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The most colourful cities in the world revealed

Who doesn’t want a little more colour in their life? We can all do with a pick-me-up on grey days so why not holiday in the most vibrant destinations around the world? Guarantee some brightness with these eight insta-enviable hotspots that won’t fail to make you smile. Cameras at the ready.

1. Bo Kaap, Cape Town – fly from £377

Bo Kaap, Cape Town
Photo credit: Claudio Fonte

Before you ask – we know what you’re thinking – yes, this place is definitely real. There’s no fancy colour-editing skills needed here, the dazzling neon-painted houses do all the hard work for you. And what’s better? The story behind them is as uplifting as the finished look. Post-Apartheid, residents of Bo-Kaap, also known as the Malay Quarter, were able to buy their homes from the council and it is believed that painting their houses whatever colour they desired was a way to express their new-found freedom. Visit the oldest house on Wale Street, which is now home to the Bo-Kaap Museum to learn more about its rich history. While you’re there, combine your experience of the neighbourhood with a half-day Bo-Kaap cooking course. At roughly £50 per person, it includes a short tour of the area and a trip to the local spice shop before you learn how to cook a meal as colourful as the city.

Where to stay: Signal Hill Lodge 

Enjoy views overlooking Cape Town from the Signal Hill Lodge’s tiered garden and book one of the two superior rooms with private balconies to soak up and see the surrounding houses. Rooms from £38.

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2. Chefchaouen, Morocco – fly from £79

Chefchaouen, Morocco
Photo credit: Getty

Chefchaouen, or the Blue City as it’s more commonly known, is home to the iconic blue-washed walls of Morocco, all cobbled together in a maze of alleyways and streets. Here, the old Medina is flooded with local artisans, cafés and shops. Walk to the Chefchaouen Ras el Maa waterfall, where locals wash their clothes and children play in the water. Then for the real wow-factor, hike the Jebel el-kelaa trail behind Chefchaouen up into the mountains to see the Blue City in a whole different light. The hike can be completed in a day but make sure you start your walk at dawn to avoid the heat and take plenty of water with you.  

Where to stay: Hotel Casa Miguel 

Since its fame has soared, so too has the quality and range of accommodation you’ll find in Chefchaoeun. Just a five-minute walk from the waterfall is Hotel Casa Miguel where rooms start from £35 (add breakfast for only £3 per person. Each room is colourfully decorated in a simple, rustic Moroccan style and there’s a roof terrace too so you can look out to the mountains ahead of your hike.

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3. Havana, Cuba – fly from £367

Havana Cuba
Photo credit: Augustin de Montesquiou

With colonial architecture lining the streets and vintage cars driving around on them, visiting Havana is like stepping onto the set of a 1950s Hollywood classic. Despite years of troubled political history and decades of neglect, the capital city is gradually bringing itself up to date. Last year, the city celebrated 500 years since its foundation and put on its finest outfit in preparation. A rich Afro-Cuban heritage dances through the streets, filled with salsa music and vibrant street art. The narrow alleyway of Callejón de Hamel gives local artists a place to showcase and sell their work, but simply walking around the local neighbourhood, including Old Havana, shows off Cuba’s colourful charm. Make sure you find yourself in central Havana on a Sunday lunchtime when high-tempo rumba music brings the whole city together.

Where to stay: Hotel Santa Isabel or Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski 

Despite being the capital, Havana isn’t quite bustling with endless hotel options. Like many of the buildings in the city, the hotels look pretty tired and just need some love. Hotel Santa Isabel gives you the classic Cuban style but with a great location and continental breakfast. If you’re after a little more luxury (and you’ve got the dollar to drop) the five-star Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski offers old-school glamour in abundance.

Fly to Havana from £367

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4. Miami, USA – fly from £251

Miami beach
Photo credit: Samir Shekhawat

It’s surely no surprise that The Magic City has made it on to this list. Known for its wall-to-wall sunshine and warm temperatures throughout the year (with the oh-so-low temperature of 19 degrees in January), it’s already a glowing city. And with its candy-coloured boutiques and busy street art, it’s got ‘Instagram Me!’ written all over it. Visit Wynwood, also known as the arts district of Miami for the best backdrops to add to your feed. The Wynwood Walls, a permanent outdoor exhibit, houses some of the most renowned street artists in the world from Brooklyn’s Maya Hayuk to Japan’s Lady Aiko. Once you’ve explored the local area, which is also brimming with murals and graffiti art, head to Wood Tavern, a local favourite with a great beer garden to soak up all those guaranteed rays.

Where to stay: The Copper Door B&B

Located in Miami’s historic Overtown, The Copper Door B&B has 22 individually-styled rooms. Run by a husband and wife team, they’re all about the giving their guests a warm, personal welcome. We hear it’s worth booking a room if only for the breakfast, cooked by one of the owners, who’s also a trained chef. Rooms from £89.

