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Margaret Island - the most beautiful land in the Danube river

Things to do | Where to stay | Food & drinks | Historical monuments

Here’s what Margaret Island is famous for!

It’s time to relax at the beautiful, lush Margaret Island (a public space since 1908 in the heart of Budapest) with its amazingly well-kept gardens, medieval ruins, popular recreational area, and sprawling view of the Danube. The island belongs administratively to Hungary’s 13th district.

How big is Margaret Island?

  • Length: 2.5 km (1.6 mi).
  • Width: 500 meters (550 yards).
  • Land size: 0.965 km² (225 acres) between the Margaret Bridge (south) and the Árpád Bridge (north).

How to explore the island?

You can explore the island on foot, but I recommend getting some form of transport.

  • If there are enough people on board, you can explore the island by train.
  • Rent a bike, a cart, rollerblades, Segways, pedal-powered carts, or an electric car by the hour. You pay when you return your transport.

Explore the island on your own or get a professional guide if you want to make the most of what there is to see.

Best time to go to Margaret Island

Anything is better on a camera in clear weather conditions, but you may want to go during the week when there is fewer people traffic, thus more relaxation in the open meadows of this peaceful hideaway.

The first few hours of a sunny day are when I believe the island is at its best to enjoy the large green areas, flowery gardens, and old trees. I guess my preference goes back to my childhood when my Mom always spent her most enjoyable hours in the garden during the first half of the morning.

April to May is Springtime and all the flowers get to show off big time.

Mid-September to Mid-October you will experience the most beautiful autumn foliage in a mixture of colors ranging from yellow to orange and to reddish-brownish.

Time duration to spend at Margaret Island

Speaking from experience, the island is not to be rushed. She will charm you for at least a couple of hours. If you’re on a tight schedule, set aside at least a morning or afternoon.

Brief history

After the Mongol Invasion, King Béla IV made a vow to God that if God gives him another daughter (by then he had lost two in the war) he would raise her in the service of God if the country could be rebuilt after the devastation caused by the Mongol Invasion (1241 to 1242).

The Mongols were returned to their homeland, so King Béla had a chance to reorganize and rebuild the country. After that, the 11-year-old Princess Margaret was sent to the Dominican convent on the island, as previously vowed. And that’s how the island got to bear her name.

Princess Margaret’s burial place is indicated with a marble plaque at the ruins of the church’s nave.

The island’s community throughout the centuries:
  • Knights of St. John (12th century) and members of the Augustinian order.
  • Until the 16th century, the island was mostly made up of nunneries, churches, and cloisters.
  • When the Ottoman wars broke out the buildings were destroyed, and the monks and nuns fled the island.
  • On some tree trunks, you can still see the marks of World War II.
  • Today the island has a touch of romance with its beautiful landscape parks and is a popular wedding venue, as well as a health resort.

Things to do

As you enter the island from the southern part, there is a large signpost that maps the various attractions on the island.

Margaret Island Map Things to Do See

Let’s look at a few highlights…

  • Take a leisurely walk.
  • Truly a Jogger’s Paradise as you will find out when you go for a run on the rubber-coated jogging track (5350 meters, marked by every 500 meters) around the island. In addition, the track is well-lit and extremely popular in the cool of the evenings. 
  • Benefit from the hot water springs famous for their healing effects.
  • In the summer months, have a dip in the outdoor pools of Palatinus “Beach”,  one with plenty of slides, and another with a neck shower, effervescence generator, and whirling corridor.
  • There is a beautiful rose garden (opposite the bath).
  • Be pampered in the Danubius Hotel Spa.
  • Meander along the Promenade of Hungarian Artists featuring famous poets, writers, and other artists. For instance, the great Hungarian poet János Arany (1817-1882 wrote his most beautiful poems on the island.
  • Go (from June to end-September) up the 57 m high octagonal Water Tower for a beautiful panoramic view of the city and the Buda Hills.
  • In season, attend an evening show or the open-air theatre.
  • Visit the small Japanese Garden towards the northern end of the island with dwarf trees, water lilies, ducks, an artificial waterfall, and a rock garden.
  • Have a picnic at the Nagyrét (“Big Meadow”) on the beautifully landscaped green meadow at the northern tip of the isle, closer to the Árpád Bridge end.
  • Curious animals await at the small zoo.
  • Relax at the two musical fountains, i.e. at the southern part near Margaret Bridge and at the northern tip close to the Japanese Garden.
    • The 35-m wide pool, at the southern part of the island, with its 1000 sqm water surface is one of the biggest public fountains in Europe. Quite spectacularly, the water jets shoot water out as high as 10 m. If you go during summer, attend one of the many concerts or visit at night (illuminated by 250 colorful LED lamps) to experience the magic of the Musical Fountain after dark.
  • Swim at the Alfréd Hajós Swimming Pool with indoor and outdoor pools. The pool complex hosted the European Swimming Championship in 2006.
  • Enjoy a game of tennis on the clay tennis courts of the Athletic Center or make use of its 3 streetball courts, a grass-covered football field, and a handball field. In addition, enjoy various other ball games such as basketball, volleyball, table tennis, and badminton.
HUNGARY Budapest Margaret Island
  • Take the kiddies for some fun at the playground near the Margaret Bridge end of the island, near the musical fountain. The kiddies (ages 5 to 12) are guaranteed to enjoy themselves on a wide range of swings, slides, climbing frames, and other activities.
    • There is another playground with unusual and interesting toys aimed at improving balance and coordination skills. This informative (plenty of boards on environmental topics) and eco playground is close to the Árpád Bridge, right next to the parking lot.

Historical monuments on the island to visit

  • The 13th-century ruins of a Franciscan church (the 1st ruins from the south entrance), destroyed during the Ottoman rule in the 16th century.
  • Above all, the most notable ruin is the Dominican church and convent Princess Margaret attended. Dominican Convent (13th-16th century). There is a reconstructed well-house at the ruins of the Dominican convent.
  • A medieval Premonstratensian church from the 12th century, the Premonstratensian chapel of St Michael with the oldest bell (cast in the 15th century) of Hungary hangs in its tower. The bell was magically found a few decades ago under the roots of a tree torn by a storm.

Food & Drinks

Head over to the northern end of the island for some marvelous restaurants located in some of the best hotels and spas in Europe. Alternatively, buy from the street vendors or munch next to the pool, or relax at a tiny street café.

Pálinka is Hungary’s traditional fruit spirit and is essential if you want to warm a Hungarian’s heart.  It was invented in the Middle Ages and never lost its glory.

Read more about Pálinka here.

Have You Had Your Lángos Today?

When in Hungary it is almost compulsory to try the country's national street food.

Getting there

Unless you are considered “service traffic” (a hotel, shop, or restaurant) you cannot enter with your car. In the instance of staying at the hotel accommodation, you may park in the allocated parking area on the northern end of the island.

The island is better accessible by public transport from the southern part (city center) than the northern part.

Tram: Margitsziget, lines 4, and 6 (Margaret Bridge).
Bus: Line 26

More things to do in Budapest

Travel and Home used the Hop-on Hof-off Bus. We got off on Margaret Bridge and walked the short distance over the bridge to the southern entrance. To get back on the bus, we walked back to the drop-off point.  This way we had all the time to relax on the beautiful, lush Margaret Island. 

Where to stay

Unforgettable Places to Stay at!

The most beautiful and gracious castle hotel in Hungary, and the best hotels with a view of the Danube River.

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