How to make the most of travelling in these smart cities: Abu Dhabi, Barcelona, London, Paris, Zurich

How to make the most of travelling in these smart cities: Abu Dhabi, Barcelona, London, Paris, Zurich

Futuristic metropolis

Text: Etihad Airways

Editor: Amelia Chia

Travel happens for many reasons — it could be a severe case of wanderlust, to try renowned restaurants,  family bonding, or for some, to discover their true selves. Whatever the backstory, we can all agree that we're all for anything that makes our lives easier while we are away, whether it's locating that hole in the wall that caters to our food allergies, or making our way from one place to another in the quickest time possible. While all destinations have its own means of providing that information, it's Smart Cities that have the hearts of millennials. These are cities that do well in incorporating information and communication technologies (ICT) to manage resources and assets efficiently to reduce consumption, wastage, and costs.

If you're headed to Abu Dhabi, Barcelona, London, Paris, or Zurich anytime soon, these tips will be golden. Time and technology are on your side.


Abu Dhabi has been named by McKinsey & Company as the Middle East and Africa's most developed Smart City in terms of technology base. Looking for the ultimate Smart City adventure? Head to Abu Dhabi to experience driverless transportation technology, eco neighbourhoods, and upcoming hyperloop routes that transports you from Abu Dhabi to Dubai in just 12 minutes.

Masdar City architecture

Zip between cities with Abu Dhabi's Hyperloops

By 2020, visitors can zip between Abu Dhabi and Dubai inside pods through a low-pressure tube. Travelling up to 1,200 km/h, this innovation is estimated to cut travel time from the current 90 minutes to about 12 minutes and deliver 10,000 riders per hour in both directions. This not only provides tourists with a unique experience but also saves them precious time during their holiday to explore the two cities. We wonder what a Timelapse on that ride will look like.

Visit an eco-neighbourhood and take a ride with driverless transportation

Masdar City makes a great spot for the eco-conscious traveller. Visitors can hop aboard one of the city's Personal Rapid Transport (PRT) pods, small unmanned four-seater electric vehicles which glide around on magnetically guided routes beneath the fossil-fuel-free city. Another ride is the first autonomous bus shuttle in Masdar City, which runs solely on electricity, is fully integrated with GPS technology and uses tracking technologies to communicate with traffic lights on the roads. For those travelling with children, Masdar Park features a children's playground, music wall and art installations themed around sustainability. You can interact with "The Tree of Light", an installation made from recycled building materials and changes colour when touched.

A rendering of Oasis Eco Resort

Leverage technology to go green at the Oasis Eco Resort

Despite being in a desert, the star-shaped resort that is slated to open in 2020, will be "the world's greenest", with a design that takes into account water usage, health, materials, pollution, ecology and waste. Sustainable features will include wastewater recycling, a zero-emission zone, and enough solar panels (157,000 sq ft in all) to feed the entirety of the resort's energy needs. Tourists interested in UAE's natural and cultural heritage should plan a stay.


Praise be: there's no need to get international roaming when you're in Barcelona. Stay connected with free citywide Wi-Fi and access an extensive range of mobile apps to elevate your experience and make getting around a breeze.

View of Barcelona from Parc Guell

Navigate this old city with modern ease

Mobile applications are plentiful in Barcelona to help explorers navigate the city, hunt down the best spots and soak in its culture. Use to generate a perfect tour on the spot, and Mapp4all to find a specific store or building to meet your needs — such as travelling with a disability, infant, or if you have a food allergy.

Interact with the city while on the go

Digital bus stops in Barcelona provide an interactive experience to commuters while waiting for their bus with updates on bus location, USB charging stations and free Wi-Fi.


We can now (virtually) break those "do not touch" rules with The London Natural History Museum's app, which gives users a chance to move and manipulate virtual objects that are fragile, expensive or remote.

London's beautiful River Thames and the London Eye

Stay in a future-focused hotel

When guests order The Origin (a whisky-infused cocktail) at One Aldwych, they're handed a virtual reality headset that reveals how and where their chosen tipple is made.

Zip around London at 50 km/h

Zip Now London features three 225-metre zip lines with speeds of up to 50 km/h at a height of 35 metres. Users can also opt to "ride" a zip line with a VR headset which transports them to Jebel Jais Flight, the single longest zip-line.

Leverage apps to make the most of your stay

Before you hit London, download the AR City app, which helps users navigate and explore the city using augmented reality and computer vision at scale. This enables tourists to "roam" around London without having to waste time and money on transport. The London Official City Guide app also offers real-time feeds around attractions, and e-ticketing, discounts, and offers for restaurants all around the buzzing city.


Cheers to visiting Paris through new eyes. Tour the dreamy city through AR/VR experiences and virtual tours with 3D buildings and images.

The Eiffel Tower

View historical artifacts from new angles while avoiding crowds

With increasing popularity amongst tourists to visit monumental museums in Paris, they now can do so via virtual tours. For example, at the Musée de l'Orangerie's, through a VR headset, tourists can be transported to Monet's garden in Giverny. Viewers can also take a tour through Monet's studio in the home he lived in during the last 30 years of his life, enjoying a virtual "behind-the-scenes" look of the l'Orangerie's permanent collection of Monet's works. At the National Museum of Natural History, visitors can employ VR headsets to simulate experiences — such as standing right in front of an elephant to understand its magnitude.

Watch paintings come to life

At the Atelier des Lumières — Paris' first digital museum of fine art — artists' works are transformed as images of their paintings are projected (using 140 laser video projectors) on to and across 10-metre-high walls, giving visitors an immersive and panoramic show throughout the space.


Marvel at Zurich's iconic green architecture, smart building systems and advanced mobile apps like SchweizMobil and SBB that enhance transportation.

Limmat River in Zurich

Visit some of the world's most stunning green architecture

Those with a keen eye for architecture will know that Zurich has some of the best in the world. As you plan an architecture tour around the small city of highly Instagrammable buildings, don't miss out visiting the building cooperative district Mehr als Wohnen, where a unique mixed-use development houses a happy and healthy community.

Make time for sustainable shopping and city gardens

While there is no shortage of sustainable shopping to be done in Zurich, renowned Zurich label Freitag's flagship store, the Freitag Tower is an eco-friendly colourful tower of 19 stacked shipping containers. The tower is accessible and contains the world's largest selection of "individual recycled freeway bags" from the brand. Make the climb for a spectacular view of the former industrial quarter.

Just behind the Freitag Tower lies Frau Gerolds Garten, a modular city garden, filled with food, art, markets and plenty of public events. Kraut + Quer, the company for sustainable urban green interventions, manages a garden within where more than 20 different edible flowers are grown and tree providing shade. In the summer, pop into one of Frau Gerolds Garten's delightful open-air bars for an experience you will remember.

To book a trip to any of these smart cities, visit Etihad Airways. Etihad Airways prides itself on being a smart airline as it plans to roll out the following AI technologies to enhance customer experience — a cloud technology system that automises the check-in and boarding process, and a jet lag advisor that rolls out personalised jet lag plans for each passenger.

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