The worldwide fast food chain McDonald’s and the word “posh” invoke essentially opposite images when thought of, do they not? Whether due to the cheap and greasy (though arguably satisfying) food or the fact that it leaves a bad taste in the mouths of so many (despite tasting oh so good!), the fact is that McDonald’s somehow remains at the bottom of the fast food chain in the minds of many.
But around the world, other countries have begun to construct very fancy versions of the regular old McDonald’s, and now the U.S. has followed suit. Gone are the days of sticky plastic booths and nasty bathrooms (ok, well not really, but at least those days are gone for the places on this list!).
Each of these 15 locations, from America to Guatemala to Georgia to Japan, have been called by one media outlet or another the “Most Beautiful” or “Nicest” McDonald’s in the country, or even in the world. Personal preference and which ones people have actually been privy to aside, they each have their own stunning qualities that will make you do a double take when you realize that yes, you are looking at a McDonald’s.
This is not an article about just the exterior, or just the interior, but it is an article about luxury. When both outside and inside are combined to create a luxurious and unique dining experience for McDonald’s diners, the following is what you get: elegance, opulence, and grand – all words that are in no way synonymous with McDonald’s. You’ll see what I mean.
Read on to learn more about which McDonald’s around the globe should be at the top of your list to visit someday, should you be in the area. And you very well may be – there are nearly 137,000 of them in 119 countries, after all.
15. Rotterdam, Netherlands
It has been likened to an Apple Store, for it’s clean-cut, sleek, and has a modern look. Located in the major port city of Rotterdam in South Holland, this McDonald’s was once named the “ugliest building in Rotterdam”, and city officials considered tearing it down. But then Dutch designers stepped in and instead of trashing the building, they made it better. The new restaurant features floor to ceiling glass, a perforated golden facade, lots of lounging space including couches, and a grand spiral staircase. Not really the type of interior one imagines when thinking of a McDonald’s, huh? But nevertheless, there it sits on Coolsingel, a popular shopping street, and it has been called the “Most Glamorous McDonald’s in the World.” On the outside of the building, one of the walls is a facade of pixelated imagery, and even the surrounding environment of the building was altered to make the 24/7 restaurant more appealing, such as relocating power boxes and redirecting traffic.
14. Budapest Western Railway Station, Hungary
Those hankering for a Big Mac in Hungary have the option of dining in yet another McDonald’s restaurant deemed the fanciest one in the world. It is inside the city’s Western Railway Station, meaning a ton of people- anyone passing through, at all- have access to this experience. Here, customers dine under an ornate, colonial ceiling of historic grandeur. The train station itself was built in 1877 by the Eiffel Company- yes, the same company that built one of the world’s most recognizable and iconic structures, the Eiffel Tower. Hungary’s first McDonald’s opened 111 years later, only shortly before the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe, as the golden arches were seen as a symbol of America’s capitalism and foreign policy. But nowadays, even with the internet to boast every shocking and awesome thing ever, people remain surprised by this lavish McDonald’s they stumble across. One expat decided to (against her instinct, as she called herself a “foodie”), eat some good ol’ Mickie D’s. She said that despite it being, well, McDonald’s, she still felt as if she were dining at a swanky 5-star establishment, anyway. It is easy to see why.
13. Hyde Park, New York, USA
This restaurant is actually a farmhouse that was built all the way back in 1775- adding to the list of historic (and thus inappropriate, depending on your perspective) places this franchise is inserting itself around the globe. Somehow the thought of greasy french fries and little kids with ketchup smeared all over their toothless mouths does not seem worthy of such a site. This one is called the Denton House, and was once a private home after World War I. It later transitioned into a funeral home, and then a series of restaurants. Now it boasts the title of the country’s (if not the world’s) most notorious fast-food chain. And again, by yet another source (a New York travel guide, scoutingny.com), calls this location the “most beautiful”.
