San Diego’s Sister Cities, one by one

From cities in Mexico, to Japan, Taiwan, and Australia, America’s Finest City has a big extended family.

SD sister cities sign

This sign in downtown San Diego — near the San Diego Civic Theatre — will show you the way to our sister cities.

Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday

Table of Contents

San Diego isn’t an only child. Did you know that America’s Finest City actually has 16 sister cities? Today we’re giving you a tour of SD’s siblings from abroad, from the comfort of your screen.

SD sister cities Yokohama Japan

Yokohama, Japan, was San Diego’s first-ever sister city.

Photo via @rem.mths

What is a sister city?

Also known as twin or friendship cities, President Dwight D. Eisenhower began the Sister Cities International initiative in 1956. This relationship is established when two places make an agreement to promote lasting cultural ties. The idea is to form a fellowship that encourages trade, tourism, and even cultural exchanges and projects.

SD sister cities Yokohama Japan

SD + Yokohama, sisters since 1957.

Photo via @sodidi6150202

Yokohama, Japan | Est. 1957

San Diego signed its first-ever Sister City Agreement with this city in Tokyo Bay — the first such affiliation on the West Coast. The friendship was cemented with the Yokohama Friendship Bell on Shelter Island in May 1958, and the “Girl with the Red Shoes” sculpture near the bell. The Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park is also considered an expression of friendship between the cities. In Yokohama, find San Diego’s symbol of friendship at the El Camino Real Mission Bells in Yamashita Park.

SD sister cities Tijuana Mexico

The sisterhood between San Diego and Tijuana is strong.

Photo via @xolo21

Tijuana, Mexico | Est. 1993

The cross-border proximity makes this a super-close sister city. San Diego is always working with Tijuana on binational projects to bolster economic development on both sides of the border. Find a nod to this friendship (and two other sister cities) at the “Pearl of the Pacific” on Shelter Island.

Edinburgh, Scotland | Est. 1977

With many museums, galleries, and theaters, San Diego and Edinburgh both have strong tourism industries. In 2005, Edinburgh donated a bronze statue of Greyfriars Bobby — the city’s famous faithful terrier — to San Diego to celebrate 25 years of sisterhood. In October 2007, the art was dedicated in “The Brother Dog Statues” ceremony along with a sculpture of “Bum,” San Diego’s official town dog. Both pieces sit (like good doggies) at William Heath Davis House Park in the Gaslamp Quarter.

SD sister cities taichung taiwan

San Diego and Taichung City have been family for 40 years.

Photo via @l0veinsulat0r

Taichung City, Taiwan | Est. 1983

The cities have strengthened their bond with a Taichung student group visit to San Diego and an exchange of gifts — including this banner given to former Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

León, Mexico | Est. 1969

This city is known as a shoemaking hub, and in April 1999 León gifted a statue to San Diego dubbed “Our Lady of the Shoes.” The statue was created by Mexican artist Carlos Terres and keeps vigil over the graves at Mt. Hope Cemetery.

SD sister cities panama city

San Diego and Panama City have had a bond since 1915, and an official sisterhood since 2015.

Photo via Pexels

Panama City, Panama | Est. 2015

This sisterhood dates back to 1915, when San Diego hosted its Panama-California Exposition at the newly-built Balboa Park, to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal. Many historians credit the event for putting our city on the map, and San Diego became the first American port of call north of the canal. One-hundred years later, the duo became sister cities and last year, the House of Panama opened at the International Cottages in Balboa Park.

Campinas, Brazil | Est. 1995

The San Diego International Cities Association says this relationship between San Diego and the city located along the coastal interior of the state of São Paolo is built on “cultural, educational, charitable, and business exchanges.”

Jeonju, Republic of Korea | Est. 1983

In December 1983, former San Diego Mayor Roger Hedgecock visited Jeonju City and commemorated the moment with this plaque. Also, check out this joint declaration from May 1983 between Hedgecock and Kang Sang Won, the mayor of Jeonju City, written in English and Korean.

Cavite, The Philippines | Est. 1969

This city is located on a peninsula bounded by Manila Bay, and its partnership with San Diego is rooted in cultural exchange. In May 1993, Cavite Mayor Tim Encarnacion presented former San Diego Mayor Susan Golding with a Cannon Ball from Cavite City — a relic fired from the Spanish Artillery installed at Naval Base Cavite at Sangley Point.

SD sister cities map

This extended family runs deep.

Map via City of San Diego

Perth, Australia | Est. 1986

This sisterhood began around the time Perth hosted the America’s Cup — and the challenger club was the San Diego Yacht Club. The San Diego-Perth Sister City Society works to keep this tie strong, making connections through education, arts, culture, and economic development.

Jalalabad, Afghanistan | Est. 2004

Per the San Diego International Cities Association, the goal of this sisterhood is “peace, prosperity, stability, and justice” through educational, cultural, and humanitarian collaboration. Check out this sister city certificate presented during the signing ceremony.

Tema, Ghana | Est. 1976

A mosaic mural — the “Peace and Unity Wall” — was constructed in this African sister city using supplies donated from San Diego. The San Diego-Tema Sister Cities Society has also held events locally, including this one in 2014.

Alcalá de Henares, Spain | Est. 1982

This city ~22 miles east of Madrid is the birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes, the author of “Don Quixote.” The goal of this relationship focuses on cultural exchange, especially between schools and universities. The House of Spain in Balboa Park hosts an annual Cervantes Festival.

Warsaw Prov, Poland | Est. 1996

The San Diego-Warsaw & Mazovia Province Sister City Society focuses on bringing these sisters together through art and film festivals, business conferences, soccer tournaments, and scientific exchanges between universities.

SD sister cities Pearl of the Pacific

“Pearl of Pacific” on Shelter Island commemorates the sisterhood between San Diego and Vladivostok, Yantai, and Tijuana.

Vladivostok, Russia | Est. 1991

Located in Russia’s province of Primorsky Krai, this sister city society coordinates cultural and educational activities, including youth art exchanges. Find a symbol of this friendship at the “Pearl of the Pacific” fountain at the tip of Shelter Island, designed by students from Vladivostok, Yantai, Tijuana, and San Diego. The tiles represent the four quadrants of the Pacific Rim, with nods to each sister city’s country — Russia, China, Mexico, and the US.

Yantai, China | Est. 1985

A delegation from San Diego visited this city in northeastern Shandong Province to sign the sister city agreement. Artifacts from the partnership were displayed in the City Clerk’s Mayoral Artifacts Exhibit in June 2016. You’ll also find Yantai’s presence at the “Pearl of the Pacific.”