Cities Journal

Top 21 Absolutely Ugliest Cities In The World

Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. Ugly, on the other hand, is pretty obvious to everyone. For example, consider the undeniable ugliness of certain cities. Some claim ugliness due to poor planning, others from grinding poverty.

Many have environmental issues while others have made sad or ridiculous choices. Here’s a look at 21 of the absolutely most ugly cities in the world, with extra consideration for how tourists can, should or should not take in the alleged sights.

1. Brisbane, Australia (or Ipswich?)

Among its coral reefs and breathtaking desert vistas, Australia has apparently been keeping an ugly little secret: the city of Brisbane. In the opinion of one critic, Brisbane’s rampant development and lack of planning has created a city of ugly office blocks and sterile expressways.

According to the Brisbane Courier Mail, Alain de Botton bashed Brisbane while on a book tour of Australia. After dismissing the city’s business district, de Botton pointed out the lack of anything approaching a scenic view along the city’s waterfront.

But that’s where the story gets interesting. It turns out that while writing about Brisbane, de Botton may have been looking at a picture of Ipswich, some 10,000 miles away. Quite a mix-up. Unfortunately for pride-stung Brisbane residents, de Botton did have a point.

While Brisbane lacks the depressing ugliness of some cities, it does have a sort of persistently unimpressive blandness. Visitors find it easy to get lost downtown, because one block does have a marked similarity to the next.

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  • GatorLegal1

    Whoever said that Portland, Oregon should be on this list is probably from NY, SF, or Seattle. In fact, I almost guarantee it. Every city has an industrial sector or two. Portland more than makes up for it with its parks, trees, waterfront, and liveliness.

  • t_lhrh

    Whoever compiled this list has obviously never been to China. Of all the countries I’ve visited, China takes the cake with the ugliest, most depressingly gray cities I have ever seen. All of them sport the same uniform bleakness, all of them thoroughly disrespect their historic architecture by razing it to the ground and replacing these charming structures with deracinated monstrosities. Go to Hohhot in Inner Mongolia or Shenzhen in southern China or Xian or Shanghai or Beijing, and it’s the same thing over and over and over again. They make Cairo–with its charming bazaars and quaint old buildings galore–positively paradisiacal by comparison (I’ve been there too).

  • T R

    Sorry, but you can’t call Brussels ugly. I’ve spent a lot of time there, and find that its meandering streets and Flemish architectural influence retain the charm that many other European cities had before globalization. I still love going back, climbing up to the Place du Grand Sablon, peeking into the old Hotel Metropole and admiring the stately Art Nouveau lines of Ixelles. Even the central station and the Gare Congres have their own sense of mid-century beauty. Whoever says that Brussels is boring simply cannot appreciate the finer, more subtle things in life.

  • ritchieee

    What? Brussels is ugly? Just take a look at these beautiful facades on the photo you used as an example!

  • Fish

    I’m from Seattle and I think that Portland is far and away one of the most beautiful cities. Especially by American standards. How many cities have 30 miles of trails and views of Volcanoes from the city limits??

  • Ghoztfrog

    Hi. just letting you know that ipswich is a major suburban region of brisbane as well. Probably what he was talking about.

    • thero

      Ipswich is it’s own city, definitely not a part of Brisbane.

  • Fyi

    London has one of the most incredible skylines in the world ?! That’s in England , Who cares for Ipswich it’s not a major city , it’s not even one of the top 100 in england

  • cherylsass123

    Las Cruces, New Mexico, or Las Crucifixion, as I often call it, has to be one of the poorest, most depressingly stupid, pathetic places I’ve ever lived. The city itself having its few nicer sections, namely East Mesa and Picacho Hills ( in Dona Ana Co.), and a few of the older downtown neighborhoods; plus Mesilla Village, or La Mesilla as it’s called in Spanish. An amusing mix of working class, mostly-religious stupidity, Las Cruces has to be somewhere between “North Mexico” and West Red Tex-necky! Definitely the ” Pickup truck capital of the world” as someone who knew the area, over the summer back east in Cape Cod, told me. Yippie yai yay yi yo……As Frank Zappa once said. By the way, having 13 damn Christian groups on the NMSU Main Campus alone, and just one of each: Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, Pagan, Secular; it really says kudos for Las Cruces, NM, US ( they told me that it was still in the United States, anyway?). The Tex-Mexican Cathlofascist-Christofascist Bible belt with Northern New Mexico Laws; and a ” Ciudad Juarez” style all its own.