It is true that this centuries-old Georgian-style white mansion is not your typical McDonald’s, and it is quite aesthetically appealing (especially for what it is), the most appealing aspect of which is the glassed-in veranda and wraparound porch coveted by so many house hunters (or so I’ve learned on House Hunters). Inside it is an open-air mansion, with a grand staircase leading to the main eating areas, and what one writer describes as having “shuddered windows, brick chimneys and eaves dripping with gingerbread ornamentation.” He isn’t wrong.
12. Batumi, Georgia
And no, not the state. I am talking about the former Soviet country by the same name as one of our southern states, a country at the intersection between Europe and Asia where there are Black Sea beaches and Caucasus Mountain villages. And, a country whose resort city of Batumi holds bragging rights to one of the planet’s coolest McDonald’s (just for the record, Georgia’s capital city Tbilisi also has a pretty cool one). It was designed by the Harvard-educated Giorgi Khmaladze, and its exterior is covered by 460 glass panels, surrounded by a reflecting pool. Inside, diners can enjoy their American-style meal whilst looking out upon said reflecting pool, or on an open-air patio which features quite a bit of vegetation. Totally invisible to customers, the cantilever protects a busy gas station (random, yes, but cool).
The designer himself says, “Part of the dining space offers views towards outside water features, while the rest of it seamlessly transitions into open air patio on the upper level. The patio, enclosed from all sides to protect the space from outside noise, provides calm open air seating. The vegetation layer, which covers the cantilevered giant canopy of the fuel station, adds natural environment and acts as a ‘ecological shield’ for the terrace.” Not too shabby.
11. Antigua, Guatemala
At this McDonald’s in Guatemala, one can sit in the garden courtyard, listen to the calming water from the fountain, and take in the view of the stunning Aguo Volcano, turning any mundane hamburger into much more of a pleasant (and unique) experience. One reviewer on Trip Advisor says the crew work very hard to give fast service, and that overall the whole restaurant was one of the cleanest he had ever seen. He also was impressed with the “Latin twists” given to the standard American menu that were, apparently, quite enjoyable. Other reviewers raved about the free wi-fi, Guatemalan coffee, homemade cheesecake, and the table service. One even went as far as to say it was worth a stop even if you only go into the impeccably clean washrooms! Another claimed it was like walking into another dimension (yes, we are still talking about your run-of-the-mill, everyday McDonald’s, here) and that if this particular McDonald’s was called by any other name, it would be in all of Antigua’s guidebooks.
10. Porto, Portugal
It is said that even if you are not into the food, McDonald’s is famous for (i.e., greasy American grub), this historical McDonald’s in Portugal’s northwest coastal town of Porto is worth a visit, anyway. In existence since 1995, the building it occupies dates back to the 1930’s. Called the “McDonald’s Imperial”, it now features art deco stained glass and even chandeliers! The mirrors add to the already-spacious feeling of the restaurant’s interior. And its charm is apparent from the street, as well. While some locals have called it a “shame” that the beautiful building was turned into a McDonald’s of all things, they also seem to appreciate that its outer facade has been maintained and that it keeps with the ambiance of the city center on a cobblestone street typical of picturesque Europe. The designers specifically set out to create the McDonald’s in a way that preserved its iconic features. While restoring the building in preparation for the restaurant, they also hoped to restore the lively spirit of a social gathering spot the area had once possessed, in this city known for its stately bridges, Port wine production, and medieval districts.
9. Asheville, North Carolina, USA
Here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. where McDonald’s actually originated, is one stunning example of a grand McDonald’s, if only for the player grand, itself. Yes, I am talking about a piano. Inside of a McDonald’s. For the record this is not the only one; I have read accounts of McDonald’s that even have a regular live player! But here in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina lies this McDonald’s in Asheville’s Biltmore Square. It is appropriate, I suppose, as Asheville is a city known for its vibrant art scene and historic architecture. This McDonald’s boasts a gleaming black player piano in the corner so that guests can enjoy light classical music while they eat. I’d say that is much preferred to the shrieks of grubby children climbing on grimy play structures, for sure. Cathedral ceilings, featured on the Travel Channel, fits in with the area’s Vanderbilt theme, lamppost-style lighting… sounds good to me!
