Manarola’s colourful pink, brown, yellow and light-green houses have been immortalised by the artists Paul Klee, Llewelyn Lloyd and Antonio Discovolo. Legend has it that there was once a wealthy town called Oleastra near Manarola. One night when the Saracens attacked, the townsfolk buried all their gold and silver but they were all taken into slavery and never came back to claim it. You never know; you might strike lucky!
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Aside from the spectacular view, Reykjavík is known best for its highly individual style, having the strange effect of making one feel rather cosy through its unstuck version of minimalism. The city displays some true architectural gems, including the massive housing projects built for the population influx following World War II. Other highlights can be spotted in the perfect little Art-Deco hotels, painted Scandinavian timber houses, fervent steeples upon tiny cathedrals, and a few functional classics from the Danish era.
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Longyearbyen is Svalbard’s capital and the oldest existing settlement in the archipelago. Many visitors are surprised to find a normal town where they expected a pioneer city. This is no rough, tough ‘Man’s World’, but a place for families. There are two kindergartens, a school and a small church built in 1958 to replace its war-damaged predecessor.
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Tórshavn, Faroe Islands
Proudly named after the Norse god of war, Tórshavn (literally ‘Thor’s Harbour’) is curiously built around one of the worst natural harbours in the entire country, dangerously exposed to the gales and accompanying heavy swells of the North Atlantic. However, it is the all-important harbour, through which the country maintains contact with the rest of the world, which remains the town’s focal point and is arguably the most attractive part of town. Here a long row of converted warehouses, with façades ranging in colour from a rich yellow ochre to bright reds and blues, reflect in the crystal-clear waters of the harbour bursting with small wooden fishing vessels; during the long summer days, the couple of cafés on the waterfront here are full of people enjoying a cup of coffee, watching the boats bob on the Atlantic swell – the classic picture-postcard view of Tórshavn.
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Valparaíso’s appeal is somewhat due to its crazy geography: it is built partly on reclaimed land and partly on steep hills reached by the Victorian elevators (ascensores) that are now the city’s trademark feature. There’s also the blend of blue-collar and bohemian residents that makes it so lively and creative. Valparaíso has always had its unique charm, but for a long time it was pretty rough round the edges and really only for less delicate types; nowadays it is resurgent, with lots of urban renewal projects, taking pride in its industrial past whilst becoming accessible and tourist-friendly.
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Sunday in Bogotá is a family day when the streets take on a party atmosphere of clowns, music and picnics in the parks. Food vendors, churchgoers and mothers with pushchairs converge on the plazas and compete for space with armies of pigeons. Jugglers take centre stage on empty roundabouts while old women on flower stalls sit amongst a fragrant kaleidoscope of varicoloured blooms. Today the people of Bogotá love and respect their city – it is now oh-so chévere (cool) to be Bogotano, a far cry from the sentiment of a decade ago when it was a place that was truly loathed.
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