Minneapolis and St. Paul are located in the south central region of the state of Minnesota, at the site of the Mississippi River's only waterfall. Minneapolis is Minnesota's largest city, and St. Paul is its second largest city. The city of Minneapolis has a total area of 151.3 km/58.4 mi. The city of St. Paul has a total area of 145.5km/56.2 mi. The Minneapolis – St. Paul – Bloomington Metropolitan Statistical Area is home to three million residents, in 334 municipalities, in thirteen counties.

Minnesota is in a region referred to as the Midwest. This designation originated during the United States' early westward expansion, and generally includes the northern states between the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains - Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Therefore, Minnesotans can be referred to as Midwesterners.

The Twin Cities
Minneapolis directly adjoins Minnesota's capital city, St. Paul, to the east. The downtown districts are approximately 16 km/10 mi apart, and the two cities are frequently referred to as The Twin Cities. Despite this nickname, Minneapolis and St. Paul are very different. Minneapolis, the Hennepin County seat, is the larger of the two cities. It attracts more international business and attention, and its overall layout and architecture have a more contemporary feel. St. Paul, the state capital, boasts well-preserved late Victorian architecture and Midwestern charm. Both cities, however, offer parks, lakeshore, and neighborhood-based governance.

Bloomington, located south of the Twin Cities, is the largest Twin Cities suburb, and the fifth largest city in Minnesota. It is home to the United States' largest shopping center, the Mall of America, as well as its largest indoor water park, the Water Park of America.

City layout
The city of Minneapolis is geographically divided by the Mississippi River. Minneapolis' city street grid is laid out on a north-south/east-west orientation, but riverside roads often angle. The portion north of Hennepin Avenue is known as North Minneapolis, and the portion south of Hennepin and Superior Avenues is known as South Minneapolis. Avenues run north-south, and streets run east-west. Most are numbered, but prominent avenues such as Hiawatha and Minnehaha are exceptions.

A system of enclosed second-story pedestrian walkways connects 60 city blocks of downtown Minneapolis. Referred to as The Skyway, the extensive network allows for easy travel from building to building in winter weather.

The Mississippi River also runs through St. Paul, and forms a boundary on the city's west, southwest and southeast sides. St. Paul's streets are winding, and sometimes difficult for newcomers to navigate. Downtown St. Paul also features a pedestrian skyway in its downtown area.

The city of Minneapolis was incorporated in 1858, having emerged from the communities around the Saint Anthony Falls, the only waterfall on the Mississippi River. These communities had been bolstered by nearby Fort Snelling, a American military installation from the early 1800s until World War II. While the region's initial prosperity was attributed to the lumber industry, the Great Plains agricultural boom of the mid 19th century shifted the chief industry of Minneapolis to grain milling. More recently, Minneapolis has thrived in retail, health care and financial industries.

St. Paul emerged near Lambert's Landing, the last viable area to unload northbound boats on the Mississippi River. This feature, combined with the emergence of railroads, made St. Paul a key locale for cross-country transit for years. St. Paul's prominence has since evolved into new commercial interests, as well as state governance.

Business and culture
After decades of industrialization and attempts at urban reform, today the Minneapolis/St. Paul area is well-known for its business environment, area livability, and fine arts communities. Recent expansions and relocations of museums and theaters, such as the Walker Art Center and the Guthrie Theater, attract both local and international attention.