8. Rome, Italy
About 150 steps to the right of the Spanish Steps is a McDonald’s. As you can imagine, being in such close proximity to one of Rome’s most famous landmarks and in a location with so much foot traffic, the restaurant does pretty well. And like so many who walk through its doors, I too was taken aback by how nice it was. Never before had I seen such an elegant McDonald’s in all of my 16 years (yes, this was quite awhile ago!). Like all the others reviewing all the other locations on this list, I found myself in a sort of pleasant state of shock.
The first McDonald’s in Italy, it opened in 1986 as thousands of Romans protested outside in the piazza. But now 30 years later, the restaurant has a capacity of more than 800 diners, along with a hallway of shiny marble walls and stairs. There are frescoes and mosaics on the walls, so it feels more like you are walking into a palace than a fast food joint. For me, the best part was the fountains. Once you get into the actual restaurant down the hall and up the stairs, it is modern and comfortable with chic lighting and trendy bright booths. It is no wonder the place did not succumb to those pesky protesting Romans!
7. Hong Kong
Just last January, the world opened its first McDonald’s Next restaurant in Hong Kong. What makes it different than a regular old Mickey-D’s, you ask? Well, there is the 19-choice salad bar (including quinoa- ooh!) and create-your-own burgers. The sophisticated concept is to revolutionize the fast food experience with perks such as table service after 6 PM and self-order kiosks. Parts of this concept can be found in US, Australia, China and the UAE – but is yet to make its way to the UK. McDonald’s says this concept came about as people are becoming more health-conscious, so to have a salad bar and customizable burgers (via touch screen, no less!) is a definite pro for those looking to stay healthy but still love their McDonald’s. Customers are also able to see the whole food creation process with a transparent glass “theater style” kitchen. The whole look is silver, sleek, and stylish. It is the definition of modern, at least from this picture, and definitely from what the concept hopes to achieve.
6. Tokyo, Japan
In the famous Shibuya district of Tokyo, there is another smaller geographic area- we’ll call it a neighborhood- called Harajuku, where this 6th location on our list lies. Here, the McDonald’s just oozes calm. I would love to sit there alone or with friends, and enjoy the low lighting and chill ambiance. And I think that is what they were going for. As we know, Asia (and Japan especially) love to make our paltry American restaurants fancy-schmancy. Many are two stories, possibly more, and accented with cool lighting and an uber-modern decor aimed at forming a social spot for college-aged kids, families, and tourists alike to come and study or talk or simply sit and people-watch. And this posh McDonald’s (yes, I am saying these two words in the same sentence) is situated perfectly in Harajuku, which is a high-end neighborhood known for its shopping and resembles a fashionable European neighborhood. On the tree-lined street known as the “Champs Elysees” of Tokyo, those who sit on the McDonald’s upper level have a great view of the happening Shibuya district, which is the famous shopping and nightlife center of Tokyo, especially for young people, many of whom (likely) love to chill at this awesome McDonald’s that seems like no McDonald’s at all.
5. Frankfurt, Germany
Located in Flughafen Frankfurt (aka Frankfurt Airport) in the city that is Europe’s most important financial center, this McDonald’s seats over 500 patrons at a time, which is quite impressive given that it is inside of an airport so full of a million other things and people. This brand new, highly modern restaurant even includes an amazing children’s Playland, something that at least here in America, I have noticed are becoming less and less available. But especially during a stressful situation like travel, made only more stressful with children tagging along, having a nice place to relax and a place for them to burn off energy would be great. As a mom, I can tell you it would be much appreciated. But even for those traveling solo, the innovations at this McDonald’s locale are pretty great. They include digital menu boards in the restaurant and cafe, easy-order terminals, and table service, which is a first in Germany for any McDonald’s. And of course the swanky vibe of the place cannot be ignored, either. It is an all-around perfect choice for anyone passing through. Plus, according to the map, it seems to be centrally located inside the airport. Guten Appetit!
4. Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Back to America, we come to Sin City for our next super cool McDonald’s. Staying away from the clowns, this location has chosen to class up the franchise’s image with a chandelier, contemporary furniture, loft seating, and street-inspired murals. Looks pretty schnazzy, eh? I’m loving the use of red and minimization of yellow. It is true that those are Ronald’s signature colors, but this is done in a classy way, accentuating the red and not completely nixing the yellow, but toning it down. Yellow and white are used minimally on the boxy grey building on Blue Diamond Road, and it works. It is important to keep the theme, I think, but there is nothing wrong with changing it up. The environment is definitely inviting, one I would be keen to chill at for an afternoon, as would (most likely) all those damn sinners of Sin City, whether needing relief from a hangover, some late-night drunken munchies, or any old meal or snack. What happens in Vegas never really stays in Vegas; let’s be honest. Hopefully this revamped style of the plain old McDonald’s we all know and love (or not) definitely does not stay just in Vegas!
3. Los Angeles, California, USA
So not shockingly, our nation’s first feng-shui McDonald’s has opened its doors in none other than Los Angeles, home of the (often-times) ridiculous. But I do get it- they want to redesign hundreds of restaurants to encourage people to hang around and socialize, like they do at Starbucks, for example. According to eater.com, the “earth tones and exotic fauna will replace the former Hi-C red and electric yellow palate. There will also be a McCafe, an upscale coffee bar, and exterior water elements symbolizing life and relaxation. The dining area also features symmetrically balanced seating arrangements in earth tone shades, pendant lights to warm up the interior, an elevated PlayPlace and three plasma televisions.”
As nice an idea as all of this is, it just sounds strange to be doing to a McDonald’s, of all places, the same as fountains and chandeliers from other locations seem out of place in what began as a grungy fast food joint. I am all for bettering a business, don’t get me wrong. I just need to adjust to the idea of castle-like and feng-shui McDonald’s. Adjust, maybe laugh a little, and finally, accept it. It’s all about the stages, folks.
2. Kristiansand, Norway
It appears to be something more out of Greek mythology than present-day Scandinavia, but even so, that it is. And more than that, this pillared structure houses a very unique McDonald’s restaurant! Because, well, why not? As I said before, McDonald’s is basically taking over the planet, so now we have found the northernmost entry on this list, the city of Kristiansand at the southernmost tip of Norway, a tourist town, if you will. A perfect setting for a lovely McD’s. And it is quite lovely. Built into what was a former bank (yeah, I can see that too- that and the Greek pavilion), it is called a “monumental presence” in this city’s center. However, people who have eaten at this location said that the one downside is that you cannot actually enter the McDonald’s through the very cool front facade, but must go around to the side and enter from the pedestrian street. But all else aside, these diners seemed pretty impressed with this Nordic version of the western franchise. Plus, we all know that people would be more pissed not to be able to take selfies in the building’s front than not be able to enter through it, so we’re all good.
1. Plano, Texas, USA
We round out our list back home in the Lonestar State, where there are actually a surprising number of unusual McDonald’s. But this one, in my opinion, takes the cake (or, you know, the McFlurry). This restaurant has chandeliers, art on the walls, and antiques, making it look more like a 5-star restaurant than a lowly McDonald’s. Even the bathrooms have gold-plated fixtures! Mahogany benches and plenty of seating both in the dining area and for parents to watch their children in the Playland are added bonuses to the pretty interior. Locals say that there are a few McDonald’s nearby that look like this on the inside but that it does not necessarily equate to better food. Same food, just a nicer atmosphere. Well yes, it is- I mean, just look at the wallpaper, light fixtures, and ornate ceilings! Beautiful by any standards, and let’s be honest, McDonald’s is not the highest standard by which to compare something… or anything.