Spending the day on Margaret Island

Walk through a rose garden, bathe in the thermal waters of the Palatinus, climb the water tower, cycle, jog or simply wander around this gorgeous park.

Photo: © iStock/aislan13

Spending the day on Margaret Island. Walk through a rose garden, bathe in the thermal waters of the Palatinus, climb the water tower, cycle, jog or simply wander around this gorgeous park.

As the temperatures start getting warmer, locals and visitors gravitate towards Margaret Island, the former royal hunting ground previously referred to as ‘Rabbit Island’. Situated in the middle of the Danube, this petite piece of land was renamed in 1908 and dedicated to Margaret, King Béla IV’s daughter, who worked on developing the area into a public park. Whether you’re interested in exploring Dominican Convent ruins, admiring the stunning views from the top of the water tower, cooling off in one of the pools at the Palatinus, or simply relaxing within natural surroundings, there’s something for everyone on Margaret Island.

Wander across the park

Stretching just 500m across and 2.5km in length, Margaret Island may be small but it offers several charming walking routes along stunning gardens and meadows. Trek through the shrubbery, or rent a bike and cycle along wide, lush avenues. If you’re feeling adventurous, why not tie up your sneakers and head out to the 5,000m jogging track that loops across the island? If that sounds like a little too much, there’s also the possibility of exploring the island by bus or by hiring a golf cart.

Get to the top of the water tower

Margaret Island’s water tower gazes down proudly at the park beneath, and is considered one of the gardens’ most iconic landmarks. Apart from acting as the island’s principal water supply, this Art Nouveau-style octagonal structure also holds the accolade of the best viewpoint in town. Make your way to the top and marvel at the impressive views across Budapest, extending as far as the beautiful Parliament Building. Keep an eye out for art or photography displays on the way out.

Explore the ruins of the Dominican Convent

Several ruins speckle the landscape on Margaret Island, the most famous of which is the abandoned Dominican Convent. Established during the 13th century, King Belá founded this nunnery to take care of his daughter, who was relocated to Rabbit Island to escape the Mongolian invasion at the age of 11. The convent kept functioning until the 16th century when the nuns abandoned the island and is today derelict, but definitely worthy of a tour.

Enjoy the thermal waters of Palatinus

If after all this exploring you’re in need of a cool down, slip into your swimwear and head down to Palatinus, one of the most beautiful leisure complexes in the area. Bathers can enjoy thermal pools and hot springs, as well as a wave pool, large swimming pools, slides, and a kids’ area, making it a popular leisure destination.

Walk in the gardens

Right opposite the baths you’ll come across Rózakert, the island’s heavenly-scented Rose Garden that’s filled with as many roses as you could ever possibly imagine. A little further on towards the north you’ll find Japánkert, the Japanese Gardens, which feature artificial waterfalls, dwarf trees, and koi-filled ponds amongst others.

Nothing better than a petting zoo

If you’re an animal lover, then this is definitely one stop you need to visit. Approach a number of animals and birds up close that include fallow deer, mandarin ducks, peacocks, Asian silkies, white-cheeked pintails and owls. Pony rides are also available for younger guests.

Gaze at the musical fountain

Another popular area within Margaret Island is where the water fountain is located. Offering a theatrical show five times daily (10:30 / 17:00 / 18:00 / 19:30 / 21:00), this is Budapest’s version of Vegas’ Bellagio Fountain, with water jets shooting up to 10m into the air. From Verdi to Simon and Garfunkel, this synchronised spectacle is infinitely more beautiful after sunset, once it’s been lit up by hundreds of colourful lights.

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