At this point, there’s no denying the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While crowds flock to theaters to catch the latest exploits of their favorite heroes, most people give less thought to the sheer number of locations the MCU has taken us over the years. From the heights of Stark Tower in NYC, to the fictional African nation of Wakanda, to places that are literally out of this world like Asgard, Titan, and Knowhere, the MCU has made world travelers of us all.
Villains also need a home base from which to run their diabolic operations. The minds behind the MCU put just as much thought into selecting locations for evil lairs as they do designing headquarters for the heroes. Whether it’s the bizarre, ruined landscape of Thanos’s Titan or a sleek, futuristic lab, Marvel villains have inhabited some decidedly diabolic spaces.
We looked around the world and picked out some locations we think future Marvel villains (or villains of any stripe, really) would feel right at home. If you happen to be a villain, you’ll want to get your real estate agent on the line so you can snap up one of these 20 real-world lair locations and begin work on your next world domination plot.
20 Bulgaria’s UFO-Shaped Monument On A Mountaintop
The intimidating, abandoned Buzludzha Monument sits nearly 5,000 feet up in the Central Balkan Mountains. This strange building has everything a villain could ask for.
The building is no longer managed, and today’s government has closed it to the public, considering it dangerous. In early 2018, guards were placed outside the building to deter travelers from entering. Most people believe this is a government move to keep ravelers safe, but it could just as easily be a villain trying to keep people out.
You can travel 10 miles from Kazanlak or 7 miles from Gabrovo, down either of two side roads through the Shipka Pass to reach the monument.
19 The “Mouse Bunker” In Berlin Looks Battle-Ready
This hulking laboratory facility was originally known as the central lab (ZTL) for animal testing. It has space for about 88,000 test animals. Locals in the Lichterfelde area of Berlin have dubbed it “the mouse bunker,” since it looks more like an old military building than a laboratory.
The “mouse bunker” is made mostly out of concrete, with ramparts and a raised ramp from the ground. Its ventilation pipes jut from the side of the building, arranged like cannons ready to fire. What’s to stop the next Marvel villain from taking up residence here and replacing those ventilation pipes with some real firepower?
18 The Imposing Architecture Of Philadelphia City Hall Is Sure To Attract (Evil) Attention
Many villains like to hide in plain sight, and superheroes often come up against formidable foes in the government. Philadelphia City Hall would be a prime spot for any villain who wanted to keep a low profile while also pulling strings behind the scenes. Constructed between 1871 and 1901, this Second Empire style building is located in the middle of Center City.
It rises 548 feet (167 meters) above the city skyline, and it is the largest municipal building in the world, with 700 rooms. Its walls are up to 22 feet (6.7 meters) thick in places. There are plenty of places to hide and carry on nefarious business.
17 This Fire Station Looks Like It Was Designed By An Evil Mastermind
This imposing building isn’t actually an evil lair. Instead, it’s home to some of our everyday heroes: the volunteer firefighters of Margreid, Italy.
Nonetheless, this building looks like something you’d see in a James Bond film. The fire station is built directly into the side of a mountain. Outside, a sleek black façade is emblazoned with a red crest. Despite the imposing entrance, the building is incredibly environmentally friendly.
Between the sharp angles of the exterior and the almost medieval interior, reminiscent of wine cellars and medieval churches, this building looks more like a piece of real estate that would interest a villain than a hero.
16 Kingdom Center Is Perfect For a Sauron-esque Villain
Kingdom Center is located in Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia. It stands an impressive 992 feet (300 meters) above the city skyline. But Kingdom Center isn’t an evil lair or even the office building of a forward-thinking technology firm. It’s a shopping center, with a hotel, apartments, and a restaurant on its 77th floor.
The upper third of the building features an inverted parabolic arch, which is sometimes illuminated. It looks like the architects may have been drawing inspiration from Sauron, the villain of The Lord of the Rings. If any Marvel villain happens to be a LotR fan, we wouldn’t be surprised to find them kicking back in this building, plotting their next move.
15 Polygone Riveria - Big Frere Is Watching You
When you head to your local mall, you probably don’t expect to be watched by a creepy statue of a human head peering out from a cube-shaped building. Yet that’s exactly what you’ll find if you head to the Polygone Riviera in Cagnes-sur-Mer, France.
Part shopping center, part outdoor mall, the new center opened in 2015 and expects to attract millions of visitors to the region each year. While that kind of traffic isn’t great for a villain trying to hide, it does make it easy to people watch and cause eventual havoc on unsuspecting civilians. And let’s face it, what villain wouldn’t spring for a hideout inside a giant, metal human head?
