Located in central Budapest in the middle of the Danube, 2,5 km long Margaret Island has something to offer for everyone. No wonder it’s the favorite recreational area of the locals. Not many visitors know however that it used to be called Island of Rabbits and was in fact a royal hunting ground. The island was later renamed after Saint Margaret who lived in the local Dominican convent in the 13th century and was the daughter of a great Hungarian King, Béla IV. Although the green oasis of the Hungarian capital is open throughout the year without any entrance fees, the best time to visit is undoubtedly summer. It’s also a great place to take a picture while here. Here are five good reasons why.
Summer Concerts and Dance Performances
You can attend unforgettable summer concerts and dance performances: Margaret Island has a wonderful open-air theater which becomes one of the main locations of the Budapest Summer Festival. During the months of July and August, the Open-air Stage offers some of the best local and international concerts & dance performances in a wide range of genres from classical and contemporary concerts to operetta, opera, ballet, pop and jazz
Bike, segway or “Bringóhintó” Rides
Margaret Island is 2,5 kms long and 500 meters wide. If you want to see the attractions without having to walk around a lot, it’s a good idea to join a guided bicycle or Segway tour. The best time to do this is in good weather. Guided group tours usually start at the city center and are slow paced with many stops in between. If you prefer to discover the island by yourself, you can rent a bike and electric scooter directly on the island. There are many operators, among them Bringóvár, located across the Japanese Garden in the northern, Buda part of the island. Here you can also rent a “bringóhintó”, a funky bicycle-carriage combination with enough rooms for four people. Bringóvár has a smaller, southern base near the musical fountain as well.
You get to see the island’s sights in sunshiny weather: If you want to dig deeper into the island’s history, see the ruins of the 13th century Dominican convent where princess Margaret – the name giver of the island – has lived as a nun. Further north, you’ll also find the ruins of a Franciscan church. Other attractions include a Japanese garden on the northern part of the island with a fish pond and a small waterfall, a beautiful Rose Garden, a Musical Fountain with changing shapes of water and hourly playlists and a small petting zoo. For best views of the island, the Danube and Buda Hills, make sure you visit the beautiful, Art Nouveau style water tower located in the courtyard of the open-air theater.
Outdoor Sport Activities
Budapest is often being referred to as the city of baths and its rich bathing culture dates back to the roman times. There are over 120 hot water springs in the Hungarian capital and the Margaret Island is no exception. One of the best things to do in Margaret Island is to check out its two large baths, Dagály Bath and Palatinus bath. Palatinus has an impressive outdoor pool area with eleven pools including a leisure pool, two children’s pools, a wave pool and water slides. Dagály is somewhat smaller, but it also has thermal pools, swimming pools and an outdoor beach area as well. If you are a more serious swimmer, definitely try Hajós Alfréd swimming pool which is also one of the training centers of the Hungarian swim team. Margaret island is also a beloved destination for local joggers as the entire island is surrounded by a running track. Plus, there’s a free outdoor fitness park at the southern end of the island and an athletic center (Margitszigeti Atlétikai Centrum) with a football- and handball court and an indoor fitness center organizing various sport-related events.
Chill and Relax
One of the best things to do on Margaret Island in the summer is to do nothing, really. Just lie down under a shady tree on the grass and enjoy the peace and quiet away from the busy city center. If you station yourself closer to the Musical Fountain and stay there long enough, you get to hear the fountain’s whole repertoire from Johann Strauss and Vivaldi to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. If you are lucky, you’ll even see some of the island’s cute little squirrels.