Fun Fact: Did you know that Cleveland has sister cities around the globe?
Sister cities are partnerships between 2 cities (usually in different countries) to collaborate on political, cultural, and even economic interests. This concept began after WWII in Europe to help forge bonds across previously divided cities and towns.
It then picked up steam in the US in 1956 when Dwight D. Eisenhower created the Sister Cities International organization during the People-to-People Conference.
Each sister city pair works together to promote culture, trade, community development, and education. Now there are many cities across the US that have their own sister cities, including Cleveland!
Whether you’re making your future travel bucket list or just love fun facts, these are the 23 Cleveland sister cities you’ll want to learn more about. Who knows, perhaps you may have already visited one (or two)!
Cleveland Sister Cities
1. Lima, Peru
This may be surprising, but Lima was actually Cleveland’s very first sister city. The partnership began in 1964 under Mayor Ralph S. Locher. The Women’s City Club of Cleveland is largely responsible for this alliance, and the Lima City Councilman Fortunato O. Brown even came for a visit before the partnership took place.
This relationship inspired other suburbs across Cleveland to create their own sister city partnerships!
Lima is the capital and largest city of Peru, with a population of 8.8 million people. It is also the industrial leader of Peru, producing textiles, food, chemicals, etc. It has 28 universities across the city, and being located along the coast of the Pacific Ocean, the climate is pretty mild year-round. So it might be a great spot to visit during a Cleveland winter to escape the cold (hint: it’s summer there)!
Lima is full of history and was part of the Incan Empire before the Spanish invaded in the 1500s. However, you can still find remnants of its past throughout the city, from the pre-Incan ruins of Huaca Pucllana dating back to the 200-700s AD to the pre-Columbian art at the Larco Museum.
I visited Lima during a trip to Peru in 2019, and it is an incredible city. With a vibrant food scene, beautiful parks, and sweeping views over the Pacific Ocean, you definitely need to spend a day or so exploring the ins and outs of Lima.
Here are a few things you can’t miss on a visit to Lima, Peru:
- Take a food tour. Trust me on this one. Try Peru’s signature dish, ceviche, have a pisco sour, and sample local fruits at a market! It is a great way to spend some time exploring Lima.
- Visit the exciting neighborhoods of Miraflores and Barranco.
- Explore the Main Square of Lima.
- Visit city parks like Kennedy Park (known as the cat park) and Park of Love.
- Admire pre-Incan ruins like Huaca Pucllana.
- Take in pre-Columbian art at the Larco Museum.
2. Brasov, Romania
While Lima was the very first Cleveland sister city, it actually took almost a full decade for the city to form another alliance. In 1973, Brasov, Romania became Cleveland’s second sister city.
Mayor Ralph J. Perk helped to form this alliance. Being an active member of Cleveland’s Eastern European community, he was very keen to establish a relationship with Brasov.
Nicolae Ceaușescu, Romania’s then-Communist leader, was visiting President Nixon that year to create an open policy toward the US and western Europe. Cleveland was actually the 10th largest city in the US at this time, so this was a smart move for Romania’s foreign policy strategy.
Perk saw it as a great opportunity for more economic and cultural partnerships and went on to create 8 more sister cities for Cleveland.
Brasov, while a fairly small city of about 250,000 people, is actually one of Romania’s largest cities. Tourism and manufacturing are some of the biggest industries in the city, and it is located in the Transylvania region of Romania.
This is definitely a unique city to visit while exploring Europe and a great spot to base yourself to see more of Romania! Here are some things to do in Brasov:
- Wander along the walls/towers of the Old Town that was once fortified.
- Visit the Black Church and admire the Turkish carpets inside.
- Hike (or take the funicular) up Mount Tampa to see a great view of the city and the Brosov sign.
- Admire the charming city center.
- Take a day trip to Bran Castle (the castle said to have inspired “Dracula”) or to Rasnov Fortress.
