Twin cities are settlements that have existed near one another for long periods of time while retaining separate identities — and yet, their cultures and histories are inextricably intertwined. Sometimes their borders are physical, sometimes political, and sometimes they are historical. These five sets of famous twin cities from around the world demonstrate a range of those characteristics and beyond.
Saigon & Cholon, Vietnam
The twin cities of Saigon and Cholon both have ancient histories that stretch back centuries. Saigon was once a part of ancient Cambodia until the late 1600s when it was absorbed by a growing Vietnam. The cities remained distinct under Vietnamese rule and even after they were captured by the French in 1859.
However, in 1931, the two cities were merged to form the largest and most famous city in Vietnam, Saigon-Cholon. The city was referred to by both names until 1956, when Cholon was dropped. Saigon was the Republic of Vietnam’s capital city until 1975, when it was renamed Ho Chi Minh City by the conquering North Vietnamese forces.
El Paso, Texas & Ciudad Juarez, Mexico
These two cities are divided by both the Rio Grande and the United States-Mexican border. They are so close that they were founded by the same event and then were made distinct by border disputes between the United States and Mexico. Today, the division between the two metropolis areas remains distinct, although there is active trade of goods and services over the border.
Buda & Pest, Hungary
Budapest feels like an ancient city, with structures and monuments that have been around for centuries. However, in terms of European history, Budapest is a recent addition; the city was founded only about 150 years ago, in 1873.
Budapest was formed by the merger of two ancient twin cities, Buda and Pest, which for centuries remained distinct. They developed their own unique characteristics because they were separated by the Danube River. The first bridge to connect the two cities wasn’t built until 1849, just a few decades before Buda and Pest merged.
Minneapolis & Saint Paul, Minnesota
The area occupied by Saint Paul, the capital of Minnesota, and the state’s largest city, Minneapolis, is in fact known as the Twin Cities and is the most famous twin-city pair in the United States.
While the cities share a comfortable familiarity today, they have had a history of rivalry. The construction of the Saint Paul Cathedral in 1915 led to the construction of the even more elaborate Basilica of St. Mary in 1926. Baseball games between the St. Paul Saints and the Minneapolis Millers were known to end in violence.
However, these tensions were eased by the arrival of both the Minnesota Vikings and the Minnesota Twins in 1961, whose identity was tied to both cities. Today, the two cities share resources and have developed a vibrant art and culinary scene.
Cairo & Giza, Egypt
Perhaps the most famous twin cities in history are those that sit across from one another on the Nile. Cairo has been a dominant center of trade, government and population for Egypt for centuries, but Giza has a resource that no place in the world does – the Pyramids.
Both cities are some of the most important tourist destinations in the world, and both have existed for thousands of years, with Giza being the older of the two. A trip to either necessitates a stop into the other, but they remain their own distinct cityscapes with an unbelievable amount of history.