Amazon’s Echo Buds sound great – but not as great as AirPods

Amazon’s Echo Buds sound great – but not as great as AirPods


In the battle of the buds, our “taste test” was striking. 

A friend and I both compared listening to the Foo Fighters “Learn to Fly” on Amazon’s new Echo Buds and the product it aims to emulate, what Apple calls the best-selling headphone “in the world,” the AirPods. 

The Amazon product “sounded tinnier,” said Jan Schrieber, a Laguna Beach, California-based photographer. 

And I agreed. The AirPods had richer bass and a fuller sound. We switched to other songs, and the verdict didn’t change. 

But it doesn’t really matter. Amazon wins on affordability and versatility. 

The Buds, which begin shipping Wednesday, sell for $129, that’s $30 less than the starting price of the AirPods and nearly half the cost of Apple’s new $250 AirPod Pro models, which are also being released Wednesday.

Smart specs: Amazon unveils its first-ever pair of smart glasses, the Echo Frames

Got a new (or used) iPhone: Here are some tips and tricks to make the most of it

The new AirPod Pros tout better sound, a new design and noise cancellation. The Buds are all about Alexa and putting the Amazon voice assistant in your ear – for a lower price. 

And the audio difference? The average consumer won’t care. 

Price will play a big factor for people looking to add bluetooth earbuds to their collection. And as a potential holiday gift that could see the usual Amazon practice of deep holiday discounts, Mom and dad aren’t going to do audio tests before they click the Buy button.

And the bottom line is this: When you’re not comparing the Buds to the Pods, and just grooving to music in your ears, the Amazon product sounds just fine. Rather good, in fact. 

What we like:

—Price. Affordable and competitive. 

—The Buds stay in the ear pretty well, even when you’re jogging. 

—Bose active noise reduction can help shield you from unwanted sounds. 

What we don’t like:

—Making phone calls with voice commands isn’t as easy as Amazon would like you to believe. There’s a lot of being sent to the Alexa smartphone app for fine-tuning. 

—Unlike the AirPods, which answer only to Siri, with the Buds you have the choice of going with Alexa, Siri or the Google Assistant. But that’s spotty, too. 

—Voice commands for music only works with select partners – Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio and TuneIn, as well as Amazon Music. So if you’re a fan of YouTube Music or Apple Music, that could be an issue. 

—Friendly tip: If you’re using the Buds in the same room with an Echo speaker, the speaker will probably be replying to your query, so you’ll want to go to the app and change the “wake word” from Alexa to “computer,” “Echo” or “Amazon,” to get a clear response from the Buds. 


You start using the Buds rather painlessly by pairing them via Bluetooth, in your phone settings, and adding them as a device in your Alexa smartphone app. 

From there on, phone calls, music and podcast playback comes through the Buds, and not your phone speaker. 

The bonus is that you can use Alexa to guide you around. But in the case of the music partners Amazon isn’t working with, like Apple Music and YouTube Music, you can still use your fingers to access music manually. 


In theory, you can ask Alexa to make a phone call for you. But first, you have to make sure that person’s number is in your contact list and visible within the Alexa app. In theory. So when I asked Alexa to call my colleague Ed Baig, it told me he wasn’t in the Contacts, except he was.

I opened the app to call him manually, by clicking his name in the Contacts, and it went iPhone to iPhone without a hitch. 

Triple assistants 

Amazon says you can use whatever voice assistant you like by holding down on a bud and waiting for a chime. You then ask the question to the assistant of your choice. 

Again, in theory. 

I did successfully ask a question to the Google Assistant. Siri said it was having “communication problems” and couldn’t connect. It never did.

For battery life, Amazon promises five hours of music and four hours of talk time. I didn’t do a scientific battery test, just listened to a bunch of music, made the call to Ed and noticed that battery life had fallen down to the 40% level. 

I put the Buds back into the charged case – without plugging them into electricity, left them there for 15 minutes, and got them up to 97%. So consider me impressed. 

Amazon promises a bunch of different gestures to learn for voice operation, like double tapping a bud when the phone rings to accept a call, or holding down on one bud and waiting for a chime to switch voice assistant. There’s a lot for consumers to learn. 

