As one of Budapest’s largest parks, this Danube isle of open space is a cherished oasis for generations of city dwellers – so come join us as we leave the concrete jungle behind and take a journey around Margaret Island. Here we can do sports and relax outdoors during the daytime, and after dark we can get grooving at various clubs and bars scattered around the parkland. So, whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, check out what pleasures await you here!
Recently, Margaret Island was featured in an article by The Guardian, appearing in a list of the ten most exciting, lesser-known islands of Europe. To further praise the park, we made an all-day program recommendation, but let’s see ten fun facts first:
Several monasteries and churches stood once on the island – the Premontrians, the Conventual Franciscans, the Order of Saint John, and the nuns of the Dominican Order all chose Margaret Island as their base in the 17th century.
In 1838, a major flood hit the entire island. A table preserved the memory of this event on the gnarled trunk of an Osage orange tree.
From the late 1800s, numerous villas, restaurants, spas, hotels, entertainment venues and even a casino were built here.
Until 1900, the island could only be approached by boat, and until 1919, there was an entrance fee, as well.
Its highest point is the Water Tower built in 1913.
Hungarian writers János Arany, Gyula Krúdy, Sándor Bródy, and Antal Szerb all used to live and work on the island.
Today, the island officially has only one resident.
Until 1928, a horse railway operated here.
“In the narrow park, with the Danube gleaming on the left and on the right, the stream of transience, among the almost too beautiful flower beds, between the upper and lower restaurants, that is where we are kids and where we grow old,” – wrote Antal Szerb about Margaret Island in his book A Martian’s Guide to Budapest (loose translation).
The island belonged to District XIII until June of 2013, but since then it was placed under the direct administration of Budapest’s city government.
When there is no ongoing construction, the 4-6 tram is the best choice to approach Margaret Island, as it takes us all the way to the isle’s primary entrance in the middle of Margaret Bridge. If we are coming from the direction of Árpád Bridge, then tram 1 might be a better choice, though the 26 bus runs directly through the middle of the island as well, connecting Nyugati Square and Árpád Bridge. However, we still recommend walking to the park from one of the bridgeheads. From Margaret Bridge we have a quite magnificent view of the , and from Árpád Bridge, we arrive right at Margaret Island’s.
If we are preparing for an all-day program on the island, renting an alternative vehicle for 1-2 hours can be well worth the cost. The classics are the “bringóhintó”, or multiple-person carriage bikes, from which many boasting people fell at some sharper turns. With the vehicles named after Hungarian cartoon characters – like Mirr-murr, Dr. Bubó and Rumcájsz – and some super-sticky cotton candy in our hands, even a regular Tuesday can become a retro adventure. Rental fees begin at 2,000 forints. We can also rent bicycles (from 1,000 HUF/hour) if we did not bring our own, along with tandem bikes, electric cars, or even two-wheeled mini velocipedes (from 1,400 HUF), in case we have a knack for vintage and would like to arrive to a picnic in style.
7 picturesPhoto: László Balkányi/We Love Budapest
For many, Margaret Island equals sports. Fortunately, the infrastructure is better developed during the day: the ’s surface is being renewed and continuously improved; the extensions also intend to ease the tension between the pedestrians and the runners. During the renovation work, the Nike Running Club operates uninterrupted – their programs are worth checking out. The main venue of summer splashing is (adult ticket on weekdays: 2,800 HUF; on weekends: 3,500 HUF) and Hajós Alfréd Bath, operating since 1930 and renovated in 2014 on account of the European Water Polo Championship (adult ticket: 1,800 HUF, running-swimming ticket: 2,100 HUF, with double entry). It is important to note the Margaret Island Athletic Center as well, where with a ticket, we can work out at our own pace within the opening hours (every day 6am-10pm). We have to stay inside the institution with the sports equipment, but at least we can rent hula-hoops, various balls, ping-pong and badminton sets for free. Occasional tickets cost 1,000 forints, and we can use the football field during the day with a maximum of 14 people for 11,000 forints, and for 13,000 forints from 4pm (plus lighting costs 2,400 HUF/hour). Street workout enthusiasts can find attractions here as well, and can work out in the fitness park before or after running, in case the sets are not occupied by kids. It is important to note the canoe-kayak activity, as the Építők Margaret Island Student Kayak Club operates here, as well. As for the large green areas, we can play whatever we want, with or without a dog: Frisbee, badminton, ball games, yoga – but we can often see capoeira training lessons and bottle-juggling bartenders practicing, too.