Check out more details and where to stay in Amanda’s guide to Brosov.
3. Ibadan, Nigeria
This Cleveland sister city partnership began shortly after Brosov in 1974 under Mayor Ralph J. Perk. Ibadan is the 3rd-largest city in Nigeria with over 3 million people and the largest land-wise.
It is home to many great universities, including one of the first universities in Nigeria, the University of Ibadan. It is also home to the African continent’s first TV station and skyscraper.
It is a trading hub for many goods like cassava, timber, rubber, etc.
Things to do in Ibadan include:
- Spot Cocoa House, the first skyscraper in Africa.
- Take in the views over the city from Bower Memorial Tower.
- Explore the vast flora and fauna at Agodi Botanical Gardens
- Hike the Ado Awaye Mountains and Suspended Lake, one of two suspended lakes in the world! (A suspended lake is a stagnant body of water on top of a mountain.)
4. Ljubljana, Slovenia
The capital city of Slovenia (former Yugoslavia) became the 4th sister city of Cleveland in 1975. With a population of around 280,000 people, Ljubljana is Slovenia’s largest city. It is also the economic and cultural center of the country.
With 80,000 people in Cleveland having Slovenian ancestry, it makes sense that this sister city relationship formed. Cleveland actually has the largest population of people of Slovenian descent of any other city in the world outside of Slovenia itself.
Ljubljana is also an up-and-coming tourist destination with its interesting architecture, dreamy sidewalk cafes, and relaxed vibes for a European capital city. Combine that with its close proximity to the famed Lake Bled, and it is no wonder why more people are falling in love with this city.
Here are some things you’ll want to see while in Ljubljana:
- Admire the bridges over Ljubljanica River (especially the Dragon Bridge).
- Take in the scenery while relaxing at a sidewalk cafe.
- Get a bird’s eye view of the city at Ljubljana Castle.
- Visit the quirky autonomous cultural art center of Metelkova.
- Of course, visit the iconic Lake Bled as a day trip.
5. Taipei, Taiwan
Taipei became another Cleveland sister city in 1975. With a population of about 2.6 million people, it is the largest city of Taiwan (and its capital city). Taipei is easy to get around thanks to its super connected public transportation system, and is known for its architecture and street food.
Some things you’ll want to do while in Taipei include:
- Take a tour of the National Palace Museum.
- Eat, eat, eat. Take a cooking class or food tour as street food here is everything. Definitely hit up some night markets.
- Hike around – there are many hiking trails just outside the city.
- Visit several beautiful temples such as Mengjia Longshan Temple, Confucius Temple, and Ciyou Temple.
- Go up Taipei 101, formerly the tallest building in the world until 2010.
6. Bangalore, India
Bangalore, India became Cleveland’s 6th sister city in 1975. Bangalore had originally requested to become a sister city back in 1965, but Mayor Locher declined as he was only interested in having one sister city.
When Mayor Perk was in office, he was all about forming sister cities for Cleveland and gladly formed a partnership with Bangalore. A fun connection between the two cities is that there is a neighborhood in Bangalore called Cleveland Town.
Bangalore is actually known as the “Silicon Valley of India,” and is a very significant economic city in the country. It has a population of around 8.4 million people, making it the third-largest city in India.
With palaces, temples, museums, and more, this is a great stop during a trip to India to explore! Here are some top things to do:
- Admire the architecture at palaces like Bangalore Palace and Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace.
- Take in some culture and history at museums like the National Gallery of Modern Art, Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technological Museum, and Indian Music Experience.
- Go shopping at markets like Commercial Street for clothes, spices, jewelry, and more, Chickpet Market for sarees, Malleswaram Market for flowers, and Gandhi Bazaar for spices.
- Explore the historic Bull Temple.
7. Alexandria, Egypt
Mayor Pelk was on a roll, adding sister cities for Cleveland left and right! This led to Alexandria, Egypt becoming Cleveland’s 7th sister city in 1977.
