Boston’s 9 Sister Cities: A Quick Guide

Kyoto became Boston’s first sister city in 1959.
Kyoto became Boston’s first sister city in 1959.
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When Mayor Marty Walsh went to Ireland last month, he made a point to visit Belfast, which became Boston’s newest (and closest) sister city in May. The Sister Cities Program, which was launched in the United States in 1956, is an effort where communities exchange ideas and information across national borders. Boston has nine sister cities that span four continents, and all of them have similarities with the Hub. Sekondi-Takoradi, Ghana, even has a traffic circle called “Boston Square”—if it’s a gridlocked, stop-and-go mess, then it’s even more appropriately named.

Get a feel for Boston’s sister cities below.

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Belfast, Northern Ireland (2,981 miles from Boston)

Sisterhood established: May 2014

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Wait, so how did we become sisters? Belfast Lord Mayor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir paid us a visit in March, when he first met with Mayor Walsh. The two hit it off and decided to take their shared heritage to the next level. “We look forward to new beginnings with our ‘sister’ Belfast, as this formal agreement goes far beyond a declaration on ink on paper,” Walsh said in a statement from May.

It’s just like Boston! Northern Ireland’s capital shares Boston’s tastes for rebellion and for booze. As the birthplace of the Irish Rebellion, Belfast is known for its lively nightlife (and a ridiculous assortment of beer).

It’s totally different from Boston! Sure, we have our St. Patrick’s Day parade where Bostonians can play up their Irishness. But those residents from Belfast? Most of them were actually born in Ireland.

We bet you didn’t know: Bobby Sands, a member of the Irish Republican Army who died of a hunger strike while imprisoned at Her Majesty’s Prison Maze, is buried at a cemetery in Belfast.

OK, but where can I watch the Sox play there? The Pavilion on Ormeau Road serves up traditional Irish grub and plays American sports on TV.

Sekondi-Takoradi, Ghana (4,935 miles from Boston)

Sisterhood established: 2001

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Wait, so how did we become sisters? After visiting Sekondi-Takoradi in 1999, City Councilor Charles C. Yancey predicted “millions of dollars of economic activity between the two cities” and lobbied for years to have the agreement signed. While it may not have turned out quite as he envisioned, the megalopolis did name a traffic circle Boston Square as a token of the two cities’ friendship.

It’s just like Boston! This destination in Western Ghana is a fellow Atlantic port city and, while its harbor has been around less than a century, it’s still the eldest in Ghana.

It’s totally different from Boston! Looking to visit? You’ll need to book in advance. Their airport, Takoradi Airport, averages around four civilian flights per day–roughly 1,000 less than Logan.

We bet you didn’t know: Sekondi-Takoradi is the jump-off point for the Kundum festival, an annual celebration meant to honor the ancestral god of harvest. The festival lasts for four weeks from July until August and travels from city to city throughout Western Ghana.

OK, but where can I watch the Sox play there? Champs Sports Bar & Grill at the Stellar Lodge Hotel offers up Tex-Mex, big-screen TVs, and karoake competitions for after the game.

Taipei, Taiwan (7,707 miles from Boston)

Sisterhood established: 1996

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Wait, so how did we become sisters? Taipei City Council Speaker James Chen came to Boston in 1996 and spurred two decades of kinship, including a visit from Taipei’s former Mayor (and current Republic of China president) Ma Ying-jeou and an exclusive performance by the Taipei Youth Folk Sports Delegation.

It’s just like Boston! Taipei, a cultural hub of Greater China, is a repository of culture, artifacts, and now, green spaces. Looks like Boston Common has some friendly sisterhood competition.

It’s totally different from Boston! Residents of both cities love convenience stores and have plenty of them, but Taipei takes our convenience store obsession to a whole new level. You can take care of your dry cleaning and drop off your mail while picking up a coffee for the road.