20 picturesPhoto: László Balkányi/We Love Budapest
All outdoor activities are a given here: we can have a picnic on blankets at Nagyrét (“Great Meadow”), read at the foot at a sycamore tree, kiss with our significant other on a bench, take photos surrounded by nature, watch the hooded crows, sunbathe, solve crossword puzzles, or take long walks. Margaret Island has two musical fountains, and even though the huge southern fountain is much better known by visitors, the Bodor Fountain’s copy in the Japanese Garden is the one officially called a musical fountain. There, we can listen to the tunes of 12 separate pieces of music, while at the other fountain, we could just hear Budapest from George Ezra.
We could relax on the pretty benches all day, watching the rhythmically rising waterspouts. At the Margaret Island Petting Zoo (“Vadaskert” in Hungarian), adults and children can both admire white-tailed eagles, rescued storks, and peacocks, sometimes shyly turning away; the “mini” zoo can be visited from April to October, between 10am and 6pm. The aforementioned is a must-see as well, especially since it was renewed in the second half of 2014, and now looks even more beautiful than before. The 104-year-old Water Tower can be visited during the Budapest Summer Festival, from June to the end of September (adult ticket: 600 HUF). The panorama is a given – we can rarely see the city from this perspective. However, before you would decide to climb the 57-meter tower, be sure to check out whether it is open for visitors at the time. Two playgrounds benefit families with children; we wholeheartedly recommend the , mainly designed for children 5-12 years old.
Entertainment, eating, and drinking
8 picturesPhoto: Roland Bankó/Holdudvar
Entertainment has always played an important role in the island’s history: the casino built by the plans of Miklós Ybl was famous far and wide, and many artists came here for inspiration and to have a good time. Later, the Margaret Island Open-air Stage became loud from concerts, theatrical performances, and Hungarian classic rockers. The new generation might still remember the not-so-old times when we went to eat hamburgers with pickles at the ChaChaCha. The classic hot dog-French fries-hamburger combo is still available at the outdoor buffets, but if we desire something more sophisticated, we can always visit the old casino and Holdudvar.
The entertainment unit was completely renewed for 2015, but remains reminiscent of the past in its style and spirit, and awaits visitors with a Terrace Restaurant, Dance Club, and Piknikplacc. The Terrace Restaurant opens at 11am every day, so we can drink lemonade or grab a bite to eat right after a short morning walk. Piknikplacc will soon open as well, and will specialize in street food: their selection is sure to include sandwiches and wine spritzers, but we will also be able to put together a complete picnic basket. In the evening, we do not have to fear bad weather either, as there is an indoor ballroom. They also prepare with themed evenings, although the musical range is permanent: we do not have to expect slicing electro or heavy metal from Holdudvar’s residents. At any rate, it is worth choosing the club of Margaret Island over the District VII for current hits every once in a while. They also cooperate with the circus troupe Freak Fusion Cabaret, which can really spice up an afternoon/evening here when it comes to visuals.
9 picturesPhoto: László Balkányi/We Love Budapest
WNDRLND is just a few steps away from here – this is a creative, accepting, global-art melting pot, where graduating artists are just as glad to bike out to as Dutch tourists or musicians tired of the party district. Co-creation is rather typical here, and there will be a lot of interactive workshops, round-table discussions and film screenings in the garden, made sleeker by Ricsi Orosz and his team. There is no need to fret; WNDRLND is still just as bohemian as before, the bike gate is still there, and the entertainment unit even got a quite serious sound system installed. They also cooperate with kArton Gallery, will organize various gastronomical events, and they considered families, as well: every two weeks, they will hold family afternoons under the name wndrKID and a “baby disco” every month. In the evening, the focus naturally shifts from the mainstream line to electronics – their Facebook page is worth keeping an eye out on, especially after the opening party.
Additional tips for spending a day/evening on Margaret Island: think ahead, pack all necessary equipment ahead of time (e.g. corkscrew, plastic cups…), because there are no grocery or tobacco stores on the island. The quay and the island can take some more love stories and legendary times, so go on and have some fun on Margaret Island!
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