My hunch is most will primarily use these for listening to music and podcasts and talking on the phone. And at $129 and probably less, the Ear Buds makes a fine, more affordable competitor to the AirPods. So what if they don’t sound as good? 

I don’t care. And I’m guessing you won’t either. 

Follow USA TODAY’s Jefferson Graham on Twitter, @jeffersongraham

Read or Share this story:

20 great gifts your coworkers will actually use

20 great gifts your coworkers will actually use

— Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. However, our picks and opinions are independent from USA Today’s newsroom and any business incentives.

Holiday shopping for coworkers is tough—you don’t want to get anything too personal or lavish for an office environment, but nothing says “I can barely remember your name” quite like a gift card. And how do you tastefully adhere to a price limit?

We’re here to help. Whether you’re shopping for your cubicle buddy, your boss, or the stranger you got for Secret Santa, we’ve got great gift ideas across a range of prices to help you nail the exchange. 

Here are the 20 best gifts for coworkers this year:

1. For the one who doesn’t do coffee: Fred & Friends Manatea Silicone Tea Infuser

If your cubicle comrade prefers tea over coffee, treat them to the best tea infuser we’ve ever tested. That’s right—this novelty-looking infuser actually works wonders. The Manatea’s tiny fins hold the infuser in place while tea steeps, and its silicone body makes it easy to rinse and clean. Throw in our favorite electric kettle, the Hamilton Beach 1.7-liter electric kettle, for the total tea package.

Get the Fred & Friends Manatea Silicone Tea Infuser on Amazon for $9.95 

2. For the one who needs coffee 24/7: Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

If your busy boss is constantly running back and forth between their office and the kitchen to heat that one massive coffee they sip on all day, there’s a mug for them. With the stainless steel Ember mug, they can keep that cup of coffee set to a specific temperature for hours, adjusting it via their phone as needed, and even receiving reminder notifications of its status within the app.

It’s pricey, yes, but it actually works, and comes in a range of stately colors. There’s even a travel mug version for on-the-go sipping.

Get the Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug on Amazon for $66.99

3. For the one with perfect makeup: Mario Badescu Facial Spray

With over 5,000 5-star reviews on Ulta, the classic Mario Badescu Rosewater Facial Spray is one of the most popular beauty products ever—and it’s only $7. Whether your coworker is known for their gorgeous makeup looks or tends to complain of dry skin and dullness, a bottle of this spray will certainly brighten their day and keep them looking fresh. You can also grab the lavender and green tea sprays for the complete package.

Get Mario Badescu Facial Spray at Ulta for $7

4. For the one with a green thumb: Philodendron Green Potted Plant

Plants are proven to increase happiness and productivity around a workspace, so why not brighten your coworker’s day with something green? We love this simple, easy-to-care-for philodendron from The Sill, an online plant retailer that we tested and loved. You can have it delivered in a stylish pot right to your home or office.

Get the Philodendron Green Potted Plant from The Sill for $36

5. For the one who wants to save the turtles: Hummingbird Glass Straws

Straw bans and single-use plastics have been all over the news since last year, so we tested the best reusable straws to help you make the right, environmentally conscious decision. Our favorite, the Hummingbird Glass Straw, is beautiful, durable, and easy-to-clean, making it the perfect gift for your office buddy ditching plastic.

Get Hummingbird Glass Straws, Set of 4, on Amazon for $19.99

6. For the one reading the “Call Me By Your Name” sequel: TONYMOLY Peach Hand Cream

Everyone should have hand cream with them at work, particularly in dry office environments in the winter months. So why not make the hand cream adorable and peach-scented? This highly rated cream from Tony Moly is moisturizing without being heavy, and we love the cheeky container design. It’s the perfect small gift, whether your recipient is a fan of Call Me By Your Name and Parasite or not. 

Get TONYMOLY Peach Hand Cream at Ulta for $12

7. For the one who’s always anxious: Tealyra Matcha Startup Kit

Matcha tea has existed for centuries, and it’s as popular as ever across Japan and the States. If your coworker loves the relaxation that comes from green tea and wants to graduate into more advanced tea-drinking methods, we recommend a matcha starter kit like this one from Tealyra.