Alexandria has a population today of around 5.2 million people and was founded in 331 BC by Alexander the Great. It was once known as being the “World’s Center for Knowledge,” thanks to the ancient Library at Alexandria.
Being a Mediterranean port city, it became a big commercial hub and industries like cotton, paper, textiles, and more thrive here.
This is definitely a more popular city for tourists who are history lovers! Usually a city on many trips throughout Egypt, these are some popular things to do in Alexandria:
- Visit the Catacombs of Kom Ash-Suqqafa.
- Explore the Citadel of Qaitbay.
- Stroll along Alexandria Corniche, a walkway along the Mediterranean Sea.
- Shop at the Alexandria Souk.
- Visit Pompey’s Pillar, a famous Roman ruin.
- Take in the beauty of Abu Abbas Al-Mursi Mosque.
- Visit the Bibliotheca Alexandrina and the Antiques Museum there (though note that, sadly, the ancient Library of Alexandria has long since been destroyed).
8. Holon, Israel
1977 was a big year for Cleveland sister cities, as the city added 4 new partnerships that year. Holon, Israel was among them. With a population of about 190,000 people, this Mediterranean coastal city is located just south of Tel Aviv in the metropolitan Dan Gush area.
It is also the eighth-largest city in Israel with the second largest industrial zone producing textiles, glass, plastics, construction materials, and more.
Holon is also a very family friendly city and is known as “The Children’s City” for its many festivals and attractions that are fun for the whole family.
Things to do in Holon include:
- Attend a children’s festival or holiday parade.
- Take in the arts at Mediatheque Youth Theater.
- Explore and play at the Israeli Children’s Museum.
- Visit the nearby city of Tel Aviv.
- Check out the nearby Old Jaffa Port, the oldest seaport in the world!
9. Cleveland, United Kingdom
Also established as a Cleveland sister city in 1977, it is little wonder why this partnership came to be. With origins dating back to the 17th century, though, it appears that our UK counterparts named their city first.
Their “Cleveland” was derived from “cliff-land,” as the city has very hilly areas in the south. East Cleveland also runs along the North Yorkshire Heritage Coast.
It also had an iron boom in the 19th century. Today, this area is home to just over 600,000 people. Here are some things to do in the area:
- Take in the beautiful scenery on the Cleveland Way National Trail.
- Visit the charming coastal town called Saltburn-by-the-Sea.
- Admire the Infinity Bridge in Stockton-on-Tees.
- Explore more nature at Guisborough Forest Walkway.
10. Heidenheim an der Brenz, Germany
This smaller town in Germany of about 48,000 people was added in 1977 as a Cleveland sister city. It sits along the Bavarian border and has a big industrial economy, especially in the paper sector.
It also sits roughly halfway between Munich and Stuttgart, so it could be a great road trip stop to see a Cleveland sister city while exploring Germany!
Things to do in Heidenheim include:
- Admire the mix of old and new in the town with Medieval streets and buildings mixed with art nouveau and modern architecture.
- Visit a still functioning Benidictine Monastery at Neresheim Monastery.
- Explore the castle on a rock called Schlossberg above the town.
- Visit the Hellenstein Castle.
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11. Volgograd, Russia
After Mayor Pelk’s enthusiasm for forming sister cities with Cleveland, things stalled for a while and there were no new sister cities added until 1990.
During 1985, as tensions were rising between the US and USSR during the Cold War, some of Cleveland’s East Side residents in Shaker Heights and Cleveland Heights decided to focus on trying to build international relationships again.
They started pursuing a sister city relationship with Volgograd’s neighboring city of Volzhsky. Their efforts paid off as it led to a relationship with Volgograd in 1989. While originally vetoed by Cleveland’s mayor, Mayor Voinovich, it eventually passed in 1990, making Volgograd the 11th sister city of Cleveland.
