In the eyes of foreign pop stars, Budapest is a postcard city: metro line 3, sunshine yellow trams, and iconic red phone booths. Maybe a sprinkle of rain and a touch of romance for good measure. It's a simple image, but when a celebrity picks Budapest for their music video, it becomes the perfect snapshot of our city's charm.

Michael Jackson: History

Michael Jackson visited Hungary three times in total. The first time was in August 1994, when he took a private plane to Budapest with his then-wife Lisa Marie Presley. As usual, the singer did his usual charity work, visiting Bethesda and Heim Pál Children's Hospitals and filming a video clip on Heroes' Square, Margaret Bridge, and Buda Castle. In the video, an army marches through the Castle and arrives under the Turul statue, where it turns out to be the army of the King of Pop. It's interesting to see how a utopian kingdom is created by reusing elements of the capital, like transforming the Archangel of Heroes' Square into a statue of Michael Jackson.

Gun: Don't Say It's Over

In the mid-1990s, the Scottish rock band filmed the video for their song Don't Say It's Over in Budapest. It features typical Pest street scenes, houses with round corridors, and the Buda Castle in the distance, in front of which the characters reinterpret the scene of Adam and Eve in paradise.

Sarah Connor: From Sara With Love

German pop singer Sarah Connor (not to be confused with the heroine of Terminator) burst onto the popular music scene in 2001 with her debut album Green Eyed Soul, which featured the hit single From Sarah With Love. Her music video was shot in Budapest in the autumn, on the platforms of the Keleti railway station, so it's safe to say that our capital city brought the singer success. The clip features Marcell Nagy, who later became known as Gyuri Köves in the Hungarian Holocaust film Sorstalanság (Fateless, 2005), and now works as a cameraman.

Groove Coverage: Moonlight Shadow

In the early 2000s, Mike Oldfield and Maggie Reilly's version of Moonlight Shadow, sung by Melanie Munch (aka Mell), was a major party anthem. The story of the 2002 clip starts in Heroes' Square, featuring the Chain Bridge, the Grand Boulevard, Oktogon, and the red telephone boxes and majestic urban plane trees that can still be seen today.

The Chemical Brothers: The Boxer

In the 2005 clip of the multi-Grammy Award-winning English electronic music duo, we follow a runaway basketball in Budapest. The clip opens with a boy walking out of a car park with a basketball in his bag, which then bounces out of the bag, and he jumps out onto the city streets and into a Lada taxi. He then bounces around and causes trouble in an office. His owner has difficulty chasing the ball, but manages to catch it for a second, then it escapes again until it is run over by a truck driven by The Chemical Brothers. After the accident, the basketball inflates again, bounces, and finally gets stuck in an old telephone box near Baross utca, swells up to a huge volume, and finally explodes.

Jovanotti: Mi fido di te

The Italian singer loves our country as he has filmed three videos here: Tutto l'amore che ho in 2011, A te in 2008, and Mi fido di te, or ‘I trust you', in 2005. In the video, you can recognise the Grand Boulevard, the University Church, the Oktogon, and the K-bridge leading to Hajógyári Island, and it's quite strange to see how the city has a 'retro' atmosphere in the early 2000s. Jovanotti is still riding the old metro, and behind him, the old tram 4-6 is still roaring by, as the Combinos were only put into service by the capital in 2006.

Gwen Stefani: Early Winter

The former No Doubt singer filmed a video for one of the ballad songs from her second solo album in 2007 in Budapest, with Nyugati railway station as the main location. The video was also shot in Prague and Milan, but most of it takes place in the Nyugati underpass and between the platforms. The song, whose lyrics describe the imminent end of a relationship and which some have speculated was a reference to Stefani's relationship with ex-husband Gavin Rossdale, was intended exclusively for European audiences and was not officially released in the US.

Lenny Kravitz: Dancin' Til Dawn

This summer, Lenny Kravitz, still an incredibly youthful rock star at the age of 60, will be back in Budapest, where the lucky ones had the chance to meet him in 2008 when he stayed for a while after his concert to shoot a video. Initial plans were to shoot in a countryside castle, but Budapest was chosen and, as the crew didn't want to pay for the location, they filmed in and around a nightclub on Mikszáth Kálmán tér. The location of the video for Dancin' Til Dawn is therefore only recognisable to those who know the city well.

Liberty X: Holding On For You

British-Irish band Liberty X chose the streets and public transport of Budapest as the location for their video Holding On For You. Metro 3, moulded blue plastic chairs in the underground, phone booths – looking back at this 17-year-old video, we can't help but feel nostalgic for the Budapest it portrays.

