Commonly known as the Twin Cities, MINNEAPOLIS (a hybrid Sioux/Greek word meaning “water city”) and ST PAUL are competitive yet complementary. Fraternally rather than identically twinned, they may be even better places to live than they are to visit, thanks to their cleanliness, cultural activity, social awareness and relatively low crime rates.
Only a twenty-minute expressway ride separates the respective downtowns, but each has its own character, style and strengths. St Paul, the state capital – originally called Pig’s Eye, after a scurrilous French-Canadian fur trader who sold whiskey at a Mississippi River landing in the 1840s – is the staid, slightly older sibling, careful to preserve its buildings and traditions. The compact but stately downtown is built, like Rome, on seven hills: the Capitol and the Cathedral occupy one each, both august monuments that keep the city mindful of its responsibilities.
Minneapolis, founded on money generated by the Mississippi’s hundreds of flour-and sawmills, is livelier, artier and more modern, with up-to-date architecture and an upbeat attitude. The residents are spread over wider ground than in St Paul, and dozens of lakes and parks underscore the city’s appeal.