In just over 72 years, it has turned into a household name across the world with more than 36,000 locations across the globe in more than 100 countries and territories (via McDonald’s). As you might imagine, with so many branches, the number of burgers they’ve sold is gargantuan. The sign under the Golden Arches used to keep track of how many billions of burgers they’d served but the company stopped keeping track in the 1990s, with the number estimated at somewhere north of 300 billion.
Most McDonald’s locations are in areas that you would associate with fast-food restaurants — you can easily find McDonald’s in shopping malls, in airports, and on the busy streets of major cities all over the earth. But they can also be found in slightly more unusual locales from the middle of an inhospitable desert, to the inside of a decommissioned plane, to an old bank in Norway. Take a deep dive into some of the oddest McDonald’s locations in the world.
The McDonald’s inside a UFO-shaped building in New Mexico
In the arid deserts of New Mexico, whether you will find aliens or not is up for debate, but what’s certain is that you will find a McDonald’s in the shape of a flying saucer.
The history of presumed UFO sightings in and around Roswell, New Mexico goes back to 1947, when wreckage was found on private property just north of the city (via Smithsonian). When the owner of the property showed the debris to the sheriff, who then showed it to the army, The Roswell Army Air Field then announced they had captured a flying saucer.
In reality, the "rubber strips, tinfoil, and rather tough paper, and sticks," that were found can be attributed to a secret military program called Project Mogul which would launch high-altitude balloons to spy on the Soviet Union (via History). According to Army officials at the time, the wreckage actually came from one of these balloons, but the armed forces didn’t want to own up to it in the middle of the Cold War, and took the easy (yet rather crazy) way out by saying they’d discovered a UFO.
Ever since, the town has been associated with extraterrestrial actives, which has been mirrored in a local McDonald’s. The McDonald’s on the town’s main street has enough glass and steel that it looks like it could whirr right into another dimension at a moment’s notice.
The McDonald’s inside an old plane in New Zealand
Some airlines may well serve burgers on board as part of their in-flight dining, but they likely don’t hold a candle to the Big Mac you can enjoy at a McDonald’s in Taupo, New Zealand, where the restaurant’s seating area is located inside of a decommissioned plane.
While there isn’t any burger flipping going on in the cockpit, the plane is located on the grounds of what used to be a used car dealership. The dealership’s owner bought the plane for the ambiance, and when McDonald’s bought out the dealership, the old plane came along with it (via First We Feast).
The plane in question is a DC-3 model, which had its heyday in the 1930s-1940s (via Smithsonian), and since being converted into a dining room, is able to seat some 20 customers. The seating capacity is slightly less than it could have fit when it was airborne, probably because of the tables which take up significantly more space than tray tables. This particular model was built in 1943 and was flown by New Zealand’s South Pacific Airlines from 1961 until 1966, and it has been repainted to feature the restaurant’s name on the side of the plane.
The McDonald’s next to the Museum of Communism in Prague
In Prague, Czech Republic, one of Europe’s most visited cities, you’ll find the Museum of Communism. And just next to the museum, you’ll find a McDonald’s (via Daily Mail).
The museum is housed in a former nobleman’s mansion (via Atlas Obscura) and the exhibits showcase artifacts related to the political system which governed Czechoslovakia and much of Eastern Europe until 1989. The museum was actually started by an American who studied political science, and the collection includes a statues and busts of Russian dictators Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin, and a painting of the father of communism, Karl Marx.
There are, of course, plenty of propaganda paintings and posters, and much of the material in the museum was bought up at flea markets by the museum’s founder. There is some irony in there being a world-famous restaurant chain which is seen as one of the symbols of American capitalism next to a museum dedicated communism, but nothing works up the appetite like learning about a system of government that didn’t exactly value fine dining (via Atlas Obscura).
The fancy McDonald’s near the Spanish Steps in Rome
If you’re on vacation in Rome and you’ve just been to the Spanish Steps, one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions which date back three centuries, you’ll find yourself next to a McDonald’s location which is often referred to as the "fanciest McDonald’s in the world."
This location of the Golden Arches doesn’t date back quite as far as the Spanish Steps, only back to 1986, when it became the first McDonald’s to open its doors in Rome (via UPI). It was not received well, with Romans complaining about the "unbearable smell of fried food fouling the air" and the fact that the chain was contributing to the "degradation of Rome and the Americanization of Italian culture" (via The New York Times). However, protests waned and the location is well into its fourth decade of doing business.
If you’re trying to picture what it looks like, conjure up an image of a slightly more upscale Olive Garden. The tables are topped with marble and aesthetic features include fountains, statues, and mosaic walls. There are a range of upscale menu items including a salad bar, chicken cordon bleu sandwiches, and fresh pastries. And although the site is close to a tourist attraction which draws tens of thousands of visitors every day, you shouldn’t have to worry about finding a table. The restaurant seats more around 450 diners.
