14 Most Colourful Towns and Cities in Europe

Reykjavik

colourful buildings in Reykjavik

Climb to the top of Hallgrímskirkja Church for epically photogenic views of Iceland’s capital city, and when you reach the top I advise you to get snapping. I wouldn’t consider myself a good photographer in any way but my photos of Reykjavik landed in the Germany edition of Rolling Stone Magazine. Now, that’s not a testimony to my skills but Reykjavik being, well… picture perfect!

colourful cities, Reykjavik

Alesund

Colourful buildings in Alesund, Norway

Not only is Alesund in Norway one of the most colourful towns I’ve ever been to, but it’s also the prettiest. Just look at it! It looks like a stained glass window! To get this panoramic view of the town and the Sunnmore Alps you should walk the 418 steps from the town park to viewpoint Aksla.

Alseund Panoramic View

Longyearbyen

Longyearbyen, colourful houses

To take the sting out of harsh winters you will discover a surprising amount of brightly painted houses and buildings in many high Arctic towns like Longyearbyen. Trees and most common types of flowers don’t grow so far up North (especially in Longyearbyen, the world’s northernmost town) so to add a splash of colour to the Arctic tundra we have these brightly-coloured beauties.

longyearbyen, Svalbard

Notting Hill

Notting Hill, colourful houses

With its abundance of bookshops, Notting Hill is a must-visit place for literature lovers. But it’s also a must for anyone with a weakness for cute and colourful houses, especially if one of them used to be home to George Orwell. It’s a great pleasure walking down streets entwined with so much history.

It’s busy, but go on a Saturday to experience the market in full swing.

Notting Hill, London

Copenhagen

Colouful buildings, Copenhagen

You don’t have to walk far to get an idea of how colourful Copenhagen is, but for the biggest splashes of colour head over to Nyhvan, a 17th-Century waterfront filled to the brim with cafes, restaurants and boats. It does get busy there so if you’re looking to escape the crowds and see a different side to Copenhagen, visit Freetown Christiania, known commonly as a hippy commune filled with vibrant houses and wall murals.

Christiania, Copehnagen

Berlin

Berlin street art

Berlin isn’t like the others in this list; instead of painted buildings I’m talking street art. There’s no getting away from it in Berlin. Tip: Don’t miss this alley in Hackescher Markt, and Teufelsberg Spy Station.

Teufelsberg, Graffiti, Berlin

Gamla Stan and Stockholm’s Underground

Gamla Stan, Stockholm

Stockholm’s old town, Gamla Stan is a Baltic beauty (as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, let us not forget) but what I really, really, really love about Stockholm is it’s underground art exhibition spanning over 90 of Stockholm’s 100 underground stations.

Rainbow Station, Stockholm

Lisbon

Lisbon, Alfama

It’s no secret that I fell in love with Lisbon, obviously the vast array of museums and great weather had something to do with it, but all the street art and patterned tiles on the buildings made it an instant hit.

Lisbon, Alfama

Trondheim

Trondheim, Nidelva

Norway’s 3rd largest city has a vibrant café culture, and the best way to enjoy it is by parking up at Bakklandet, Trondheim’s old quarter that lies on the eastern side of the Nidelva River.

Trondheim, norway

Brighton

Brighton colourful buildings

Brighton is one of those places everyone loves. It’s less than an hour away from London but the vibe couldn’t be more different. Well, actually I guess you could describe it a bit like Camden by the beach, but much prettier. These beach huts make any visit feel like you’re on holiday.

Brighton beach huts

Burano

Burano Canal Venice
Photo Source: Wikimedia

Don’t you hate it when you go somewhere and it’s not until you return home that you realised you missed out on seeing something amazing? Well that frustration for me is Venice. I can’t believe I’ve visited not once but TWICE and had never heard of Burano, an islands located only 7 kilometres north of Venice. Shame on me.

