Built along the picture-perfect Italian Riviera or nestled deep within Morocco’s mountainous landscape, colourful towns and cities offer mood-boosting atmospheres, marvellous architectural sights and pleasant surprises at the turn of every corner. Whether you’re making tracks for Trinidad or set to cruise past Porto, these are the rainbow-hued and dreamy corners of the world designed to inspire your next escape.
Cinque Terre, Italy
The historical seaside villages that make up Cinque Terre combine nature and colour in the form of boxy buildings, stacked high on rugged cliffs. Made up of nightlife-loving Monterosso, Riomaggiore and its famed trekking route, peaceful Corniglia set atop a flight of steps, laid-back Vernazza and wine-making Manarola, each of the five quaint villages along the Italian Riviera holds its own distinctive character and natural beauty.
A multicoloured gem in Colombia, the port city of Cartagena is perhaps best known for its walled Old Town, where explosions of yellow, orange, red and pink add life and beauty to colonial buildings, which stand out with their large balconies and greenery-covered walls. Rushing has no place in this laid-back idyll, situated within close reach of the city’s impressive Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas.
Northwest Morocco’s incredible blue town is a pure delight to explore. Situated in the beautiful Rif Mountains, its medina’s walls and floors are awash with shades of bold, sea blue. A laid-back heaven made of winding streets, small cafés and shops selling artisan crafts, Chefchaouen is one for languid sojourns, dotted here and there with hikes through scenic mountains, strolls through the unpainted kasbah, and walks past pretty waterfalls.
Another Italian charmer, quiet and cheerful Burano is an island in the Venetian Lagoon that tops every romantic traveller’s bucket list. Small candy-coloured houses line its boat-filled canals, while lovely lanes inland are home to restaurants, cafés, and tourist shops filled with the lace for which Burano is famed. Join the bustle around the quaint main square, and don’t forget to visit San Martino church and its quirky leaning tower.
A large and character-packed city in western Poland, Wroclaw offers up row after row of cute and colourful, chocolate box buildings – a sight to behold in the medieval Market Square at its heart. Colour is not all that this adorable city does best: entertainment and cultural displays abound here, including a lively Market Hall that dates back to the early 1900s, a cathedral with distinctive twin spires, Poland’s only museum of architecture, and a musical fountain that lights up at night in a splash of colour.
A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1988, Trinidad’s red roofs and bright colonial buildings are particularly endearing – whether or not you’re an avid photographer seeking striking architecture, it makes a tranquil, high-spirited spot away from Havana’s buzz. Spend your time admiring jewels and silverware at the Romantic Museum, take in views of rolling hills, and kick back in the evenings with a mojito and folk dance performances at a cosy bar.
A top Portuguese destination for fine wine, romancing and beautiful bridges, Porto comprises a must-visit cluster of colour and charm. While here, walk along the arched Dom Luís I Bridge, take a tour of wineries and cellars, marvel at the rich gold and red hues at the Livraria Lello & Irmão bookstore, and take a cruise down the Douro for the best views of the city’s colourful riverside setting.
Cobblestone streets, half-timbered houses and a 13th-century Gothic church: the very pretty Colmar in Alsace seems to have popped straight out of a storybook. Be charmed by its old town, stroll along the river in Little Venice, and enjoy the warmth of Alsatian folk music that brings streets to life at night. Wine lovers will rejoice here, too, as the town is situated on the Alsace Wine Route.
Balat in Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul’s traditional Jewish quarter on the shore of the Golden Horn, Balat’s cobblestone paths are lined with tall old buildings, split in half with contrasting colours and connected with clothes lines – a pretty and distinctive picture of community life and history in the Turkish capital’s Fatih district. Pay a visit to the Ahrida and Yanbol Synagogues before perfecting your photography skills with a leisurely stroll down narrow, sloping streets.
Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic
A fairytale destination and magical spa town with thermal springs to beat, Karlovy Vary is characterised by wonderfully unique architecture, picturesque walkways and colonnades worth writing home about. Dating back to the 14th century and immersed in a densely green landscape, the town is home to spas that offer curative treatments, and hosts the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival to which film fanatics flock each year.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
As well as its long beaches and giant Christ the Redeemer statue, Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro is not one to shy from colour. Experience the city at its most vibrant during the spectacular and extravagant Carnival, or climb up to Favela Santa Marta, where a group of boldly-hued buildings are sprawled across a steep lush hill – a project undertaken by two Dutch artists, with the aim of bringing the community together.
Iceland may be best known for its thrilling natural tours, frozen landscapes and elusive Northern Lights, but make a stop in Reykjavik – the world’s most nothernmost capital – and you’ll be greeted by a formidable architectural sight: square homes painted in sweet shades of red, green, yellow and blue, right out of a Monopoly set and standing in stark contrast against an otherworldly, mountainous backdrop.
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