Twin Cities Travel Inspiration for International Friendship Day
July 30 is recognized around the world as International Day of Friendship, a day created by the United Nations General Assembly to celebrate the idea that friendships between people, countries, cultures and individuals can inspire peace efforts and build bridges between communities. With nearly a fifth (18%) of global travelers planning to travel with a friend this year,* it's the perfect catalyst for vacationers to plot a trip with their besties. For inspiration, we have selected a list of twinned cities – pairs of towns or cities from different countries which celebrate a geographical friendship to encourage trade relations, tourism and promote cultural understanding. From blissful island life to modern metropolises and everything in between, try one of these hand-picked destinations for a great getaway with friends.
Speightstown, Barbados and Reading, United Kingdom
Twinned in 2003, Speightstown in the Caribbean island of Barbados and Reading in the United Kingdom established strong links in the 1950s when hundreds of members of the Bajan community left the golden Barbados beaches to make English green fields their new home. Since then, the Bajan community has made a great social and economic contribution to Reading, solidifying a special friendship between the two towns. For a tropical vacation, Speightstown – tucked away on the north-western ‘Platinum Coast’ – is famed for its soft white sand, brilliant turquoise sea and spectacular sunset views. It offers a vibrant marina, dynamic dining scene and characterful streets lined with colonial architecture, as well as vendors selling fresh fruit, vegetables and locally-caught fish. Over in Reading in the county of Berkshire, this cosmopolitan town is encircled by the River Kennet and the River Thames, with fantastic seasonal river cruises on offer. Famous for its medieval history and summer music festival, there’s a nearby amusement park Thorpe Park for an adrenaline-packed day with travel buddies. The town is also just a short drive away from the Berkshire Downs, an area of outstanding natural beauty with sprawling fields of wildflowers and butterflies.
Where to stay: For a beachfront stay in Speightstown, Coral Sands & Carib Edge, AC beach condos feature fabulous balconies overlooking the ocean where friends can gather for a sunset cocktail. Snorkeling and fishing are popular activities for travelers to get involved in around the accommodation, which can host up to seven guests. In Reading, The Faculty by Celador Apartments, a Booking.com Travel Sustainable-certified property, offers a contemporary and comfortable stay in the heart of town for up to four guests, perfect for a group to chill out on the sofa with a cup of English tea.
Indianapolis, Indiana, United States and Monza, Italy
Speed loving pals should race to a getaway at twinned cities Indianapolis and Monza. As the host cities of world-renowned racing events, their love of motorsports was a natural starting point for this collaboration. Indianapolis is even home to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum (IMSM) dedicated to the thrill and culture of the sport and uniquely situated inside the 2.5 mile (4 km) oval track. Beyond race cars and its famous speedway, the state capital is also home to the serene green White River State Park as well as the Fountain Square District lined with an array of cool dive bars, lively music venues and hip restaurants. Those looking for a taste sensation in Monza will not be left disappointed either. Located in the Lombardy region northeast of Milan and renowned for its rich delicacies, the bright yellow risotto alla monzese – made from saffron and sausages – is a must-try. Groups can opt for a private walking Monza Sightseeing Tour of the compact city to discover the historial Monza Park and the famous F1 racetrack. Stop for a coffee, gelato or glass of sparkling wine along the way.
Where to stay: Found in the north side neighborhood of Indianapolis, the Ironworks Hotel Indy is an upscale, boutique hotel featuring a 19th century industrial design complete with reclaimed wood accents and exposed brick walls. Each room has a spa-inspired bathroom with a luxury rainfall shower, and the hotel has a rooftop lounge and onsite restaurant where friends can gather. In Monza, Hotel de la Ville Monza - Small Luxury Hotels of the World is just a short stroll from the city’s historic center and offers an elegant stay inspired by the charm of the nearby Monza Royal Palace, overlooking its beautiful gardens. For foodie friends keen to enjoy regional delicacies, the hotel’s award-winning restaurant Derby Grill is a culinary tribute to Italian tradition with its classic yet modern menu.
Tacoma, Washington, United States and Davao City, Philippines
Tacoma and Davao City were declared sister cities in 1994 to promote tourism, improve the quality of education and develop local economies through trading. Both port cities have plenty to keep visitors satisfied with a wealth of cultural opportunities, outdoor activities, restaurants, parks and wildlife. Tacoma, situated south-west of Seattle, boasts a port harbor called Commencement Bay with spectacular views of volcano Mount Rainier and its glaciated peak. The friendly city, famous for its world-renowned glass art, is full of creativity rooted in the arts and its galleries and theaters are popular amongst locals and visitors – including the popular Museum of Glass. Feast with friends at the local farmers market or conquer some of the spectacular hiking and biking trails together with an adventure along the coast. Davao City, on the southern Philippine Island of Mindanao, has a sprawling modern center just an hour’s drive away from pristine, white sandy beaches and forested slopes. Hang out in People’s Park, known for its colorful indigenous sculptures and lighted fountains, or experience panoramic views of the city from Jack’s Ridge with Mount Apo looming majestically in the distance.