With a matcha whisk, bowl, strainer, and introductory bag of matcha powder, this kit can teach them how to prepare matcha the traditional way. They might even keep it by their desks at all times like my colleague Valerie, who wrote our guide on all things matcha.

Get the Tealyra Matcha Startup Kit on Amazon for $59.99

8. For the one who needs to bring work home: Kate Spade Laptop Sleeve

No one likes taking work home with them, but for some people, it’s part of the gig. With our best laptop sleeve, at least they can tote their computer in style. In addition to its stylish design, it withstood our assaults with scissors and water, proving that it was as much about function as it was about fashion. There may be cheaper sleeves on the market, but this is one your coworker will cherish for years to come. 

Get the Kate Spade Laptop Sleeve on Amazon for $58.99

9. For the one with a long commute: Zojirushi Stainless Steel Mug

When we were testing travel mugs, our tester accidentally left a Zojirushi full of hot coffee in the car overnight and it was still piping hot the next day. So it’s ready to go the distance for your long-commute colleague who leaves their house at the crack of dawn and still wants hot coffee as a midday pick-me-up. Plus, its sleek design fits into any cupholder, messenger bag, or backpack with ease.

Get the Zojirushi Stainless Steel Mug on Amazon for $25.66

10. For the one who goes through a lot of tissues: Como Trash Bin

There’s always a sneezing, sniffling person in the office who can’t go through a box of tissues fast enough—I’ve been that person! Be kind, pray they use hand sanitizer, and get them a sweet and stylish trash bin that will fit right alongside their desk and save them a trip to the nearest trash can.

This bin comes in three trendy colors and is also great for anyone who is constantly scrapping paper, opening envelopes, or lusting after cute design-y items online all day. 

Get the Como Trash Can at Urban Outfitters for $24

11. For the one who is way too into candles: Diptyque Feu de Bois Candle

Diptyque candles are the standard-bearer of fancy candles for a reason: They’re French, they’re elegant, and they smell absolutely amazing. If your colleague or manager is a little bit posh and into smelling great, you can never go wrong with gifting them one of Diptyque’s signature scented candles.

This time of year, we particularly love their Feu de Bois scent, which means wood fire. It smells warm and inviting like a crackling fire, it’s totally gender-neutral, and the jar comes in a range of designs, from the classic glass with white logo to more seasonal green and black glass jars. 

Get the Diptyque Feu de Bois Candle at Nordstrom for $36

12. For the one who used to be a barista: Krups Fast Touch Electric Coffee Grinder

While we prefer burr grinders to blade grinders when it comes to making the best cup of coffee possible, blade grinders are smaller, more affordable, and ideal for use in an office or on-the-go. So if you have a coffee snob coworker who only uses fresh grounds, they would surely appreciate having our best blade grinder from Krups on hand. 

They can store it in their desk, pack it when the travel, or keep it in their cabinet for when their burr grinder loses steam. 

Get the Krups Fast Touch Electric Coffee Grinder at Sur La Table for $19.95

13. For the one who’s always up for happy hour: Corkcicle Insulated Wine Tumbler

If you’ve got a coworker that’s always suggesting you grab drinks after work, introduce them to the Corkcicle, an insulated tumbler for wine, cocktails, beer, and more. Of course, they can also just use it for water, but what’s the fun in that?

This tumbler comes in a range of playful colors, and it’s spill-resistant lid and insulated body will keep cold drinks cold for hours. It’s perfect for the beach and after-hours celebrations.

Get the Corkcicle Insulated Wine Tumbler on Amazon for $24.95

14. For the one who always gets caught in the rain: Davek Solo Umbrella

Of all our personal items, umbrellas absolutely win the award for “most likely to break or be lost within weeks of purchase.” So why gift your chronically caught-in-the rain boss an umbrella? Because this one is unlike any other umbrella on the market.

Beloved by Reviewed’s Editor-in-Chief, the Davek Solo umbrella is incredibly well-designed, durable, and comes with a lifetime warrantee on all parts. That means if your giftee manages to flip this thing inside out, a replacement is totally free. 