Burano, colourful buildings
Photo source: Wikimedia

Honningsvag

Honningsvag, Norway

This is another one of those high Arctic towns (in fact it’s the northernmost town of mainland Europe) that needs a splash of colour when the weather gets harsh in winter. With it’s harbour and brightly painted buildings, it’s one of the most charming places I’ve been.

Honningsvag fishing town

Prague

Colourful buildings in Prague

From any direction, with it’s colourful buildings painted in shades of blue, pink, green and yellow pastel and highly detailed structures, you are certain to find beauty on any corner. Prague is a city for romantics.

Prague Old Town

Poznan

Poznan, Poland

Out of all the places I’ve listed, the Main Square of Poznan is perhaps the most colourful and also my favourite. When I read lists about colourful places, I’m always astounded that this place is never on it – so here’s to rectifying that!

Poznan, Poland

Isn’t the world a colourful place?! Where’s the most colourful place you’ve been?

 



A travel & culture blog specialising in Scandinavia and the Arctic, peppered with the rest of the world in between.


'14 Most Colourful Towns and Cities in Europe' have 45 comments

  1. August 2, 2014 @ 1:33 pm Richard

    You can tell you’re a Scandinavia aficionado! I don’t think you can beat Burano with its colourful houses, although I remember an episode of Michael Palin in New Europe, and Tirana in Albania was surprisingly colourful.The mayor had no money for regeneration, so instead he painted all the old communist housing schemes bright pink, yellow and blue.

    Reply

    • August 3, 2014 @ 6:45 pm admin

      Wow! Thanks for drawing my attention to Tirana Richard! I’ve now opened up another tab so I can check for flights and prices (so typically me). Using paint and street art as a way to regenerate the city is a wonderful idea, proving creativity is more important for change than throwing a load of money into a project.

      Reply

  2. August 2, 2014 @ 3:33 pm phoebe

    Shingaling, we should’ve taken you to Burano when you visited, i can’t believe you didn’t know it was there! Very sweet indeed, with some wonderous risotto to their name! x

    Reply

    • August 3, 2014 @ 6:53 pm admin

      Phoebe I hold you accountable for this! I guess I’ll just have to return, which isn’t so bad is it? 😉

      Reply

  3. August 2, 2014 @ 3:33 pm realgunners

    I think I’m most impressed with Alesund and Trondheim out of this lot. And Burano feels totally different from the main island of Venice!

    Reply

    • August 3, 2014 @ 7:01 pm admin

      Alesund is stunning from atop isn’t it?! It’s got a fascinating history too, just over a 100 years ago it completely burnt to the ground. However, it’s rebuilt was extremely successful and the buildings are thankfully no longer built in wood!

      Reply

  4. August 2, 2014 @ 4:40 pm Mike

    Ha, I laughed out loud at the picture of your one friend covering the other’s face! “It looks like a stained glass window…” is a perfect analogy! And most definitely sign me up for Stockholm’s underground art exhibition…that would be amazing. I was trying to picture it in my mind and I would love to see that same Svalbard photo in their dead of winter! As you know I avoid crowds if possible so I would try to steer my tour there accordingly. Or anywhere in the world for that matter :) That’s noble of you to take a humble approach about your photography but I can assure you that what you present to us readers in your shots is always spectacular! Your photos always tell a story that lines up perfectly with your text! Great job again, Shing! :)

    Reply

    • August 3, 2014 @ 7:20 pm admin

      Haha, I love the photo of my two friends too, usually one of them is telling the other to shut up 😉

      You would love Stockholm’s underground, anyone would, they are unbelievable! Hope you and Phoenix are enjoying your weekend! :)

      Reply

  5. August 2, 2014 @ 7:10 pm jenny@atasteoftravel

    I’ve decided that my life needs more colour! It seems that for this I should head north to the Scandinavian countries. Coming from a city that doesn’t have snow, I hadn’t thought about the fact that colour brightens their day in the middle of winter! Fabulous photos as usual Shing and some great travel inspiration.

