Interactive: A Map to Guide You Toward a City’s Wonderful Food Smells

By Noah Kaufman |

© Edwin Remsberg / Alamy

Sniff, sniff. What’s that? It smells like freshly baked bread with just a hint of backed-up sewer. Discoveries like this are what a team of researchers in London and Barcelona used to create the first interactive “smelly maps” of the two cities, which they just released. The researchers analyzed some 650,000 Flickr posts, Instagrams and Tweets mentioning smells and used the location data to put together maps showing the olfactory landscapes of the British and Spanish cities.

Mapping smells might seem like more of a novelty than anything else, pointing you toward the scents of cookies out of the oven or ribs smoking out behind a barbecue joint (not to mention pointing you away from an abundance of car exhaust or dog poop), but the project's creators see a much more practical benefit. The team says in its report, “We hope to empower designers, researchers, city managers by offering them a number of methodological tools and practical insights to rethink the role of smell in their work.” It’s possible cities could actually be redesigned or reorganized to emphasize good smells and minimize bad ones.

In addition to Barcelona and London, the team has volunteers and data in Amsterdam; Pamplona, Spain; Glasgow, Scotland; Edinbrugh, Newport, Rhode Island; Paris and New York—and we’ll likely see more maps in the future. But for now, you can check out the interactive smelly map of London below. 

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