The McDonald’s across from the Luxor Temple in Luxor, Egypt
Egypt is no stranger to fast-food locations near its storied ancient archaeological sites. Across from the Pyramids of Giza, you can dine at a KFC or a Pizza Hut in full view of the only remaining Seven Ancient Wonders of the Ancient World (via Teche Blog). Many travelers are shocked at how close the pyramids, which they picture being in the middle of an empty desert, actually are to civilization and restaurant chains that they recognize from home.
A similar experience can be had at the McDonald’s adjacent to the Luxor Temple in Egypt’s southern city of Luxor (via Insider). The city is often called the world’s largest open-air museum and this three-story McDonald’s location looks out on the ruins of the Luxor Temple which was constructed by a number of different pharaohs and date back to the 1300s BCE (via Discovering Egypt). Some have called this the McDonald’s with the best view in the world. Egypt is also the country where you can buy the second-cheapest Big Mac, second only to Ukraine. Although, as of 2018, a Big Mac costs on average $5.30 in the United States, one can be had for just $1.90 in Egypt due to the currency exchange rate and price of ingredients (via World Atlas).
The McDonald’s in the basement of the Louvre Museum in Paris
The French haven’t always taken kindly to McDonald’s. In 1999, to protest tariffs placed on French foods and the import of hormone-treated beef intended for McDonald’s burgers from the United States, a group of farmers destroyed a McDonalds which was being constructed in Millau, in the south of France. They tore down the structure and carted away building materials, spraying "McDo Go Home" on what remained of the construction site (via The Irish Times). However, the overall French attitude towards the Golden Arches appears to have changed. In 2014, France was McDonald’s most profitable country outside of the United States, with sales the year before reaching a whopping $4.8 billion (via Business Insider).
In November of 2009, a branch of McDonalds opened in the underground approach to the Louvre Museum (via The Guardian). While it’s not in the same room as the Mona Lisa, it was a little too close for some, and the resentment toward the American brand resurfaced. "I’m not against eating in a museum but McDonald’s is hardly the height of gastronomy," said one Parisian. "Today [it’s] McDonald’s, tomorrow [it’s] low-cost clothes shops." (via The New York Times).
The McDonald’s in the middle of the Negev Desert, Israel
Location is typically paramount when deciding where to open a new location of a fast-food restaurant. It’s unclear what someone was thinking when they decided to open a McDonald’s in the middle of Israel’s Negev Desert (via The Active Times).
This McDonald’s is located on the road to the resort towns in Southern Israel, and tourists sometimes stop to grab a bite. Still, this location probably doesn’t get much foot traffic given how uninhabited and unwelcoming the surrounding landscape is (via The New York Post).
In the area of the Negev where this McDonald’s is located, they get less than eight inches of rainfall annually (via NE Tours). The namers of the desert took this into account with the word "Negev" meaning "dry" in biblical Hebrew. However, when it does rain, it pours. Because of how parched the earth is, the Negev is susceptible to flash floods, which can be extremely dangerous, stranding and even killing people every year (via Tourist Israel). The Negev Desert, which makes up almost half of Israel’s landmass, is so desolate that hikers who take on the Israel National Trail (which runs from the top to the bottom of the country) have to bury water in advance and dig it up later because there’s nowhere for large swathes of the Negev to refill water bottles (via Israel Trail).
The ski-through McDonald’s in Lindvallen, Sweden
If you’ve ever had a craving for fries while on the slopes, a McDonald’s in Sweden has you covered. This McDonald’s, which resembles a log cabin and has been open since 1996, gives its customers the opportunity to place and pick up an order through their ski-through window, which is the wintery, no car necessary version of a drive-through. Of course, there is the potentially problematic question of what to do with your brown McDonald’s bag once you’ve picked up your order since you’ll likely have both of your hands on your ski poles.
The restaurant is located at the bottom of a ski hill in the resort town of Lindvallen, about 200 miles north of the capital of Stockholm (via Delish). Although everything on the menu is available for order through the ski-through, there’s also a dine-in option with a seating area capable of fitting 140 hungry skiers and snowboarders (via Mental Floss). It’s unclear if the restaurant still operates in the summer months when the resort’s white powder slopes are nowhere to be found.
