The world’s most colourful cities: six of the best and boldest

Samira Banat
Aug 10, 2020

From Denmark’s Nyhavn to Pelourinho in Brazil, explore the cities across the world that boast beautiful rainbow colours.

When planning visits to the world’s trending destinations, we usually fill our bucket lists with the bluest waters, tallest buildings, or the best shopping districts. But what about discovering the rainbow-coloured architecture of the world?

From port-side rainbow houses in Argentina to buildings that cure headaches in Curaçao, these six cities awash with bright colours make for essential additions to our future travels and guaranteed favourites on our Instagram feed.

Punda, Curaçao

Curaçao’s capital, Willemstad, is famous for the array of neon colonial buildings lining its waterfront. According to Dutch legends, the buildings around Curaçao used to be white, until a former governor blamed his headaches on the sun’s reflection off the white buildings. Now having minimized the glare from the island’s harsh sun, the bright and diverse colours of Dutch colonial architecture have turned the historic Punda district into an Instagrammable icon.

Nyhavn, Denmark

Although known for its canal built for sailors and writers, including Dutch-favourite Hans Christian Andersen, the historic harbour-side town now attracts visitors for a different reason; its 17th and 18th-century multi-hued townhouses. The colourful Northern side of the canal bears the name “Sunny Side”, also attributed to its many pubs and restaurants. The Southern side of the canal holds onto a less colourful history and is therefore referred to as the “Shady Side” of the canal.

Pelourinho, Brazil

When visiting Bahia’s coast, one destination you cannot miss is the old city of colourful colonial buildings decorating the cobblestoned streets. This part of Salvador is known as Pelourinho, the city within a city. Salvador’s historic centre houses colonial-era buildings and pastel-coloured monuments from the 17th-19th centuries, but also has a place on the national historic register and named a world cultural century by UNESCO.

Manarola, Italy

The colourful mountainside village is one of Italy’s most popular tourist attractions. Manarola is home to brightly-colored houses, more boats on the streets than people, and stunning views of the Cinque Terre coastline. Although the city’s history dates back to as far as the Roman times, its current architecture represents an upgraded version of its 12th-century skeleton.

La Boca, Argentina

La Boca is a neighborhood of the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires, near the Riachuelo River. Known for its narrow alleyways and the port-side rainbow houses that inhabit them, tourists have a direct link to the independent and artistic nature of La Boca’s residents.

Bo-Kaap, South Africa

Formerly known as the Malay Quarter, Bo-Kaap is the historical centre of Cape Malay culture in Cape Town, South Africa. Situated on the slopes of Signal Hill above the city centre are winding streets and vibrant colours. It is believed that when Bo-Kaap’s residents first bought their houses, they decorated their homes with bright colours as an expression of individualism. However, after apartheid ended, the houses were painted bright as a celebration of their freedom.

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