Jeremy Noble, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The 13 Most Unexpected McDonald's Locations Around The World

Jeremy Noble, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

We're used to seeing the typical McDonald’s buildings along Main Streets and highways—red roof, single story, golden arches. But a handful of locations worldwide eschew the ordinary and give the fast food chain's patrons a whole new dining experience.

1. UFO // Roswell, New Mexico

Roswell, N.M. is the alleged 1947 alien crash site. While the U.S. military confirmed it was merely a downed weather balloon, skeptics believe it was a crashed flying saucer from outer space. Thousands of people flock to Roswell every year to investigate the tale, so it’s only fitting that businesses and restaurants around the area fashion their establishments to accommodate alien-seeking tourists.

Located at 720 North Main Street in downtown Roswell, there's a UFO-shaped McDonald’s with eye-catching nighttime fluorescent lights and a kid-friendly astronaut Ronald McDonald in its PlayPlace. Even the interior of the McDonald’s resembles a spaceship that is out of this world.

2. Train Car // Barstow, California

There’s a McDonald’s that sits on Historic Route 66 in Barstow Station in California that features three railroad passenger train cars that were converted into a dining area for the fast food restaurant. The location also features a bright red water tower with the Golden Arches on its side.

3. All Glass Restaurant // Batumi, Republic of Georgia

Architect Giorgi Khmaladze designed a very futuristic-looking McDonald's made mostly from glass panels and surrounded by a reflecting pool in the Republic of Georgia's port city of Batumi. The interior has an open-air patio with a large stretch of vegetation, and the location also features a fueling station behind the fast-food restaurant that is not visible from the customer dining area or patio.

The Georgian architect wanted to create a McDonald’s that was a quiet safe haven from the busy and loud outside world. According to Khmaladze, who received a Masters in Architecture from Harvard, the hardest part about designing the building was making it creatively interesting while still within McDonald’s standards and guidelines.

"All its operations are dependent on the correct planning of all required spaces, which McDonald's has optimized in its standard projects. But in our case, we had to incorporate their standards in such a way that it would not impact our design in a negative way. And secondly, we set ourself a goal to disconnect—at least visually—the dining from the gas station, but to do it in an architecturally interesting way."

4. Happy Meal Box // Dallas, Texas

Located at Montfort Drive and LBJ Freeway, there’s a McDonald’s in Dallas with a giant Happy Meal Box-shaped PlayPlace. Unsurprisingly, this location sells more Happy Meals than any other McDonald’s outpost in the world. The rest of the building's exterior features large fiberglass statues of Ronald McDonald, fries, Coca-Cola, and a Big Mac, but the dining room's decoration belies the inexpensive food they serve. The interior has Austrian crystal chandeliers, incandescent lighting, Ralph Lauren wallpaper, mahogany booths, and granite floors. 

5. Inside of an Airplane // Taupo, New Zealand

Located In Taupo, New Zealand, this McDonald’s has a decommissioned Douglas DC-3 aircraft parked next to the building. The plane is not just for decoration though—it's also an area where customers can eat and relax in its 20-seat dine-in area. The engines of the DC-3 were taken out, but the iron propellers are still intact, along with its original cockpit.

"The site was previously part of a car dealership, the Aeroplane Car Company, and the owner bought a disused DC-3 plane, which sat alongside the building," McDonald’s restaurant owner Eileen Byrne told The Daily Mail. "And when McDonald's purchased the site in 1990, the aeroplane came with it. The plan was, and still is, to keep the appearance of the plane as original as possible."

6. McSki // Lindvallen, Sweden

McDonald’s built the first ski-thru fast food restaurant in Lindvallen, Sweden in 1996. "No need to take off your skis. You just ski up to the counter, order your food and ski off," a McDonald’s spokesman told Reuters. If you’re not in a hurry and want to get out of the cold, the restaurant can seat as many as 140 customers.

7. McFarm // Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada

Located at 50 MacDonald Street in Moose Jaw, Canada, there’s a McDonald’s restaurant that is shaped like a barn with a bright red silo and corresponding farmhouse decor inside. The drive thru is even wide enough for those with tractors to zip through for breakfast in the morning before they have to go to work on the farm.  

8. Art Deco // Melbourne, Australia

Originally, the Art Deco McDonald’s in Clifton Hill, Melbourne, Australia used to be the site of United Kingdom Hotel, which architect James Hastie Wardrop designed in 1937. The city dubbed the building an historic landmark in the late '80s, and the fast food chain kept the retro-chic bricks and curvy balconies, but redesigned some of its interior to fit McDonald’s corporate standards.  

9. 19th Century Town Hall // Bray, County Wicklow, Ireland

British politician and philanthropist Reginald Brabazon commissioned the tudor-style Bray Town Hall at the top of Main Street in Bray, Ireland in 1881. The Town Hall was meant to "do benefit for the town of Bray." While the upper level of the building still houses the chambers for the Bray Town Council, the lower level benefits the town’s hungry with a McDonald's restaurant, which opened in 1997.

10. Denton House // New Hyde Park, Long Island, New York

In 1985, McDonald's bought the property that housed the dilapidated Denton House, a Georgian-style mansion that dated back to 1795 when it used to be a farmhouse. The fast food chain wanted to tear down the mansion and build a new restaurant, but New Hyde Park designated the location as a historical landmark before McDonald’s brought in a wrecking crew. With a brand new renovation, McDonald’s converted Denton House into a two-floor restaurant. McDonald’s used an old photograph of the mansion from 1927 as a template for renovations before opening its doors in 1991.

