Margaret Island, a pedestrianized recreational island in the middle of the Danube river has long been a welcoming green oasis in the heart of Budapest. The island is very popular with residents, especially during weekends.
Originally known as Rabbits Island, Budapest’s Margaret Island has always played an important role in the city’s history. In the Middle Ages, the island was home to a number of religious cloisters, but by the beginning of the 1800s, this 2.5 kilometer-long (1.4 mile) island was embraced by members of the royal family, who took it upon themselves to turn it into an ornate garden. Later, the island became a health resort and visitors flocked there to take advantage of its therapeutic springs.
Today, the 500-meter-wide (550 yard) island covers 225 acres and is linked to the mainland by two bridges: the Margaret Bridge to the south and the Arpad Bridge in the north.
Entering the island from the Margaret Bridge will put the visitor face-to-face with the Centenary Monument, created in 1972 to commemorate the 100-year-anniversary of the joining of Buda and Pest. Not far from the Monument is a large fountain, animated with background music. Also on the southern portion of the island, visitors will find a community swimming complex and the popular Palatinus Baths. The latter covers about 17 acres and features three therapeutic pools.
An open-air theater where guests can enjoy ballet, opera, and other stage presentations is also found on the southern part of Margaret Island as is an outdoor cinema. Right near the theater is a 57m / 187ft high octagonal water tower (víztorony), built in 1911. The elegant Art Nouveau tower, protected as a UNESCO monument, is used as a watchtower and exhibition area.
Travel north and you’ll find the ancient ruins of a thirteenth century convent of Dominican nuns, once home to the daughter of King Bela IV, for whom the island was named.
Not far from the spot where Margaret was buried, you’ll see the chapel of the medieval Premonstratensian monastery and the oldest tower bell in Hungary, cast in the fifteenth century. A beautiful rock garden and artificial waterfall are located at the northern tip of the island as well as two hotels, the Grand Hotel and the newer Hotel Thermal. (From: aviewoncities.com)
Margaret Island provides a peaceful hideaway from hectic downtown Budapest with large green areas, flowery gardens, and old trees. The island’s attractions include romantic walkways, medieval ruins, a small zoo, musical fontain, a water tower, swimming pools, lido and a relaxing atmosphere. Devote half a day or at least a couple of hours to explore and enjoy the serenity on Margaret Island.
Best time to Visit
The island is most beautiful in spring, perhaps in April-May when the nature is green again after the long winter months. It will also fascinate you in early autumn (Sept-till mid-Oct) when the foliage turns into a mixture of colours from yellow and orange to reddish-brownish. Note that Margitsziget is very popular among Budapesti people especially on weekends. Try to get to the island in the first half of morning on a bright, sunny day to find the park at its most peaceful. This time you’ll meet mostly joggers. If you want to meet people, see Hungarians relax visit the island on weekend.
Brief History of Margaret Island
In the middle Ages it was called the Island of Rabbits (Nyulak szigete) and it functioned as royal hunting reserve. In the 13th century King Béla IV. founded a nunnery on the island after the Mongol Invasion. The king made a vow to sent her daughter, Princess Margaret to a Dominican nunnery if he could rebuild the country devastated by the Mongols. The Mongols had to suddenly return to their homeland so King Béla had a chance to reorganise and rebuild the country. Faithful to his vow Béla sent the 11-year old Margaret to the convent. Since then the island has bore her name. See photos about the ruins of the Dominican convent below. A marble plaque plaque indicates Princess Margaret’s burial place at the ruins of the church’ nave. József nádor started a large landscaping project of the island at the beginning of the 19th century and most of the area was turned into an English-style park with many trees, bushes and flowers. Until 1901 the island could have been approached only by boat or ship. Part of the Margaret Bridge that now leads onto the island was constructed in 1901 while in the northern part Árpád Bridge was connected to the island only in 1950. Margaret Island was declared a public park in 1908. At that time hot springs were discovered in the area that faciliated many developments, like the Grand Hotel Margitsziget. The island became a popular health resort. The II. World War left its marks on the island too, some scars still can be seen on the tree trunks. Today the romance of the island attracts many couples and it’s a popular place for weddings.
Attractions on Margaret Island
Start your walk at the southern part of the island at the Margaret Bridge end. If you don’t mind a bit of foot work than take a walk along the well-tended walkways running across the island. First you’ll see the Centenary Monument (by István Kiss) made for the 100 anniversary of merging Buda and Pest in 1873. Alfréd Hajós Swimming Pool with indoor and outdoor pools. Alfréd Hajós, Hungary’s first olymic medallist designed the complex that opened in 1930. The pool complex hosted the European Swimming Champinship in 2006. Next to the pool is a newly built playground perhaps the best on the island. Near the toys in a small hectagonal building you’ll find a well-house (Magdolna I. spring) the water of which is channeled into the Palatinus’ pools and the Lukács Bath. On a hot summer day have a dip in the outdoor pools on Palatinus Beach (open: 8.00-19.00 1st May-15th Sept, tickets: 1800 HUF for a whole day with locker use, 1600 HUF for students, pensioners). The beach has three types of pools: a swimming pool, a beach pool and a fancy pool with neck shower, effervescence generator and whirling corridor. In front of the beach is a beautiful rose garden. Next to the Palatinus is a tennis centre with several courts. The largest sport facility of the island is the Athletical Centre with a football field. They look after the flexible jogging track that runs around the island.
If you come form the southern end of the island the first ruins you’ll encounter are the ruins of the Franciscan Priory. They built their convent in the middle of the island towards the end of the 13th century. The buildings were destroyed during the Ottoman rule in the 16th century.
The ruins of the Dominican convent from the 13th century are the most noteable ruins. King Bela IV founded the convent after the Mongol invasion (1241-42). To the north of the ruins you’ll see the medieval Premonstratensian chapel of St Michael . The oldest bell of Hungary hangs in its tower. The bell was cast in the 15th century and it was found under the roots of a tree torn by a storm a few decades ago. Around the chapel runs the Promenade of Hungarian Artists (Művészsétány) with busts of the country’s prominent poets, writers and other artists. The tranquil surroundings with groves, stately trees, flowers is ideal for leisurely walks. János Arany (1817-1882) the great Hungarian poet wrote his most beautiful poems under the mighty trees on Margaret Islands.
In the middle of the island stands an octagonal Water tower (Víztorony) built in 1911. The 57 m high, protected industrial monument needs reconstruction, though it still houses exhibitions. On summer you can enjoy opera, ballet, musical performances as well as light music concerts in the Open-air Theatre. In the northern corner (beyond Árpád Bridge) of the island there is a clay-pigeon shooting field.
In the northern corner of Margaret Island, near the Japanese garden stands a water-powered musical fountain (Bodor kút). A Transylvanian handyman Péter Bodor crafted the original fountain in the 1820 for the people of Marosvásárhely. This copy on the island was made in 1936. (From:budapest-tourist-guide.com)