Get the Davek Solo Umbrella on Amazon for $115

15. For the one who invites you to lunch: Smoko Dumpling Light

Dumpling light. Dumpling. Light. Is there anything more we need to say?

This adorable, glowing ambient light from Smoko looks just like a dumpling plucked from a steam basket. It’s a great way to say thank you to the coworker who always takes you for lunch, or the one who appreciates a good dose of cute in their daily life. Reviewers love it, and we do, too.

Get the Smoko Dumpling Light at Urban Outfitters for $16

16. For the one who remembers to pack lunch: Monbento Original Bento Box

While we’ve dubbed the Coleman 9-Can Soft Cooler our favorite lunch cooler in testing for its utility, we can’t help but swoon over the adorable Monbento bento box for packing lunches. For your coworker who is incredibly organized about meal-prepping—or wants to get better about bringing lunch every day—this is the perfect gift. 

We love the Monbento for its ability to keep foods separate (even hot and cold foods!) and pack up neatly at the end of the meal.

Get the Monbento Original Bento Box on Amazon for $36

17. For the one complaining about dry skin: InnoGear Essential Oil Diffuser

You can’t suddenly humidify your entire dry office, but you can help save your coworker from the plight of dry skin with our favorite diffuser from InnoGear. A steal at less than $15, this diffuser passed our testing with flying colors—literally. In addition to diffusing moisture and calming essential oil mists into the air, it can cycle through a number of soothing colors for a relaxing light show. 

Get the InnoGear Essential Oil Diffuser on Amazon for $15.98

18. For the one with too much stuff to carry: BAGGU Standard Reusable Shopping Bag

I don’t go anywhere without one of these reusable shopping bags from Baggu stuffed into my purse. Why? They’re lightweight, beautifully designed, and sturdy enough to carry any random groceries I need to pick up on my way home.

Pick a design to suit your coworker who never has a free hand—they’ll appreciate the help.

Get the BAGGU Standard Reusable Shopping Bag on Amazon for $12

19. For the one who’s always cold: DII Rustic Farmhouse Cotton Chevron Blanket Throw

Everyone who works in an office should have a throw blanket or massive scarf on hand in case the heat breaks or the A/C gets cranked up too high. This oversized chevron throw is gender-neutral, lightweight, and just cozy enough to keep your most temperature-sensitive coworker warm throughout the day.

Get the DII Farmhouse Cotton Chevron Blanket Throw on Amazon for $12.99

20. For the one with an elaborate skincare routine: Drunk Elephant The Littles Set

What’s cooler than one great skincare product? Eight great skincare products. This kit of miniatures from Drunk Elephant is the perfect gift for your skincare-obsessed coworker, whether they’re new to the cult-favorite brand and want to sample their products, or already love them and want travel-sized versions of their favorites. 

Oh, and the kit comes with a colorful travel bag. I might just buy it for myself.

Get the Drunk Elephant The Little Set at Sephora for $90

The product experts at Reviewed have all your shopping needs covered this holiday season. Follow Reviewed on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

Read or Share this story:

Exploration exhibition opens in Covent Garden

Exploration exhibition opens in Covent Garden

“Sir, I have just received your map of the Antarctic Region,” begins the letter from Captain Robert Falcon Scott to Edward Stanford, the London map seller.

“I observe that the farthest-south-point is marked ‘Scott and Shackleton,’ an inscription that is not in accordance with any authorisation.”

“The coupling of Mr Shackleton’s name with mine implies dual leadership and it is therefore not in accordance with fact.”

We’ll tell you what’s true. You can form your own view.

USD 0.27
a day, more exclusives, analysis and extras.

On 30 December 1902, Scott had led a party across Antarctica to a point less than eight degrees from the South Pole. 

Edward Stanford’s cartographer had pinpointed this remarkable journey when mapping the southern polar region for the London Atlas Series.

left Created with Sketch.

right Created with Sketch.

But, as the tetchy dispatch from Captain Scott shows, the company did not ask permission from the leader of the Discovery expedition before including the name of Scott’s rival, Ernest Shackleton, on the new chart.

