What are the ugliest cities in the world? Where in the world will you find cities that, for whatever reason, just have a completely unappealing feel to them? Read on…
The largest city in Venezuela, Caracas is a strange mix of ugliness, with shantytowns making up most of the suburbs and outskirts of the city, while the centre is completely urban and devoid of any personality. It’s not as if your eyes will bleed upon stepping off the plain, but everything just seems a little half-finished and poorly planned out. And sure, it could just be that the city started as one central quad and grew out from there, but that doesn’t account for the fact that the city looks as if you’d have to tuck your elbows in to fit through some of the gaps between buildings. It just looks like it was all thrown together at the last minute, and that doesn’t fit well into the beautiful country of Venezuela.
It’s not that Houston is an unpleasant city to visit- in fact, there’s plenty to do and see in the bustling metropolitan hub. But that doesn’t mean that the city is actually that good to look at. It’s another one of those cities that has grown unfettered from a central point, and it hasn’t ended in the quirky, free-spirited city Houston architects obviously hoped for- it’s wound up as an all-over-the-place mess. With an average age of thirty-three, old things aren’t that common in the city- and that includes a number of historical monuments that the city has had pulled down over the last few decades. Houston is lucky it has a good personality, because it’s looks really aren’t up to much.
Once voted the ugliest city in Europe, Charleroi doesn’t have a huge amount going for it beyond the misleadingly lovely name. One of the city’s most sinister features is the metro line, which sits unfinished years after construction began, surrounded by empty station that never opened. Bridges stop randomly, and the road system is a confusing mess. Thrown into financial crisis at the end of the twentieth century, this once-industrial town was left to deal with it’s own problems after Government money seemed to make little impact on it’s continued obscurity, handling high levels of unemployment, drug use, and prostitution. So it’s understandable that local authorities might not be focused on sorting out the city’s appearance, but that doesn’t excuse Charleroi from being a bit of a blot on Belgium’s otherwise very beautiful landscape.
Bulgaria has the dubious honour of being home to our next entry on the list, the central city of Sofia. While the local Bulgarians are as friendly as you could possibly hope for, the sheer state of the city begs some questions. Sidewalks are often cracked (if they’re there at all, with many being replaced by just strips of dirt), and covered in waste or bits of tarmac that you’ll likely be blind to thanks to the lack of appropriate streetlights. The city itself looks as if someone half-sketched it in before getting bored and wandering off to do something else, with half-finished buildings and falling-down structures all over the place. As the capital of Bulgaria, you’d think that more time and effort would have been spent on giving this city a bit of a clean-up, but you’d be wrong. Oh, and watch out for the roads-you’ll need good suspension to get over the potholes and cracks with both you and your car in one piece.
Ah, Tehran: a relatively young city in a country packed with fascinating history and staggeringly beautiful sights at every turn. Basically a giant block of concrete dumped into the middle of the country, the city is often covered by a later of unhealthy and unseemly smog. There’s some argument to be made for the utter chaos that seems to dominate the city giving it a certain edge that the other cities in Iran simply don’t have, but there’s an equally convincing point to be made about the fact that Tehran has no really compelling history to it, is lacking in any of the cultured finesse of it’s rival Iranian tourist destinations, and seems to have been built by architects with little to no imagination between them.
This Nevada town really doesn’t have too much going for it. The natural scenery- dramatic mountains- has been strip-mined into oblivion, ripping away any potential sweet spots the city might have had for photographers or climbers. For once, this isn’t the fault of poor city planning or ugly architecture- it’s just the natural scenery that surrounds the area that renders it so utterly unappealing to the eye. Sure, miles and miles of distant desert can be beautiful, but all Battle Mountain has to offer is scrubland as far as the eye can see. You won’t find it advertised as a must-see for the state- in fact, it seems like they try and keep it covered up so no-one will work out that it’s there. Simply and purely, Battle Mountain’s name is the best thing about it. Because it sounds as if it at least might have a story behind it.
You can’t help but feel sorry for residents of this famous Polish city, which was voted one of Europe’s ugliest in a TripAdvisor poll. It’s not that they haven’t made any effort to turn their city into a habitable, attractive place to visit or live, it’s just that years of war damage have rendered the city unfortunately looking a bit worse for wear. Add to that the Stalinist structures –including the giant Palace of Science and Culture, which dominates the city’s skyline and really begs viewers to wonder what the architects who designed it were actually thinking- and Warsaw doesn’t look all that appealing. And, despite the fascinating history of the city, it was also picked as the proud owner of one of the worst cuisines anywhere in Europe. Warsaw can’t win!
Now, this wasn’t anyone’s fault but the people who actually designed and built the city. Pyongyang is basically the perfect example of an urban nightmare. It’s hard to see precisely where the construction of this city went wrong or if, indeed, it went right at any point at all. It’s overcrowded with buildings that were thrown up for purpose, with little thought given to how the finished product would actually look. And, when you step back and absorb the city as a whole, it’s not too good- layers of pollution, mismatched buildings, and an all-over-the-place skyline. But the worst part about Pyongyang? The infamous Ryugyong Hotel, named by several publications as the ugliest building in the world. Nicknamed the “hotel of doom”, the giant concrete pyramid that stands at over one hundred stories high has been abandoned for decades, and is often airbrushed out of official pictures to make the skyline a little more palatable.
If you ever find yourself in Slovakia, it’s safe to say that you can give it’s capital city, Bratislava, a miss. It’s not that the city doesn’t have a rich and interesting history- it’s just that actually wandering round the city, you’re struck by how much of that history has been erased by remodelling and generally odd design choices. When the Old Town of Bratislava- considered one of the most mind-bogglingly beautiful places in the world when it was still around- was pulled down, it was replaced by a plethora of highways, scaffolding, and concrete that couldn’t come close to living up to what it had replaced. In many ways, it’s a shame that Bratislava has such a bad reputation as one of the least aesthetically pleasing cities in Europe, but that doesn’t mean you should pay it a pity visit.
The UK has it’s fair share of quite staggeringly ugly towns and cities, with a stellar history of churning out some of the least appealing buildings and layouts from anywhere in the world. But Birmingham really does take the proverbial cake in this sense: social and economic problems have pushed to the back of the queue making the skyline anything other than a towering mass of foul block flats, uninspired skyscrapers, and row upon row of precisely the same street laid out in a baffling fashion. With no real sense of counter-culture, the entire city has a dreary, dull feel to it, and no real atmosphere or character that can be described as distinctly “Birmingham”. For all their faults, other ugly cities in the UK at least have a bit of quirk going for them; Birmingham, on the other hand, absolutely does not.