Photo Credit: Jim Montanus

Rochester's Sister Cities

Rennes, France - 1958 

Rennes, located in northwestern France and situated at the confluence of the Vilaine and the Ile Rivers, is the capital of the province of Brittany. It has a population of 216,000. 400,000 people live in its metropolitan area. As a Celtic settlement during the sixth century BC and throughout the following centuries, it experienced many settlers and conquerors.

Rennes is an important economic, commercial and administrative center and has evolved into a renowned crossroads for high-tech research, telecommunications, manufacturing, agribusiness and electronics. Among the corporations in Rennes are Legris, PSA Peugeot Citroën, Ouest-France, Yves Rocher, Motorola, Groupe Le Duff, France Telecom R & D and Canon.

Rennes has a student population of 60,000, two major universities, many prestigious schools of engineering, and a strong cultural heritage including museums, the Franco-American Institute, an American Consulate, art galleries, an opera, and a symphony orchestra. 

Rennes Home Page (in French)            Rennes-Rochester Sister Cities Committee

Würzburg, Germany - 1964

Settled in the 7th century on the Main River and, today, capital of lower Franconia, Würzburg has a population of 130,000. It is the northern gateway of the Romantische Strasse which starts in Würzburg, goes through Rothenburg ob der Tauber and ends at Neuschwanstein, King Ludwig's famous castle. This cultural city has a conservatory of music and holds annual Mozart and Bach festivals. The collection of Tilman Riemenschneider carvings is housed in the Main Franken museum in the famous Marienberg fortress towering over the city. One of many tourist attractions is the Bishop's palace with its handcrafted parquet floors and world renowned ceiling frescoes by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Würzburg 's well known products include Franken wine and printing presses made by the world's oldest manufacturer printing equipment, Koenig & Bauer. Roentgen discovered the X-ray at the University of Würzburg.

In addition to a year-long high school exchange program, many cultural, sports, and citizen-to-citizen exchanges occur, such as the RPYO visit to Würzburg, the Girls' Cathedral Choir of Würzburg visit to Rochester, a long-standing exchange between the Irondequoit Youth Soccer Club and Würzburg 's Youth Soccer Club. These are examples of events that foster friendship between the two cities.

Würzburg Online  

Caltanissetta, Italy - 1965

With a population of 61,000 people, Caltanissetta is situated at the center of Sicily. Founded in 800 B.C. and dominated by several civilizations, the city and its surroundings are today a unique blend of many cultures, traditions, and folklore that have influenced its development through the centuries.

Among its artistic treasures are the Siculo-Grecian archeological centers of Sabucina and Gibil-Gabib, the Mineralogy and Sulphur Museum, the Palazzo Moncada, and the Santo Spirito Abbey built by Count Roger in 1151. Caltanissetta is today the home of the award winning nougat-candy factory, Torronifici Geraci; the Salvatore Amorelli heather briar pipes, which have become fine collection pieces; and the industry of Amaro Averna, a fine liqueur.

Rehovot, Israel  - 1972

Polish Jews founded Rehovot, one of Israel's oldest communities, in 1890, about 20 kilometers southeast of modern Tel Aviv; Yemenite Jews joined them in 1906. In the 1990s its population swelled again, by immigration from the Soviet Union, and by Operation Solomon, an airlift of Ethiopian Jews from Africa. Today this inland city of 140,000 is city of culture, science, and agriculture. The symbols on the City's flag are the orange, representing its citrus groves; the microscope, for research; and the book, representing education and scholarship.

The first president of Israel, Chaim Weizman, and his wife are buried on the grounds of the Weizman Institute of Science, which he founded in 1934 for the study and advancement of science and technology. Today the internationally-known institute is home of some 2500 scientists and students. Rehovot's growing Kaplan Medical Center treats more than 120,000 people from the surrounding areas, welcoming some 6,000 babies annually. The Hebrew University has based its Faculty of Agriculture in Rehovot. Other noted Israelis have called Rehovot home, including Abba Eban, former foreign minister and representative to the United Nations, and S.Y Agnon, Nobel Laureate for Literature.

Kraków, Poland - 1973

Beautifully situated in the basin of Vistula River, Krakόw, Poland, is a city rich in history and culture, It developed at the junction of major trade routes sometime before the year 956. It became the Royal Capital of Poland in 1038 and retained the honor for 500 years. The Wawel Cathedral is a major tourist attraction in this city of 750,000.  The Cathedral houses the remains of Poland's monarchs and dignitaries, including Polish patriot and American Revolutionary War hero Tadeusz Kościuszko, UNESCO has designated Krakόw's historic city center as a World Heritage site.

Traditionally a major economic, trade, and cultural center, Krakόw is the site of the Jagiellonian University, one of the oldest universities in Europe. Founded in 1364, the University attracts students from all over the world. Its alumni include Mikolaj Kopernik (Copernicus) and Karol Wojlyla (Pope John Paul II).

Krakόw Home Page

Bamako, Mali  - 1975

Bamako, the capital of the Republic of Mali, which once prospered as one of three of the greatest black-ruled kingdoms in West Africa, was founded in the year 1640. Built on the banks of the Niger River, Bamako derives its name from "Bama" and "Ko," meaning alligator and river. Its population of one million plus includes a diversity of ethnic groups. Its largest is that of the Bambara people. Although French is the official language, the Bambara language is the one most commonly spoken.

Bamako has beautifully and harmoniously integrated both the "modern" and the "old" as part of its present day culture, and has thus retained much of its traditional lifestyle and architecture. The economy includes agriculture and industry, with some of its primary products deriving from cotton, fish, ground nuts, livestock, and handicrafts. Although there is much economic deprivation, Bamako retains a rich history and an abundance of cultural wealth. 