We bet you didn’t know: Taipei is home to the flagship Modern Toilet Restaurant, where the tables are made out of bathtubs and shower heads dot the walls. Its most popular dish? Curry (and, yes, it is served in a toilet pot).

OK, but where can I watch the Sox play there? The Brass Monkey, created by an American-born Taipei resident and five of his friends, is an ideal place to grab a beer and stay for the game.

Melbourne, Australia (10,515 miles from Boston)

Sisterhood established: 1985

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Wait, so how did we become sisters? Nearly three decades ago, Mayor Raymond Flynn and Lord Mayor Thomas S. Lynch of Melbourne joined forces at Boston’s City Hall to sign a “friendship city” agreement to exchange commerce, trade, tourism, medicine, art, and culture with each other. The relationship produced many exciting initiatives such as a joint exhibit of children’s art and literature and a teacher’s exchange. As the Hub’s most distant sister city, together we keep the spirit of sisterhood alive by talking each other up in ads. Last year, we posted ads for Melbourne at benches and bus shelters around the city. And ads for Boston were posted Down Under as well.

It’s just like Boston! Both cities were birthed from British culture and, like in Boston, you can still feel the resonance.

It’s totally different from Boston! While you won’t find a joey jumping down the main drag of Collins Street, the city provides plenty of opportunities to spot some wild kangaroos. Your best bet? Woodlands Historic Park, located six minutes from Melbourne Airport, is home to large mobs of kangaroos in their natural bush habitat.

We bet you didn’t know: Melbourne Medical Museum houses Australia’s largest medical collection and features more than 5,000 items, including ancient Roman surgical instruments, carbolic acid steam spray circa 19th-century England, and a Monaural stethoscope from 1885.

OK, but where can I watch the Sox? Turf Sports Bar & Grill is the city’s premiere sports venue featuring three big screens with surround sound and plenty of plasma TVs.

Padua, Italy (3,491 miles from Boston)

Sisterhood established: 1983

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Wait, so how did we become sisters? The sister-city agreement was established more than 30 years ago as a testament to the cities’ shared passion for education and student exchange. Since then, the relationship has inspired a slew of initiatives including Padua Week (an eight-day celebration highlighting fashion, art, and music from Italy) and a business agreement between the Boston-based Italy New England Chamber of Commerce and its Paduan twin.

It’s just like Boston! While it’s not quite up to the standards of “America’s College Town,” this city in northern Italy is home to 60,000 students, which gives the city a fun and youthful vibe.

It’s totally different from Boston! Attention, North Enders: You won’t find red sauce in Padua. Unlike your favorite dish at Giacamo’s, here tomatoes take a back seat to butter and cream in pasta sauces.

We bet you didn’t know: Looking for a true taste of Paduan culture? The tongue and jawbone of St. Anthony, an Italian saint who was said to locate lost items, is on display at a local church that bears his name.

OK, but where can I watch the Sox? Pier Bar is your go-to spot for drinking, sports betting, and catching the game.

Hangzhou, China (7,363 miles from Boston)

Sisterhood established: 1982

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Wait, so how did we become sisters? According to then-mayoral spokesperson Ronald Brinn, the proposal blossomed out of discussions between officials at the Boston-held Great Cities of the World Conference in 1980. Rumor has it that reps from Hangzhou enjoyed the city so much they remained here for a week after the conference ended. Since then, there have been numerous exchanges including a visit by the Hangzhou Silk Fashion team to promote Hangzhou’s silk industry. As of 2014, the two cities are connected by a direct flight.

It’s just like Boston! Boston is, of course, well known for the Boston Tea Party and the drink of choice in Hangzhou is tea. The Chinese have been drinking tea since around 2700 BC—before the Egyptian pyramids were built. And get this: The tea that was destroyed during the Boston Tea Party was from China, not India.

It’s totally different from Boston! A pivotal coastal trading center, Hangzhou’s main exports include rice and silk (not beer).

We bet you didn’t know: Hangzhou Bay gives rise to the world’s largest tidal bore, a long breaking wave dubbed the Silver Dragon. The wave is strongest in the fall, when it becomes a focal point of China’s Tide-Watching Festival.