With just over 1 million people, Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad) is known as the “Hero City” after the Battle of Stalingrad in 1945, where Russian forces turned the tide of WWII against the Nazis. Here are some things to do in Volgograd:
- The Motherland Calls Sculpture is an important monument to the Battle of Stalingrad.
- Learn more about the Battle of Stalingrad at the State Historical and Memorial Preserve The Battle of Stalingrad.
- Admire the architecture of the Volgograd Railway Station.
12. Gdansk, Poland
After Volgograd became a sister city in 1990, a couple more partnerships were entered into this year as Mayor Michael R. White was encouraged to do so by business leaders at the time.
Gdansk was actually a partnership that Mayor Pelk was working on during his term, but it came to fruition under Mayor White in 1990. Gdansk is a port city along the Baltic coast in Poland and is home to around 682,000 people.
This city has significant ties to WWII, as Poland refused to give up the city to Germany. Germany then invaded Poland and began WWII.
Gdansk has had ties to Cleveland for a long time, as they modeled their Nowy Port Lighthouse after a former Cleveland lighthouse built in 1871. During the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893, the Polish delegation visited Cleveland and loved the lighthouse on Lake Erie so much that it inspired the one they went on to build in Gdansk.
Things to do in Gdansk include:
- Admire the bright and vibrant buildings in the Old Town.
- Visit the European Solidarity Centre.
- Explore a medieval crane that has been restored at Zuraw Crane.
- Take in the views of the city from St. Mary’s Church.
- Enjoy the beautiful Mariacka Street.
13. Bratislava, Slovakia
Bratislava became the 13th sister city to Cleveland in 1990. It has a population of 424,000 people, and it is the largest city in Slovakia (and its capital city).
It sits along the Danube and is actually pretty popular as a stop on Danube river cruises, and is an easy day trip from nearby cities like Vienna.
Outside of Slovakia, Cleveland is home to the largest Slovak community in the world with upwards of 85,000 people! So it makes sense that this would be a perfect Cleveland sister city.
I also visited Bratislava as a day trip last year and here are some things you can’t miss:
- Admire the iconic St. Michael’s Gate as you enter the Old Town.
- Explore the beautiful architecture and sprawling squares in the Old Town.
- Take photos with many of the city’s funny sculptures like the Man at Work.
- Visit Bratislava Castle, an ancient castle complex with origins dating back to the 8-6th centuries BC.
- Spot the quirky UFO tower.
- Visit the Instagrammable Blue Church.
14. Conakry, Guinea
The 1990s saw a lot of great sister city partnerships, including Conakry, Guinea in 1991. This is the capital and largest city in Guinea, with 1.6 million people. It is the economic center of the country and is a major port city.
Things to do in Conakry include:
- Visit the Conakry Grand Mosque.
- Enjoy the many markets across the city.
- Explore Guinea National Museum.
15. Segundo Montes, El Salvador
Segundo Montes was founded in 1990 by refugees fleeing the El Salvadoran civil war and was named after a Jesuit priest. Local Cleveland churchwomen Dorothy Kazel and Jean Donovan were murdered by the Salvador National Guard in 1980, causing Cleveland to mourn.
Cleveland then worked with the Central American Network, Salvadoran Association of Ohio, the Commission on Catholic Community Action, and Community Relations Board of the City of Cleveland to help make this a sister city in 1991.
This tiny town was built for refugees so isn’t really a place for tourism. However, here are some things to do in the country of El Savador:
- Hike the Santa Ana Volcano.
- Visit Mayan Ruins at Tazumal and Joya De Cerén.
- Explore many waterfalls and beaches.
- See the Colonial architecture at Suchitoto.
- Eat or take a pupusa class!
16. Klaipėda, Lithuania
This seaside town in Lithuania is known for its port. With a population of around 153,000 people, this city along the Baltic Sea is certainly off-the-beaten-path, but a cute place nonetheless. It became a sister city to Cleveland in 1992.
