City Sisters

The 25th of April is World Sister Cities Day: it’s when the whole world is reminded that not only things can have siblings, but towns and cities as well. The relationship between sister cities – or as we Hungarians call them, testvérvárosok – is based on the encouragement of cultural exchange and economic cooperation. Let’s what big cities Budapest has been matched-up with!

Vienna, Austria

A long-time rival of Budapest, Vienna has been the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s main capital city, the other being the Magyar metropolis. Settled first by Celtic tribes, it was an important military camp of the Roman Empire from 15 BC called Vindobona. In 1440 Vienna became the resident city of the Habsburg dynasty, then it quickly grew to be the de facto capital of the Holy Roman Empire. King Matthias of Hungary sacked it and occupied the city from 1485 until his unfortunate death in 1490. During the second half of the last millennium Vienna has been a cultural center for arts and science, music, delicious pastries and cafés. Its cultural contributions from the 20th century include the Vienna Secession movement, psychoanalysis and the Second Viennese School. Between 2005 and 2016 Vienna’s population grew by more than 10 percent, making it one of Europe’s fastest growing cities. It was ranked the most livable city in the world by Mercer for the eighth year in a row.

New York City, USA

The most populous city of the USA, this fast-paced and never-sleeping sprawling metropolis is also one of the three centers of world economy (the other two being London and Tokyo), a global power city excelling in commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education and entertainment. New York was paired as a sister city to Budapest in 1992. The city’s Hungarian population was at its peak during the 1940s, exceeding a 100,000 people, most of them residing in the Yorkville district, then dotted with family-owned restaurants and Hungarian grocery stores. Fun fact: the 53rd Governor of New York, George Pataki, is the descendant of Hungarian immigrants as well, while the surname Pataki also appears in the popular cartoon show Hey Arnold!, borne by Helga Pataki, the love interest of Arnold.

Zagreb, Croatia

What Budapest was to Vienna during the Austro-Hungarian times, the same was Zagreb to the Hungarian capital in the past 1,000 years: the Croatian city-proper came into being in 1851, when the towns of Kaptol, Gradec (both founded by Hungarian King Saint Ladislaus at the end of the 11th century) and Nova Ves were united by Ban Josip Jelasic. Zagreb is home to a handful of museums (including the Museum of Broken Relationships – a real fun place!), festivals, gorgeous churches adorned by Zsolnay ceramics, the cottage cheese strudel and almost 800,000 people. It’s good traffic connections with other European capital cities like Vienna and Budapest make it a favored tourist spot, even though that the towns on the Dalmatian coast attract more people.

Lisbon, Portugal

Portugal is roughly the same size as Hungary, and the founding of its capital, Lisbon, also dates back to ancient times, similarly to how Aquincum is the Roman predecessor to Budapest. Actually, Lisbon is the oldest city in the whole of Western Europe! According to the legend, it was founded by the Greek Ulysses himself, reflected in the city’s Vulgar Latin name, Olissipona. Lisbon was inhabited by a great deal of peoples during its history: Lusitanians, Romans, Visigoths, Moors and even Norwegians! Situated on the shores of the Atlantic, Lisbon is famous for its experimental seafood-based cuisine, its salty oceanic air, castles, cute trams (which are yellow, just like ours in Budapest!) and its fascinating cobblestoned streets. If you want to see the gift the Portuguese gave to Budapest in 1996, visit the Deák Ferenc tér station of the M3 metro line and look for the wall tiles!

Lviv, Ukraine

Western Ukraine’s largest city was founded in the 13th century and named after Prince Leo, the son of King Daniel of Galicia. Even though it came under the Austrian crown in the second half of the 18th century, Lviv (also known as Lemberg by its German name) had managed to keep its unique Polish-Ukrainian cultural identity, a mixture of the Catholic and Orthodox traditions of the two peoples, that’s showcased excellently by the city’s UNESCO World Heritage old town. Now that both Wizz Air and Ryanair have cheap flights to Lviv, there’s really nothing stopping you from visiting this cheap and charming city of 750,000 people.