OK, but where can I watch the Sox? The Shamrock Irish Sports Pub has been called the best bet in Hangzhou for catching an international sporting event.

Barcelona, Spain (3,642 miles from Boston)

Sisterhood established: 1980

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Wait, so how did we become sisters? In 1980, then-mayor Kevin White of Boston and Narcís Serra of Barcelona met for a champagne brunch at the Hub’s Hancock Tower. It was then they discovered the two cities shared many of the same problems and goals. In fact, according to The Boston Globe, White was quoted as saying that, until the conference, he saw Boston as “an island with its own special concerns. But now there is a recognition that we share many things.” With that, a sisterly connection was formed.

It’s just like Boston! With narrow, winding roads like Boston, Spain’s second-largest city is best experienced on foot. From picturesque Las Ramblas to Antoni Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia church, there are countless landmarks to take in and explore.

It’s totally different from Boston! Think the Big Dig took long to complete? Construction on the Sagrada Familia began in 1882 ... and it still isn’t finished yet!

We bet you didn’t know: Every August, the neighborhood of Gràcia hosts a week-long block party where avenues vie for the title of best-decorated promenade. The streets are reimagined in extraordinary detail, each with a separate and annually-chosen theme.

OK, but where can I watch the Sox? The Wild Rover streams all kinds of sports onto two big screens and six TVs.

Strasbourg, France (3,668 miles from Boston)

Sisterhood established: 1960

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Wait, so how did we become sisters? This sister-city relationship was the result of efforts by Charles Munch, a former conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra who was of Strasbourgian descent. According to The Boston Globe, Boston Mayor John Collins jumped on the bandwagon and sent a letter to the Alsacians asking them “to join with Boston in a full range of exchange activites.” More than five decades later, the Boston-Strasbourg Sister City Association inspires young artists from both cities to “widen their experiences and discover new horizons” through studio exchange programs and other types of support.

It’s just like Boston! The Boston Camerata, an American music ensemble, is setting up shop in Strasbourg this December. We can’t help but think Charles Munch would be proud.

It’s totally different from Boston! Forget ducks. Strasbourg is famous for its stork nests, which take refuge in chimneys and on rooftops throughout the city.

We bet you didn’t know: Strasbourg is home to one of the earliest pieces of robotics known to man. What was it? A mechanical rooster that crowed whenever the clock struck noon.

OK, but where can I watch the Sox? The Dubliners, Strasbourg’s resident Irish bar, has enough televisions to show up to three different sporting events simultaneously (plus, there’s live music on Saturdays).

Kyoto, Japan (6,824 miles from Boston)

Sisterhood established: 1959

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Wait, so how did we become sisters? Back in 1959, Kyoto sent a 10-member troupe for a week-long “Salute to Boston” and the rest, as they say, is history. Boston’s oldest sister-city relationship spans more than five decades and has spurred many events including a 50th anniversary celebration at Fenway Park. In 1979, Kyoto even donated a Japanese-style townhouse to the Boston Children’s Museum in what is considered to be the most generous gift from a foreign sister city to an American community, ever. The 100-year-old house was brought from Asia to North America in pieces and still stands today.

It’s just like Boston! Sure, there are cherry blossoms, but Kyoto has fall foliage to rival even the brightest of Boston’s trees. The leaves begin their transformation in October and peak during the second half of November, when the American season is coming to an end.

It’s totally different from Boston! Boston may be famous for its churches, but Kyoto is known for its temples. There are more than 2,000 Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines scattered throughout the city.

We bet you didn’t know: Ichijo-dori street, a neighborhood thoroughfare in downtown Kyoto, is straight out of “Monsters Inc.” The street makes local folklore a reality with zany statues lining the sides.

OK, but where can I watch the Sox? There’s a watering hole named Fenway Park Public Bar on Kawaramachi Street. Need we say more?