The most colorful cities around the world – There’s more to a city than just concrete, steel and hard work. The color of a city’s architecture and the creativity of its people can turn a dull, functional town into a thing of vibrant beauty. From the favelas of Rio de Janeiro to the Blue City of India and beyond, color is a core characteristic of some of the world’s most stunning cities.
1. Riomaggiore, Italy
Riomaggiore is a scenic seaside town in Italy whose origins date back to the 8th century. It is believed that the early inhabitants of the Vara Valley settled in the ridges in search of a milder climate so that they could raise grapevines and olive-trees without the fear of pirate raids.
2. Burano, Venice, Italy
3. Nyhavn, Copenhagen, Denmark
Nyhavn is a gorgeous waterfront entertainment district in Copenhagen. The radiant area dates back to the 17th century and is lined with townhouses and bars, cafes and restaurants while the canal is host to historical wooden ships.
4. Guanajuato, Mexico
Founded in 1554, Guanajuato is a small city distinguished by a wealth of Spanish colonial architecture. It is located in a narrow and winding valley, which means that most streets are alleys on which most automobiles cannot drive. The beautiful buildings get their color from the pink and green sandstone that was used in their construction.
5. Jodhpur, India
Jodhpur – or the ‘Blue City’ – lies in the Indian state of Rajasthan and is distinguished by its blue houses that are noticeable even from great distances. Though it cannot be said with certainty, it is believed that the houses were painted blue as a result of the caste system, the hierarchical system of Indian citizenry. Many speculate that the priestly Brahmins painted their homes blue to differentiate themselves from the general population.
6. Valparaiso, Chile
This picturesque town has the nickname of “Ocean’s Sweetheart,” “The Jewel of the Pacific” and the city that “goes to paradise.” The beautiful town is replete with vibrant buildings, crumbling mansions and cobbled pathways.
7. St. Johns – Newfoundland, Canada
The city of St. Johns on the island of Newfoundland is arguably Canada’s most colorful city, a characteristic in contrast to its otherwise chilly climate. The cultural gem of its province, St. Johns features many museums, art galleries and urban parks throughout its hilly coastal environs. In the hip sections of the city, low-rise buildings have been painted in a vibrant array of colors, a visual quality that is noticeable even from the ships that pass by. When it comes to color, there’s nothing dull about this hamlet on the easternmost point of North America.
8. Old San Juan – Puerto Rico
If color was a drug, the addicts would have fled to Old San Juan long ago. Old San Juan, Puerto Rico is a marvelous mosaic of color in all directions, a city with a rich cultural heritage shared by the native Taino people and the descendents of European explorers. The buildings in Old San Juan are different from one step to the next, some warm and primary, others bright and pastel. Even the streets of this UNESCO World Heritage site are colorful– the blue bricks that pave Old San Juan were shipped over from Spain one-by-one during the 16th century. Its people are as bright, varied and beautiful as the colors that line its streets, and their hospitality must be experienced by every world traveler.
9. San Francisco, California
Despite its standing as the most culturally-progressive city in the United States, there’s another rainbow of colors shining brightly in San Francisco. This densely-packed peninsula city is home to a colorful architectural identity, one reflected in the varied paint styling that changes from door to door. The Painted Ladies, a row of homes in San Francisco’s Lower Haight district, are one of the most recognizable works of color in the city, but bright colors can be found anywhere throughout the town.
10. Bo Kaap – Cape Town – South Africa
A small corner of Cape Town, South Africa is home to the Cape Malay ethnic group and a visually vibrant architectural sensibility. A group of Southeast Asian and Muslim immigrants came together in the quarter of Bo Kaap, a hilly neighborhood of Cape Town. The buildings of Bo Kaap are separated by bright and friendly colors which change from address to address. Pinks, oranges, yellows and blues mix together to create a community of eye candy, one that easily earns its place in a list of the top 10 most colorful cities around the world.
11. Wroclaw, Poland
Despite its tumultuous past, the city of Wroclaw, Poland has long embraced color as a part of its cultural identity. As Europe warred around it, Wroclaw has been a city of Germany, Prussia, Austria and finally Poland, where it is now the 4th largest city of its newest country. The buildings of its city center are rich in color, progressing from earth tones to pastels in a very old-world manner. This colorful take on classical architecture makes it one of the most colorful cities in Europe, and a departure from the rest of the entries on this list. While Wroclaw is varied in color, it has a most subtle-yet-effective way of communicating it to its visitors. Where some cities are over the top, something about Wroclaw strikes you as “just right”.
12. Favela Painting – Rio de Janeiro – Brazil
The favelas (or shanty towns) of Rio de Janeiro can be difficult and dangerous for those who call them home. Over 11 million Brazilians live in favelas like those in Rio, where sanitation, running water and even police access are not guaranteed. If you can view them from afar, there is a strange beauty to their nature, one recognized by Dutch artists Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn. Koolhaas and Urhahn visited favelas in Rio to work with the locals to create brilliant works of colorful art on the walls of the homes they live in. Simply called Favela Painting, the duo’s manner of charitable art makes the locals the artists and their city the canvas, instilling pride in a place that few would find desirable. This work by the people of Rio might be the most colorful neighborhood in the world.
13. Pelourinho, Salvador, Brazil
14. Buenos Aires, Argentina
15. Punda, Willemstad, Curaçao