    Reply

    • August 4, 2014 @ 6:42 am admin

      Haha this list is very Scandinavian-centric isn’t it Jenny? (Just how I like it :D) However, if this post referred to the world and not just Europe then I’m sure San Francisco would have made an appearance, and I haven’t been to places like Cuba and India which look very, very colourful in certain towns!

      When I first discovered why all the houses in the Arctic were usually bright and colourful it made me smile. You’re right – everyone needs more colour in their life!

      Reply

  6. August 3, 2014 @ 7:56 am Cassandra

    What a nifty round-up of places! I haven’t been to most of these locations but I most certainly agree about Copenhagen. I loved that city and would jump at the chance to go back. As for new cities, Poznan definitely struck my fancy!

    Have you been to Tallin, Estonia? The old town is another incredibly vibrant place to explore.

    Reply

    • August 4, 2014 @ 6:57 am admin

      Hi Cassandra, nice to find you here! Glad to read you love Copenhagen – I’m itching to go back too! No, I’ve not made it to Tallin yet but I really want to, and whilst I’m there I would also like to visit Riga which looks really colourful too. Ahem… all in good time!

      Reply

  7. August 4, 2014 @ 8:44 am Lizzie

    Great selection Shing! This has definitely brightened up my Monday morning :) I loved Burano when I visited – it’s probably the most colourful place I’ve been to so far. Though Brasov in Romania and Ljubljana are strong contenders!

    Reply

    • August 4, 2014 @ 6:34 pm admin

      Don’t rub salt into my wound by telling me how much you loved Burano Lizzie 😉 Brasov and Ljubljana are high on my list, I enjoyed reading your articles on both countries!

      Reply

  8. August 8, 2014 @ 12:47 am Suki F

    I can’t pick a favorite. They all look really cool.

    Reply

    • August 10, 2014 @ 2:12 pm admin

      Glad you like them!

      Reply

  9. August 11, 2014 @ 12:36 pm Elena@Elena's Travelgram

    Burano isle is a photographers dream for sure! In case you haven’t been there yet, you should definitely go! Even though it’s pretty popular among tourists, there are still streets and squares where you won’t see anyone :)

    And Reykjavik looks just gorgeous!

    Reply

    • August 11, 2014 @ 7:41 pm admin

      I’ve got my eye firmly on Burano, it’s slipped through my fingers before but it won’t happen again!! Glad to know visitors can still find some peaceful spots in an otherwise touristy place!

      Reply

  10. August 11, 2014 @ 12:41 pm Supriya

    The city of Porto is beautiful – especially, the Ribiera area, with it’s ageing, colorful facades!! Heavenly!

    http://instagram.com/p/rLs1jZPcoR/
    http://instagram.com/p/q_bwWGPcv7/

    Reply

    • August 11, 2014 @ 7:46 pm admin

      Fabulous photos, thanks for sharing! After visiting Lisbon earlier this year and falling head over heels in love with the place I’m now itching to go to Porto! If I had been I’m sure it would have made it onto the list.

      Reply

      • August 13, 2014 @ 7:56 pm Supriya

        Thank you!
        Lisbon is so gorgeous! While you are going to Porto, maybe you could plan a little side trip to Aveiro – the Venice of Portugal. I couldn’t go to Aveiro, but it was recommended by every single local we spoke with.
        I hope I get to visit some of these lovely places from your post, esp. Rejkavik, Alesund and Burano! They look stunning..

        Reply

  11. August 11, 2014 @ 2:06 pm Rob

    Villajoyosa is worth a mention too

    Reply

    • August 11, 2014 @ 7:53 pm admin

      I’m looking at photos of Villajoyosa now and it certainly looks colourful! Apart from Burano, I chose places where I had been, which means beauties like Villajoyosa were missed out. However, I had never heard of this place until now so thank you for bringing it to my attention. I’ve got a friend going to Valencia soon so I’ll tell her to make a day trip there!