"A copy of the photograph is in the lobby of the restaurant today," said McDonald’s franchisee Lawrence Anderer. "It turned out to be a win-win-win situation. A win for McDonald's because the business worked out very well, a win for the community because they were able to salvage a piece of their history, and a win for my wife and myself and our family because that’s how we have made our living for the last 20 years."

11. Sea Captain's House // Freeport, Maine

Much like Denton House in New Hyde Park, McDonald’s eyed an old sea captain’s house in Freeport, Maine for its location rather than the building itself. The chain planned to tear down the house, which dated back to the 1850s, and build a brand new restaurant. However, residents formed a group called the "Mac Attacks" to urge city officials to instate local building ordinances to prevent McDonald’s from demolishing the house. McDonald’s changed its design and renovated the sea captain’s house to accommodate residents. And, being that it is in Maine, this particular McDonald's offers lobster rolls (called McLobsters) on its menu.

12. The World's Classiest McDonald’s // Asheville, North Carolina

Located just outside of transportation titan George Washington Vanderbilt's Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina rests the self-proclaimed "World’s Classiest McDonald’s." Built in 2000, this McDonald’s used to be a standard-looking fast food restaurant until it was renovated to fit the local guidelines from the Biltmore Estate historic resources commission. The luxurious location features a baby grand piano, red oak tables, wrought iron railings, and a gold-leafed fireplace. Even the employees are required to dress with black vests and bow ties to add to the classy atmosphere.

"We were able to convince them (McDonald’s) they were really not going to be competing with other fast-food franchises but with Biltmore itself," said architect Robert Griffin. "And the more they looked like and felt like they were already on the grounds of the estate, the more they would be perceived as part of that whole period."

13. Mountain Side // Yangshuo, Guangxi Province, China

Kari, Flickr // CC BY-NC2.0

China is increasingly becoming more open to Western influences and pop culture, so it’s fitting that America’s largest fast food chain found its way to Yangshuo in the Guangxi Province of southern China. Sitting between the small city’s mountain range and mirror-like lakes sits a very picturesque McDonald’s surrounded by Chinese pagodas and greenery. The McDonald’s was built for Yangshuo’s residents and the city's growing rock climbing and backpacking tourists.

China's New Tianjin Binhai Library is Breathtaking—and Full of Fake Books

A massive new library in Tianjin, China, is gaining international fame among bibliophiles and design buffs alike. As Arch Daily reports, the five-story Tianjin Binhai Library has capacity for more than 1 million books, which visitors can read in a spiraling, modernist auditorium with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

Several years ago, municipal officials in Tianjin commissioned a team of Dutch and Japanese architects to design five new buildings, including the library, for a cultural center in the city’s Binhai district. A glass-covered public corridor connects these structures, but the Tianjin Binhai Library is still striking enough to stand out on its own.

The library’s main atrium could be compared to that of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum in New York City. But there's a catch: Its swirling bookshelves don’t actually hold thousands of books. Look closer, and you’ll notice that the shelves are printed with digital book images. About 200,000 real books are available in other rooms of the library, but the jaw-dropping main room is primarily intended for socialization and reading, according to Mashable.

The “shelves”—some of which can also serve as steps or seating—ascend upward, curving around a giant mirrored sphere. Together, these elements resemble a giant eye, prompting visitors to nickname the attraction “The Eye of Binhai,” reports Newsweek. In addition to its dramatic main auditorium, the 36,000-square-foot library also contains reading rooms, lounge areas, offices, and meeting spaces, and has two rooftop patios.

Following a three-year construction period, the Tianjin Binhai Library opened on October 1, 2017. Want to visit, but can’t afford a trip to China? Take a virtual tour by checking out the photos below.

A general view of the Tianjin Binhai Library

People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.

A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.

A woman taking pictures at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.

A man visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.

A woman looking at books at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.

A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.

People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.

[h/t Newsweek]

Pol Viladoms
One of Gaudí's Most Famous Homes Opens to the Public for the First Time
Pol Viladoms
Pol Viladoms

Visiting buildings designed by iconic Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí is on the to-do list of nearly every tourist passing through Barcelona, Spain, but there's always been one important design that visitors could only view from the outside. Constructed between 1883 and 1885, Casa Vicens was the first major work in Gaudí's influential career, but it has been under private ownership for its entire existence. Now, for the first time, visitors have the chance to see inside the colorful building. The house opened as a museum on November 16, as The Art Newspaper reports.

Gaudí helped spark the Catalan modernism movement with his opulent spaces and structures like Park Güell, Casa Batlló, and La Sagrada Familia. You can see plenty of his architecture around Barcelona, but the eccentric Casa Vicens is regarded as his first masterpiece, famous for its white-and-green tiles and cast-iron gate. Deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, Casa Vicens is a treasured part of the city's landscape, yet it has never been open to the public.

Then, in 2014 the private Spanish bank MoraBanc bought the property with the intention of opening it up to visitors. The public is finally welcome to take a look inside following a $5.3 million renovation. To restore the 15 rooms to their 19th-century glory, designers referred to historical archives and testimonies from the descendants of former residents, making sure the house looked as much like Gaudí's original work as possible. As you can see in the photos below, the restored interiors are just as vibrant as the walls outside, with geometric designs and nature motifs incorporated throughout.

In addition to the stunning architecture, museum guests will find furniture designed by Gaudí, audio-visual materials tracing the history of the house and its architect, oil paintings by the 19th-century Catalan artist Francesc Torrescassana i Sallarés, and a rotating exhibition. Casa Vicens is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. General admission costs about $19 (€16).

An empty room in the interior of Casa Vicens

Interior of house with a fountain and arched ceilings

One of the house's blue-and-white tiled bathrooms

[h/t The Art Newspaper]

All images courtesy of Pol Viladoms.


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