JUL 30,2011 - JUL 30,2011 (1 DAYS)
Attractions: Margaret Bridge, Centennial Monument, Tamas Szechy Swimming Pools, musical fountain, the rubber running course around the island, Palatinus Strand, Franciscan church, the Dominican convent, the Artists' Promenade, St. Michael's Chapel, Danubius and Grand hotels, Water Tower, the Japanese Garden, the Music Well, Árpád bridge.
Duration: You can, easily, spend one full day in the island. In case you are tight - spare half a day.
Transportation: The best way to get to the island is by tram 4 or tram 6. Get off at Margit híd / Budai híd fő stop (híd means bridge in Hungarian) or take bus 26 or bus 234 from Nyugati tér (M2 blue metro, trams 4, 6) which travel through Margaret Island. Only taxis and buses 26 and 234 are allowed to drive in and through the island. Driving through the island is not allowed. You can leave your car in the spacious guarded parking lot. Parking costs 525 HUF/1 hour both on weekdays and weekends or holidays. Start your walk at the southern part of the island at the Margaret Bridge end (this part is better accessible by public transport from the city centre than the northern part).
Weather and Season: The island is most beautiful in Spring, perhaps in April-May when nature is green again after the long winter months. It will also fascinate you in early Autumn (Sept-till mid-Oct) when the foliage turns into a mixture of colors from yellow and orange to reddish-brownish. Note that Margitsziget (Margaret Island) is very popular among Budapest citizens especially on weekends. Try to get to the island in the first half of morning on a bright, sunny day to find the park at its most beauty. The Budapest Summer Festival partly takes place on the Open-Air Stage on Margaret Island. Opera, Musical, Comedy, Concert and Dance performances take place during the three summer months: June, July and August.
Margaret Island (Margit-sziget) is an alongated island (2.5 km length and 500 m. width) in the middle of the Danube in central Budapest. Most of the island are colorful parks, and it is a very popular recreational area. There are several medieval ruins which are reminders of its importance in the Middle Ages as a religious centre. The island extends between the Margaret (south) and the Árpád (north) bridges. The Margaret Island does not belong to any district in Budapest. It is directly under the control of the city central municipality.
History: The island received its name after Saint Margaret (1242–1270), the daughter of king Béla IV of Hungary who lived in the Dominican convent on the island (see below). Other names of the island were Nagyboldogasszony-sziget (Island of Our Lady), Úr-sziget (Island of Nobles), Budai-sziget (Buda Island), Dunai-sziget (Danube Island), Nádor-sziget, Palatinus-sziget (Palatine Island) during different periods of its history. In the middle Ages it was called the Island of Rabbits (Nyulak szigete) and it functioned as royal hunting reserve. The Knights of St. John order settled on the island in the 12th century. Members of the Augustinian order also lived on the island. In the 13th century King Béla IV. founded a nunnery on the island after the Mongol Invasion. The king made a vow to sent her daughter, Princess Margaret to a Dominican nunnery if he could rebuild the country devastated by the Mongols. The Mongols had to suddenly return to their homeland so King Béla had a chance to reorganize and rebuild the country. Faithful to his vow Béla sent the 11-year old Margaret to the convent. The island was dominated by nunneries, churches and cloisters until the 16th century. During the Ottoman wars the monks and nuns fled and the buildings were destroyed. In the 18th century it was chosen to be the resort of palatines. József palatine (nádor in Hungarian) started a large landscaping project of the island at the beginning of the 19th century and most of the area was turned into an English-style park with many trees, bushes and flowers. It was declared a public garden in 1908. Until 1901 the island could have been approached only by boat or ship. Part of the Margaret Bridge that now leads onto the island was constructed in 1901 while in the northern part Árpád Bridge was connected to the island only in 1950. Margaret Island was declared a public park in 1908. At that time hot springs were discovered in the area that facilitated many developments, like the Grand Hotel Margitsziget. The island became a popular health resort. The II. World War left its marks on the island too, some scars still can be seen on the tree trunks. Since the 1980s, entry by cars has been limited; only a single bus line and taxis, alongside the service traffic of local stores and restaurants are allowed to enter. On the northern end of the island a car park houses the cars of hotel guests.
Means of transportation: four-person cycle cars or small electric cars ('bringóhintó' carts) can be rented for use on the area of the island. It’s also a convenient and fun way of exploring the island with kids. You can also rent bicycles and roller blades:
For people who settle down in Margaret Island (one of the hotels or hostels) - use bus #26 to get from/to the city (better, using weekly transport pass).
