Budapest vs. Prague

18 Feb

I’m in Hungary this week (staying in Budapest specifically). And if there’s one city rivalry in east central Europe that I frequently hear about, it’s Prague vs. Budapest. Sometimes Krakow gets involved too, but since I haven’t been to Krakow, I’ll keep it to Prague and Budapest for now. I’m going to compare these cities in several different areas, and choose a winner for each area, or some may be a tie.

TRADITIONAL CUISINE: Czech Food is hearty, bland, and meaty. Many would say the traditional Czech cuisine is one of Europe’s least appealing, right down there with that of the British and Irish. I think for the most part, Eastern European cuisines are a personal taste. Some love it, some hate it. I’ll confess that of all the countries I have visited, the Czech Republic was where I most often chose international alternatives instead of the traditional cuisine.

None of the Eastern European cuisines really can compare to that of the Chinese, French, Japanese, or Italians, but of all of them, Hungarian cuisine comes the closest. It makes great use of Paprika and is not just hearty, but has flavor. There are many interesting soups, such as Goulash, or liver dumplings in beef broth.

WINNER: Budapest

ARCHITECTURE: The architecture of Prague is quaint and pretty, and has not been damaged by the many wars this region has endured. Prague’s architecture is some of the best in Europe, if not the best. Every one of the old buildings seems unique, but the styles all blend together well.

Budapest’s architecture is very pretty too, but more dramatic and Baroque than that of Prague. Prague’s architecture just feels like it’s on a more human scale, and wandering Prague’s alleyways and streets is an experience Budapest cannot provide in the same way.

WINNER: Prague

“OFF THE BEATEN PATH” FACTOR: Budapest is the clear winner here. Prague has become one of Europe’s most tourist-trap-ridden places, and the city is laid out in a way that doesn’t absorb tourist crowds well. The places that a tourist would want to go are close together and often very crowded. Budapest, on the other hand, has more neighborhoods in different parts of the city that are of interest to tourists, and it is far easier to escape the beaten path without going into a boring, soviet bloc suburb. For this reason, Budapest is the winner.

WINNER: Budapest

ATTRACTIONS: Prague has its great attractions. Prague castle is one of my favorite places I’ve ever been. The city also has some other great museums, like the Franz Kafka museum. Budapest has great attractions too, and more to do in the city itself, but the surrounding countryside, other than the Danube bend region, is far less interesting than that of Prague. Prague’s countryside and more numerous day trip possibilities make up for the city’s small number of major sights.





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