The period drama Jamestown is about the settlers who established the first British colony in America. Today its wind-beaten remains lie in Virginia, but the show is filmed on the outskirts of Budapest.
“The production company bought a field with a stunning lake and built an exact copy of Jamestown,” says Naomi Battrick, who plays an upper-class Englishwoman with a dark secret. “They even grew the tobacco plantations. They had to chop it all down and burn it after filming because Hungary has strict tobacco laws.”
The cast and crew lived in Budapest for five months while making the first two series, and Battrick cannot recommend her temporary home highly enough. “I’ve completely fallen in love with Budapest and the Hungarian people. I can’t wait to go back if we do a third series.”
In the meantime, she’s enrolled at a language school in London. “It’s a very accommodating city for non-Hungarian speakers – everybody speaks English – but I’d love to learn the language because I find it so beautiful.”
Here are her favourite spots in the capital.
One city, two personalities
“We stayed in the old Jewish quarter in Pest (the capital was originally two cities, Buda and Pest). It’s like Soho-cum-Shoreditch – lively at night and good fun,” says Battrick. “If you’re after peace and quiet, I’d suggest staying across the river in Obuda, the city’s oldest district. One weekend we hired a villa in the Buda Hills, where locals go to hike and picnic. If budget isn’t an issue, book a room at the fabulous Corinthia (corinthia.com). Apparently, it’s the hotel that the film The Grand Budapest Hotel was based on.
See the sights
“One of my favourite things is to climb up to the Freedom Statue on the Buda side. It’s a huge statue of a woman holding a leaf. The walk up the hill is lovely, the views are fantastic and then you can sit and watch the river traffic. I try to do it once every week. It’s quite a stomp to the top of the Citadella, a 19th-century fortress on Gellert Hill, but the views are worth it.
Budapest’s Liberty Statue
“The Hungarian National Gallery is in beautiful Buda Castle. There’s usually a good exhibition. It’s wonderful wandering around the grand buildings. The Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Centre has a fascinating permanent installation about the Hungarian photojournalist. Capa’s photographs spanned a huge period but came to a harsh halt when he stepped on a mine. The House of Terror is an incredible museum about Hungary’s communist and fascist regimes in the 20th century – cleverly designed and sobering.
“Szechenyi is the largest of Budapest’s thermal baths and probably the most popular with tourists. It can get crowded at weekends but it’s still beautiful and lots of fun. I also love Gellert Baths, which are in a landmark art nouveau hotel. On Margit Island, there’s a water park with lots of different cafés, bars and water slides.”
Dine out on a dime
“Eating out costs half the price of London and you’re spoilt for choice in terms of the quantity and quality of restaurants. Hungarian wine is good value and exceptional. The waiting staff always know exactly where it’s come from and are happy to tell you a lot about it.
“Deryne Bistro is a beautiful Hungarian/French bakery and bistro in Buda, which has been going for over a century (bistroderyne.com). In Pest, Koleves on Kazinczy Street is a charming restaurant that serves hearty Hungarian dishes like goulash and catfish soup. It’s a student favourite but chilled in the day – you can even relax in hammocks in the courtyard. Cirkusz café (cirkuszbp.hu) also does gorgeous food and brunches before 4pm.
“But my favourite restaurant is the best Italian I’ve ever been to – Pomo D’oro (pomodorobudapest.com). I always have the sensational ‘priest choker’ pasta: pork ragu flambéed with brandy and parmesan at the table. I’m also very fond of the popular snack langos – deep-fried bread smothered in sour cream, garlic and cheese. It’s a heart attack on a plate! Try it at Karavan, a street-food court also on Kazinczy Street.
Drink in the atmosphere
“The Jewish district is famous for its ruin bars – abandoned buildings that have been turned into really cool bars with lots of exposed brickwork, mismatched furniture and fairy lights.
Szimpla bar at night
The original is Szimpla Kert (en.szimpla.hu), an old factory where you can sit in an old Trabant car or a room wallpapered with TVs. I prefer the less touristy Anker’t on Paulay Ede Street, which has live jazz and amazing burgers.”
Jamestown is on Sky 1 on Fridays at 9pm