Prague ranks high for its beauty, according to ‘scientific analysis’

The Golden City has a high number of buildings that match the golden ratio, which has been a measurement of beauty since ancient times.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 12.08.2022 12:00:00 (updated on 12.08.2022) Reading time: 3 minutes

Prague often ranks high for its beauty, but the idea is hard to quantify. Recently, readers of Time Out ranked the city third for its beauty, and a year earlier even had it in the top spot.

A new list claims to rank cities on a scientific basis and places Prague in fourth place. The criteria are a bit odd, and the results have to be taken with a grain of salt. It all depends on whether you accept the classical golden ratio as the definition of beauty.

Still, fourth place is a respectable outcome, so there is not too much call to quibble. The winner in this list was Venice, and it is had to argue with that as well. Rome and Barcelona also bested Prague. New York City came in fifth.

Ca' d'Oro in Venice. iStock, Vladislav Zolotov
Ca' d'Oro in Venice. iStock, Vladislav Zolotov

The financial site Online Mortgage Advisor scanned Google Street View for front-facing photos of iconic buildings and streets lined with homes from historical cities around the world. The corners of each building were plotted, and the ratio of height to width was calculated. Those proportions were then compared to the golden ratio of 1:1.618 to see how well they matched.

In total, they analyzed hundreds of streets and over 2,400 buildings to find which cities had the most golden ratio buildings, on average. Some 78.7 percent of the buildings analyzed in Prague fit the target proportions, while in Venice it was as high as 83.3 percent.

“The golden ratio reflects a set of proportions that have intrigued and been studied by mathematicians for millennia. You can find many examples of the golden ratio occurring in nature, for instance, in the measurements of the human body, in flowers, and even in DNA,” the organizers of the list said.

The Parthenon in Athens matches the golden ratio. Photo: Wikimedia commons, Barcex, CC BY-SA 3.0
The Parthenon in Athens matches the golden ratio. Photo: Wikimedia commons, Barcex, CC BY-SA 3.0

“Many artists over the last few centuries have incorporated the golden ratio into their work, believing it to be a gold standard in natural aesthetic perfection,” they added.

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Ancient Greek mathematician Euclid first noted the idea. Others to share his obsession range from Leonardo Da Vinci to Salvador Dali. Many classical paintings rely on the ratio both for the full shape and for the placement of objects within the image.

This is not the first time the golden ratio was applied to Prague for a list. Prague Castle came in as the third most beautiful building in Europe in a ranking by design company Homedit.

St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle. Photo: iStock / Daniel Villalobos Oliver
St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle. Photo: iStock / Daniel Villalobos Oliver

Presumably, they meant St. Vitus’ Cathedral, as the entire castle is rather long and thin. This ranking gave top accolades to Kyiv Pechersk Lavra in Ukraine.

Another golden-ratio-based list, this one by Roofing Megastore, named Prague's Dancing House as the ninth most beautiful building in the world. According to them, St. Paul's Cathedral in London is the best.

Sketch of St. Paul's Cathedral in London in 1702. Wikimedia commons, public domain.
Sketch of St. Paul's Cathedral in London in 1702. Wikimedia commons, public domain.

Another recent ranking, this one based on input by users of Tripadvisor ranked Prague’s Charles Bridge as the sixth most beautiful site in the world, based on how many people called it "beautiful" in their reviews. The list only allowed one entry per city to keep larger places from monopolizing the outcome.

Prague has ranked as one of the world’s dimmest cities, one of the best cities for female solo travelers, one of the top cities for culture, the most kid-friendly vacation city in Europe, and one of the best cities for beer and coffee culture. The Czech Republic is also ranked as one of the world’s safest countries.  

Top 10 most beautiful cities

  • 1.Venice, 83.3%
  • 2.Rome, 82.0%
  • 3.Barcelona, 81.9%
  • 4.Prague, 78.7%
  • 5.New York, 77.7%
  • 6.Athens, 77.5%
  • 7.Budapest, 75.9%
  • 8.Vienna, 75.8%
  • 9.Bordeaux, 75.3%
  • 10.Milan, 75.1%

Percentage shows the number of sampled buildings that met the golden ratio. Source: Online Mortgage Advisor.

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