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  • Courtney Robinson
  • "What are the most surprisingly ugly cities around the world?"

Courtney Robinson

Los Angeles, California

What are the most surprisingly ugly cities around the world?

I recently took a trip to Honolulu for work and was shocked by how ugly I thought it was. I always assumed it would be stunning but wow, was I wrong! I really disliked the architecture, thought there was no real cohesive look to the city overall, and didn't find it terribly clean, either. So I'm curious--what are the most surprisingly ugly cities you've ever visited around the world and what about the way they looked put them in that category for you?

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12 Answers

  • Will Taylor

    top answer by

    I don't normally like to beat up on any particular travel destination, but nonetheless feel that travelers should be forewarned about Pape'ete on the island of Tahiti. Many promotional photos I have seen for this city - and for Tahiti in general for that matter - are not accurate depictions. Quite often what is represented in such images are the surrounding islands of French Polynesia, which are genuinely more beautiful. Pape'ete is an expensive and dirty place not worthy of a traveler's time or money. The best solution for those passing through this region is to not leave the airport, and rather to connect immediately to a more breathtaking location such as Moorea, Manihi, or Bora Bora. I hope that helps!

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    • Courtney R.

      Courtney R.

      That's very interesting, Will--I think that's why Honolulu was so disappointing--maybe I've just seen too many beautiful pictures of it! · (0 likelikes)

    • Couldn't agree more, Will. Wanted to visit Easter Island and head on to New Zealand and only way it could be done was with a three-day stopover in Tahiti. That sounded like a hardship I could bear, but was hugely disappointed with Pape'ete. Ugly, dirty and one huge rip-off. Thankfully visited Moorea which was a lot nicer, but couldn't wait to get on the flight out of there. · (0 likelikes)

    • Jeff B.

      Jeff B.

      Yes I practically lived in Pape'ete in 2001 and was really disapointed with how trashed the city is... I don't know how you can live in such a beautiful place and not care that it is as dirty as it was... The other islands are nicer but not any less expensive.... · (0 likelikes)

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  • claus andersen

    answered by

    Dublin Athens and Frankfurt are all major tourist cities that are ugly as hell.

    Don't get me wrong, I really think Ireland, Greece and Frankfurt are lovely places with a lot to offer, but for it's out in the small villages that these 3 countries show their true charm and beauty.

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    • Ross S.

      Ross S.

      I think I agree with that rule 95% time! The little towns that are the least traveled are the best, until we blog about them lol! · (0 likelikes)

    • Courtney R.

      Courtney R.

      Interesting, Claus--I've always wanted to see Dublin--a shame to hear it's ugly! · (0 likelikes)

    • Christie B.

      Christie B.

      I totally agree with that - although I haven't been to Dublin or Athens in a very long time - but I go to Frankfurt regularly. Its saving grace is the Xmas market, but other than that, head out into the small towns in the countryside. Drive a few miles out of town and you are in another world - the beautiful quaint towns of Germany. · (0 likelikes)

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  • Ross Sparks

    answered by

    Barcelona I know I'm gunna get heat for this but besides the hand full of gaudi buildings and some historic ones I was shocked at all the 80s apartment buildings and blandness of the city it's self. Maybe it was that I was traveling from Madrid and was very impressed with it, and just had my hopes up but it was just that.... Bland

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    • Ashley and Ryan R.

      Ashley and Ryan R.

      Although I really enjoyed Barcelona I totally get what you mean, it was very "Americanized" in many ways. · (0 likelikes)

    • Courtney R.

      Courtney R.

      Actually, I've heard that about Barcelona! · (0 likelikes)

    • Christie B.

      Christie B.

      Good to know - had not imagined that! Haven't been to Barcelona since childhood and always thought about returning - but not if it is the way you describe :) Besides, I prefer towns... · (0 likelikes)

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  • Ashley and Ryan R

    answered by

    Too bad about Honolulu, we had such a good time there.

    For me, Italy as a whole was a major disappointment, with the exception of Florence being a wonderfully charming place. It's amazing how Italians used to be who we considered the greats; Italian architecture was the inspiration for much of the modern world. I assume those from yesteryear would be quite appalled at how the country has fared in recent history. Milan, Napoliand Olbiawere especially disappointing.

    Milan wasn't too bad in some of the newer areas and the touristy areas but we happened to stay near the main train station and it was quite sketchy and filthy. There also isn't a ton to do. For somewhere you always hear about being the "fashion capital" it was definitely not what we expected.

    Naples was terrible for us. Naples is very filthy and people all seem to be miserable. Crossing the street is like taking a chance with your life every time. The city in many ways just looks and feels like it is falling apart, given it's strong ties to the mafia, it isn't overly surprising. It almost feels like the rule of law has been lost here. Naples is one of the only cities we've ever felt as uncomfortable as we did, it's quite unfortunate that it is the gateway to Pompeii.

    HonoluluA street in Naples

    Olbia was not necessarily sketchy or that filthy, just decrepit. When we were in Olbia and area it actually felt like we were in Mexico or somewhere similar -- it felt like a third world country. Buildings looked like they were all falling apart and infrastructure was generally quite basic.

    OlbiaA street in Olbia




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    • Courtney R.

      Courtney R.

      You know, I've heard that about Naples before--such a shame, isn't it?!? · (1 likelikes)

    • Christie B.

