Paris versus Prague

While each city has old world charm, approaches to life are not the same

Prague was recently known as the “left bank of the '90s” and has been called the Paris of the East. Its main fashion street is Pařížská, named for Paris and filled with Art Nouveau buildings. Both cities even have Eiffel Towers, although Prague's is a bit smaller — unless you count the height of the hill in the total.

While there are similarities on the surface, when it comes to food and drink and general joie de vivre there are big differences.

The roofs of Paris and of Prague are truly magical, both welcoming us into a kind of fairy tale world.

Prague's Old Town can remind one of a pleasant stroll in the Marais, the historical district of Paris. 

The Seine in Paris and the Vltava in Prague provide romantic settings, and lovers in both capitals hang padlocks on fences to symbolize their bond.

You also can't miss the visual similarity between Wenceslas Square and the Champs Elysée.

Both cities also have reputations for locals being rude and a bit unwelcoming to visitors.

Paris and Prague so far seem to be twins. But there are differences.

When it comes to partying, Parisians and Praguers take a different approach and one reason is money.

The really low price of beer in Prague allows people to spend all the night in a bar. In Paris, you would have to be rich to do the same. That's why Parisians meet at a friend's flat to drink before going outside — in other words, they drink before drinking.
Bars in Paris close around 2 a.m., so French people can't spent all night long in a bar like Czech people. Usually, they go to a club to continue the party.

Another particularity of the bars in Prague, at least so far, is that people can smoke inside! Tell that to a French person, and they will not believe you.

And this is probably one reason there are so many outdoor terraces for drinking in Paris compared to Prague, where bars are often in basements, which changes the atmosphere.

Also, if Prague is the capital of the beer, Paris is the capital of the wine. Indeed, wine is really cultural in France and goes perfectly with French gastronomy, which is known for its finesse and creativity.

On the contrary, Czech food is more generous than refined — stressing portion size instead of chef's skill.

Paris has the “joie de vivre,” or joy of life, while in Prague the goal is “pohoda,” or contentment.

The aim of having a good dinner in the Czech Republic is more having a relaxing good time with friends or family than finding pleasure in experimenting with new culinary trends, although this is slowly changing.

But Prague wins out in the sweet tooth category, with large portions of many kinds of cakes that put the more mundane French offerings to shame.

The joie de vivre can also be seen in greetings. French people kiss acquaintances on the cheek, regardless of gender, while Czechs are more standoffish. A Czech person will say “dobrý den” (good day) to almost everyone from distant neighbors on the stairs to random shop assistants, but kissing a near stranger is not going to happen.

It is also a Czech custom to give up seats on public transportation to the elderly, but otherwise minding ones' business is the rule. French tend to be more opinionated.

Prague's low prices also make some things more accessible, such as going to the opera or a symphony concert. While that sort of high culture is thought of as very French, the price makes it something exclusively for the upper classes. In Prague, younger people and students see some opera at least on occasion.

The rhythm of life is also different. In Paris everyone is always in a hurry running to take the metro, which is always overcrowded, or driving their car in a traffic jam. In Prague people are a bit more relaxed. The numerous trams and the easy-to-use metro contributes to the ease of living in the city.

While both cities' metro systems shut down around midnight, Prague's late night tram system has no parallel in Paris. Praguers don't need to keep an eye on the time when they are out on the town, as you can always get home.

Prague has also boasts numerous large parks and open green spaces, which is less the case in Paris, despite its gardens. Prague streets are also cleaner than those of Paris.

Still, it comes down to a matter of paying your money and making you choice, as they say, but in that regard Paris would be the more expensive option.

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