      Reply

  12. August 12, 2014 @ 1:56 pm desallis

    I am so glad I checked out the other islands in the Venice lagoon, having lunch on Burano island was the highlight of Venice for me, and thats saying something!

    Reply

    • August 12, 2014 @ 2:10 pm admin

      Burano is the only place on this list I have not been to. Stop making me jealous now :)

      Reply

      • August 12, 2014 @ 2:37 pm Desallis

        If it makes you feel better I missed out on St Michelle while in Venice which looked beautiful from the vaporetto. The way I deal with travelers regret, I just squint, smile and tell myself “Next time..”
        Really interested to see Lisbon after Porto later this year too

        Reply

  13. August 13, 2014 @ 4:41 pm Agness

    Great places! I’ve just came back from Lisbon and I could not believe how colorful the whole city was! Something incredible.

    Reply

    • August 13, 2014 @ 7:17 pm admin

      Happy to read you loved Lisbon Agness, and I hope your mum did too! Now I’ve got my eye on Porto!

      Reply

  14. August 13, 2014 @ 5:02 pm johnners

    These are some lovely looking places and I hope to at least see Reykjavik this year (finally!).
    I have to say that the most colourful place I have ever been is way ay down in the other hemisphere.. Valparaiso on the coast of Chile. Like Lisbon, much of it is built into the coastal hillside and so you can get a great view of individual areas and buildings from below. Most of the buildings are painted in beautiful, inviting colours and the irregular construction of the area makes it a real visual treat. As well as that, winding stone stairways (often also painted) lead up through the streets and alleyways which have been beautifully decorated by some of the world’s finest street artists. It’s a real pleasure just to walk and see the artworks and then find yourself at a viewpoint over the city and it’s harbour. I’d highly recommend this place to anyone. :) Thanks for the article Shing :)

    Reply

    • August 13, 2014 @ 7:16 pm admin

      Hi Johnners, I’m certain you’re going to love Reykjavik, make sure you try and visit the Blue Lagoon (during the early evening until closing time when it’s less busy) and also do the Golden Circle – and anything else you do will be a bonus!)

      I’ve read and seen picture of Valparaiso, it’s definitely somewhere I’d LOVE to go, it looks unbelievably colourful! I’m imagining myself walking through those winding stone stairways that lead up to alleyways decorated by world renowned street artists. Ohhh… you’ve planted the seed now – I must go!

      Thanks for commenting, and if you would like any recommendations on Iceland then don’t hesitate to ask! :)

      Reply

      • August 13, 2014 @ 8:33 pm johnners

        Thank you for the advice! I will put those on my list for sure :) It’s funny how Iceland has always seemed so far away to me and yet it’s nowhere near as far as Chile.. I guess it shows how the notion of distance can be a psychological thing as much as it is a physical determinant.
        You should definitely visit Valparaiso… and Chile in general, it is a country with everything from the driest place on Earth, to the largest glacier ( I think anyway… Pius X1). You can watch flowers bloom in the desert and drink a whiskey with a million year old ice cube! The climate is good and the people are fun loving and friendly. If you learn some Chileno Spanish there, you will be able to speak Spanish anywhere in the world, or so they say :)
        As for colourful towns, they have a great attitude there. Graffiti and street art is not only encouraged, but expected and it’s not uncommon to see full buildings be-decked in wonderfully outsized artworks that will take your breath away…
        Just book your ticket now 😀

        Reply

  15. August 15, 2014 @ 2:09 pm This Week in Design: Aug. 15, 2014 | Orbit2 Website Design Leeds | Website Design Leeds

    […] Yoong’s blog “The Culture Map” recently featured a beautiful, and quite colorful, post featuring the 14 most colorful towns […]

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  16. August 18, 2014 @ 12:22 am Derek Freal

    Those are some amazing photographs! Definitely an excellent choice of locations, each very deserving of mention. I’ve never heard of Burano either but will make sure not to miss it when I get to Venice…thanks!