Scott’s letter is one of a number featured in a new exhibition of correspondence, old travel books and maps in Covent Garden, central London, curated by Stanfords.

Florence Nightingale was a more satisfied customer than Scott, and in 1884 she wrote a postcard to thank Stanfords “for your great kindness in mounting the two trigonomic maps of India so neatly and so promptly”.

Satisfied customer: Florence Nightingale writes to thank Edward Stanford for good work (Stanfords)

Winston Churchill’s holiday plans for 1937 are evident in a four-shilling (20p) receipt for a road map of Yugoslavia.

Much of the material was uncovered during Stanfords’ recent move from its long-established premises in Long Acre to a smaller property at 7 Mercer Walk.

The Mercers’ Company, which owns the land, has provided an exhibition space for the new exhibition around the corner at 10 Langley Street.

The chief executive of the map and guidebook store, Vivien Godfrey, said: “We’re so excited to be sharing with the public the overflowing chest of artefacts that are so special to us here at Stanfords.

“Our visitors will be able to explore the history of travel and be astonished by a wealth of stories of intrepid adventure.”

Visitors will also be able to handle Victorian-era books and maps, while younger travellers can avail of the chance to dress as explorers and pose in front of rainforest and polar landscapes.

The exhibition, which is free, opens to the public on Friday 18 October and runs until January 2020.

This waterfront city is the No. 1 place in America to retire

This waterfront city is the No. 1 place in America to retire

Fort Myers and the Caloosahatchee River in Florida.

If warm weather, easy access to the beach and an affordable price tag sound like your dream retirement, this town might be for you.

U.S. News & World Report recently released its list of the best places to retire, and Fort Myers — a midsize riverfront city in southwest Florida just a stone’s throw from Gulf of Mexico beaches — topped the list. What’s more, Kiplinger’s called out Fort Myers on its list of 50 best places to retire this year, noting that it was “yet another great place to consider for your retirement.”)

So what makes Fort Myers special? U.S. News writes that the city has “retained its small-town heritage … with a charming downtown lined with shops and restaurants, many of which are dog-friendly” adding that “museums, parades, festivals, theaters, parks, historical sites and art galleries pepper the metro area and its social calendar.” And for those who love the beach, “just a few miles away, Fort Myers Beach, Cape Coral and Sanibel Island are popular among boaters, kayakers, sailors and anglers.”

Perhaps best of all, it’s pretty affordable, with a cost of living that’s just a bit above average and a median home priced at just a little over $200,000, according to Sperling’s Best Places. Plus, Florida doesn’t have a state income tax, so your 401(k), IRA or pension withdrawals won’t be taxed by the state, nor will your Social Security.

Of course, Fort Myers has some big downsides, which include muggy, hot summers and the fact that the area can sometimes feel overrun with tourists.

The towns that rounded out the top five on the U.S. News list were Sarasota, Fla.; Lancaster, Pa.; Asheville, N.C.; and Port St. Lucie, Fla. U.S. News looked at the 125 largest metro areas and graded them on happiness, housing affordability, health-care quality, desirability, retiree taxes and job-market ratings.

Should Fort Myers not be your thing, and you’re still looking for an affordable spot to retire near the beach, you’re in luck: MarketWatch recently created its own list of the best beach towns where you can retire comfortably on about $40,000 a year. These include Pensacola, Fla.; Bay St. Louis, Miss.; and Corpus Christi, Texas.

The brightest breaks in the world

The brightest breaks in the world

These vibrant destinations are guaranteed to brighten up your day and bring a smile to your face.

And one thing is for sure, they need no Instagram filter. 

From the vividly painted townhouses of Copenhagen to the rainbow-drenched streets of Venice, scroll down for our pick of the world’s brightest breaks… 

Burano Island, Venice, Italy

Vibrant palette: Brightly coloured houses in Burano, in Italy’s Venetian Lagoon. Government regulations ensure the colours are maintained to guarantee the spectacular Insta-worthy effect

Colour story: Helping sailors find their way home.

Imagine the scene. You’re a sailor heading back to port when the mist descends and you’re lost. Then, through the thick, grey fog some flashes of vivid colour appear – they’re the brightly painted buildings of your home village, guiding you back to safety. 