The main touristic attractions:
An octagonal Water Tower of 57 m., built in Art Nouveau style in 1911, today functioning as a lookout tower and an exhibition hall (protected UNESCO site).
Historical monuments of the island are:
Among the recreational and sportive attractions are:
Walking the island: Strt walking at the southern edge. Walking the length of the island takes about 20-30 minutes, but most visitors spend far longer time at the various historical and recreational attractions. We shall browse the main attractions from south to north. It is a good idea since the sun, in a bright day, will be on your back:
Centennial Monument: Entering the island from the Margaret Bridge will put the visitor face-to-face with the Centenary Monument (Centenáriumi emlékmű), created in 1972 and erected the following year to commemorate the 100-year-anniversary of the joining of Buda and Pest in 1873. The bronze monument, designed by István Kiss, resembles two intertwining leafs. BTW, this island itself is a unification of three smaller ones:
More northward, on the western part of the island are the Tamas Szechy Swimming Pools. The Alfréd Hajós Tamas Szechy swimming complex is a world class location. This place hosted the European Championships in 2006. It has ten lanes, and an overall length of 50 meters. You can also find state of the art diving platforms, two fitness rooms, and a sauna here. The venue can hold up to 8000 spectators for some kind of event. As you tour the building, take note of all the plaques that hang on the wall, representing winning athletes that have trained here over the years. The whole swimming pool complex is named after two very famous Hungarians. The first is Alfred Hajós. He was born Arnold Guttmann, and took up the mission of becoming a good swimmer at the age of 13, after watching his dad drown in the Danube River. Later, he took the name Hajós (which means sailor in his native language.) He went on to win two gold medals in the Athens Olympics and many championships thereafter. The second person is Tamas Szechy. He was one of the most famous swimming coaches in the history of the country. His students have won 15 Olympic medals through the years. He is best known for the three macro-cycle training program he developed. It is still in use today. Tamas passed away in 2004.
Next you will see a stunning musical fountain that was completely renovated in 2013. If you want to hear the fountain’s music it is good to know the schedule of music playing: every day at 10.30 and 17.00 4 musical pieces, at 18.00 the complete music list is played, at 19.30 4 pieces, at 21.00 the complete list: Vivaldi’s Spring from the Four Seasons, Simon and Garfunkel: Cecilia, Verdi: Nabucco-Chorus of the Slaves, Creedence Clearwater Revival: Who’ll Stop the Rain, Brahms: Hungarian Dances, 1. piece, The Rolling Stones: Let Me Down Slow, Bocelli: Time to Say Goodbye. It is no secret that the city leaders wants the fountain on Margaret Island to be as popular as the one in Barcelona Spain's Square:
Further north, you arrive to at a spot with an abundance of spring flowers in colorful beds. Then, you pass tennis courts overgrown with grass:
Continuing northward the Parliament and the Castle Hill, as well as Margit Hid (bridge) are clearly visible - just to remind you that it is still close to downtown Budapest. On your left (the eastern part of the island) - you'll see the running track that runs around the island. It appears very popular: many runners are training their body and legs here. On your left is also the Athletic complex / Sports club (Margitszigeti Atlétikai Centrum Szigetklub).
You are in the middle of the Margit island and you arrive to the Palatinus Strand. One of the best public baths in Budapest, during the summer. Two swimming pools, one of them olympic size, lot of wellness pools: thermal, with waves (every hour at 45 minutes past the hour) and massage torrents. Lot of green space, good places to grab some food or ice cream. Very good food stands, private changing rooms. You can get a cabin, or just a locker. Prices: Weekdays - Adult: 2,600 HUF, Child, student, senior: 1,900. Weekends and holidays - Adult: 3,000, Child, student, senior: 1,900:
Just opposite Palatinus you’ll find the stunning Rose Garden, a wonderful place to visit especially in late spring, when the flowers are in full bloom:
If you want to step back in Margaret Island’s history, you can take a walk through the ruins of its past. Not far from Palatinus you’ll find the ruins of a Franciscan church, of which not much remains besides two walls.
