TNT’s new miniseries extravaganza The Alienist, based on Caleb Carr’s bestselling mystery novel, follows a team of proto-criminologists on the hunt for a killer targeting underage male escorts in 1896 New York. While all 10 episodes were shot in Budapest, Hungary on an elaborate set designed to replicate turn-of-the-century Manhattan (reportedly at a cost of around $50 million), the artificial backdrop and the surrounding European city shared certain similarities – sans the murder. Budapest, known for its bathhouses and bohemian flair, is also treasure trove of art nouveau – the architectural style favored in Gotham’s Gilded Age.
While the cast, which includes Dakota Fanning, Daniel Brühl and Douglas Smith, may have been immersed in old-world environs both on and off screen, Smith says the city offered plenty of modern-day amenities to brighten the six-month shoot. Channeling his character Marcus, a clever NYPD detective and first-generation immigrant, Smith integrated himself into seamlessly Budapest society – playing chess with locals, noshing on avocado toast and squeezing into the “smallest restaurant you will ever eat in.”
Herein, Smith’s complete guide to Budapest.
Cup of Joe: London Coffee Society is a family owned and run establishment. They welcomed me and a few other actors in like we were part of their family. They make excellent coffee and do a stellar English breakfast. The avocado toast is a nice option for vegetarians.
Power Lunch: My routine was to go to Dobrumba in the afternoon after the lunch rush and get some great falafel and hummus. The lamb burger is wonderful here as well.
Cocktail Hour: Kizüsem was my go to watering hole. Cheap drinks. I often went there solo and would strike up conversations with random people and it would turn into a fun night. They have food and chess boards if you don’t want to drink. Sometimes I would go and order a club mate if I wasn’t drinking that night and just play a game of chess.
Retail Therapy: Sputnik Clothing Store has secondhand clothes as well as original T-shirts with some fun designs on them.
Field Trip: You don’t have to be a guest to use the rooftop pool at the Continental Hotel Budapest. Just walk up to the front desk and say you would like to use the pool and they will charge you a small fee and hand you a room card and you’re off to the races. The roof has beautiful views of the city and is landscaped with long, windswept grass and furnished with cozy lounges, which makes it more of a go-and-read-a-book-and-sunbathe vibe rather than party-at-a-Las-Vegas-hotel vibe.
Date Night: Comme Chez Soi is the best, smallest restaurant you will ever eat in. Very romantic and a stones throw from a pretty promenade by the Danube. Mediterranean cuisine. You need to make a reservation months in advance!
Main image: Douglas Smith as Marcus Isaacson for TNT’s The Alienist, courtesy of TNT