Margaret Island Walking Tour, Budapest

Margaret Island Walking Tour (Self Guided), Budapest

Stretching for around 2.5 km, Margaret Island (“Margit-sziget”) on the river Danube is a popular green oasis / recreational area that serves as Budapest's playground since the 1870s. Flush with beautiful landscaped parks, ancient ruins and various sports facilities, the island can be accessed either by the historical Margaret Bridge on the south or the Arpad Bridge in the north, from where our exploration begins.

There are lots of lovely things to see on the way, from the attractively wooded areas (perfect for families and/or picnics) to the pretty rose garden and even a Japanese-style garden, made out of the debris of the old Budapest Zoo.

The island is also home to some of the city’s many baths, one of which (Palatinus) is a well-maintained water park with slides for all ages, as well as several pools and attractions, all at affordable prices.

Rounding out the island’s attractions are an iconic Art Nouveau-style water tower (1963), ruins of an old Franciscan church and Dominican nunnery where St. Margaret lived, an old musical well with a statue of Neptune (Apollo) at the top, and a dancing “musical fountain” at the other end – one of the largest in Europe and definitely worth checking out for its fabulous waterworks, repertoire, and light show.

Follow this self-guided walking tour to explore Margaret Island on foot, and laze around enjoying your day – an escape from tall buildings, noise and traffic.
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Margaret Island Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Margaret Island Walking Tour
Guide Location: Hungary » Budapest (See other walking tours in Budapest)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.4 Km or 1.5 Miles
Author: kane
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Bodor Musical Well
  • Japanese Garden
  • Water Tower
  • Medieval Ruins
  • Palatinus Water Park
  • Alfréd Hajós National Swimming Stadium
  • Musical Fountain
Bodor Musical Well

1) Bodor Musical Well

The musical well on Margaret Island is an exact replica of the first of its kind in the world, built by Hungarian gadgeteer and mechanical engineer Péter Bodor for the Transylvanian town of Marosvásárhely (now Târgu Mureş, Romania) between 1820 and 1822. The well has a round floor-plan, with two arched stairs on the sides, and a dome roof with a statue of Neptune (Apollo) at the top.

Whereas the Bodor's original well was destroyed in 1836 by a snowstorm and was never restored, this almost identical copy (that did not operate by hydraulic means, but used electricity instead) built on Margit Island in 1936 was restored in 1954 and again in 1997. Now it is a tourist attraction that plays music every hour during the day.

Why You Should Visit:
Be sure to visit the musical fountain on island's southern end, near Margaret Bridge – one of the biggest in Europe and definitely worth checking out for its fabulous waterworks, repertoire, and light show.
Japanese Garden

2) Japanese Garden

The Japanese Garden on Margaret Island's northern end is one of Budapest's most delightful places. Its lakes and interconnected channels are dotted with warm springs that sustain tropical fish, giant water lilies, and other natural life. There are some benches to have a rest and some good spots for photos, as well as hiking and walking paths that take visitors through hundreds-years old trees.

The garden was created after WWII and was made out of the debris of the old Budapest Zoo, after the original park design and library did not do very well. The Forest Institute donated the evergreens in 1966, while the Hokkaido University's botanical gardens donated seeds for many of the Japanese plants that now have their home here.

In 2000, Master Gardener Sugimura Fuimo was hired to make some improvements to the garden. A stone lamp (isodoro), knocker (sisodosi), and ritual hand washing basin (csozobacsi) were added. More native Japanese trees were added in 2002.

Quite frequently, the Tea School from Kyoto comes and holds traditional tea ceremonies here. The best time to visit is during spring (April) when the cherry blossom trees are in full bloom.

Why You Should Visit:
Serene, quiet, not crowded, with wonderful pools, bridges, and nice plants.
You can find peace here and some memorabilia in the little shop at the end.
Water Tower

3) Water Tower

On its opening day in 1913, Margaret Island's Art Nouveau-style Water Tower was visited by the whole city. The first reinforced concrete building erected in Budapest, it was considered cutting-edge technology back in its day. Atop the 57-meter high octagonal structure sat a massive 600 million liter water tank which, over time, fell out of use.

Now a protected World Heritage site, the beautifully restored facility is mostly sought after as a place to hold art venues (feel free to view the permanent base-level art exhibit during the warm season) and enjoy the scenic view of Margaret Island (the look over Budapest is best from the Dome Chamber). The structure itself is a great photo opportunity as it occupies a privileged position on the island.

