These towns come primed for your Instagram feed.
Nothing brightens up a photo like a striking backdrop of bold, block color buildings which serve to paint everything in a more cheerful light, and nowhere is this more apparent than in some of the world’s most colorful towns, which, for better or worse, have developed cult status thanks to their jewel-toned color palettes. So, for the rainbow obsessed, these are the world’s top 25 most colorful destinations to add to your bucket list.
WHERE: Rajasthan, India
From one blue town to another, India was lightyears ahead of Morocco, although the blue hues of Jodhpur come with a less than cheerful past. Originally painted as part of the caste system, electric blue buildings were once reserved for the “upper class”. However, the trend quickly spread throughout the town, converting the cobalt buildings’ remains into both a veritable tourist attraction and a practical solution to scorching heat.
WHERE: Cape Town, South Africa
Some claim that Bo-Kaap took on its vibrant tones to mark the end of South African Apartheid in the ’90s, and the joy is admittedly impossible to avoid in this multicolored, multicultural part of town, even if the accompanying gentrification is less than cheerful. Even so, Bo-Kaap remains one of Cape Town’s most diverse districts, and its distinctive fusion of bright and bold colors accurately reflects the multicultural melting pot that makes up the area.
Recommended Fodor’s Video
WHERE: Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
St. John’s so-called “jellybean” houses are often mistakenly thought to make up just one solitary street in the capital of the excellently named Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. However, these tastefully painted block color buildings can actually be found brightening up practically every corner of St. John’s.
Are you even a travel influencer until you’ve posed for a candid shot in front of one of Chefchaouen, Morocco’s trademark cobalt walls?. The dream destination of every photo-app fan, Chefchaouen is the tiny Moroccan village turned tourism success that’s filled with all the blue back alleys and winding staircases that you could wish for.
WHERE: Melbourne, Australia
Melbourne’s Brighton Beach may not be a town in the strictest sense of the word, but the colorful string of beach huts that snake their way down the Australian coastline make for a color hunters dream. Whether you want to pose in front of the iconic Australian flag beach hut, or are simply looking for those painted in pastel tones, there’s a hut for every mood and Instagram feed.
WHERE: Andalucia, Spain
When Júzcar was painted blue as part of a marketing campaign for the then-upcoming Smurfs movie back in 2011, little did the town’s residents know that they’d soon fall in love with their newly azure cityscape (not to mention the uptick in tourism it brought), voting to maintain the cheerful shade into the foreseeable future.
WHERE: Aveiro, Portugal
The quaint Portuguese town of Águeda offers color lovers a welcome break from both the typically painted façades they’re used to and the heat, instead, serving up a dose of rainbow in the form of hundreds of multicolored umbrellas suspended above the length of the Rua Luis de Camões. While the shady addition was initially intended to be temporary, Águeda’s umbrellas return every July without fail.
WHERE: Yucatán, Mexico
Known as “the yellow town,” it’s easy to see the origin of this underrated Mexican destination’s nickname, given that one sunshine-yellow shade dominates the houses and buildings of both the center and the backstreets. While there’s ostensibly little more to do than wander the streets and bask in the lemon-colored glow, Izamal will leave you totally charmed.
WHERE: Venice, Italy
Once a little-known Italian destination, vibrant Burano is becoming quite the place to be. But Burano hasn’t only just hopped on the Crayola bandwagon though. In fact, buildings in Burano have been honing their impressive color scheme over the centuries, and color changes must be approved by local officials.
WHERE: Taichung, Taiwan
The Taiwanese city of Taichung is highly rated by the locals and known by pretty much everyone else as “not Taipei”; however, it’s also home to one of the world’s most underrated colorful destinations. Caihongjuan, better known as “the Rainbow Village,” is overrun with detailed doodles of people, animals and patterns in every shade under the sun.
Old San Juan
WHERE: Puerto Rico
The ciudad amurallada of Old San Juan is the island equivalent of Colombia’s tourist-friendly favorite, Cartagena, but arguably even more colorful than its mainland Caribbean counterpart. Cobblestone streets and a border wall guide you round the walled city’s colonial buildings and pastel walls that are worthy of a second glance.
WHERE: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Although working-class La Boca continues to fight against an assertion that it’s one of Buenos Aires’ less than savory barrios, hordes of travelers still flock to this European influenced area to marvel at the hodgepodge of multicolored houses and tango dancers which line Caminito, the neighborhood’s central street.
Book a Hotel
WHERE: Guanajuato, Mexico
Colonial Guanajuato’s charm extends way beyond its subterranean streets, cobbled alleyways and ornate architecture; in fact, many claim the beauty of this popular town lies in its color palette of muted terracotta and striking mustard tones, which is best enjoyed from the iconic Pípila statue viewpoint.
