Of course there are numerous books, movies, and TV-shows set in Budapest, Hungary has its own remarkable movie industry! But also Hollywood and other international artists, authors, and producers like to use Budapest as an inspiration.
Budapest has been a popular backdrop for detectives, spy movies, and stories set in World War II for years. And Budapest is not just wanted as a location; the city is also used as Berlin, Moscow, and Paris in several movies.
You even have a chance to run into celebrities here in Budapest! Will Smith spent several months in Budapest, where he even recorded a video for the In Your Feelings challenge on top of the famous Chain Bridge. Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis also moved to Budapest for a couple of months.
Anyway, on to movies, TV-shows, and books set in Budapest!
Budapest in films and TV-shows
1. The Phantom of the Opera (1998)
The movie of The Phantom of the Opera (1998) was partially recorded in Magyar Állami Operaház in 1998. The building is located at Andrássy út in Budapest, even though the story takes place in an opera house in Paris. FYI, you can regularly see the musical in Madách Színház.
2. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2008)
In The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2008) Budapest impersonated Berlin for the opening scene shown above.
3. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011)
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011) was filmed in Budapest, among a few other locations. I think it’s fascinating: this scene shows the exterior of Keleti train station (this scene is set in Budapest), but even though the interior is similar, that part was actually filmed in Prague’s main train station (Hlavni-Nadrazi). The clock tower you see was digitally added.
4. Monte Carlo (2011)
While making Monte Carlo (2011), the crew only filmed in Paris for 4 days and in Monte Carlo for 2 weeks. The rest was recorded in Budapest! It was the first movie filmed in Raleigh Studios, on the border of Budapest. The scene where the main characters arrive at the luxurious hotel in Paris was filmed at the Magyar Állami Operaház (can be seen here at 0:37).
5. Spy (2015)
The second half of Spy (2015) is set in Budapest, but some of the scenes located in Paris and Rome have been recorded in the Hungarian capital! There’s a handful of Hungarian locations in this movie; also Lake Balaton and the Tihany Abbey can be spotted.
6. Atomic Blonde (2017)
Atomic Blonde (2017) also used Budapest as Berlin. The characteristic inner courtyards that Budapest apartment buildings have aren’t found as much in Berlin! This video has some behind the scenes, all filmed in Budapest!
7. Red Sparrow (2018)
Us locals were talking about Red Sparrow (2018) long before the crew actually arrived in Budapest. A lot of the scenes set in Moscow have been shot in Budapest (but then the first scene set in Budapest was actually shot in Bratislava…). Can you recognize highlights such as the Statue of Liberty at the Citadella, the Parliament building, Heroes Square, and Andrássy út?
8. Homeland, season 7 (2018)
Have you seen season 7 of Homeland (2018)? You may recognize Budapest instead of Moscow, because as RT.com wrote: “From here on out, the show’s attempts to make its Moscow scenes believable are futile. The first city scene shows the American delegation’s motorcade pulling up outside the easily identifiable New York Cafe in Budapest, complete with an iconic yellow Budapest tram rolling past. In later scenes, popular Budapest tourist locations are shown clearly. It’s almost an insult to the viewer — although the TV critics didn’t seem to notice, so perhaps the production team were right not to bother trying too hard to make Moscow out of Budapest.”
9. The Spy Who Dumped Me (2018)
The Spy Who Dumped Me (2018) was being filmed when I was living in Budapest. People regularly shared posts on Facebook about spotting Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis in the supermarket 😉 The street Eötvös utca is often used for car chasing scenes, just like they did for The Spy Who Dumped Me and A Good Day to Die Hard (2013).
10. The Witcher (2019)
I bet you’ve seen The Witcher (2019)! Most of the Netflix hit was filmed in Hungary and Poland. Do you remember the scene where Geralt visits the mage Stregobor (see video above)? That was filmed inside the Vajdahunyad Castle in Budapest’s City Park (Városliget). Other film locations for The Wither include the fortress in Komárom, Tata Castle, Szentendre Skanzen Village Museum, and the Pilis Hills.