There is also a restaurant/bar at the base, as well as an open-air theater for some cultural relaxation.
Medieval Ruins

4) Medieval Ruins

Margaret Island – known as the Isle of Rabbits, or Hares Island during the Middle Ages – has been the home of many religious orders throughout history. Popular with photographers, the 13th-century Dominican nunnery here, built to honor Virgin Mary, is perhaps one of the most classic examples of Medieval monastic complexes. The nunnery and order proper were very wealthy and powerful, with many miracles supposedly performed by Margit (or Margaret), daughter of King Béla IV, and the convent quickly became the place to be for aristocracy.

The king also founded a friary (one of the two remaining in Budapest) and monastery nearby. The façade and sidewall of an old Gothic church still remain standing – though, sadly, much of the stone was lost in 1796, during the Turkish Occupation, in order to build the palatine's villa. In slightly better shape, the small chapel from the Premonstratensian monastery dates back to 1225 and was reconstructed by Karoly Lux after an excavation of the area.

Margaret Island has been described as a "strange alchemy of geography and history", and this impressive set of ruins certainly adds to its mystical aura.
Palatinus Water Park

5) Palatinus Water Park

Budapest's most popular water park – located on Margaret Island at Palatinus Strand (Beach) – rests atop a natural hot spring that makes the area a great spa location. With various-size outdoor pools, including one of the wave variety, the venue is family-friendly and can be enjoyed by all. A great alternative to the more crowded baths in the city center – perfect to sort out your travel aches and pains!

The huge swimming area covers 300 square meters of the park and the pool is 100 meters long. There is a women-only section (for nude sunbathing) as well as a mixed area.

The surrounding beach and park complex is a very popular location for nude sunbathing, walking, and eating. Here you may also find many games to play, from billiards to ping-pong. There is plenty to do here to enjoy an entire afternoon.

The facility has been in operation since 1919 when it was first opened as a beach. The large pool was built in 1919, and the larger complex was completed in 1937. In the 1980s, more of the modern water park features were completed, and the whole park was renovated in 2002.

Make sure to walk around the whole place as there are many different pools and fun things to discover.
A mixture of salads, chips, local food, crepes, etc. is available (and affordable) for your pre/mid/post-swim needs so you don't have to worry about refueling.
Alfréd Hajós National Swimming Stadium

6) Alfréd Hajós National Swimming Stadium

With its ten lanes and overall length of 50 meters, this world-class swimming complex that hosted the European Aquatics Championships in 2006 and 2010 features state-of-the-art diving platforms, two fitness rooms, and a sauna, and can accommodate up to 8,000 spectators. As you tour the building, take note of all the plaques that adorn the walls with the names of winning athletes that have trained here over the years.

The swimming pool complex is named after Alfred Hajós – born Arnold Guttmann – who felt compelled to become a good swimmer at the age of 13, after watching his father drown in the Danube. Later, he took the name Hajós ("sailor" in Hungarian) for his athletic career and, aged only 18 years, went on to win two gold medals in the Athens Olympics and many championships thereafter.

The place is never crowded so much to feel uncomfortable, so if you'd like to enjoy the island and swim not having other people's foot in your mouth, give this place a visit. It also has terraces for a relaxing sunbath, a sufficient number of toilets, and is good value for money on the whole (note that tickets are discounted by half between 10am and 1pm on weekdays).

Check the availability of pools before arrival, given trainings and/or matches of water polo teams. For those with an interest in polo, this is certainly the best spot to catch a match of the "almost national" sport.
Musical Fountain

7) Musical Fountain

The Musical Fountain in Budapest, located on Margaret Island, is a breathtaking spectacle that has captivated visitors for decades. Recognized as one of the largest fountains in Europe, it offers a mesmerizing combination of music, water, and lights, creating a truly unforgettable experience.

First opened in 1962, the musical fountain originally featured live music performances. However, as technology advanced, the fountain transformed and was electronized, incorporating synchronized water movements with the melodies played. This innovative feature enhanced the overall artistic appeal of the fountain and attracted even more visitors.

In 2013, the fountain underwent a significant renovation, resulting in its current magnificent form. The renovation not only improved the fountain's structure but also introduced modern elements that further enhanced the viewing experience. Today, the fountain boasts an impressive water jet system capable of propelling water up to an astounding height of 10 meters.

When evening descends upon Margaret Island, the musical fountain undergoes a magical transformation. Around the 35-meter diameter pool, 250 energy-saving LEDs cast a vibrant array of colors, creating a stunning light show. The lights dance and shimmer, illuminating the water's movement and adding an enchanting ambiance to the surroundings.

The pool itself contains 400 cubic meters of water, covering more than 1000 square meters of surface area. This expansive size ensures that the fountain can display its intricate water choreography, enchanting viewers with its gracefully synchronized movements.

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