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.
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