      Christie B.

      I have to agree with you about Olbia. I found driving south out of town was pretty - as one looks toward the ocean - but the city of Olbia - nothing to write home about. Naples traffic is totally wild and an experience. I had to go to the embassy to get a temporary passport after my worldly goods were stolen on a trip to Italy, and that area near the embassy is nice - I took great pictures of the harbor - and a number of years ago an Italian friends showed me a beautiful section of Naples high up on a hill. But I am not sure I would go there for a restful vacation. However, driving there is more fun (because it is insane) than an amusement park. · (1 likelikes)

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    2. Florence (city)
    3. Milan (city)
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  • Kristi Dabertin

    answered first by

    I was disappointed in Milan, it must be the ugliest city in Italy, or at least the ugliest major city. I would never voluntarily go back. Beijing was ugly too, it has it's moments, the Forbidden City for example, but most of it is concrete, covered in smog and much more modern than I expected. Bucharest, unless you get out of the center, is also pretty darn ugly, endless concrete high rises, lots of dirt and grime. Parts of it outside the center are pretty but I always tell people thinking about visiting Romania is to spend a day, two at most, in the capital and then head out to the pretty parts of the country.

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    • Courtney R.

      Courtney R.

      Interesting--I've heard that before about Milan! · (0 likelikes)

    • Ross S.

      Ross S.

      I would have said Milan! Good job · (0 likelikes)

    • Ashley and Ryan R.

      Ashley and Ryan R.

      Naples is up there with Milan. · (0 likelikes)

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  • Peter Dorfman

    answered by

    Gatlinburg, Tennessee -- it's nicely situated in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but overrun with lowbrow, honky tonk tourist awfulness.

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  • Laura Weber

    answered by

    I was surprised with some of the answers specially regarding Athens or Milan because I thought they were going to be ugly but I loved them. But I suposse there are as many opinions as people in this wotld.

    That said I find that the cities or villages that exists only because there is a major atraction nearby are always ugly like Palenque near the Maya's ruins, Pamukkale near the marble pools or Aguas Calientes near Machupichu. They are just awful.

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    • Brad W.

      Brad W.

      Yes so true. I would also put the Canadian town of Niagra Falls and Agra into this category of ugly cities that exist next to beautiful attractions! · (0 likelikes)

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  • Brad Wong

    answered by

    Besides the beach area, I found Seminyak to be surprisingly ugly. On the main roads there's lots of traffic, it's noisy and quite hard to walk around given how tiny the sidewalks / footpaths are. It's quite built up with few rice fields - mainly shops, restaurants and cafes.

    This was quite strange for me because every photo of Bali I'd seen before I got there had some gorgeous beach or rice field with hardly anyone in it. It gave the impression that Bali was some tiny deserted island. Of course, the reality is that there's 4 million people that live on the island and they don't often show the ugly traffic that creates on the promo posters :)

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    • Courtney R.

      Courtney R.

      That's what I think it so interesting about this--how a place can have such an amazing reputation as a beautiful spot and yet be so ugly! · (0 likelikes)

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  • Lalitha Ekanayake

    answered by

    I found San Jose Costa Rica to be quite ugly. Felt like one big jail.



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    • Courtney R.

      Courtney R.

      Wow, that is surprising! · (0 likelikes)

    • Ashley and Ryan R.

      Ashley and Ryan R.

      Yeah San Jose isn't much to look at, or somewhere you really need to spend anytime. Costa Rica isn't really the place to spend time hanging out in the city anyway. · (0 likelikes)

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  • Jenna Davis

    answered by

    New Delhi .. it absolutely killed me. I found myself depressed, hot and sweaty every single day I was there.

    - Jenna [www.giveforgranted.com]

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  • Renzo Mejia

    answered by

    Caracas, Guatemala City, Tegucigalpa, Lagos, and Nairobi are all not only ugly but also very dangerous. By all means avoid them. With the sole exception of Nairobi, their inhabitants are not particularly friendly or welcoming. The first three are gateways to sites of natural or archeological beauty (ie Angel Falls, Tikal, Copan) and the latter to magnificent natural parks (Maasai Mara National Reserve); but try to skip them and use them only as transit facilities.

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    • Peter D.

      Peter D.

      It's been decades since I was there, but I can't imagine things have improved much in Lagos. It's the worst city I've ever seen, possibly the most chaotic and awful city on the planet. · (0 likelikes)

    • Peter D.

      Peter D.

      Incidentally, your map references Lagos in Portugal; I'm talking about Lagos, Nigeria. · (0 likelikes)

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  • Lynn Farrell

    answered by

    New York City is rather ugly. Lots to do there, but not attractive at all. Admittedly, I didn't see much of Buenos Aires, but what I did see wasn't anything to write home about.

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    • Courtney R.

      Courtney R.

      I hate to say this because I grew up in NYC but I agree--parts of it are pretty ugly! · (0 likelikes)

    • Christie B.

      Christie B.

      SO UGLY!!!! · (0 likelikes)

    • Michael K.

      Michael K.

      Wow two of my favourites cities dissed, can't really agree, New Yorks skyline is one of the wonders of the world and much of BA is truly beautiful, I live in London IMHO the best city in the world but for me Paris is the most beautiful! · (0 likelikes)

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