At the first sign of summer in Budapest, locals flock to Margaret Island. Formerly a royal hunting reserve known as the ‘Island of Rabbits’, the island was renamed in 1908 after King Béla IV’s daughter Margaret transformed it into a giant public park. From exploring the ruins of the Dominican Convent and climbing the water tower, to bathing in the Palatinus pools and relaxing in the green meadows, there’s plenty to do in a day on Margaret Island.
Margaret Island is 2.5km long and offers stunning walking routes through lush meadows and gardens. Hike through the grass or hire a bicycle and cycle along the tree-lined avenues. If you’re feeling particularly energetic and need a break from the hotel gym, slip on your trainers and run a loop of the 5,000m jogging track around the island. Visitors can also get around the island via bus or rent bringo or golf carts.
Towering over a canopy of trees, the Margaret Island water tower stands tall in pride of place overlooking the park. The octagonal Art Nouveau-style structure is both functional – as a water supplier to the island – and decorative. It also moonlights as a lookout tower with one of the best viewing platforms in the city. Climb to the top for unbeatable views stretching as far as the impressive Parliament Building, and make sure to check out the art and photography exhibitions on display on your way out.
Margaret Island is home to a number of ruins, the most notable of which is the ruins of the Dominican Convent. The nunnery was founded in the 13th century by King Béla, who sent his daughter Margaret to live there at the age of 11 following the Mongol invasion of Hungary. It remained a working convent until the nuns left the island in the 16th century and remnants can still be explored today.
If the summer heat gets a little too much, grab your swimsuit and head to Palatinus. The scenic leisure complex has a network of pools and baths including thermal pools filled with the island’s mineral-rich water, adventure pools featuring exciting flumes and slides, lengthy swimming pools, children’s pools and a wave pool. It’s guaranteed fun for visitors of all ages.
Opposite the baths, visitors can find the island’s Rose Garden (Rózsakert), a beautiful space filled with hundreds of roses of myriad varieties. There’s also a Japanese Garden (Japánkert) in the north of the island which features dwarf trees, artificial waterfalls and ponds filled with exotic fis
If you’re an animal enthusiast, don’t leave without popping into the island’s petting zoo where visitors can get up close to a range of birds and animals such as fallow deer, peacocks, white-cheeked pintails, mandarin ducks, Asian silkies and owls. Younger guests can also enjoy pony rides.
One of the highlights of Margaret Island is its musical fountain. Putting on a dramatic show five times a day (at 10.30am, 5pm, 6pm, 7.30pm and 9pm), it’s Budapest’s version of the famous Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas. Jets dance to music by a variety of composers and performers, from Vivaldi to The Rolling Stones, and shoot up to 10 metres in the air. For a special treat, catch the show after sunset, when the fountain is illuminated by hundreds of colourful lamps – a memorable close to a day on Margaret Island.
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