11. Midsommar (2019)
Midsommar (2019) is located in Sweden, but the majority was filmed just outside of Budapest. The reason it was being shot in Hungary instead of Sweden? The latter apparently has a law that only allows 8 hours of filming a day, and Hungary doesn’t. Production costs are probably lower than in Scandinavia too.
12. Black Widow (2021)
Ok, Black Widow (2021) hasn’t been released yet (it was delayed for April 2021) and although part of the movie was filmed in Budapest, we don’t know if the story is (partially) set in Budapest, or if the city is used as Berlin or Moscow. What we do know is that it’s sure to be another Marvel blockbuster. I can’t wait!
13. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
One more that can’t miss on a list of Budapest related movies, even if the movie isn’t located or filmed in the city: The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014). The story is set in the fictional Republic Zubrowka and was filmed in the east of Germany. Wes Anderson was supposedly inspired by the star Gellért Hotel and 5-star Corinthia Hotel in Budapest. Opposite the Chain Bridge on the Pest-side, you can also see the 5-star Four Seasons Gresham Palace, which has a similar Art-Deco style.
Books set in Budapest
14. Budapest Noir by Vilmos Kondor
Budapest Noir (2008) is the first book in the 5-part Budapest Noir series by Hungarian author Vilmos Kondor. The books are about the adventures of journalist Zsigmond Gordon, taking place in Budapest between 1930 and 1950. In this book, Gordon aims to solve the murder of a Jewish girl when the police aren’t interested in the crime.
15. Prague by Arthur Phillips
In Prague (2003) Arthur Phillips tells the story of five young expats who move to Budapest after the fall of the Iron Curtain. They’d rather gone to Prague and according to a review from Budapest expats that’s noticeable in the story: “Do not read, it’s tripe and just centers on whining expats who don’t like or understand Budapest.”
16. Strangers in Budapest by Jessica Keener
Strangers in Budapest (2017) by Jessica Keener is a mix of the two aforementioned books. An American couple moves to Budapest after the fall of the Communist regime. A few months later, they’re asked to check up on an elderly man. He came to Hungary for revenge on someone he is convinced seduced, married, and killed his daughter.
17. Origin by Dan Brown
Origin (2017) is the fifth book in the Robert Langdon series by Dan Brown (but can be read as a stand-alone). The art history professor is invited to a spectacular statement in Bilbao, Spain. But before the statement can be made, chaos erupts. Again, Langdon embarks on a chase in a race against time. One of the storylines is set in Budapest and will take you along several tourist highlights.
18. The Paul Street Boys by Ferenc Molnár
Another book by a Hungarian author: The Paul Street Boys (1907) by Ferenc Molnár is a young-adult book, but comes highly recommended for adults too. It’s about the war over a city square between two groups of Hungarian boys.
Songs about Boedapest
Budapest is regularly serenaded, but mostly by Hungarian artists. Give Éjjel-Nappal Budapest by Myon & Shane 54 featuring Tóth Gabi a listen. The song (Budapest all-day, all-night) was produced for the Hungarian version of Big Brother. The video clip uses stunning images of Budapest.
19. George Ezra – Budapest
Still, the first song that comes to mind when looking for songs about Budapest is Budapest by George Ezra. The funny thing is that George Ezra had never been to Budapest when he wrote the song, and wrote it in Malmö, Sweden!
20. Jethro Tull – Budapest
The British rock band Jethro Tull wrote Budapest about a roadie or groupie they’d met in Budapest during a show. She left quite the impression!
21. GÅEL – Budapest
The Scottish singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist GÅEL named this piano piece after Budapest.
It’s not just songs about Budapest though. Budapest is also used as a backdrop for video clips! Ellie Goulding’s Close to Me was filmed in Budapest—how many locations do you recognize?
Also Selena Gomez & The Scene’s Round & Round, Michael Jackson’s HIStory Teaser, Katy Perry’s Firework, and the video clip for Live It Up, the official anthem of FIFA’s 2018 World Cup, were (partially) filmed in Budapest.
Want to hear more songs that mention Budapest? Lyrics has a complete page with related artists and lyrics.
That’s one way to build your anticipation for your next trip to Budapest!