Did You Know San Francisco Has 18 Sisters?

Editor's Note

This story originally listed 19 sister cities, but we received word from the Office of Economic Workforce Development that Naples isn't an official sister city of San Francisco. (But officially, Naples has some really good pizza and so does San Francisco! )

Aug 07 at 9am

What do Cork, Bangalore, Naples, Taipei, Thessaloniki, Ho Chi Minh City, Sydney, and Manila all have in common? They’re all part of San Francisco’s international sisterhood.

What exactly does it mean to be a sister city? If you asked the average San Franciscan, probably nothing and/or confusion, but the system of sister cities was created in 1947 with the purpose of fostering connection and cultural understanding between cities near and far. Think of it as an international network of connecting awesomeness.

Our dear city of San Francisco is connected to 18 cities throughout the world. So to show a little love to our little international family, here are some cool facts about some of San Francisco’s sisters.

Osaka, Japan 

Sister city since 1957

Famous foodies (food critic François Simon and author Michael Booth) have also singled out Osaka as an international foodie forerunner. This isn’t so much a challenge to SF as yet another sign that these cities are soul sisters. We’ll trade you a cioppino for an okonomiyaki! 

Sydney, Australia 

Sister city since 1968

The 1932 ribbon-cutting ceremony for Sydney Harbour Bridge was totally crashed by a dude on a horse! A man named Francis de Groot rode up just before the ribbon was clipped and slashed it with his sword. Yes, he was arrested. Though San Francisco didn’t have an equestrian take over the 1937 opening ceremony for the Golden Gate Bridge, we did have nearly 200,000 people walk or roller-skate across to celebrate. 

Taipei, Taiwan 

Sister city since 1969

Taipei is a super-recycling city! Following an industrial boom in the early ’90s, the island of Taiwan was forced to confront the mass amount of waste that began accumulating on the streets as a result. Enter a system that funds programs promoting public awareness of the issue, rewards recycling efforts, and encourages creative ways to reuse refuse. In only 14 years, Taiwan increased its recycling rate from 5.8% to more than 60%

Assisi, Italy

Sister city since 1969

We share some similarity with Assisi by way of Saint Francis of Assisi, San Francisco’s namesake. He is the patron saint of animals and the environment, and a basilica bearing his name was built to honor his saintly qualities. The construction was completed in a crazy-short amount of time – just 25 years! By the way, that was between AD 1228 and 1253. Major props.

Haifa, Israel

Sister city since 1973

Haifa hosts a pretty teeny transport system. With a track of 1.8 km and only four cars, it’s a micro-subway. So maybe BART’s not so limited after all?

Seoul, South Korea 

Sister city since 1975

Seoul and San Francisco share a latitude line, both sitting pretty at 37°. We could practically wave to one another! Well, you know… 

Cork, Ireland

Sister city since 1984

The only cable car in Ireland makes its trek from Dursey Island to Cork. The journey, which takes about 10 minutes, can carry up to “six people or one large animal (a cow) at a time,” which makes me wonder if we should look into bovine-friendly options for our cable cars. (Source)

Thessaloniki, Greece 

Sister city since 1990

Fog is common in Thessaloniki, with an average of 193 foggy days in a year. (Sound familiar?)

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam 

Sister city since 1995

Talk about microbrewery. Ho Chi Minh has small drinking establishments serving "the people's beer" – bia hoi – scattered throughout the city. Beer is brewed daily by fermenting ingredients for a very short time – usually a few hours. The brews are also quite a bit cheaper than your standard craft beer, coming in well under the standard SF happy-hour price (and often for less than 1 USD).

Paris, France

Sister city since 1997

Though we only sistered up in 1997, we share a bit of history with the spirit of Paris. San Francisco was frequently referred to as the “Paris of the West” due to its rapid expansion as a city and the high number of authors and artists who visited it in the late 1800s. Before the earthquake in 1906, there were even city-planning schemes to design the city with Parisian-styled boulevards and park systems.

One more thing about Paris. You know we love a good dinner party here in San Francisco. Plus, we’ve been known to cuddle or have tea with strangers. In Paris you can register to join a dinner with strangers! Jim Haynes hosts monthly Sunday dinners for the first 50–60 people who RSVP and has been doing so for 30 years. So let’s go?? 

Zürich, Switzerland 

Sister city since 2003

Coming in at 8.7 m in diameter, St. Peter’s Church in Zürich boasts the largest clockface in Europe. That means we have to add only 2 m to our 6.7 m Ferry Building clockface! A challenge, perhaps?  

Thirsty? You won’t have to walk far in Zürich. There are a freak-ton of drinking fountains in Zürich – 1,224, to be exact. Compare that to our community-regulated map of drinking fountains. We’ve got some catching up to do. 

Kraków, Poland 

Sister city since 2009

We love a good park in San Francisco, which is why it’s so cool that Kraków is super-green, with six legally protected nature reserves surrounding the city and more than 40 parks within the city. The city center is also a UNESCO world heritage site! (Soon enough, Golden Gate Park, soon enough.)

Amman, Jordan 

Sister city since 2010

Just like San Francisco, Amman was originally built across seven hills, though it has since expanded to cover 19 more. We’ve spread out a little bit too, incorporating more than 40 named hills

Barcelona, Spain 

Sister city since 2010

The grid layout of Barcelona was part of a utopian master plan by a guy named Cerdà i Sunyer. He took into account better ventilation, greater open spaces, and the ideal broadening of a street for improved visibility. Sounds like a Wiggle-level kind of planning, which I can fully get behind. 

In addition to the above cities, San Francisco’s other sisters are Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire; Bangalore, India; Manila, Philippines; and Shanghai, China.

So, readers of the Bold Italic, do you know any other fun facts connecting San Francisco with its international fam? Add to the comments section below, and we’ll continue to build upon our foundation of sisterly affection!

Photo via Thinkstock

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