Things to do in Klaipėda include:
- Admire the architecture, cobblestone streets, and German influence in the Old Town.
- Visit Sculpture Park for several works of art by Lithuianan artists from 1977-1991.
- Paddle along the Dane River.
- Visit museums like the Blacksmith Museum and Castle Museum.
17. Miskolc, Hungary
After the fall of communism, the Hungarian community of Cleveland pushed for a sister city relationship with Budapest. However, Fort Worth had established a relationship with the Hungarian capital and wouldn’t agree to share.
So Cleveland partnered with Miskolc instead in 1995. This city is home to about 158,000 people and is known for its heavy industry.
It also is near the Bukk Mountains, which is a popular Hungarian holiday destination. The partnership is great for culture, as the city is hoping to increase their tourism.
Things to do in Miskolc include:
- Relax in the Miskolc Thermal Cave Baths. Hungary is well known for its bathhouses, and this one may take the cake.
- Enjoy the Scenic Forest Train.
- Visit nearby Aggtelek National Park and its impressive cave system.
- Explore the Bukk Mountains.
18. Mayo, Ireland
The county of Mayo, Ireland became a sister city to Cleveland in 2003 under Mayor Jane L. Campbell. But it actually has been tied to Cleveland for a long time!
Being the third-largest county in the country of Ireland, Mayo actually lost more Irish people during the Great Famine than any other county, with many people emigrating to the US, Scotland, and England.
Several of those immigrants eventually moved to the Cleveland area during the construction of the Erie Canal system. And since the canal ends in Cleveland, they stayed.
In fact, 30,000 common names in Cleveland can be traced back to Mayo in Ireland (particularly Achill Island), and 72,000 people of Irish descent live in the area today. Fun fact: Amanda’s great-great-grandparents emigrated to the US from here!
Mayo’s main industries now include tourism and fishing. Here are the best things to do in Mayo, especially as part of an Ireland road trip:
- Learn about Irish country traditions at the National Museum of Country Life.
- Admire the beautiful Georgian town of Westport.
- Walk the steps of St. Patrick and climb Croagh Patrick.
- Drive the Wild Atlantic Way.
- Visit nearby Ashford Castle.
- Explore Achill Island, Ireland’s largest island.
19. Bahir-Dar, Ethiopia
In 2004, Bahir-Dar in Ethiopia became another Cleveland sister city. With a population around 750,000 and growing, it sits upon the shores of Lake Tana.
It is the sixth-largest city in the country, and it is known for its beauty and culture.
Some things to do in Bahir-Dar in Ethiopia include:
- Explore ancient monasteries that date back to the 16th and 17th centuries.
- Be awe-inspired by the Blue Nile Falls.
- Wander the shores of Lake Tana.
- Shop at Bahir Dar Market.
- Visit the Palace of Emperor Halie Selassie.
- Experience an Ethiopian coffee ceremony.
20. Fier, Albania
This smaller city in Albania of about 56,000 people became a Cleveland sister city in 2006. As Cleveland has a large Albanian community, it became a good fit to establish a partnership as sister cities.
This was also the first of 4 sister city partnerships made under Mayor Frank G. Jackson. Situated between the Seman and Aóös Rivers, this is one of Albania’s most developed cities.
Things to do in Fier include:
- Take in some history at the Museum of Apolonia, an archeological museum.
- Visit the Monastery of Saint Mary at Apollonia.
- Admire the Church of St. Mary, a church built in the 13th century.
- Explore ruins around the Castle of Gjon Boçari.
21. Rouen, France
The capital of Upper Normandy in France, Rouen was established as a sister city to Cleveland in 2008. Home to several Gothic churches, it is known as the “city of a hundred steeples.” It is also known for being the site of Joan of Arc’s death.
With a population of around 110,000, it is small, but is actually a popular day trip from Paris as it is only an hour and a half away.
