Margitsziget, Budapest’s version of Central Park, is the lush hideaway for busy Hungarians. Splitting the Danube river between the Margaret and Arpad bridges, is this “green gem” of the city.
The island offers a little something for all. From red velvet carpets laid around the circumference of the island as running tracks for the fit and healthy, to medieval ruins from the 13th century, to eccentric bars and clubs featuring an outdoor music venue.
Budapest By Locals gives a brief history of the island’s history. The island came to popularity after the grand King Bela IV sacrificed his daughter to a life of religious service. After the Mongols made their way into Hungary, destroying much of the country, the king made a promise. If the Mongols leave, the city will be rebuilt and his daughter, Margaret, will run a Dominican nunnery. The Mongols left, Bela IV constructed the nunnery and he named the island after her.
Today, this island serves a different purpose than in the 13th century. The convent’s ruins still remain on the north side of the Island and Margaret’s remains are buried where the original church nave stood.
Immediately leaving the public tram, the island appears to be a mirage. Engulfing, dark trees cover the entire island. A dancing fountain peaks above the treeline with a gush of water breaking the surface. Crowds of families, runners and love birds succumb to the island of paradise and its charms.
Immediately to the right, alongside the water’s edge, the trails unravel, ready to bring the runners and walkers into the spotlight. Composed of about a three-mile course around the entire island, it gives runners a full view of all its splendors.
The Danube river flows swiftly on the right. The left shows a small array of bars with loads of laughter and enjoyment heard from kilometers away. After one more song, you will start to smell the odor of rabbits and deer. Welcome to the zoo. Venture left into the jungle and suddenly you’ll discover Japanese gardens, casual bicyclists and dogs of all varieties.
Two fountains stand at the entrance of the north and south side of the island. Hourly, the speakers belt classics such as Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” or Ed Sheeran’s recent hit “Shape of You.”
The fountain dances in the center of the crowd with a loud whoosh. Water rushes to the heavens with the upbeat and crashes strong on the dynamic downbeat, enhancing the music all around. Twirling infinities border the fountain creating an image of wholeness. A young couple rises, pulls close, and begins twirling under the moonlight. Her blonde hair reflects the stars and her skirt mirrors the water as it flows in the wind. The boy looks to be early 20s, infatuated with his lady.
Margaret Island offers something for everyone. It encompasses anything you could want to do, at any age. Even in the evening hours, it is safe and fully populated. For the extreme Margaret island enthusiasts, a hostel is right on the island!
Getting to Margaret Island is fairly easy from anywhere in Budapest. From the Pest or Buda side, I recommend the bright yellow trams. The NO. 4 or 6 Tram will take you right in front of the south side of the island at the Margitsziget stop. The NO. 2 Tram runs along the beautiful Danube river and will stop right in front of the Margarit Bridge at the Jászai Mari tér stop, allowing for a breezy two-minute walk to the island. All of these trams run frequently, and the NO. 6 Tram runs all night.
The 26 bus to Árpád Bridge is another simple solution. The bus enters on the south side and runs all the way through the island, stopping about four several times in between.
Now you are ready for your visit to Margaret island! Enjoy this little slice of paradise.