14 The Atacama Desert—A Little Bit of Mars on Earth
Some of the villains in the MCU aren’t from Earth, but if one wanted to set up shop here, we have a few places on this planet they might feel perfectly at home. One of those is the Atacama Desert, located in the Andes Mountains in Chile.
The Atacama is one of the driest places on Earth. It lies in the rain shadow of two mountain chains. This has made it the perfect place for imitating the conditions on Mars. In fact, NASA tests their Mars rovers here! And if you want an amazing view of the night sky, there’s almost no better place on Earth.
Even if you’re not a villain, you’ll probably want to visit.
13 Belgium’s Maison St-Cyr Is Perfect For Villains With Artistic Flair
If you head to 11 Square Ambiorix, in Brussels, Belgium, you’ll come across a striking house. Its 4-meter wide façade uses glass and steel to create blossoming floral patterns around windows, across balconies, and around doors.
The house was designed by Gustave Stauven, a Belgian architect who designed several eye-catching buildings around Brussels. The home was constructed between 1901 and 1903, and was intended as a private residence. While this house wouldn’t suit a Big Bad like Thanos, we can see a more mystic kind of villain finding it appealing as a lair. Maybe the next Dr. Strange villain will see its charm.
12 With A Nickname Like “Plague Fort,” This Naval Fortress Has Potential
Fort Alexander is a Russian naval fortress on an artificial island in the Gulf of Finland, located near to St. Petersburg and Krostadt.
The fort itself is an oval-shaped garrison fit for about 1,000 soldiers. The fort has 103 cannon ports, and additional space for 34 rooftop guns. Despite this, the fort never participated in military action. Between 1899 and 1917, it housed a laboratory for research on the plague and other bacterial diseases.
Fort Alexander was all but abandoned by 1983. In 2007, a renovation project was undertaken, and boat tours are now available. The isolation of the fort, the potential for armaments, and its history all add up to one great villainous lair.
11 Abandoned Missile Silos Have So Much Potential As Evil Lairs
Cold War tensions drove an arms race, which saw many warheads go into huge underground complexes. These days, you can find missile silo sites across the US, and in other countries around the world. Some, like the one in Deer Trail, Colorado, have been completely lost to time. Located about 60 miles east of Denver, the Deer Trail site was home to a Titan 1 missile silo. The site was abandoned in the mid-1960s.
The massive complex contains 3 launch silos, the control center, the powerhouse, and a fueling silo. Although it’s in a sorry state of disrepair, a site like the Deer Trail Titan 1 silo would make a perfect lair for a villain.
10 Refuge du Gouter Looks Like Something A Supervillain Would Design
Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in the Alps, and at 15,777 feet (4,808 meters), it offers climbers an exhilarating challenge. Every year, thousands of people make the ascent.
Climbing such a tall peak is a multi-day adventure. On the traditional Gouter route, a hut was installed in the early 1960s. The original Gouter refuge was uncomfortable and often overcrowded, leading the French Alpine Club to commission a new building.
The all-wooden design is clad in stainless steel. It’s 4 stories and 16 meters high.
The egg-shaped building sits on an overhang, jutting out over the cliff. You can look down to a dizzying 1,500-meter drop.
Remote, difficult to access, and self-sufficient? Sounds like a perfect refuge for a villain.
9 “Fort Book” Is An Imposing Fortress Of Knowledge
Libraries don’t strike many people as diabolical, but they probably haven’t visited John P. Robarts Research Library at the University of Toronto. It’s considered one of the best examples of brutalist architecture in North America.
The building opened in 1973 and features 14 stories, with an additional 2 floors underground. Its impressive size and imposing architecture have earned it the nickname “Fort Book.” It inspired the prison setting in Resident Evil: Afterlife.
The building is frequently listed as one of the world’s most imposing, evil-looking buildings. If that’s not a sell for a villain, they might be drawn in by the sheer amount of space or the fact no one expects an evil lair in a library.
8 Hashima Island Has An Unusual Disguise
About 9 miles from the city of Nagasaki is Hashima Island. From 1887, the 16-acre island was used to mine undersea coal. It was abandoned in 1974. The concrete buildings and surrounding sea wall were allowed to fall into disrepair. Several of them have even collapsed. Nonetheless, the historic ruins have turned the island into a tourist destination of sorts.
Why would Hashima Island make a great supervillain lair? For starters, the island looks like a battleship. It can also be difficult to reach the island, thanks to the area’s harsh weather. We wouldn’t be surprised to see the next Marvel villain take on this island and turn it into a real battleship.
7 Norway’s Olavsvern Naval Base Walked Out Of A Bond Film
The Royal Norwegian Navy used Olavsvern between 1967 and 2009 as a submarine base for Norway and its NATO allies. The massive complex features 150,000 square feet of buildings, and 270,000 square feet of underground space that looks like it came straight out of a James Bond film. Carving the base out of the mountains took almost 30 years and $500 million dollars.
