Margaret Island is an island of peace, located between Buda and Pest. During summer, the citizens of Budapest always “escape” to the island for some peace in a very stressful life. Car traffic is not allowed on the island (except for those traveling to the hotels), and there is only one bus crossing over the island. But, why should you visit the island as you come to visit Budapest? This article gives you basic information about Margaret Island, a short historical wrap-up, and most importantly, ten reasons to visit the island as you come to Budapest!
A short historical wrap-up.
The island has had many names throughout history. Its present name originates from Saint Margaret, the daughter of King Béla IV. She lived in a Dominican monastery there, whose ruins can still be found on the Island. How did she end up there? As the Mongols invaded Hungary in the 13th century, Béla IV had to flee the country. He wasn’t sure about his survival, so he promised to give his daughter to God if he survived. Guess what? Bela survived and his daughter Margaret was sent to be a nun at Margaret Island.
Another popular name the island had earlier in history was the “Island of the Rabbits.” The rabbits enjoyed life on the island and suddenly, they were all around.
In the 19th century, Budapest was hit by floods, causing great harm to the buildings on the island. To protect the island against future floods they raised the island two meters. Another important discovery in the 19th century was made by Vilmos Zsigmondy. He found hot thermal water at a depth of 1200 meters. The water had a temperature of nearly 45 Celsius as it reached the surface, thus creating the foundation for the SPA tourism so popular on the island today.
Until the start of the 20th century, the only way to reach the island was by boat. The construction of the Margaret Bridge made it easier, but in the start, you had to pay a fee to enter the island from the bridge.
Ten reasons to visit the Margaret Island as you come to Budapest.
1. The musical fountain near the Margaret Bridge.
Many of us love classical music, even though we don’t listen to it every single day. There is something peaceful and harmonic about it. So, why don’t you lie down in the grass at the Margeret Island by the large fountain near the main entrance from the Margaret Bridge? In the spring and summer months, this is a fantastic place for relaxation, and kids also tend to love it.
As you listen to classical music on the loudspeakers, you can see how the water in the fountain moves in rhythm with the classical music. As the classical music becomes louder and more intense, the same happens to the water. As the classical music goes quiet, the water barely moves. That makes it a fantastic experience both for young and old, and both for classical music lovers and for those who’d rather listen to Guns’n Roses, Slipknot, Billie Eilish, or Imagine Dragons.
2. The Palatinus Beach.
Budapest is known for its thermal baths, but during summer, it sounds more tempting to visit a beach with slides, a wave pool, and something reminding you more of a normal water park. Palatinus Beach normally opens in the spring months and remains open until the first weekend of September. During this period, the beach opens at 9.00 and remains open until 19.00. The entrance fee for an adult is approximately 10 euros. If you travel to Margaret Island by bus, there is a bus stop in front of Palatinus.
Sometimes there is a special event at Palatinus in the dark months of the year named Lumina Park. When it is arranged you can see beautiful objects illuminated with colorful lights in the park area of Palatinus.
As the beach closes in September, there is still a part of Palatinus open to visitors all year round. This part includes a pool with hot springs, meaning you can enjoy warm water and relaxation both indoors and outdoors, even in the winter.
3. The Japanese Garden
Don’t come with too high expectations of the Japanese Garden, but you should visit it. The garden is located on the northern side of the island and it is free to visit. Here you can see a little lake with a statue, beautifully decorated bushes, grass that has been taken good care of, and a bridge made of wood, making it all one of the nicest gardens in all of Budapest. If you want inspiration on how to decorate your garden at home, the Japanese Garden at Margaret Island will for sure inspire you!
4. Maybe there is a concert at the big outdoor stage?
From the middle of May until the middle of September, the big outdoor stage for theatrical performances and concerts at Margaret Island is in use. This is the perfect place for an idyllic concert or opera evening, combining the fresh evening air with fantastic talents performing on the stage. The stage is often used for festivals and opera evenings. It isn’t normally a problem, but it might be smart to bring some mosquito protection if you buy tickets for a performance, just in case.
5. The best place to jog in Budapest!
Nearly 2,000,000 people are living in Budapest and if you add the number of people traveling to Budapest for work, the number gets much higher. There is a lot of traffic, and if you want to go for a run, you will often have to pay attention to cars and traffic lights, something that can be both annoying and dangerous. If you come to Margaret Island instead you can take advantage of the nearly 5km long running track taking you around the island. Not only is it perfect because of the lack of traffic lamps and cars, but because you can enjoy the view towards the city of Budapest in all sorts of directions, and also enjoy the fresh wind often coming at you as you move close to the Danube.
This is, without a doubt, the nicest place to run/jog in Budapest. You might want to bring an extra T-shirt in a bag so that you don’t have to wear a sweaty T-shirt as you take the tram from the island after the running session (if you plan to use public transportation after your exercise).
6. Look at the remains of the monastery of St. Margaret.
The monastery hasn’t been in use for a very long time, but it still feels special to walk in the historical remains of the island’s name-giver. If you close your eyes, you can try to imagine what it must have been like to live within the walls 800 years ago. Besides the remains of the monastery, you can also see the remains of a church and the grave of St. Margaret.
7. Spoil yourself at a SPA hotel on the island.
The hot springs below the island were discovered in the 19th century and the first thermal bath opened a few years later. Today, there are two hotels on the island where you can spoil yourself with all sorts of massage treatments, hot springs, quietness, peace, delicious food, and all the benefits of living on the island. You should be warned, however, that these hotels aren’t ideal if your main goal is to explore the city of Budapest. It takes quite some time to get from the hotels to the pedestrian street Vaci utca and the other famous attractions of Budapest. If your goal is luxury and relaxation, spiced up with a few trips to the city center of Budapest and visiting some nice restaurants elsewhere, then these hotels will serve you well!
Above you can see a map of the island including the hotels and what kind of prices you can expect if you decide to reserve a room in one of them.
8. Visit the free mini-zoo.
There is a free mini-zoo (wildlife park) at Margaret Island. You can see it in the map below as Margitszigeti Vadaspark. It isn’t big, but it can be loads of fun for kids as you can see peacocks, horses, birds, and other animals close up. Since it is free, you do not have any excuse not to visit this mini-park as you discover the island.
You will sometimes have the chance to ride a pony in this park, making it even more fun for the kids. There is also a chance to feed the animals with the zoo-pack. You must pay a bit for the zoo-pack, and also for riding the pony, but since the rest is free, it is well worth it.
9. Borrow a bike and explore the island on your own.
We have included Margaret Island in our list of romantic activities in Budapest. What is nicer than borrowing a bike and discovering the island at your own pace? There are all sorts of bikes available for rent near the musical fountain, and you can decide to rent them for a few hours or an entire day.
If you don’t want to use any energy, there is also a small “train” on the island in the spring and summer months. Here you can listen to an audio guide giving you information about the island and what you see, and it is a perfect way to learn about the island and find out what’s where.
10. Enjoy something good to eat and drink.
It is easy to spend an entire day on the island, but that is only possible as there are restaurants, cafés, and toilets all around the island. There is a big beer garden with a cinema (Paulaner), you have a wine garden named Kadarka, and there are stalls where you can buy a quick snack or some other traditional Hungarian fast food. The most famous restaurant on the island is Holdudvar.
How to get to the Margaret Island?
The easiest way to get to Margaret Island is on foot or using public transportation. If you walk to the Margaret Bridge, you can easily walk to the ramp from which you can walk to the island itself. Do not forget to look south as you reach the midst of the bridge as the view from the Margaret Bridge is on the UNESCO World Heritage site list (as you can see the Parliament, the Castle, the Matthias Church, the Fishermen’s Bastion, the Chain bridge, the Gellert Hill, and other beautiful buildings).
If you decide to use public transportation, you can travel with tram lines 4 and 6 to the middle of the Margaret Bridge and walk from there. This is the most popular way to reach the island.
Would you like to walk as little as possible? You can travel by bus number 26 from Nyugati Palyaudvar or Arpad Hid, two popular metro stations on the Blue Line. This bus stops at several locations on the island, including the Alfred Hajos Aquatics Center, Palatinus Beach, the outdoor theatre, the hotels, and a few other locations.