5 cities we’re watching in 2024

The fastest growing US city and an AI capital are on our radar

Over the past four years, the world has contracted, at times forcing us into existences that barely stretched past the thresholds of our front doors. But with the pandemic starting to feel like a distant memory, the world is open to explore once more. Cities are more vibrant, diverse and more innovative than ever and healthy competition around green credentials, liveability and the provision of public space is driving growth around climate and social value as well as traditional investment. Here are five urban hubs we are tipping to watch in 2024.

Stockholm: The Timber Trailblazer

Credit: Atrium Ljungberg

Why? A climate pioneer, the Swedish capital was named the first-ever European Green Capital back in 2010 and was later named an EU ‘lighthouse’ city, meaning the projects it implements can then be copied in other European towns. With a bold vision to be entirely fossil fuel-free by 2050, the city has wasted little time showing the rest of the world how sustainability promises can be translated into tangible action through innovative urban design.

Home to Stockholm Wood City, it boasts the largest urban wooden construction project in the world (using cross-laminated timber, or ‘mass timber’). Extending over 250,000 sq m, the scheme, led by developer Atrium Ljungberg, will be completed in 2027 and comprise 7,000 office spaces and 2,000 homes. The city is also home to the wider Stockholm Green Innovation District, where sustainable growth is promoted through the use of design and technology in collaboration with local government.

Best for: museums (the city boasts over 100 of them), cardamom buns and water lovers – Stockholm’s archipelago islands are surrounded by a swimmable body of water so clean you can drink it.

Did you know?
The Nobel Prizes are presented in Stockholm every December, but there is no Nobel Prize for mathematics. This is because the wife of Alfred Nobel, the Swedish chemist who established the prize, had an affair with a mathematician, so Nobel excluded it as an awards category.

Oxford: The AI Hub

Exterior of the Bodleian Library in Oxford - part of the University of Oxford.
Bodleian Library in Oxford. Photography Shaun Iwasawa / Pexel

Why? Sometimes called the City of Dreaming Spires, thanks to the network of ornate university buildings that punctuate its skyline, Oxford has a reputation steeped in history. But within and around some of the oldest academic buildings in the world, some of the most significant leaps in modern technological thinking are being made. With the University of Oxford ranked the best university in the world for computer science and the best in the UK for Artificial Intelligence, the city is fast becoming a magnet for AI talent and start-ups. These include Mind Foundry, a university spin-out designed to use AI to solve real-world problems speedily, and some of the country’s leading pharma and med-tech companies.

Best for: Show-stopping architecture such as The Bodleian Library – one of the oldest in Europe and the second biggest in the UK – and Harry Potter fans (the city was a major filming location).

Did you know? Oxford’s Christ Church College has its own time zone in line with the original Oxford time, which ran five minutes and two seconds behind Greenwich Mean. The college bell tolls at 9:05 every evening to signal the 9 pm curfew.

Bengaluru: The Garden of India

Lalbagh Botanical Gardens houses India’s largest collection of tropical plants and sub-tropical plants, within a 240-acre piece of land in the heart of the city.
Lalbagh Botanical Gardens. Photography: Karnataka Tourism Board

Why? The fastest-growing city in the Asia-Pacific region is also expected to be the second-fastest growing in the world in 2024. Fuelled by a powerful combination of tech expertise and an abundance of green spaces – the city is known as both the Silicon Valley of India and the Garden of India – Bengaluru offers the perfect mix of commercial opportunity and liveability. Little wonder then that it is currently seeing a six per cent population growth rate. The city is home to the largest number of high-growth companies in India, according to the FT, and, as a result, a quarter of India’s digital talent, with investment is pouring into the southern city. With the Bengalaru-Chennai Expressway due to be operational by early 2024, the city is set to keep growing.

Best for: The 200-year-old Lalbagh Botanical Gardens, cricket grounds and temples – it has over 1000.
Did you know? Winston Churchill owes 13 rupees in unpaid bills to the city’s exclusive Bangalore Club.

Austin: The Texan Anomaly

View of Downtown Austin from Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge
View of Downtown Austin from Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge. Photography: Jouaienttoi / Creative Commons

Why? A Mecca for artists, hippies, and the open-minded, Austin has built a brand on bucking the wider Texas state norm. The city slogan ‘Keep Austin weird’ is a testament to that. The urban hub’s historically carefree reputation has twinned with a more recent commercial boom thanks to the influx of tech companies and ambitious start-ups; the city has boasted the fastest-growing population in the US for the last 12 years in a row. With an average 6% yearly population increase, it is now home to 2.4 million people. Many are chasing the city’s maturing tech scene as the Texan capital has seen the launch of around 20 unicorns (start-up companies with valuations over $1bn) and is the location of secondary offices of some of the largest tech companies in the world, including Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook and SpaceX.

The exterior of the Texas State Capitol in Austin

Best for: Live music, food trucks and the State Capitol building – at 360,000 sq ft, it is the largest in the US.

Did you know? Austin is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America. Over 1.5 million bats roost beneath the Congress Avenue Bridge.

Abu Dhabi: The Manhattan of the Middle East

Etihad Towers on the Abu Dhabi Corniche - a five tower complex that houses shopping, hospitality, offices, dining.
The Etihad Towers. Credit: Visit Abu Dhabi

Why? Voted the most liveable city in the Middle East for the past five years thanks to a long-standing reputation for high-end living, luxury retail, and motorsports, Abu Dhabi looks set for a strong 2024 as several big brands are set to make their city debut. It was announced this month/last month that SUSHISAMBA will open at Conrad Etihad Towers in April 2024. The city will become home to the UAE’s first microbrewery following the soft opening of Craft by Side Hustle in the city this month. And, with more than 70 game developers now based in the city, it is also building a reputation as a global gaming and esports powerhouse. One of the fastest-growing economies in the Middle East, the city’s non-oil GDP is growing at an average of 6% annually, according to the Statistics Centre-Abu Dhabi (SCAD), bolstered by construction, retail, transportation and storage.

Best for: Formula 1, Louvre Aby Dhabi and Star Wars fans – The Force Awakens was filmed in the city’s dunes.

Did you know? Abu Dhabi boasts the tallest indoor climbing wall in the world, reaching a massive 43 metres at its highest point.

Read next: These 10 museums are set to open in 2024



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