As the saying goes, the only constant in life is change. This wisdom isn’t applicable just to people, but to cities as well. Over the past decade, the following metropolises have faced major transformations, including population booms, increased infrastructure, and revamped transportation systems. Here are seven cities you might not recognize today if you visited them a decade ago.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
In the past 50 years, Dubai has grown from a humble fishing village to one of the most lavish destinations in the world. Though the rapid growth of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) capital began after the discovery of oil in the 1960s, the city has drastically expanded in the past 10 years. This recent growth is due to the city’s geographical position as a trading port for the Persian Gulf, allowing money to flow into the city and cementing its place as a high-end metropolis.
With innovative buildings and brand-new neighborhoods cropping up each year, the city’s most recent additions include the Museum of the Future, the Dubai Creek Harbour complex (which includes what will soon be the tallest tower in the world, Dubai Creek Tower), and the Mohammed Bin Rashid Library. Dubai is growing at such a fast rate that new neighborhoods are being developed on human-made islands, such as the Deira Islands, in order to accommodate the city’s 500% population boom and an influx of wealthy expats.
If you visited Houston 10 years ago, you might not recognize the city today. As one of the fastest-growing metropolises in the U.S., this Texan city has experienced both revamped infrastructure and a cultural renaissance. With a budding culinary scene that celebrates diversity, the city’s influx of ethnic restaurants is a result of the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who have chosen to make Houston home since 2010.
The city’s rapid development also includes a transformed public transportation system, a robust bike share program, and unique lights built over the bridges on Highway 59. With new additions to the skyline including Texas Tower and Brava, Houston has also made space for cultural hubs such as Post Houston, a massive complex that features a rooftop park with downtown views. Other unique additions include Color Factory Houston, an interactive art museum, and a one-of-a-kind Texas-shaped pool in the heart of downtown.
As one of the smallest countries in the world, the city-state of Singapore has nowhere to go but up. Perhaps this is why the skyline has completely transformed over the past decade, with skyscrapers cropping up annually, growing as quickly as weeds.
Singapore has such a stunning skyline that it’s hard to believe the city’s most notable landmarks — such as the three-pronged Marina Bay Sands (2010), the lotus-shaped Art and Science Museum (2011), the unusual Gardens by the Bay (2012), the plant-laden Oasia Downtown (2016), and the sky garden in CapitaSpring (2021) — were nonexistent a decade ago.
Although it’s one of the fastest-developing cities in the world, Singapore does retain historic buildings, including the fully renovated Fullerton Hotel, an iconic colonial-era building located in the city center.
Although many Chinese cities have shown significant growth over the past decade, Shanghai continues to be a leading metropolis when it comes to urban development. Ranked second-highest in the world for billionaire-status residents, Shanghai has a high concentration of wealth, allowing for rapid development within city limits.
The past decade has seen the completion of high-rises, such as the Shanghai Tower and the Sinar Mas Center, and broken ground for massive projects like the Shanghai International Trade Center Tower and Greenland Bund Tower. Plus, the development of steel-clad neighborhoods, such as the Pudong New Area, has transformed outskirt farmland into major city centers. Today, Pudong is a desirable Shanghai neighborhood, thanks to an airport, an international school, and affordable real estate.
Seoul, South Korea
The success story of Seoul is almost a fairy-tale, as the South Korean capital transformed from an impoverished city ravaged by war to a major leader in the world economy. Since it was named World Design Capital in 2010, in recognition of its superb and innovative development, Seoul has continued to thrive, both economically and culturally.
Much of this transformation was done under the tenure of Mayor Oh Se-hoon, who prioritized the city’s infrastructure upgrade, giving Seoul a facelift that put it on the map. Notable additions and renovations in the last decade include the cultural hub, Dongdaemun Design Plaza, completed in 2014, and the revamping of Sewoon Sangga, a relic from the city’s postwar development that now houses a rooftop with one of the best views of the city.
When it was founded as a gold rush outpost in 1858, no one could have known that Denver would one day become a coveted ZIP code in the U.S. The city’s growth metrics began to skyrocket 10 years ago. About 15,000 new residents — quite a large number for a relatively small city — moved to Denver between 2011 and 2012 alone, creating a high demand for increased infrastructure and improved amenities.
In the past decade, the city has undergone a revitalization of Union Station to improve city transit, kicked off a major airport renovation, and expanded the Denver Art Museum. To make way for new residents, developers smartly employed the land formerly occupied by the airport to build the family-friendly Central Park neighborhood, while also adding new institutions, such as the Clyfford Still Museum, the History Colorado Center, and the Mission Ballroom, in order to improve the city’s cultural credentials.
With a population that grew 21% over the course of the last decade, the city of Seattle is somewhat of an outlier when it comes to data trends. Unlike in past years, Seattle is growing faster than the surrounding suburbs, continuing to draw new residents while also sustaining its current population, thanks in large part to a tripled Amazon workforce.
Most notably, South Lake Union (which happens to house the Amazon campus and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) has become one of the top-ranked neighborhoods in the entire country in terms of apartment growth.
Another significant city change includes the replacement of the Alaska Viaduct with a tunnel, which has created space for more development along the water. And with trendy neighborhoods such as SoDo (South of Downtown) gaining traction, Seattle continues to attract young and hip residents to live within city limits.