In a strange twist of fate, the government sold the base, and the owners rent it out to Russian companies. NATO reportedly wants the base back amid concerns about increasing Russian submarine activity.
The base features bomb-proof buildings and a submarine hangar, so this would be the perfect place for a villain to hide out.
6 A Classic Villain Trope—A House On Top Of A Volcano
In the Mojave Desert of the United States, there’s an old volcanic cinder cone. Someone looked at it and thought it would be a great place for a house. So they built one.
This mid-century house looks a bit like a UFO. It crowns the dormant volcano. A 5-foot wide moat protects the property from unwanted intrusions. The house sits on 60 acres of desert known as the Devil’s Playground, which should tell you something about the area.
The question is if the most recent owner is a villain, and, if so, what are they going to do with a house on top of a volcano? Nobody’s quite sure, but we can likely agree it’s a perfect evil lair.
5 Belgium’s Answer to the Eiffel Tower Could Be A Robot In Disguise
Brussels seems to have an accumulation of great evil lair spots, so it’s surprising more villains don’t relocate here.
If our villain isn’t about the artistic flair of Maison St-Cyr, another option is the Atomium, a 335-foot stainless-steel clad structure built for the 1958 World’s Fair. It was only supposed to last for 6 months after the fair, but the city liked it so much, they’ve kept it around for 50 years.
The structure forms the shape of an iron crystal. Atomium now functions as a museum, and LED lighting has been integrated in the spheres after restoration.
CNN has called it Europe’s most bizarre building. That’s an endorsement for an evil lair if we’ve ever heard one.
4 The Global Seed Vault Is Already Preparing For Global Catastrophe
Villains have a flair for the dramatic, and the Svalbard Global Seed Vault delivers. The vault is on the island of Spitsbergen, 800 miles from the North Pole. Since 2008, it’s collected almost 1 million seed samples, representing nearly a third of the world’s food crops.
The seed bank is designed to protect against catastrophes. The vault is deep inside a mountain, which will keep the seeds frozen after power turns off. The elevation keeps the seeds above sea level even if the ice caps melt.
The location is difficult to reach, it will stay safe for decades, and our villain could control the global food supply. On top of it all, the Global Seed Vault makes a cool-looking lair.
3 Is Reiyukai Shakaden Really A Temple—Or A Hostile Alien Invasion?
This next potential evil lair is located in the heart of Central Tokyo. The Reiyukai Shakaden Temple is an imposing pyramidal structure that looks like a space ship straight of Star Wars hovering menacingly over the city. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised to learn it is a spaceship.
The temple was built in 1975 for the Inner Trip Reiyukai (ITR) sect of Japanese Buddhism. One of their goals is to promote world peace. You can visit the temple for free Japanese lessons. Perhaps the most bizarre feature is a 400-ton drinking water reserve, kept in case of some “disaster.”
It wouldn’t be surprising to know a villain was hiding out at Reiyukai Shakaden.
2 This Office Is Built Into A Former Anti-Atomic Shelter
In the late 1940s, the Swedish military built an anti-atomic bunker in the middle of Stockholm. The bunker is blasted right into the bedrock, 100 feet under Vita Berg Park. After the Cold War ended, the bunker was decommissioned. Eventually, it was occupied by Bahnhof, a Swedish internet service provider.
Today, Pionen White Mountains is about 12,900 square feet. Bahnhof’s headquarters are reachable only by tunnel, and the doors are 40 centimeters thick. It’s capable of withstanding a hydrogen bomb.
Bahnhof actually has been implicated in illegal activity, with police raids, intrigue, and lawsuits connecting the company to online piracy. Bahnhof once hosted Wikileaks’ servers. Its offices set a precedent for villains who want to hide in plain sight!
1 Belarus’s National Library—A Glowing Orb Of Villainy and Destruction?
If “Fort Book” didn’t convince you of the evil potential of libraries, feast your eyes on the National Library of Belarus.
The National Library of Belarus acts as the country’s copyright library. It has the world’s largest collection of Belarusian print materials. But, by the early 2000s, the library needed a new home.
Standing 74 meters tall, the new building is a rhombicuboctahedron. This shape has 8 triangular faces and 18 square faces. Each panel is illuminated with LED lights, transforming the building into a “glowing orb” on Minsk’s horizon. Almost any villain could see the potential for installing lasers to replace those LED lights. A little renovation, and the National Library might be the perfect evil lair.
Sources: Atlas Obscura, Top13.net, The Desert, LA Cubed, National Library of Belarus, WIRED, Visit Brussels, LonelyPlanet.com, CNN Traveler.