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The Most Colorful Place on Earth, Bo-Kaap Cape Town

Colorful houses of Bo-Kaap, Cape Town

The Cape Town district of Bo-Kaap with a gorgeous view of Signal Hill

The streets are ablaze with lilac-lavenders, lime greens, lemon yellows, pastel pinks and cobalt blues while the scent of rich spices is in the air. Although there are many destinations known for their color – Italy, Brazil and India may even come first to mind – but one of the most richly vibrant locations is Bo-Kaap, a suburb of Cape Town, Africa. Known for both its vivid and pastel colors, it seems as though every wall in the neighborhood is a canvas that exudes happiness, freedom and abundance of culture of the people living within. Let’s enjoy a little watercolor wanderlust as we take a stroll through the winding, cobbled and exotic streets of Cape Town.

Colorful houses of Bo-Kaap, Cape Town

Colorful street view of Bo-Kaap, Cape Town

Colorful houses of Bo-Kaap, Cape Town

1. Masjid Boohaanol Mosque by Jack Zalium
2. A snapshot of the Cape Malay Quarter as featured in the Washington Post

Colorful houses of Bo-Kaap, Cape Town

Transforming the mundane with lime green and purple. Image by Wilfried Franke

Colorful houses of Bo-Kaap, Cape Town

Welcoming entrance in bright yellow at Bo-Kaap, Cape Town. Image by Pelangio957

Speaking of color on color, the brightly painted terraces are the first sights that greet you upon entering Bo-Kaap and they are both charming and surreal. Residents have the legal right to change the color as often as they’d like but there is one sticking point — it’s illegal to paint your house the same color as your neighbors!

Colorful houses of Bo-Kaap, Cape Town

Color-splash at Bo-Kaap, Cape Town

As to the why the residents began painting their homes in a rich kaleidoscope of colors, many believe no one truly can pin-point the beginning. Theories abound that at the end of apartheid, many were able to buy their own homes and painting them became an expression of the celebration of freedom and individualism. Roam Far and Wide explains the story given to them by a local guide, Shereen:

Under apartheid, housing colors were restricted.  Shereen said that when the new President Mandela visited in 1994, the people asked if they could paint their houses.  Mandela replied “Paint as you wish!  This is the new South Africa!”  And paint they did.  Neighbors color-coordinate in order to make the whole block appealing.

Colorful houses of Bo-Kaap, Cape Town

Imagine a color and you will find it here at Bo-Kaap, Capetown

Bo-Kaap, Cape Town

Brilliant shades of color make an ordinary walk through the town an eye-catching experience. This singular home was photographed by Stefan Adam

Huffington Post recently listed it as one of the most colorful places in the world, causing many to travel to and fall under the spell of this magical South African district. Artisans, spice shops and restaurants have now sprung up in this quaint yet somewhat trendy district. As you soak up the African flair and spectacular views, you can’t help but leave the gray days behind and look at the bright side of today’s empowered Bo-Kaap. But putting all talk of color aside, close your eyes for a moment and imagine being oppressed for centuries. Upon opening them again, you can literally see and be immersed in what the joy of freedom looks and feels like – that’s the incredible underlying beauty of Bo-Kaap. What could be a better way to express the fresh smell of freedom but by using a riot of colors on the very homes the beautiful people of Bo-Kaap live in.


  1. Wow is the only word I have. So glorious.

  2. “Paint as you wish!” People don’t realize how much color can mean to people!

    • That statement really resonated with me as well, Deb. A colorful life – in every aspect – is a wonderful way to live. I agree, color makes an incredible difference.

  3. It is absolutely untrue that the housing colours were ever restricted. The Bo-Kaap has always been colourful.

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