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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?

12 Answers

top answer by
Will from On The Road

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!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Pape'ete (attraction)
  2. Moorea (island)
  3. Manihi (city)
  4. Bora Bora (island)
8 thankscomments (3)

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.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Dublin (attraction)
  2. Athens (city)
  3. Frankfurt (city)
6 thankscomments (3)

answered by
Ross from Fort Collins

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

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Barcelona (city)
5 thankscomments (3)

answered by
Ashley from Calgary

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, Naplesand 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. 

A 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. 

A street in Olbia

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Honolulu (city)
  2. Florence (city)
  3. Milan (city)
  4. Naples (attraction)
  5. Olbia (city)
3 thankscomments (2)

answered first by
Dabs from Chicago

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.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Milan (city)
  2. Beijing (city)
  3. Bucharest (city)
3 thankscomments (3)

answered by
Peter from Bloomington (Indiana)

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

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Gatlinburg (city)
2 thanks

answered by
Laura from Buenos Aires

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. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Palenque (attraction)
  2. Pamukkale (city)
  3. Aguas Calientes (attraction)
2 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Lalitha from Cincinnati

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

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. San Jose (city)
  2. Costa Rica (attraction)
1 thankscomments (2)

answered by
Brad from Ubud

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 :)

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Seminyak (attraction)
  2. Bali (island)
1 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Jenna from Oakville, Ontario

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

- Jenna []

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. New Delhi (city)
1 thanks

answered by
Renzo from London

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.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Caracas (city)
  2. Guatemala City (city)
  3. Tegucigalpa (city)
  4. Lagos (attraction)
  5. Nairobi (city)
  6. Angel Falls (attraction)
  7. Tikal (attraction)
  8. Copan (attraction)
  9. Maasai Mara National Reserve (attraction)
1 thankscomments (2)

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.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. New York City (city)
  2. Buenos Aires (city)
1 thankscomments (3)

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