The Bad, the Worse and the Very Ugly: Europe’s Top 5 Cities to Avoid when Travelling

5. Marseille, France

To be fair, there are worse cities than this one. However, you don’t have to look too close to see the ugly side of Marseille. While the city, with its incredibly beautiful old buildings and harbour has been awarded the title of European Capital of Culture in 2013, it also has a darker side – one of alleyways heaping with rubbish bags and streets littered with trash. When Marseille’s elegant façade seems to crumble, what lies underneath are smashed glass, peeling stucco and the smell of rotting waste. Criminal activity is also exceptionally high, with many visitors complaining about not feeling safe. After all, it’s not necessarily the architecture alone that makes a city ugly.

4. Ózd, Hungary

Not much remains of the thriving industrial settlement that Ózd once was as the major iron and steel production centre of the area. After the end of the communist system, the city has struggled with extremely high unemployment rates and poverty due to the decline of heavy industries. While the run-down architecture of the city, with its dirty looking multi-storey buildings and rusty factory chimneys will make your eyes sore, those still are some of Ózd’s most noteworthy attractions, as there is absolutely nothing interesting going on. If you are looking for a place to experience ultimate boredom in a decaying atmosphere, Ózd is the place for you to visit. In fact, this place is so dull that it was impossible to find a photo of it – please send us one on the off chance you happen to go.

3. Charleroi, Belgium

Receiving an award for being the ugliest city of the world does not seem like a desirable title to hold. A traveller commented that his favourite part about Charleroi was its train station – since it meant that he was leaving. In fact, its industrial skyline with old decrepit blasting furnaces, stained concrete buildings and a general sense of regression that is marked by a glaring lack of prospects have earned it the nicknames of “Pays Noir” (the Black Country) and “Detroit of Europe”. However, since Charleroi won the recent poll deeming it the most undesirable of cities, it has attracted an increasing number of tourists and investors. There are now even tours and city safaris centering around the horrible shape the city is in, following the principle of ‘There is no such thing as bad publicity.’

2. Slough, UK

Merriam Webster gives several definitions for the word ‘slough’ that all seem to correspond to the general feeling of this city.

1: a place of deep mud or mire

(1): swamp
(2): an inlet on a river also: Backwater
(3): a creek in a marsh or tide flat

2: a state of moral degradation or spiritual dejection

The same air of deterioration is reflected in John Betjeman’s Slough. When the poet published his hate poem about Slough in 1937 it was becoming increasingly industrial – a state of things that doesn’t seem to have changed much since then. (Although the fact that he urges ‘friendly bombs to fall on Slough’ in order to ‘mess up the mess they call a town’ now seems perhaps a bit extreme). On a brighter note, Slough was voted best place to work in the UK for the second year in a row.

1. Ludwigshafen, Germany

What does it say about a city if the top five points of interest listed by Google suggest a trip to the neighbouring city? It is not for nothing that in 2018 Ludwigshafen was voted Germany’s ugliest city by the NDR (North German Broadcasting). The decision received great support among viewers, which was clearly visible in the comment section of the poll. Some commenters even wondered where the local chemical plant BASF ends and the city starts. The pedestrian area is virtually nonexistent, its remainders in the city centre are marked by vacant storefronts, broken glass windows and disposed waste, all of which clearly entice visitors to take a stroll and unwind. The scenery is consistently enveloped by a fine chemical cloud and the scent of sewage. The train station seems to continually be radiating the same unrenovated-and-uncleaned charm since its construction in 1847. The city accepted its award with humour and admitted on Facebook that it was not at all an easy win, given the fierce competition.