    Reply

    • August 24, 2014 @ 4:33 pm admin

      Hi Derek, glad to read you now know about Burano. From the feedback I’ve had, it sounds like it’s one of the must-do places during any trip to Venice!

      Reply

  17. September 1, 2014 @ 10:13 am August on The Little Backpacker | The Little Backpacker

    […] Culture Map: 14 Most Colourful Towns and Cities in Europe – I absolutely loved this post, so many photos of some of the most beautiful places in […]

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  18. November 8, 2014 @ 3:38 pm Miranda

    Gorgeous photos…Europe is certainly a very colourful place! Poznan looks beautiful – I was there last summer, but only to walk from the bus station to the train station in the dark – I had no idea I was missing such a vibrant main square! One of my favourite places is Warsaw’s old town – it’s unbelievably pretty.

    Reply

    • November 23, 2014 @ 11:07 am admin

      Oh dear! Seeing me place Poznan at the top must have made you do a Homer Simpson ‘Doh’! I totally agree about Warsaw, I should have put the Old Town in my list, plus 15 sounds so much better than 14!!

      Reply

    • November 24, 2014 @ 8:40 pm Bartek

      Miranda, about Warsaw’s Old Square, its not the original one, it was destroyed during Warsaw Uprising in 1944 and after it when Nazis tried to destroy entire city of Warsaw. After ending of World War II it was rebuild using the paintings left from XVIII century painter Marcello Baciarelli who painted for Poland’s last king Stanislaus August the II :)

      Reply

      • November 26, 2014 @ 9:32 pm admin

        Hi Bartek! Warsaw has a fascinating history, and although some of the people at the time didn’t like the rebuilt because it wasn’t true to the city’s original designs, it is still very beautiful and it must be nice to hear how much visitors enjoy it. I went during Christmas and I couldn’t quite believe how magical the Old Town looked!

        Reply

  19. November 24, 2014 @ 10:53 am Yarly

    Tobermory in Scotland is also a nice place. It is known as Balamory shown in BBC series for kids.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tobermory,_Mull#mediaviewer/File:Tobermory_Main_Street_2012-08-09.jpg

    Reply

    • November 26, 2014 @ 9:35 pm admin

      Hi Yarly! This place looks awesome and it certainly deserves to be in this list, but I kept the list to places where I had personally travelled to (bar Burano) – but maybe this was a mistake! However, you’ve given me a VERY good reason to travel to Tobermory. I can’t wait. Thanks for your contribution!

      Reply

  20. January 4, 2015 @ 8:55 pm Aleksandra

    I’m sooooo happy, that you liked Poznań and you added it to the 14 Most Colourful Towns and Cities in Europe.
    Thank you very much ^^

    Reply

    • January 7, 2015 @ 12:01 pm admin

      Hi Aleksandra! How could I not include Poznan? I couldn’t stop smiling when I turned the corner into the square and was greeted with such a bright and colourful vision!

      Reply

  21. June 24, 2016 @ 1:22 am judy

    hi, shing. this is judy from the philippines! i am pleased to share to you that we have a similar place, newly “inaugurated”, here in the philippines, called STOBOSA (which stands for three sitios of the town of La Trinidad in the province of Benguet, namely: Stonehill, Botiwtiw and Sadjab, all in Barangay Balili).
    For the details of this masterpiece project, you can find it in the caption of the photo. I hope you could visit my beautiful country and also enjoy our stunning beaches and other breathtaking destinations.
    Here’s the link to the photo: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1228049547215007&set=gm.1023193911063561&type=3&theater

    Reply

  22. November 12, 2016 @ 9:45 pm Katie

    I had never heard of Poznaň before, thank you for bringing it to my attention! It looks beautiful! And cheap flights from the uk to Poznaň means I have added it to my “must visit” list!

    Reply


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