The McDonald’s on the United States’ Naval base at Guantanamo Bay
Since 1903, the United States has operated a 45-square-mile naval base on the southeastern coast of Cuba at Guantanamo Bay (via Encyclopedia Britannica). A second and now infamous installation was built there beginning in 2002. Under the George Bush administration, the United States began constructing a detention camp to hold suspected terrorists captured during America’s military occupation of Iraq and during the war in Afghanistan (via Encyclopedia Britannica). The camp became synonymous with allegations of torture carried out against the inmates by U.S. interrogators.
McDonald’s opened a location on the naval base in 1986 (via ABC News), and the Guantanamo Bay branch is the only McDonald’s location in Cuba. It’s surrounded by barbed wire, and is available only to U.S. Navy staff. (via The Mirror). Although lawyers used to bring McDonald’s menu items such as Egg McMuffins to their incarcerated clients at Guantanamo, the practice was banned buy the United States military in 2015 (via Newsweek), citing health concerns. Lawyers had been doing this type of thing for decades. "Sometimes the food we bring is the only thing from the outside world that they’ve seen for months," one attorney said. "They really look forward to it."
The McDonald’s inside a former ship captain’s 19th century home in Maine
Freeport, Maine is home to legendary outdoor outfitter L.L. Bean’s flagship store, as well as dozens of outlet malls (via Visit Freeport). The L.L. Bean location, which dates back to 1917, is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and boasts an indoor trout pond, an impressive collection of taxidermy, and a mini museum display with products that span the company’s 100-year history (via New England Travel). And there’s a 16.5-foot tall hiking boot available for photos outside the store’s door. With a Nike Factory Store, an Old Navy, a Brooks Brothers, and plenty of other shops nearby as part of the outlet malls, it’s a shopper’s paradise.
But there are often crowds too, especially in the summer, and there’s a McDonald’s to keep you from getting hangry. The McDonald’s in Freeport, Maine is inside the 19th-century house of a former ship captain. (via The Mirror). William Gore, a local merchant, built the house in 1850 and McDonald’s turned it into their only location in Freeport over 100 years later in 1984 (via Business Insider). It has a cozy colonial feel and features a fireplace. And if you’re looking for something that you can only order in New England and Quebec, try a McDonald’s lobster roll, if you dare.
The McDonald’s inside a former 1930’s Art Deco hotel in Melbourne, Australia
In the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia (Clifton Hill to be exact), there is a McDonald’s located in a former Art Deco hotel built in 1937 by the architect James Hastie Wardrop. Art Deco is a style of art and architecture which traces is roots to France around the time of the First World War (via Encyclopedia Britannica). The style is characterized by "simple, clean shapes, often with a streamlined look."
It’s been referred to as "The Most Beautiful McDonald’s in the World" (via Art Deco Buildings). A common example of Art Deco architectural style is New York’s Empire State Building (via Study). This McDonald’s location, which was once the United Kingdom Hotel, is a multi-level red and yellow brick structure with the golden arches proudly displayed on a sign that stands on the building’s roof. If you want to pass yourself off as a local, you can try asking for directions to the Macca’s, which is how McDonald’s is referred in Australia.
The McDonald’s in a former bank in Kristiansand, Norway
You’ll be forgiven if you didn’t know that Kristiansand, Norway is the country’s fifth biggest city. It gets more sun than almost any other place in the country, has Baltic Sea beaches not far from the center of town, and even boasts an annual beach party that hosts 60,000 guests (via Visit Norway).
It’s also home to a McDonald’s that is housed inside a former grandiose bank building with four massive marble columns marking the front entrance (via Smithsonian). Unfortunately, you have to enter through the side door as the main entrance is only for show. As with many international locations of the Golden Arches, this branch offers location-specific menu items, such as the McLaks, which is a grilled salmon sandwich lathered with dill sauce (via Method Shop).
McDonald’s first came to Norway in 1983, and quickly became a hit. Much of what they offer comes from domestic producers, with 75 percent of the ingredients estimated to be of Norwegian origin (via Visit Norway).
The McDonald’s inside a Happy Meal-shaped building in Dallas, Texas
Most McDonald’s locations are familiar, yet bland on the outside, and the same can generally be said for the interior. This holds true for most of the many branches of the restaurant in the state of Texas (via Menu With Price). However, this out of the ordinary McDonald’s location in Dallas Texas bucks the trend on both fronts.
This Dallas location is shaped like a giant Happy Meal with familiar faces such as the Hamburglar and Ronald McDonald painted on the windows, as well as a gigantic Big Mac sculpture positioned just above the main entrance (via KNUE).
And, if the unique shape of the outside of the restaurant wasn’t enough, the interior has a unique spin as well. The inside of the restaurant recalls a fine-dining experience with wallpaper designed by Ralph Lauren, mahogany booths, and chandeliers made out of Austrian crystal (via Smithsonian). It might be the swankiest interior of any McDonald’s you’ll ever find!