And while this is a new relationship as a sister city, Rouen has had a relationship with Cleveland since WWI.
Cleveland’s Lakeside Hospital opened a hospital based outside of Rouen during the war, which is honored by a plaque in the current city hall. Also, a few Cleveland-based companies have branches in the area!
To celebrate the 10-year sister city partnership in 2018, there were Bastille Day events held in Ohio City and Wade Oval. Cleveland and Rouen even had artists go to each others’ cities and paint a mural to honor their relationship. In Ohio City, you can spot French artist Paatrice Marchand’s mural on Market Garden’s wall that faces the West Side Market. It has fried eggs as clouds and veggies underneath!
Some things to do in Rouen, France, include:
- Admire the Renaissance-style clock, Gros Horloge de Rouen.
- Explore the Rouen Cathedral, the burial place of Richard the Lionheart as well as other kings.
- Visit many of the beautiful Gothic churches in the city.
- Fall in love with the timber framed houses everywhere.
- Explore the city’s museums including the Ceramics Museum, Museum of Fine Arts of Rouen, Historical Jean d’Arc, etc.
- Wander the charming Old Town.
22. Vicenza, Italy
This city dating back to 49 BC has a long history and is located in the Veneto region of Italy, not far from Venice and Milan.
Cleveland became sister cities with Vicenza in 2009 in order to build some business relationships within both cities. The mayors of both cities (Mayor Jackson of Cleveland and Mayor Achille Variati of Vicenza) visited the Italian Garden at the Cleveland Cultural Gardens together while creating their partnership.
Things to do in Vicenza include:
- Admire the architecture of Andrea Palladio from the 1500s that remains throughout the city.
- Walk around the historical Piazza dei Signori.
- Check out Italian art at Palazzo Leoni Montanari.
- Spot Roman ruins in hidden spots across the city.
- Visit the Sanctuary of Monte Berico.
- Explore the various bridges.
- Visit several churches across the city including Duomo of Vicenza, Sanctuary of Monte Berico, and Church of San Lorenzo.
- Take a day trip to Venice!
23. Beit She’an, Israel
After Vicenza, Cleveland really didn’t expand its list of sister cities until recently. In 2019, Beit She’an/Valley of Springs became the most recent Cleveland sister city.
The City of Cleveland, the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, and Global Cleveland worked together to bring about this partnership with Beit She’an/Valley of Springs. The Jewish Federation of Cleveland has been working with Beit She’an/Valley of Springs for 25 years on social and cultural issues.
Beit She’an is home to around 17,000 people and is located at the junction of the Jordan River Valley and the Jezreel Valley. Here are some things to do in Beit She’an:
- Check out Beit She’an Synagogue National Park, home to huge amounts of archeological remains of several periods in history. It also has a 6th century synagogue named Beit Alfa.
- Go swimming and see more archeological ruins at Gan HaShlosha National Park.
- Hike up Mount Gilboa.
- Explore the Sea of Galilee.
Cleveland definitely has a lot of sister cities, and in May 2019 the city hosted representatives from each city at its first ever Cleveland Sister Cities Conference at the Cleveland Public Library. The event was held again in September 2020 virtually.
Which Cleveland sister city have you visited? Which would you most like to see?
- Case Western Reserve Encyclopedia of Cleveland History: Cleveland Sister City Partnerships (https://case.edu/ech/articles/cleveland-sister-city-partnerships)
- City of Cleveland, Ohio: Cleveland’s Sister Cities (http://www.city.cleveland.oh.us/CityofCleveland/Home/Government/MayorsOffice/Office_of_Government_Affairs/SisterCities)
Kat is a Cleveland transplant and has lived here for over 4 years. She loves to eat, drink, and explore the gems across the city, and has made it her personal mission to find the best breweries and pizza in Northeast Ohio. She also runs a couples travel blog and podcast called World Wide Honeymoon.