Countries around the world—from Chile and South Africa to the picturesque colonial town of Trinidad in Cuba—are home to cities that have done away with the practical in favour of the fun, whether due to a city-wide artistic streak, a cultural love of colour, or a Hollywood payout. Here are a few of them, as per a list prepared by travel magazine Travel+Leisure…
The dazzling colours that adorn the capital city of this Caribbean island stem from an unlikely source—headaches. As per local lore, back in the 1800s, the governor of the Dutch colony decided that the colour white caused his migraines. He issued a decree that buildings could be painted anything but white. Today, this jewel-coloured city is an almost perfectly preserved Dutch colonial trading settlement with a Unesco World Heritage designation (and a picture-perfect backdrop for vacation photos).
India’s ‘Blue City’, tucked into the western state of Rajasthan, is a colourful reminder of India’s caste system. In
the past, Brahmins, the so-called upper class, painted their homes in the royal hue of blue to differentiate their properties from those of the lower class. Over time, others just mirrored the effect. Many suspect the colour is
now popular for a number of reasons—including tradition.
La Boca, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Caminito, the city’s famed kaleidoscopic street, sits on the edge of the Riachuelo River. As whimsical as the area is, its fanciful facade has a very practical explanation: the homes were built from scraps from the local shipyard and painted with whatever leftover paint was available. Today, the vivid block of colour brightens the working class neighbourhood and has made it a tourist destination for visitors from across the globe.
Jodhpur isn’t the only colour-coded city in the country. There’s Udaipur, the White City; Nagpur, the Orange City; and Jaipur, the rose-hued Pink City. The Rajasthani capital city got a coat of pink paint in the 19th century when India was still a British Colony. To honour the visit of Edward, Prince of Wales, the local leader dyed Jaipur with the hue traditionally associated with hospitality. Since then, a law has been enacted to ensure that the city stays pink and welcoming to visitors.
Located in the central Cuban province of Sancti Spíritus, the buildings in the 16th-century city of Trinidad reflect the natural environment—sugarcane green, ocean blue and sunshine yellow—sometimes all mixed together on the same building. The Unesco World Heritage site was built by money made largely from the heinous slave trade, and the resulting Afro-Cuban culture is represented in the colourful streets.
Balat, Istanbul, Turkey
Balat—the Jewish quarter of Istanbul since the Byzantine era—is a patchwork quilt of red, blue and green buildings piled on top of each other. Over time, the neighbourhood has become a destination for design-savvy tourists and visitors in town for the Istanbul Design Biennial. Everyone is eager to walk the maze-like streets lined by brilliantly-hued buildings and the clutch of new boutiques, cafés and galleries.
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Pelourinho, Salvador, Brazil
Salvador’s Pelourinho neighbourhood bears the name of the Portuguese word for ‘pillory’, and was home to the first slave market on the continent. When slavery was outlawed in 1835, the city began to crumble. But in 1985, Pelourinho was declared a Unesco World Heritage site, and the neighbourhood began the slow process of rebuilding. Now, Pelourinho’s culture is as vibrant as its facades, and tourists from Brazil and the far reaches of the world flock to the historical centre for food, dancing and the Museu Afro-Brasileiro.
Rainbow Row, Charleston, South Carolina
The Easter egg-coloured row homes near Charleston’s historic waterfront have stood proudly since the late 1700s, surviving the Civil War and the reconstruction. Local lore suggests the pastel-coloured exteriors made it easy for drunk sailors to recognise their guesthouse, while others suggest shops used the hues as a form of advertising. Today, the jasmine-fringed Georgian homes between 83 and 107 East Bay Street are synonymous with the popular southern city.