Where to stay: Silver Cloud Inn - Tacoma Waterfront is located on the shores of Commencement Bay and offers stunning views of the ocean which guests can enjoy from the terrace. Tacoma’s only waterfront hotel, it’s located near the museum district and just a short drive away from the city center. In the sister city of Davao City, The Bourke Hotel is just a short walk from Matina Town Square and People’s Park and features a fusion of modern and traditional design. A chic hideaway secluded from the noise of the city, up to three friends can stay together in a spacious suite with a private balcony.
Malacca City, Malacca, Malaysia, and Lisbon, Portugal
Portugal’s capital was announced as Malacca City’s twin in 1984 and the coastal destinations have shared a strong bond ever since. The city of Malacca, in southwestern Malaysia, is a UNESCO world heritage site and well known for its boutiques, small museums and fantastic restaurants. Visitors can explore the city together on a trishaw or by foot; or immerse in the culture with a guided Private Day Trip for an off-the-beaten-track experience through a patchwork of forests, farmlands and a visit to the Temple of Green Cloud. Malacca City’s twin, Lisbon, is crafted of cobbled alleyways, ancient ruins and white-domed cathedrals and bursting with lively nightlife. Nestled among seven hills, the city is incredibly walkable but travelers can opt for a Private Tuk-tuk Tour to discover the most famous landmarks including Lisbon’s oldest surviving medieval church and the largest town square in Europe. For visitors looking to eat like a local amongst friends, bacalhau (dried and salted cod) and pastel de nata (Portuguese egg custard tarts) are delicious regional favorites.
Where to stay: For friends looking for a cool and unique homestay in Malacca City, look no further than The Nest House. Just a short walk from Jonker Street night market, a must-visit to try local cuisine, this chic guesthouse features sleek industrial-style design and a rooftop terrace. Over in Lisbon, the Residentas Apostoles offer spacious and luxurious apartments set in an 18th-century building. Located in the Chiado neighborhood, it’s a short walk away from some of the city's best restaurants and bars where friends can toast their vacation.
Seoul, South Korea and Taipei, Taiwan
Taipei was Seoul’s first twinned city with the capitals uniting in 1968. Ideal for friends looking to get away to a metropolis, both capital cities are renowned for their dramatic skylines. Closer to the ground, old meets new in Seoul with an intriguing contrast of Buddhist temples and palaces with skyscrapers and pop culture. Travelers can experience both ancient and modern highlights on a Guided Introductory Tour, including the 14th-century Fortress Wall of Seoul and the new Seoul City Hall along with a visit to a traditional market. Over in Taipei, market lovers will also be spoiled for choice with a lively street-food scene and array of night markets. Eating out is cheap, casual and tasty, and amongst the most popular local dishes is the delicious tempura and braised pork rice. This 300-year-old city takes great pride in celebrating its history; discover Taoist temples, Japanese colonial lanes and treasures at the National Palace Museum.
Where to stay: High above the city, the Signiel Seoul hotel is situated in Lotte World Tower, the sixth tallest building in the world and comes complete with far-reaching views. The definition of luxury, guests can indulge in the champagne bar and Michelin-starred restaurant, or take a dip in the swimming pool – all with magnificent panoramic vistas. For those taking in Taipei’s cityscape, the arTree hotel offers a unique experience; from grand tree trunk pillars to chairs reminiscent of roots, this hotel will help guests connect with nature while bang in the middle of bustling Taipei. With stylish and modern rooms, friends can meet in the garden terrace or soak in the natural hot spring water of the onsite bathhouse.
*Research commissioned by Booking.com and independently conducted among a sample of 48,413 respondents across 31 markets (2,000 from USA, 1,864 from Canada, 1,999 from Mexico, 2,003 from Colombia, 2,005 from Brazil, 2,002 from Argentina, 1,020 from Chile, 1,777 from Australia, 818 from New Zealand, 1,999 from Spain, 2,002 from Italy, 1,998 from France, 1,990 from UK, 2,005 from Germany, 2,003 from Netherlands, 985 from Denmark, 999 from Sweden, 910 from Croatia, 918 from Switzerland, 1,986 from Belgium, 998 from Russia, 953 from Israel, 1,999 from India, 1,990 from China, 901 from Hong Kong, 1,775 from Thailand, 1,001 from Singapore, 975 from Taiwan, 1,800 from Vietnam, 1,757 from South Korea, 1,001 from Japan). In order to participate in this survey, respondents had to be 18 years of age or older, had to have traveled at least once for business or leisure in the past 12 months, and planning to travel in 2022 and be either the primary decision maker or involved in the decision making of their travel. The survey was taken online and took place in January 2022.