and head to the Pípila statue for a spectacular view across the city’s colour palette.
Cinque Terre, Italy
I’m sure you’ll have seen the iconic images of Cinque Terre’s pastel coloured cliff before. Also known as the Heaven of Italy, Cinque Terre literally translates to ‘Five Lands’. It consists of five different villages, but everyone recognizes the rainbow houses overlooking the Italian Riviera. In shades from mustard yellow to salmon pink, the rainbow coloured houses are striking from the spectacular coastline.
Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
The colourful city of Old San Jan underwent a revitalization of its colonial Spanish architecture. By the 1980s, it had officially become a UNESCO World Heritage Site, thanks to its captivating beauty. Everything in Old San Juan is colourful and eclectic. The buildings are all painted in different colours and styles. Even the cobblestone streets have blue bricks, making it a beautiful place to discover.
Which of the world’s most colourful cities is your favourite? Are there any I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments below!