    • Christian camlin

      You are clearly used to the US and have standards that were created by living in the American Suburbs and or Small towns. Las Cruces is no paradise but it is nowhere near the Worst city or community in the USA..I would probably nominate either the various Colonias in South Texas or Detroit but only the city proper not any of its posh suburbs.Still I would imagine that places like Dhaka in the Bangladesh make all of those seem like paradise.but I believe they used representative places rather than a strict listing here.KolKata was used to represent all the slums in the entire Indian Subcontinent.No reason to also list Dhaka, Mumbai and other cities there.But as bad as Lost and Crucified is it not even the worst in the USA let alone Mexico.

  • edkutt

    Sao Paulo in Brazil is one of the most horrendous, depressing, boring, apalling, disgusting, tastless, violent cities in the world. A good introduction to life in Hell, or maybe a Purgatory !! Many of the cities chosen here as ugly are very pleasant indeed when compared to the filth of Sao Paulo and the ugliness prevalent everywhere in this city.

  • Irene

    I was just in Brussels and if anything I was fascinated by all the architecture, it’s an art deco and art nouveau paradise, plus tons of parks… who wrote this? please fire him and hire me!! At least I write with substance!

    • marcov

      I always considered the “Grote Markt” (Grance Place, the central square) one of the nicest city views there is.

      • David

        ‘Belgium is basically broke’ made me laugh, this list is bullshit.

    • Jimmy Hoffa

      I spent a lot of time in Brussels. It is not an exciting place like Paris or Amsterdam, but it certainly isn’t ugly.

  • Phredd Smythe

    I notice New York never makes any of these lists, mainly because someone from there is making up the lists. Have you ever heard the Mamas and the Papas “12:30”? Concerning New York: “Everything there is dark and dirty.” “Ugly” in these lists really means “not quaint and picturesque” as far as I can tell. A guy from Los Angeles once told me, “It’s not a pretty city, but it has pretty things in it.” I suspect that describes most cities in the world.

    • Newshound41

      If you have to use a “Mamas and Papas” song to make your point, it indicates how long it’s been since you were in NYC. At 12:30, the party has just started. The subways are packed, as are the bars and restaurants. People are strolling the streets with out any fears.

    • Hugo Cardona

      I agree NYC is an ugly city and should be in these lists sometimes. As this is a matter of opinion, mine is just bucause the obvious obsession and the pure example of the human endless thirst for money and power. One of the ugliest things in life for me.

  • mariana

    Guatemala city definetely isn’t the prettiest country in any way but what you wrote about it is a million times worse than what it is in reality.
    yes, there are crimes like all over latin america and yes it’s poor but there are many many beautiful places.
    in fact, there is more beautiful than ugly.
    for stupid posts like this many people don’t come to guatemala.

    • Hugo Cardona

      Remember he’s talking about cities, not countries. As a Guatemalan I’ve witnessed and chosen to live in some of the most beautiful places on earth that exist in Guatemala (lake Atitlan as an example). Don’t let a false sense of patriotism get to you, Guatemala City is ugly as it can be! (many people call it Guatemala Shitty for a reason). Maybe you don’t live or haven’t lived or taken a look at that part, but every word the critic wrote is true. Try to read it cold minded. 😉

    • Hugo Cardona

      Remember he’s talking about cities, not countries. As a Guatemalan I’ve witnessed and chosen to live in some of the most beautiful places on earth that exist in Guatemala (lake Atitlan as an example). Don’t let a false sense of patriotism get to you, Guatemala City is ugly as it can be! (many people call it Guatemala Shitty for a reason). Maybe you don’t live or haven’t lived or taken a look at that part, but every word the critic wrote is true. Try to read it cold minded. 😉

  • Roy

    Washington DC is beautiful, what the fuck are you talking about? You obviously have a very weird criteria for “ugly”

    • Hugo Cardona

      Although the author’s argument is way more succesfull than your ad hominem.

      • Aquaria

        That’s not an ad hominem, stupid. Neither is calling you stupid an ad hominem

  • Sandra

    Yay! No Clleveland! (my hometown ;-))

  • Benedict

    Where’s Ciudad Juarez, Mexico?

  • No Canadian cities???

    • Philippe Couture

      Sudbury,On & Prince George,BC. I went to Pince George in 1999 the crime rate was high (dunno today ?) and the city was imo ugly. Sudbury the nickel city didn’t shine like a Canadian 5 cents 1976 (made of Nickel) when I went there in 2000.

      Maybe it changes since and there are surely uglier city in canada but these 2 cities are those who came in my mind first .