Further north there are the ruins of the Dominican convent or nunnery, the one founded by King Béla where Margaret was sent to live (see above). According to the legends the desperate king Bela IV sacrificed his daughter to the God so that Mongol army doesn’t return to Budapest. His daughter, Margaret, a nine year old girl, was sent to this convent, where she stayed for the rest of her life without ever leaving it. She died here at the age of 29, and was buried in the convent:
Both cloisters were destroyed by the Turks in the sixteenth century. The ruins were excavated in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. During the excavations the body of Margit was found and exhumed.
Just north of the former Dominican convent is the Artists' Promenade (Művész-sétány), flanked with busts honoring Hungarian writers, artists and musicians.
The small chapel of St. Michael's Chapel (Szent Mihály kápolna) is further north and was built in Historical style on the place of the former Premonstratensian monastery of royal foundation on the Isle of Hares (former name of Margaret Island) at year 1225. The oldest bell of Hungary hangs in its tower. The bell was cast in the 15th century and it was found under the roots of a tree torn by a storm a few decades ago.
St. Michael's Chapel (Szent Mihály kápolna) - Margaret Island:
More to the east is the Danubius hotel and recreation complex. THere are, actually, two hotels: the danubius and the Grand. It seems that the Danubius hotel, the more modern one, is located on a forested piece of the island, provides a peaceful seclusion from bustling Budapest. There is plenty of room around for walks and jogs. Danubius Health Spa Resort Margitsziget was built in the 1970s at the site of a spa resort that was damaged during the Second World War. The spa and wellness area at the Danubius Health Spa features an indoor and an outdoor pool, four thermal pools, a steam room, an aroma cabin, separate saunas for men and women, a Jacuzzi and an exercise room. The thermal water on Margaret Island, known for its healing powers, was first brought to the surface in 1886. The 70°C warm, mineral rich, natural water comes from the Sigmund spring (Zsigmond forrás) that flows from the deep beneath the island. The water, rich in sodium, calcium, magnesium, iron, hydro-carbonate and sulfate, exerts its healing effects both as thermal water in the spa's pools & baths and as drinking water. You don't have to have any ailments to appreciate the wonderful relaxing waters of Budapest. Locals enjoy the calming properties of the thermal baths and spas regularly. Opening hours: 06.30 to 21.30, daily. Day passes grant access to the swimming pool (indoor and outdoor), thermal pools, steam room, aroma cabin, sauna and exercise room. A day pass costs HUF 4,900 during the week (except Wednesdays when it's HUF 4,000) and HUF 5,900 on the weekends. After 19.00 tickets are HUF 3,900. A day pass with access to the salt cave is HUF 6,900 during the week and HUF 7,900 on the weekends. A 20-minute revitalizing massage is HUF 6,500 and a 50-minute deluxe massage is HUF 12,800:
Then you arrive to the octagonal water tower, built in Art Nouveau style in 1911. Designed by Hungarian architect Rezső Vilmos Ray, the water tower was the first building in Hungary where reinforced concrete, a new technology at the time, was used. The tower ensures the water supply for the tenants of the island and also functions as a lookout tower for visitors. It stands 57 meter high. The maintenance of the parks and the buildings in Margaret island requires(d) large quantities of water already in in the past (and at present) and that is why the decision was made to build a water tower there. It is no coincidence that Dr. Szilárd Zielinsky was named the “father of reinforced concrete”, the spread of the material in Hungary, considered to be revolutionary in those times is associated with his name. With untiring perseverance he popularised this novelty technique, the excellent qualities of which were pointed out first in 1900 by the French architect-inventor Francois Hennebique during the Paris World Expo where Zielinski himself learned about the technique. At the beginning, the Hungarian architect worked with the French patent and with French participation, but within a short time he had become independent and developed his knowledge. A good example illustrating his skill is that many buildings designed by him are not only still standing, but are still fulfilling their original functions !: To arrive to its top lookout level - you have to climb its spiral staircase:
On the northern tip of the island, adjacent to the Danubius and Grand hotels is a delightful Japanese garden with a fish pond, a rock garden and an artificial waterfall:
A bit further, near the northern tip of the island, stands a small pavilion known as the Music Well (Zenélő kút). Built in 1936, it is a replica of the original well that was created in 1820 by Péter Bodor. It is often called Bodor Well in honor of its creator. The well used to play music on the hour. At the same time the statue of Neptune on top of the pavilion started to circle. Unfortunately the mechanism was damaged during the Second World War:
It is a short walk from the Music Well to the Árpád bridge: