These UFO-Like Buildings Are a Space-Age Tourist’s Dream

The future is now—follow this tour of UFO architecture found all around the world

Niteroi Art Museum
Since this art museum in Brazil was completed in 1996, it has put the relatively unknown city of Niterói on the map. SERGIO MORAES/Reuters/Corbis

Remember the future of yesteryear? It was supposed to include flying cars, humanoid robots and architecture that looked like it came out of a sci-fi illustrator's sketchbook. Society hasn't done very well on the car or robot servant front, but it turns out there are plenty of UFO-inspired buildings that keep the future (as imagined by the past) alive. In honor of the flying saucer-like craft that landed atop a newly constructed building in China's Shandong province, come along on a tour of some of the world's coolest UFO-like buildings.

Theme Building - Los Angeles International Airport (Los Angeles, California)

What better way to start your tour than at an airport? If you're flying out of LAX, you can't help but notice the Theme Building as you apporoach. Built in 1961, the building is all that's left of a failed plan to ensconce the airport's terminals under glass. It's a prime example of the Googie style of architecture that thrilled forward-thinking modernists (and incensed critics) throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Though the space-themed restaurant that used to sit atop the Theme Building closed abruptly in 2014, the building is still a California classic that could also serve as an alien craft.

Niterói Contemporary Art Museum (Niterói, Brazil)

Next stop: Brazil. Just across Rio de Janeiro's Guanabara Bay is the city of Niterói—where an art museum that used to be an alien craft is housed in a spectacular bayside structure designed by Oscar Niemeyer. Though the museum is currently closed for construction, since it was first completed in 1996, it has made the once relatively unknown city a tourist destination in its own right, with its contemporary art exhibits, in-house restaurant and weekend music performances.

Most SNP/The UFO Bridge (Bratislava, Slovakia)

The Soviet Union may be just a memory, but it left a lot of iconic structures in Bratislava. Perhaps the most memorable is the structure fondly nicknamed "the UFO bridge" by residents. Originally dubbed the Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising (or Most Slovenského národného povstania, which shortens to "Most SNP") to commemorate a World War II victory over the Nazis, the bridge was then renamed New Bridge ("Novy Most"). Now, depending who you ask, you might get a different name, be it the Most SNP, Novy Most or the UFO Bridge. No matter what you call it, the bridge towers over the Danube River like a Soviet-era UFO. It's the world's longest single-pylon suspension bridge and boasts a restaurant inside its iconic saucer.

Mercedes-Benz Arena (Shanghai, China)

If you're going to spend time in a building that looks like it just landed on Earth, why not do it while watching a concert? Formerly known as the Shanghai World Expo Cultural Center, this UFO-like venue was built in 2010 and, according to its architects, was "inspired by the feeling of deep space." These days, it's one of China's most popular venues and has hosted stars such as Elton John and the Rolling Stones. But this year it will serve an even more modern purpose: hosting a major video game tournament.

Shandong Science and Technology Museum (Binzhou, Shandong Province, China)

What could be more alien than a flying saucer-like craft atop a newly constructed building? Alien or not, it's real life in China's Shandong province, where a new science and technology museum in Binzhou recently sprouted a UFO-like addition on its roof. The gigantic structure will also contain office space and a movie theater (presumably for watching sci-fi flicks).

Bob Hope's Former House (Palm Springs, California)

Back to California, where UFOs are apparently common, the destination this time is Bob Hope's former home in Palm Springs. The comedian's old estate is a desert playground begging for an alien guest. Designed by architect John Lautner, who was an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright, the 1980 house boasts 23,000 square feet, panoramic views and a decidedly Space Age feel. The good news: It's currently on the market. The bad news: Nobody wants to buy it. Could the almost $25 million price tag be to blame? Maybe—but it represents a deep discount from the original asking price of almost $50 million. A small price to pay to live in a home that just might take off for the stars one night.

Al Raha Beach Hotel (Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates)

Okay, so this technically doesn't look like a flying saucer. But what if aliens decided to descend in mirrored discs, instead? If they did, they'd likely use a structure that looks a lot like the one that caps off this five-star hotel in Abu Dhabi. Boasting crystal-clear beach waters and plenty of upscale perks, the hotel would make a comfy place to lay your head—and dream of a future in which our alien overlords show off their great taste in buildings.

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