      • Robert

        Ottawa outside of Parliament Hill is pretty grim

  • Ella

    What the hell? A lot of these places are not that ugly. I was expecting wayy different than this. Little bit disapointed. :(

  • Philippe Couture

    I read some article on this site after reading the “TOP 21 REASONS TORONTO IS BETTER THAN MONTREAL” and I laugh a lot about the comments in the site. Everyttime, people are shock and surprise about what they say. They says fact that are actually totallly not true. They say: In montreal the crime rate is about 87 for 100000 but you just have to google to see its is in fact about 33 for 100000 people.1 They say lot of thing about Montreal that wasn’t true. So I start reading others article and found this site saying bullshit about other cities.

  • RoamDawG

    Whoever wrote this article should be fired and not permitted to be near word processing programs. When one says that there are hardly any beautiful major cities in the US, one has never walked through the West Village, Society Hill, Lincoln Park, or the innumerable other classically well preserved neighborhoods in the US. Also, Pripyat has not Stalinist architecture… it is Soviet, but not Stalinist.

  • George Austin Tay

    This article is completely nonsensical. Most of the cities listed are in no ways ugly… they’re all very charming, instead. The author clearly hasn’t traveled much, it seems more like he gathered random information about places from the web.

  • Anoushka

    I would add Athens, Greece to this list. By far one of the ugliest city’s in the world with so much concrete and no parks. The filth over there is crazy along with so much graffiti it’s actually insane. I was expecting a city similar to Istanbul but I was wrong. Athens was dirty, lacked greenery and all the buildings are dilapidated……not a pleasant city to visit. It will probably get worse with the economic crisis.

    • She Grabs the Curtain

      Athens is one of the most lively cities in the world. Look further than the concrete and the sex shops and you’ll love it.

  • Leonardo

    If they come to Venezuela the list could get al least 15 cities more that are horrible ugly

  • Rafa

    please add San Salvador, El Salvador, one of the worst cities and countries in America and the world

  • David Marshall

    The author of this article was obviously bored with most “bottom 10” lists and tried to be shocking. Detroit probably belongs here: obviously Portland (Mt. Hood! Columbia River! rose gardens!) and Houston do not, and who knows about that town in Nevada? (A lot of the state is actually quite beautiful, IMO, in a stark way.) American downtowns are not beautiful, but neighborhoods often are.

    I’d nominate Changsha, China, for inclusion in this list. It’s 3000 years old, but nothing old remains, practically. The Nationalists accidentally set it ablaze on fear on the Japanese. The city fathers are now replacing Maoist ugly (grey concrete block houses) with crony capitalist ugly (endless flat-topped cookie-cutter skyscrapers). But numerous Chinese cities commit that crime against beauty. Special mention: Kyoto, which is famous for its beautiful temples, is at heart a modernist concrete slab. Indeed, all central cities in Japan practice ugly like it’s an art form: only Japan’s old wooden houses are a saving grace.

  • Kraut

    Where is Paderborn in Germany ?

  • BadBoy17

    Please add saudi arabia, riyadh and everything!!!


    Ugliest city in the world….I see Washington in the list… but ugly as **** cities like San Salvador (worst city I ever seen) is not even there.

  • rjr

    Pripyat is in the list but i my opinion it should not. It is devoid of population due a huge tragedy. Actually this city is sort of fascinating to me. I am curious to take a guided tour there.

  • Irene

    I was just in Brussels. Plenty of Art nouveau and Art Deco architecture!!! Palaces, amazing churches, brick everywhere. It has some of the most interesting architecture I’ve seen in my life. Explain to me how it’s ugly?

  • Tracey Aquino

    Richmond, Virginia and Cranston, Rhode Island are missing from this list. Richmond’s really ugly; and Cranston is both ugly AND horribly depressing.


    This is so off that it is hard to know where to begin. This is not a list of the ugliest cities but rather a list of the most dysfunctional or depressing perhaps? But then Washington DC should not be on the list. China alone could fill the top ugliest cities in the world – Shijiazhuang, Shenyang, etc. etc. I could name any city there and it is uglier than Washington or Brussels. What about most of the cities in India or Lagos? Sao Paolo? What are they talking about here?


    Or is this some kind of desperate attempt to be politically correct? Frankly, no First World city is really that ugly compared to the cinderblock wastelands of the developing world.

  • She Grabs the Curtain

    What about Dubai and Lelystad?

  • J_Robit

    Why do I waste my time? Washington should not even be in the top 100 of such a list. Rude people? Has the writer actually BEEN to other cities, and off the beaten path?

  • Sandy Shoals

    haha. When I think ugly, I think Brussels. Holy stupid-list Batman. Have you ever been to Brussels?? I suppose if you are a self absorbed person who’s looking for cool places to shoot a selfie, Brussels probably isn’t your place. I am seriously confused as to what it takes for a city to make the “beautiful” list. Let me guess.. Vegas tops the list, right?

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