WHERE: Liguria, Italy
Many forget that Cinque Terre literally translates to “five lands” and is actually comprised of five distinct villages on the Italian Riviera. Even so, it’s easy to see why this minor detail is often skimmed over, given just how jaw-droppingly beautiful Cinque Terre’s scattering of precariously perched buildings, smattered in colors from ice blue to pastel pink, actually is.
WHERE: Antioquia, Colombia
Guatapé is Colombia’s current backpacker darling, providing a colorful escape from nearby Medellin’s monotone red brick skyline. Best known for the hundreds of regularly repainted zocalos (3-D reliefs) that dominate practically every building in town, sleepy Guatapé is also home to Pablo Escobar’s former mansion…which is now a paintball range.
Santa Marta Favela
WHERE: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Most Brazilian favelas may have a metaphorically colorful reputation, but the Santa Marta favela is enjoying a rather more literal colorful present. This Rio de Janeiro favela broke with its violent past in 2008, first ousting gangs and then taking on a veritable whirlpool of complementing candy-cane colors thanks to the Favela Painting initiative. And to think that this all this came 12 years after it controversially served as the backdrop for a Michael Jackson video.
WHERE: Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen’s picture-perfect port of Nyhavn, situated in the heart of the Danish capital, was once home to famous fairy tale author Hans Christian Andersen, and the kaleidoscope of muted tones making up the modern-day waterside favorite certainly do a good job at reflecting the area’s whimsical literary heritage. Off-the-beaten-path it ain’t, but worth a visit it certainly is.
WHERE: Valparaíso, Chile
Speaking of impressive literary heritage, Chile’s popular town of Valparaíso was once home to superstar Chilean poet Pablo Neruda and the attractions of the place weren’t lost on him. This is unsurprising when you look at the modern-day clutch of street art daubed, eclectic facades in the town center which play home to the numerous quirky cafes, bars, and shops that make Valparaíso a traveler’s playground.
WHERE: Curaçao, Caribbean
For a warmer take on the aforementioned Danish dock, wily travelers should instead head for the capital of Curaçao, Willemstad. This Caribbean city was once full of whitewashed walls until the governor decided they were to blame for his migraines and ordered a color scheme that fulfilled just one rule – anything but white. Two centuries on and Willemstad continues its headache-beating penchant for jewel-toned buildings.
WHERE: Lower Silesian Voivodeship, Poland
Some would say that Poland is on its way to becoming the next Prague, although color fans will likely hope the stag-dos take their raucous antics anywhere but the quaint student city of Wrocław. Famed for its tightly packed and understatedly colorful market square, lined with skinny buildings stretching several stories into the sky, Wrocław is Poland’s star color-happy destination in the making.
WHERE: Sancti Spíritus, Cuba
While Havana is often considered Cuba’s colorful golden child, the real magic lies further south in the coastal town of Trinidad. Principally funded by the slave trade back in the 16th century, it’s easy to forget colonial Trinidad’s complex past when confronted with the present-day charm of street after street of faded Caribbean façades in a veritable color wheel of shades.
WHERE: Sermersooq, Greenland
Think Greenland and you likely conjure up vague images of ice, snow, and mountains as far as the eye can see, which is unsurprising given that this northerly country has remained ostensibly off the typical tourist radar for, well, ever. Even so, Greenland’s capital of Nuuk, hailed as the rising star of Nordic tourism, is an underrated city whose buildings splatter the mountainous khaki skyline with welcome blobs of color.
WHERE: Tokyo, Japan
Color need not come from a haphazard paint job, and nowhere proves that better than Shibuya in Tokyo, Japan, where the colorful appeal is all neon (the light kind, not the color scheme of the 80s). In fact, a mishmashed combination of signs swinging over doorways and billboards towering above the street as far as the eye can see all lend Shibuya, Tokyo a vaguely sci-fi appeal that’s undeniably colorful, if not all that environmentally friendly.
WHERE: London, UK
The candy cane houses of Notting Hill, London were made famous by the film of the same name, and these gentle pastel shades continue to hold their own in an overwhelmingly grey city of skyscrapers, smog, and a smattering of red phone boxes. Just don’t expect to see Hugh Grant doing a spot of shopping at the Portobello Road market though.
WHERE: Salvador, Brazil
Finally, in the heart of what was the first colonial capital of Brazil, color lovers can take in both the sights and sounds of the UNESCO World Heritage neighborhood of Pelourinho in Salvador de Bahía. Rising from the ashes of a slave-trading past and European occupation, present-day Pelourinho is now a masterpiece of muted pastel edifices, perfectly preserved monuments, and a riot of Afro-Brazilian culture.