Tag Archives: Bela IV

Margaret Island

Margaret Island lies in the Danube, between Budapest’s Arpad Bridge, which links it to Obuda and Pest at one end, and Margaret Bridge which provides its access to Buda and Pest at the other. Hidden among its 225 acres of rambling gardens, are playgrounds, sports venues, spas, pools, monuments, fountains, hotels and historic ruins.

The Fountain on Margaret Island
The Fountain on Margaret Island

Before the 13 the century the island was a wilderness, given over to nature, and known as Rabbit Island. In the middle ages it became home to a number of monasteries and convents. The first of these was the Dominican Convent built in 1241 by Bela IV. The grateful King then sequestered his unfortunate daughter Margaret here in thanksgiving to God for deliverance from the Mongol scourge. In recognition of the hapless girl’s great sacrifice, he named the island after her. The ruins of the convent, along with Margaret’s grave can still be seen today.  Nearby is the Chapel of the mediaeval Premonstratensian Monastery with oldest bell in Hungary, cast in the 15th century and which, until it was accidentally discovered last century, lay buried under a tree. Near the rose gardens in the South of the island are the ruins of a Franciscan church.

By the mid 18th century, the Hapsburg royals had taken over Margaret Island and turned it into a magnificent private garden. Many of its beautiful walks and towering trees date back to this time

In the days of the Dual Monarchy, the island became a popular leisure playground and the island’s elegant 57 metre, octagonal Art Nouveau water tower is part of that legacy.

This was also the time when Budapest’s therapeutic springs began to enjoy great popularity, attracting visitors all over Europe. Subsequently, Margaret Island became a health resort and visitors flocked to its spas. They still do.  At the northern tip of Margaret Island the majestic old Grand Hotel and its younger sister, the Hotel Thermal, both famed for their luxurious spas, are neighbours to a spectacular rock garden and waterfall.

Today, the open-air theatre, just near the water tower, brings audiences to the island for ballets, opera and rock concerts. In the summer crowds pack the garden courtyard of the pavilion café, with its high trellis fences, or gather on the lawn to watch Margaret Island’s fantastic animated musical fountain, leaping and crashing to the strains of Strauss (of course!) or flock to the hugely popular (and huge) 17 acre Palatinus Baths.

Budapest’s Centenary monument, built in 1972 to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the creation of Budapest, stands at the southern entrance to the island, just off the Margaret Bridge.

Peaceful, pretty and romantic, Margaret Island is a wonderful retreat from the noise and movement of the city streets. So lose yourself for a day, lie under a tree, in a spa, or even on the banks of the Danube, climb to the top of the water tower and look down into the tree tops, wander in the ruins of Margaret’s old convent, stroll through the flowers and lose yourself for a day

Buda, Part 1, Buda Castle

They are tied by the threads of shared history and culture. They are bound together economically, administratively and demographically. Geographically close, they are linked by a chain of bridges over the Danube. Their architecture has common touches of the Magyars, the Turks, the Renaissance, the Dual Monarchy’s lavish quest to create a new Vienna and the Communists’ iron fist. Yet, for all that, the three little towns of Buda, Obuda and Pest, which in 1873 became Budapest, are quite unique. Each has its own remarkable stories and its own distinctive style.

Buda holds the high ground, on the west bank of the Danube. A strip of motorway and a narrow promenade run along the river. Behind them the hills rise steeply.

Buda Castle
Buda Castle

Buda’s most prominent and most famous monument is Buda Castle, which sits on Várheg or Castle Hill.  After the Mongols had razed Pest in 1241, Béla IV, fearing another attack, chose this seemingly impenetrable site for his new royal castle. The cliff face in front of it is alarmingly steep. At the foot of the hill traffic whirls around Adam Clark Ter past the 0 kilometre stone and through a tunnel to the other side. For pedestrians unable to face the perpendicular stairs to the top, there is the Budaváry Siklo, the quaint, creaking, art deco funicular railway.

In spite of the supposedly unassailable hill, however, the castle was destroyed time and again; first by the Turks in the 16th century, then during the 1848-49 revolution and finally during World War II. Rebuilt and renovated as often as it was knocked down and ruined, the now enormous Buda Castle is a blend of architecture and ornament which reflect its long history and varied life.

Buda Castle is no longer the royal seat but instead houses the Hungarian National Gallery, the Budapest History Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art in its vast wings. The castle is surrounded by cobbled courtyards, massive arches, statues and monuments to former monarchs. Its splendid front gate is guarded by a giant crow, the symbol of King Matyas which featured in his coat of arms and which gave him his name Corvinus. The King Matyas Cascade, the grand fountain in the front courtyard, is decorated with a sculpture of the monarch hunting. Gardens with old gnarled, lichen dusted trees ramble around the outside of the castle and drop down the steep cliff to the embankment