Movies, books, and songs to capture the essence of Budapest and get you in the mood for travel

Movies

Szerelem (Love), 1971
A man, released from prison in the grim post-1956 era, reconnects with his mother. Directed by Károly Makk; Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize.

A Tanú (The Witness), 1969
A classic political drama and comedy in one about the dreary, dreadful but also comic days of the early 1950s. Directed by Péter Bacsó.

Sunshine, 1999
Directed by Oscar-winner István Szabó, this epic and colorful film traces the fortunes of three generations of a Budapest Jewish family.

Music Box, 1989
Following the release of secret wartime documents by the Russians, Hungarian Mike Laszlo is accused of being a war criminal. Convinced it’s a communist plot, his daughter Ann, a successful lawyer, travels from the U.S. to Budapest to defend her father. Directed by Costa-Gavras.

Kontroll, 2003
“Youthful, funny and spectacular—one of the best films of recent years.”—Zsofi Iványi, cinema sociologist. High-speed, romantic thriller set in the netherworld of Budapest’s metro system.

Books

Ballad of the Whiskey Robber, by Julian Rubinstein (2004)
“A very accurate and funny taste of what life in Budapest was like in the 1990s.”—Tony Lang, owner, Bestsellers Bookshop, Budapest. True-life crime story of a ice-hockey-playing bank robber in post-communist Hungary.

Castles Burning, by Magda Denes (1997)
Moving memoir of life in Budapest before, during, and after World War II as seen through the eyes of a young Jewish girl.

The Paul Street Boys, by Ferenc Molnár (1907)
“A successful and remarkably enduring fusion of ‘boys' fiction’ naïvetés with eternal verities of loyalty, betrayal, loss, and death in the closely observed and effectively conveyed inner-city milieu of early twentieth-century Budapest.”—Ferenc Takács, English literature professor. A classic novel of Budapest street life.

Under the Frog, by Tibor Fischer (1992)
“Full of humor, no doubt made authentic from the genes of the author’s basketball-playing father.”—Miklós M. Nagy, senior editor, Európa Publishing House. This Booker Prize-finalist novel chronicles the improbable adventures of two Hungarian basketball players during the nation’s chaotic period between the end of World War II and the 1956 anti-Soviet uprising.

Budapest 1900: A Historical Portrait of a City and Its Culture, by John Lukács (1988)
Historian John Lukács’s detailed and affectionate “historical portrait” of his forefathers' world is filled with the author’s personal recollections and family history.

Music

CDs/Compilations:

Gypsy Colours, Tony Lakatos
Virtuoso violinist Tony Lakatos performs jazz and Gypsy jazz with all-star performers, such as pianist Szakcsi Lakatos.

Hungarian Dances No. 1-21, Johannes Brahms
Twenty-one highly enjoyable dances reflect what is quintessentially Hungarian by a non-Hungarian composer. Makes you feel as if you are walking along the Danube embankment.

Complete Hungarian Rhapsodies, Franz Liszt
Enjoyable rhapsodies performed by top Hungarian pianists. Selections include the “Rákóczi March,” a tune played at all official ceremonies in Budapest.

Hungarian Folk Songs, The Balázs Elemér Group
The Balázs Elemér Group performs songs based on those collected by Zoltán Kodály. Features Bea Palya and Ágnes Szalóki, part of the new generation of Hungarian folk singers, yet the compilation is truly jazz.

Classic Songs:

Hungarian folk songs are not only being sung in a renewed form, but have also strongly influenced pop. Among the songs you can find everything from operetta to jazzy rock.

  1. “Budapest 3” by Tamás Cseh
  2. “Kőbánya Blues” by Hobo Blues Band
  3. “Ha én rózsa volnék” (If I Were a Rose) by Zsuzsa Koncz
  4. “Gyöngyhajú lány” (Girl With Pearl Hair) by Omega band
  5. “Miénk itt a tér” (This Is Our Place) LGT
  6. “Járom az utam” (I Walk Along My Way) by János Vámosi
  7. “Szerelem, szerelem” (Love, Love) by Marta Sebestyén
  8. “Gloomy Sunday” by Billie Holiday
  9. “Mondd meg, hogy imádom a pesti nőket” (Tell Her I Adore the Women of Pest) by József Simándy
  10. “Elmegyek, elmegyek” (I’ll Go Away) by Péter Máté

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