Ziggi Recado: Need To Tell You This

Dutch reggae singer Ziggi Recardo, from the Antilles, shot a music video during a concert in Budapest in 2008. While familiar Budapest landmarks like Kálvin tér, Chain Bridge, and Heroes' Square grace the screen, Ziggi ends the clip with a funny goof-up, labelling the Chain Bridge picture as 'London.'

Aldar: Budapestiin Namar

Mongolian megastar Aldar brought his music to Budapest in 2007 with the curiously titled Autumn in Budapest. Filmed in the historic Castle District, the video became a smash hit back home in Mongolia. The story, though a bit convoluted, follows a Mongolian man caught smoking weed by a security guard and subsequently deported. Riding tram 49 to Kelenföld station, he somehow escapes deportation. A love story weaves through the chaos, featuring Ődő, a woman working in a sewing shop (a common profession for Mongolians in post-regime change Hungary). They, too, connect on the iconic tram. The video concludes with a joyous dance in Hungarian folk attire, set to Brahms' Hungarian Dances and celebratory shouts of ‘Go, Hungary!'

According to the Hungarian news portal Index, the video draws inspiration from the singer's own life. Apparently, he met the mother of his child in Budapest. However, things got complicated when she revealed her pregnancy and he vanished due to visa issues. The woman believed he was abandoning his responsibilities, but fortunately, their story had a happy ending. This music video, despite its unusual plot, reflects the complex bond between Hungary and Mongolia.

Arash feat. Helena: Pure Love

Iranian-Swedish pop star Arash captured the romantic essence of Budapest in his 2008 music video. The clip unfolds as a bittersweet love story. We see Arash and his partner enjoying idyllic moments in the Hungarian capital: strolling hand-in-hand along the Danube under a moonlit sky, and even engaging in a sensual pottery scene reminiscent of Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore's iconic film. However, the mood takes a dramatic turn when the woman is hospitalized following an accident. As a punchline to the story, the doctors manage to save her life. In a shocking turn of events, the man, seemingly unscathed, undergoes a bizarre transformation. He becomes a light bulb, fading away and leaving a lingering echo, much like the movie Ghost.

Katy Perry: Firework

When it comes to Budapest, Firework is surely the most successful music video shot here, having done so well that it won the MTV Video Music Awards Video of the Year in 2011, and was nominated for Best Female Video and the newly introduced Best Video with a Message category. Katy Perry's infectious melody soars against the majestic backdrop of Buda Castle. From its heights, she surveys the city before igniting a dazzling display of fireworks – a metaphor for overcoming fears and insecurities. Inspired, young Budapest residents gather in the castle courtyard, dancing and erupting in their own vibrant fireworks display, mirroring the singer's message of empowerment.

Selena Gomez & The Scene: Round & Round

Selena Gomez, 18 years old in 2010, shot her film Monte Carlo in Budapest, and during her months here she also filmed the music video for Round & Round. In the spy-story video, Gomez acts as a secret agent, wearing a spy suit, planting bugs, taking photos, and delivering packages as she is chased around the city. Monuments include the Parliament, the Chain Bridge, the Astoria, and the most beautiful parts of Buda Castle, the corridors and courtyards of the bourgeois houses and, of course, a yellow tram. Sadly, all this did not make much of an impression on the singer, who in a later interview did not remember our capital.

Jamie Woon: Lady Luck

British singer Jamie's 2011 music video takes viewers on a journey through Budapest's diverse public transportation network – the Metro 3, the iconic yellow tram, a bus, and even a car. The music video captures the sometimes dull atmosphere of drowsy Budapest.

RÁJ: Ghost

American singer-songwriter RÁJ also paints a moody and atmospheric portrait of Budapest in his 2013 debut video, Ghost. Shot entirely in the Hungarian capital, the video features local actress Lili Nóra Hőrich and iconic landmarks like Margaret Island, the Basilica, the Liberty Bridge, and the ever-present yellow tram.

Nicky Jam feat. Will Smith & Era Istrefi: Live It Up

When Will Smith was filming his movie Gemini Man here, he even made a music video for the official song of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Shot partly in Moscow with Nicky Jam and Era Istrefi, the video also features Brazilian footballer Ronaldinho and is set on the K-bridge of Hajógyári Island, Nagyvásártelep, and a residential area in Óbuda. As of May 2021, the video has received more than 218 million views on YouTube.

A year later, the American actor/rapper also shot a "country image video" in Budapest, when he secretly climbed to the top of the Chain Bridge one morning as part of the #inmyfeelingschallenge Instagram challenge and greeted the city by dancing to Drake's In My Feelings. The video not only made the Hungarian press but also the whole world, if only because the star didn't ask for any permission for his action. As he later told Ellen DeGeneres, “I wanted to do the best challenge, and I saw this bridge. I went on the bridge, and I climbed up. So, that's illegal.”

(Cover photo: Steve Granitz – Getty Images)