This is the popular tale of how the houses of Burano, in Italy’s Venetian Lagoon, got their breathtaking colours. Today, government regulations ensure the colours are maintained to guarantee the spectacular Insta-worthy effect. 

Snap them as you explore the streets at the northern end of the lagoon, where there’s also great seafood, locally made butter biscuits and lace, and the Church of San Martino – featuring a leaning bell tower almost as alarming as Pisa’s – to admire.

Travel details: Fly to Venice from most UK airports with BA, easyJet, Ryanair or Jet2 then take a 45-minute journey on the number 12 vaporetto via Murano. Stay at Casa Burano. It’s a ‘hotel diffuso’, which means rooms are spread across several buildings, in this case 13 rooms in five colourful houses. B&B starts at £120 a night per room (  

Bo-Kaap, Cape Town, South Africa

The colourful houses in the Bo-Kaap area of Cape Town. Most of the houses were built in the 1760s as ‘huurhuisjes’ or rental houses leased for slaves

Colour story: Colourful ‘freedom’ houses

This neighbourhood – formally called the Malay Quarter – is known for its vibrant houses sitting side by side like blocks of colour in a paint box. Most of the houses were built in the 1760s as ‘huurhuisjes’ or rental houses leased for slaves and were painted plain white. 

The story goes that, when freedom came, the former slaves decorated them in bright colours to symbolise the joy of liberty. Muslim residents added even more colour, painting their houses to celebrate the annual festival of Eid one year and keeping them that way ever since. 

Today the area is gentrifying fast and several walking tours take you round the cobbled streets of what is the most colourful part of the Rainbow Nation.

Travel details: Premier Holidays has a six-night Cape, Wine and Whales self-drive tour to South Africa (from £549pp with car hire) including a two-night stay at Protea Hotel in Cape Town, which is a 20-minute walk or ten-minute drive from Bo-Kaap (

Chefchaouen, Morocco

The little town of Chefchaouen, above, is known for its colour-washed buildings that mirror a cloudless Moroccan sky

Colour story: Blue buildings for heaven – and peace

Tucked away at the foot of the Rif Mountains is a stunning vision of blue. The little town of Chefchaouen is known for its colour-washed buildings that mirror a cloudless Moroccan sky. 

It is said the colour was introduced in 1930 by Jewish refugees as a symbol of sky and heaven while others say it goes back to the 15th Century when Jews lived alongside local Moroccans and Moriscos (Muslims who converted to Christianity) and painted the buildings as a nod to celestial powers and to represent peace and safety in their pluralistic hometown. Visit the Kasbah Fortress Museum or hike to a hilltop Spanish mosque to get a very blue, bird’s-eye view.

Travel details: The nearest airport is Tangier, a two-hour drive away. Air Arabia Maroc has direct flights from London from about £150 though Ryanair and others have cheaper deals involving stops in Spain. Stay at the Casa Perleta hotel, a colourful, traditionally built house in the old walled city. Rooms from £38 a night. (

Gafanha da Encarnação, Portugal

Praia da Costa Nova in the town of Gafanha da Encarnação has rows of houses known as palheiros, characterised by wood or concrete façades and decorated in bright stripes alternating with white

Colour story: Storage houses for fishermen

Down the coast from Porto (itself a colourful place) is the diminutive Praia da Costa Nova in the town of Gafanha da Encarnação. Along the white sandy beach are rows of houses known as palheiros, characterised by wood or concrete façades and decorated in bright stripes alternating with white. 

Back in the 19th Century, these buildings were ‘haystacks’ – basic elevated structures with no internal walls – used by fishermen to store their materials. 

These days they’ve been re-imagined and partly rebuilt as homes and holiday cottages with internal decoration that often matches their exterior – splashes of red, blue and yellow against cool white. While you’re there, think about a picnic on the edge of the Aveiro Lagoon, where flowers, fishermen and bird lovers abound.

Travel details: Stay in a typical Costa Nova ‘haystack’ through Airbnb from about £45 a night for a two-bedroom flat. BA, TAP Air Portugal, easyJet and Ryanair all fly to Porto, from £45pp return.

