At first glance, pictures of certain cities often resemble heavily edited Instagram posts, with their unlikely hues filling more than a few cluttered Pinterest boards. But the truth is that places like Chefchaouen, Morocco; Copenhagen, Denmark; and New Orleans, Louisiana really are that colorful. And they deliver the kind of design that will delight any traveler visiting these destinations.
For some cities, their Technicolor hues are rooted in history. For others, the sizzling shades of red and blue reflect their splashy cultures. Whatever the reason, these cities draw tourists from around the world, enchanted by their colorful alleyways, plazas, townhouses, and more. And many of those same visitors, initially fascinated by the Crayola-like palettes, usually find themselves falling in love with local artwork, a region’s storied history, or a city’s unique culture along the way.
So if you’re looking for a colorful escape, consider these seven Technicolor cities for your next bucket-list vacation. Just don’t forget your sunglasses.
1. CHEFCHAOUEN, MOROCCO
Founded in 1471, the Moroccan town of Chefchaouen (featured in the top image) has long enjoyed a steady diet of tourist interest—especially from backpackers and Europeans seeking a quick getaway. It doesn’t take long to notice that the city is enamored with the color blue, such that most people now know it as the Blue City. Choose your shade: sky blue, sparkling-ocean-on-a-sunny-day, Blue Man Group, blueberry—any blue that you can imagine, chances are good you’ll find a market, restaurant, or stairway painted that particular tint in Chefchaouen’s vivid medina, surrounded by the Rif Mountains.
Several origin stories seek to explain Chefchaouen’s obsession with the color blue. One such story posits that the city’s Jewish population, fleeing Hitler in the 1930s, flocked to the city and introduced the color in doing so. Whatever the reason, the color blue is synonymous with Chefchaouen today—and touring it is an absolute joy.
2. COPENHAGEN, DENMARK
With more than 900 years of history, there are plenty of reasons to visit Copenhagen. So while you’re enjoying the amusement park at Tivoli Gardens or admiring the sculpture of The Little Mermaid, you’ll likely notice the city’s brightly colored homes, too. The multihued townhomes and apartments are woven into the fabric of neighborhoods throughout Copenhagen, many of which hugs the city’s famous canals. Sankt Hans Gade is among the city’s most-photographed streets, thanks to numerous buildings painted in bright, colorful pastels.
But nowhere is the colorful phenomenon more visible than Nyhavn. In addition to veritable rainbows of dazzling buildings, the fashionable district offers numerous restaurants and bars, a picturesque canal, historical wooden ships, and lots of entertainment options.
3. IZAMAL, MEXICO
Located on the Yucatán Peninsula, Izamal is a city of several nicknames, including the City of Hills, reflecting the Mayan pyramids that dot the town and surrounding region. But it’s also known as the Yellow City for an obvious reason: Seemingly every building in Izamal is painted the color of sunshine, lemon groves, and wheat fields—and each is nearly as bright as the midday Yucatán sun.
Several buildings, markets, and religious buildings boast the yellow treatment, but the most famous attraction in town is a renowned convent built on the site of an old Mayan pyramid. The city’s other magical offerings include cobblestone streets; craftspeople making hammocks, jewelry, and more; and remnants of Mayan pyramids open for exploring.
4. HAVANA, CUBA
Visiting Cuba’s capital city is a bit like traveling in a time machine, as the large number of cars from the ‘50s and ‘60s give you the feeling you’re on a movie set. Add to that the radiant hues and colorful spaces that help define Havana as a lively city. Blues, greens, yellows, pinks, and greens mingle together on colonial-style buildings throughout residential neighborhoods and open-air plazas that dot the city.
Wherever you go, you’ll encounter various architectural styles, varying stages of decay, and a rainbow-colored palette of sparkling hues. Throughout the colorful Cuban capital, the only constant is variety.
5. CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA
One of the most vivid destinations in Latin America, it’s easy to see why the city of Cartagena, Colombia, is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. While the designation reflects Cartagena’s history and importance as a military fortification, the city’s modern-day Old Town draws tourists enchanted by its brightly colored Spanish-Colonial houses, alleys, restaurants, and more. The city’s best-loved buildings are painted in a dizzying menagerie of blues, yellows, and pinks, with the Centro Historico hosting most of Cartagena’s Instagram-worthy outposts.
That said, don’t miss the jazzy murals in and around Plaza de Trinidad, a bustling gathering spot that hosts several restaurants, bars, buskers, and street performers. The paintings reflect Cartagena’s history, culture, and identity through striking, sweeping displays.
6. CINQUE TERRE, ITALY
Hugging the coast of the Italian Riviera, the Cinque Terre is actually comprised of five distinct fishing villages, all connected by roads and trails. Each offers its own local flavor, but the wider region is stitched together by a patchwork of colorful hillside homes seemingly stacked on top of each other. Greens, yellows, pinks, and oranges are just some of the colors you’ll see while visiting Cinque Terre’s villages, each boasting restaurants, bars, hiking trails, harbor tours, and more.
7. NEW ORLEANS, UNITED STATES
Those in the know call New Orleans “the northernmost Caribbean city,” and homes in several of the city’s neighborhoods reflect that vibrant influence. Start with the French Quarter, where centuries-old buildings are painted in all manner of pastels��and where vivid accents add more than a splash of color on doorways and windowsills. Elsewhere, the Tremé—among the oldest neighborhoods in the city—features several colorful homes, as do the shotgun shacks in the artsy Faubourg Marigny neighborhood. All three neighborhoods are home to several restaurants specializing in regional cuisine and venues hosting funky live music, so pair your sightseeing with a culture that’s almost as colorful as the homes.
Written by Matt Wastradowski for RootsRated Media in partnership with Royal Robbins.