Waterford, Ireland - 1983

Waterford, Ireland, became Rochester's seventh sister city in 1983. The city of 50,000 is located on the River Suir in southeastern Ireland. Settled by the Norsemen in the 9th century and occupied by the Norsemen in 1170, the city was devastated by the forces of Oliver Cromwell in 1650.

Dominated by Reginald's Tower, a Viking fortress erected in 1003 and now housing a civic museum, modern Waterford is a leading industrial city and seaport which is world famous for its superb Waterford crystal. One of Rochester's leading manufacturers, Bausch and Lomb, has a plant in Waterford.

The city's rich cultural life features the Theater Royal and the Garter Lane Arts Center, and is climaxed each September by the International Festival of Light Opera.  For two decades golfers of Waterford and Rochester have held an annual golf tournament to raise funds for charities in the two cities, totaling more than $400,000 by 2008.  

Waterford City Home Page         

V. Novgorod, Russia - 1990

One of the oldest cities in Russia, Novgorod was founded in 859 A.D. Located on Lake Ilmen, between Moscow and St. Petersburg, the city is similar to Rochester in geography, in the presence of numerous high technology industries, and in the attention given to the education and health of its citizens.

Also like Rochester, Novgorod is bisected by a river, the Volkhov, and is home to more than 200,000 people. Novgorodians are especially proud of their historic institutions that existed long before the ascendancy of Moscow. Hanseatic League merchants were trading in Novogorod by the 12th century. Composer Anton Arensky was born in Novgorod in 1861. The achievements of other early citizens in art and culture continue to be revealed through extensive archaeological discoveries.

In 1992 UNESCO added its chief monuments to the World Heritage list. In 1998, the city was officially renamed Velikiy Novgorod, recalling its medieval title "Lord Novgorod the Great".

Hamamatsu, Japan - 1996

Hamamatsu is both an historic and a modern city, located on the coast between Tokyo and Osaka.  Settlement dates back to 16,000 BC. Hamamatsu Castle, built in 1570, was once occupied by the Shogun, Iyeyasu Tokugawa.  Covering about 1,500 square kilometers, the metropolitan city has a population of about 800,000.  Its rich natural environment, encompassing the ocean, lake, rivers, and mountains, enjoys a mild climate.  

Hamamatsu is home to such international corporations as Yamaha, Kawai, Suzuki, and Honda.  It is the foremost city in Japan for the production of motorcycles, pianos, electronic musical instruments, naval oranges and gerberas, and hydroelectric power. 

Its universities, museums, parks, and historic sites give it a rich cultural life as well.  It houses Japan's only Musical Instrument Museum, with its collection of 3200 instruments.  The development of ACT City in 1994-- a premier theater and hotel complex for the promotion of music, art, communications, and technology--enhances its reputation as "Music City."  The famous Kite Festival in May attracts over a million visitors to a competition of teams flying more than 150 room-sized kites, followed by a parade of traditional floats. 

Hamamatsu City Website  

Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic - 1997

Puerto Plata faces the warm beautiful beaches of the Atlantic. Behind it is Mt. Isabel de Torres, a national park and botanical garden, accessible by cable car. At the top is the Christ the Redeemer statue and a breathtaking view of the city and coastline.

The island of Hispaniola was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492. Timber from the wreck of the ship "Santa Maria" was used to build the "Nativity Fortress," which was later destroyed by the natives due to the abuses committed by the Spanish. Columbus resolved to build the town of "La Isabela," the first European settlement in the New World, located one hour west of Puerto Plata, today a major tourist attraction.

Puerto Plata's population reaches 160,000. Its major industries involve the processing of agricultural products such as sugar cane, rum, tropical fruits, amber jewelry, and tourism.

Xianyang, China - 2007 

Xianyang is a city of five million, located in Shaanxi Province in north central China.  The Wei River, a tributary of the Yellow River, flows through its center.  Established more than 3000 years ago, it was the capital city of the first Chinese emperor.  Xianyang has a diverse mix of industry and institutions of art, culture, and higher education.  Lying in a region of abundant soft coal heavily used by its industries, it faces serious pollution control challenges that provide an immediate opportunity for technical exchanges with Rochester.  It is served by the international airport of nearby Xian, likewise a former capital and home to the tombs of the famed terra cotta warriors. 

Activities have included Xianyang high school students staying in local homes, webcam conferences, and pen-pal relationships.  Exchanges are being developed involving local pollution abatement professionals and museum collections. 

Alytus, Lithuania- 2009

Alytus lies along the Nemunas River in southern Lithuania. An ancient settlement on a major trade route, the city dates from the 14th century, when the fortress on Alytus Hill defended the region from Crusader raids, Alytus spread over neighboring hills and valleys, encompassing verdant forests, so that today more than a third of the city of 75,000 is forest reserve and parkland. Vidzgiris forest provides a 452 hectare botanical reservation within the city, featuring rare plants and protected animals.Foremost of Alytus' many festivals is the three-day Alytus City Festival at summer solstice, featuring music, ballooning, sports, and theatrical performances. Its Bonsai Exhibition is unique in the Baltic States. The biennial festival of contemporary experimental art draws artists from more than 25 countries. Alytus' Festival of Lighting the Christmas Tree encompasses may events, including Christmas festivities and evenings of Christmas, jazz, and classical music. Recreation opportunities include hiking, water sports, fishing, birding, and exploring historic and archeological sites.

Alytus' high schools and technical college support its industrial centre, with factories producing refrigerators, chemical products, linen, and clothing.

City of Alytus      Alytus College      Alytus Tourism

For more information about International Sister Cities of Rochester, call (585) 428-7045 or email