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5. St John’s, Canada – fly from £352

St John's, Canada
Photo credit: Pixabay

For a Joseph-and-his-technicolour-dream-coat level of colour, St John’s ticks all the boxes. Not only is it the oldest and most easterly city in North America, it’s one of the most charming seaside spots you’ll come across. Scattered across the hilly terrain, you’ll find ‘Jellybean Row’, Victorian-style housing splashed in every Crayola crayon colour. An old sea-faring tradition, fishermen would paint their houses using ship paint so they could be seen from afar even on a foggy day. 

Fancy a bit of history, arts and culture? Head to The Rooms, an impressive glass space overlooking the harbour, where you’ll find everything from the world’s oldest muscular animal – intriguing – to a modern art exhibition from Pepa Chan, where you’ll have the opportunity to have your hair brushed by the artist – even more intriguing… Then walk up to Signal Hill, the most easterly point in North America, for panoramic views of the city and to see Cabot Tower which was built in 1897 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

Where to stay:Abba Boutique Inn 

TheAbba Boutique Inn (insert 70s Swedish pop-band reference here) is modelled on a London townhouse, with a fireplace in each room and breakfast served in the Garden Room. Put in a request when you book and land yourself a view of the Atlantic – you don’t get that in London. Rooms from £69.

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6. Balat, Turkey – fly from £104

Balat, Istanbul

As one of the oldest districts of Istanbul, Balat is home to an array of colourful wooden houses, some up to 200 years old. Now a celebrated and well-photographed area of the city, the narrow streets are filled with cafés and shops for visitors to wander between. Join a half-day walking tour of the Fener and Balat neighbourhoods for around £35 per person to take in the old Jewish and Orthodox areas of Istanbul, as well as the rainbow of houses that surround it. The Phanar Greek Orthodox College, founded in 1452, is worth a visit too. It’s the oldest college in Turkey and, believe it or not, it’s still a working school. That’s the history tour covered, now on to the Chora museum for some art and culture. Based in a 5th century church, the museum displays examples of late Byzantine religious art.

Where to stay: Raymond Hotel 

There are plenty of options when it comes to Istanbul so take advantage of the reasonable prices and stay at a boutique hotel right in the centre of the action. Raymond Hotel, where rooms start at £47, is walking distance from Istanbul’s Blue Mosque and Grand Bazaar. Plus, they offer airport transfers starting at €30 (£26).

Fly to Istanbul from £104

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7. El Alto, Bolivia – fly from £617

El Alto, Bolivia

You’ve probably heard of La Paz, Bolivia’s high-altitude capital (sitting more than 3,500m above sea level), but before you rush off, your plane will land in El Alto, the second largest city, and, you’ve guessed it, one of the most colourful around. In among the array of small rust-red housing with light blue roofs, there are technicoloured tower blocks covered in murals by Roberto Mamani and downright bizarre mansions thanks to architect Freddy Mamani Silvestre. His love of retro video-game-style design and wacky fluorescent colours makes for a fascinating tour of the city. Once you’ve got your head around the clashing architecture, book a seat at Cholita Wrestling (held on Thursdays and Sundays) where indigenous women fight in traditional colourful Bolivian dress, complete with bowler hats. And be sure to visit El Alto’s open-air market, the largest in Bolivia, which covers 5km² and sells everything from vegetables to spare car parts – exactly what you’re looking for on your holiday.

Where to stay: La Casona Boutique Hotel

Once you’ve explored El Alto, move onto Bolivia’s capital La Paz. Stay at La Casona Boutique Hotel, a romantic, terracotta home-away-from-home, overlooking the city. Each of the apartments has a fully-equipped kitchen and dining area and is just 20 metres from the central San Francisco Square. Rooms from £55.

Fly to Bolivia from £617

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8. Singapore – fly from £392

Photo credit: Getty

Singapore no doubt conjures images of city lights, futuristic skyscrapers and extreme wealth – not necessarily multicoloured houses and shops, but head to Little India, or Chinatown and you’ll see why it’s made it on to this list. For the most colourful and striking temple around, visit Sri Mariamman in the heart of Chinatown. The old Hindu temple was created in 1827 and features intricate statues of religious figures. But our favourite spot on the colour chart has to be Tan Teng Niah. This two-storey Chinese villa (see above) built in 1900, is a colour-by-numbers masterpiece and if you don’t get a ‘gram in front of it, you’ll regret it.

Where to stay: Hotel Clover 

With rooms from £68, you get a lot for your money at the contemporary Hotel Clover. Located in Singapore’s Chinatown, it’s only 300m from the historical Clarke Quay and its buzzing nightlife scene. And don’t forget, there’s the rooftop swimming pool and onsite bar to take advantage of too.

Fly to Singapore from £392

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All flight and prices mentioned in this article are estimates of the cheapest prices based on Skyscanner’s flight search tools. These are subject to change and were correct at time of writing on 26 February 2019.