St Petersburg, Florida, USA

Pretty in pink: The very grand Don CeSar Hotel in St Petersburg is also known as the ‘pink palace’

Pictured above is a vibrant mural in Florida 

Colour story: Mural art

Locals call it St Pete and there’s colour around almost every corner in this Gulf Coast city. More than 70 urban murals of all sizes, shapes and styles have appeared in the past decade, from small abstract designs on roadside power boxes to large-scale designs on buildings. 

The most colourful examples include whimsical figures by Jennifer Kosharek in collaboration with renowned mural artist Thirst, and a 60ft abstract multi-coloured mural by Erik Jones. Join a guided tour by Florida Craft Art to have the stories explained (£10 Award-winning beaches and the world-renowned Salvador Dali Museum are other attractions of the increasingly vibrant St Pete.

Travel details: St Petersburg is a half-hour drive from Tampa. Fly there with BA or Norwegian from about £275pp return. For a bit more colour, stay at St Pete’s ‘Pink Palace’, the very grand Don CeSar Hotel, from £203 per room a night (

St John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

Colour story: Regeneration project

One of the oldest cities in Canada, Saint John has become known for its charming, brightly coloured houses. In downtown Saint John City you’ll find what locals call ‘Jellybean Row’. 

It’s where properties built as temporary accommodation after the Great Fire of 1892 have endured. They are now painted everything from banana yellow and jade green through to pumpkin orange. St John is one of the oldest cities in Canada and the idea of painting the houses began in the 1970s in a bid to inject new life into the declining downtown area. 

It worked – so as you snap the colours you won’t be short of equally vibrant, independently owned places to eat or drink.

Travel details: Stay at the Murray Premises Hotel on the St. John’s waterfront (prices from around £106 for two adults or at the Ryan Mansion, in the heart of old downtown St. John’s (prices from around £92 for two adults

Nyhavn, Copenhagen, Denmark

Good hues: The vividly painted 17th and early 18th Century townhouses of Nyhavn, Copenhagen, Denmark

Colour story: Inspiration for fairy tales

Years ago, Nyhavn was a busy port, with ships visiting from all over the world and filling the area with sailors, pubs and vice. Now, the stunning 17th and early 18th Century townhouses, painted in colours as diverse as pea green, sunflower yellow and burgundy, have been renovated and the area is filled with music, food and a wonderful atmosphere.

These colourful properties have long been favourites with creatives, most famously Danish fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen who wrote The Tinderbox, Little Claus And Big Claus and The Princess And The Pea while living at No 20. Nyhavn has also appeared in several films including Ingmar Bergman’s A Lesson In Love and The Danish Girl with Eddie Redmayne.

Travel details: Stay at the waterfront 71 Nyhavn Hotel from £280 a room a night. BA, Norwegian, easyJet and Ryanair all fly to Copenhagen from London airports from £40pp return.

Santa Catarina Palopo, Guatemala

No filter: Buildings decorated in the paint project at Santa Catarina Palopo, Guatemala

Colour story: The vibrancy of volcanoes.

Head to the shores of Lake Atitlán in Guatemala to find the freshly painted town of Santa Catarina Palopó. Its 5,000 Mayan residents used to make their living from farming and fishing but have turned to tourism since their arable land started being gobbled up by urban sprawl. 

And what do tourists like? The Santa Catarina Palopó paint project, which began in 2016 and encourages residents to paint their houses with the traditional motifs you see on Guatemalan woven blouses. That means lots of pictures of birds and vibrant volcanoes in five key colour combinations. Three years later and cafes, artisan shops and other small businesses are opening to make visits even more fun.

Travel details: Scott Dunn ( offers a 12-night luxury holiday to Guatemala from £4,100pp, which includes two nights at Casa Palopo on Lake Atitlán where rooms have been designed by Diego Olivero, the designer behind the paint project. BA flights and private transfers included.

  • Martha Roberts’s book Shelfie: Clutter Clearing Ideas For Stylish Shelf Art, is published by Mitchell Beazley at £12.99. Her website is