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The World's Most Colorful Cities (PHOTOS)

Posted: 04/08/2013 8:23 am

The word pretty isn't often associated with the shantytowns of Rio de Janeiro. But gazing across the hills toward the notorious Santa Maria favela, you might be pleasantly surprised by the burst of colors --the result of a recent social art project launched by Dutch design duo Haas&Hahn.

"We chose to bring color to a neighborhood that did not have a tradition of that," says Dre Urhahn, who, with his partner Jeroen Koolhaas, enlisted community members to view their walls as a blank canvas teeming with creative possibilities. "We did not just want to bring something to the neighborhood, but to let something grow out of the inspiration that we found there."

Pockets of rainbow-bright residences and streets pop up in cities across the globe; some are contrived, like Haas&Hahn's favela project and the commissioning of a blue-painted town in southern Spain by Sony Pictures to promote the Smurfs 3D movie (no, really). Others, like the eclectic homes and murals of Valparaíso, Chile, are more organic, inspired by the creative spirits of the residents that inhabit them.

From a monochromatic Indian city painted pink for a visiting English prince to the candy-colored waterfront of Miami's South Beach, these landscapes bring a new level of vibrancy to austere deserts, mountains, slums, and already sparkling aqua waters.

--Sarah Khan

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  • Jaipur, India

    <a href="">See More of the World's Most Colorful Cities</a><br><br> Now <em>this</em> is a royal welcome: Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh had the whole city daubed in pink for the arrival of Edward, the Prince of Wales, during a diplomatic visit in 1853. The Rajasthani capital retains its signature rose-tinted hue across broad boulevards and historic buildings like the Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds). <br><br> <em>Photo: Courtesy of Cox & Kings, USA</em>

  • Chefchaouen, Morocco

    <a href="">See More of the World's Most Colorful Cities</a><br><br> A four-hour drive from the bustling city of Fez brings you to this village high in the Rif Mountains, known for its labyrinthine medina bathed entirely in shades of blue. The area was once a refuge for Spanish Jews fleeing the Inquisition in the 1500s, who found a harmonious safe haven in Chefchaouen; though most have now migrated to Israel, the warren of turquoise alleys remains as their legacy. <br><br> <em>Photo: <a href="" target="_hplink">Mark Fischer |</a></em>

  • Izamal, Mexico

    <a href="">See More of the World's Most Colorful Cities</a><br><br> Mexico’s tourism secretary designated Izamal, in the Yucatán region, a <em>pueblo mágico</em> (magical city), and it’s easy to see why. The colonial buildings are awash in a vivid yellow that gives the monochromatic town a sunny look whatever the weather. Take a horse-and-buggy ride around the cobblestoned streets past marigold churches, government buildings, and the city’s centerpiece: the historic 16th-century Basilica of San Antonio de Padua. <br><br> <em>Photo: Patrick Escudero/Hemis/Corbis</em>

  • Bo-Kaap, Cape Town

    <a href="">See More of the World's Most Colorful Cities</a><br><br> No, that’s not a rainbow at the foot of Signal Hill: the pops of color making their way up the slopes are typical of Cape Town’s historic Muslim quarter, where the mosques and homes make up a splashy kaleidoscope of aquamarine, fuchsia, and lime. Its Cape Malay community is descended from slaves brought over by the Dutch from Southeast Asia in the 1600s, and residents began painting their homes to celebrate the end of apartheid. <br><br> <em>Photo: Frederic Soltan/Corbis</em>

  • Balat, Istanbul

    <a href="">See More of the World's Most Colorful Cities</a><br><br> Once Istanbul’s old Jewish quarter, Balat has attracted a more diverse range of residents over time. Yet the architecture takes you back to a lost era; it’s easy to spend a few hours wandering, preferably with camera in hand, to capture the dilapidated yellow and pink buildings adorned by billowing red or green curtains, all sparkling against the cerulean sky. <br><br> <em>Photo: <a href="" target="_hplink">Yonca Evren</a></em>

  • Júzcar, Spain

    <a href="">See More of the World's Most Colorful Cities</a><br><br> Among the iconic White Towns of Andalusia, Júzcar looks so comically out of place that you'd be forgiven for wondering if it's out of a cartoon -- in fact, you'd be correct. Until recently, it, too, was a whitewashed village; in 2011, Hollywood executives inquired whether the residents would paint their homes blue for a promotional blitz surrounding the Smurfs movie. Afterward, Sony offered to paint the town back, but aware of the skyrocketing tourist numbers that resulted from the gimmick, the 220 citizens voted to keep it blue. <br><br> <em>Photo: <a href="" target="_hplink">J. Javier Garcia</a></em>

  • South Beach, Miami

    <a href="">See More of the World's Most Colorful Cities</a><br><br> Neon lights, frothy façades, quirky patterned lifeguard stands, Art Deco buildings -- driving along Ocean Drive in Miami is a retro trip back to an era when Technicolor was just bursting onto screens. Flamingo pinks and tropical greens flank the white sand on one side, with azure waters on the other. <br><br> <em>Photo: Flickr/advencap</em>


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