A Traveler's Guide to Margaret Island, Budapest

Every city needs a place you can go when you just need to get away from it all. For many Budapestians, this place is Margaret Island. Nestled in the middle of the Danube river, this is where you can go for a taste of nature in the middle of the Hungarian capital. A mix of luscious green lawns, medieval ruins, peaceful gardens and other recreational spaces, Margaret Island has been called the "Green Lung" of Budapest.

While you’re staying at your vacation home rental in Budapest, visiting Margaret Island is a must!

Along with the classic playgrounds and wide green spaces, Margaret Island has much more to do. Find out ways you can have fun in this pedestrian paradise.

History of Margaret Island

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The island, once called the Island of Rabbits, was named after Princess Margaret, daughter of the 13th century King Béla. She chose a life devoted to the church over marriage by joining a Dominican convent. In fact, you can still visit ruins from the middle ages that speak to the presence of Franciscan, Augustinian, and Dominican religious orders today. For a time, this island was used by the Ottoman Turks during their occupation of Hungary, before they were expelled.

In 1908, Margaret Island was declared as a public garden, starting a new era of enjoyment for leisure-seeking Hungarians. Car access was limited starting in the 1980s, cementing the island as a pedestrian paradise with plenty of walkways to lead you around.

How to Get to Margaret Island

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Margaret Island is quite easy to get to, thanks to bus and tram connections. Even though cars are banned from the island, you can still catch Bus 26, which conveniently runs the island’s entire length. You can take this bus over Árpád Bridge as well in the south.

But chances are, you'll be coming from the Budapest city center. In that case, the most convenient way to get to Margaret Island is by the 4 or 6 Tram. The tram drops you right at the southern tip of the island, at the Margitsziget/Margit hid stop.

Make sure you don't try to drive onto the island. After the city pedestrianized it, only buses and vehicles with special permits are allowed in. Every once in a while, you'll see an out-of-towner in a rental car get stuck at the gates, blocking through traffic and throwing off the bus schedule. Just save yourself the trouble and walk on instead. It'll be more pleasant, we promise.

Some walking tours in Budapest also include a stop in Margaret Island, so if you’re short on time and want to visit as much of the city as possible, this might be the perfect solution for you. You can also catch a glimpse of the island from a sightseeing cruise or river cruise down the Danube River.

What's the Best Time to Visit Margaret Island?

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While there’s no real best time to visit Budapest, each season will bring something unique to its residents and visitors. Although you can get fresh air here year-round, Margaret Island is a city park after all, so visit during the spring and summer months to see it in its prime.

If you're visiting Budapest during the autumn, Margaret Island is the perfect place to get some fresh air and enjoy the city like a true Budapestian! Margaret Island is open and accessible for 24 hours, but as there's not much to do once the handful of bars close, we don't suggest staying much later than that.

What to Do on Margaret Island

Watch the Fountain Show

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The musical fountain is one of the first things you'll see when you're walking onto the island. In fact, you might hear it before you see it!

The "Singing Fountain" puts on colorful water jet shows synchronized to popular tunes. From Vivaldi's Four Seasons to Frozen's "Let It Go", you'll probably have the songs stuck in your head long after the fountain is out of sight.

Although it's always enjoyable, we think it's most stunning in the evening, when you can see the rainbow jets of water light up the night sky.

Enjoy Some Refreshments

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Although it's not uncommon to pack a picnic for a day on Margaret Island, there are other options if you get hungry. Newly renovated snack kiosks and cafes are dotted around the island, where you can find classic Hungarian foods like lángos--a deep-fried disc of bread topped with sour cream, garlic, and cheese.

Cool Off in Palatinus Baths and Waterpark

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One of the most beloved destinations on the island is Palatinus Strand. By now, you probably know that Budapest is famous for its natural hot springs (why else do you think we have so many gorgeous thermal baths?) but did you know that Palatinus baths rests on top of one of them? This makes it a perfect spa location.

The whole swimming pool complex is family-friendly, with differently sized outdoor pools (even a wave pool for those of you who like a challenge!). There is even a women-only section for those interested in nude sunbathing, and a mixed area as well. Once you've worked up an appetite by swimming and sunning, treat yourself to classic Hungarian snacks and refreshments.

Palatinus has been a local staple since it was first opened as a beach in 1919. A revamping of the water park facilities was completed in the 1980s, not to mention a site-wide renovation in 2002. Now, you'll be sure to find it full of locals and tourists alike all summer long.

And as a bonus, it even has winter hours! It is fueled by a hot spring, after all!

Bonus tip: If this is your main destination on the island, it makes sense to take Bus 26 instead of the tram, as the bus drops you off directly in front of the pool.

Catch a Show at the Outdoor Theatre

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Balmy summer weather makes the perfect conditions for outdoor entertainment. Luckily, Margaret Island has an open-air stage just for such occasions. In the past, the stage has hosted classical operas, gala concerts, rock operas, and more.

Soak in the music in the shadow of the historic water tower. It's 152 steps to the top, if you're feeling energetic and would like a panoramic lookout and enjoy all that the outdoor concerts have to offer. Check their website here to find upcoming programs and book your tickets!

Stop and Smell the Roses

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It shouldn't come as a surprise that a park as big as Margaret Island has some impressive gardens. Follow your nose as you walk to the middle of the island and you'll soon smell the many, many roses.

If you're lucky, you can grab a bench in the rose garden and enjoy their natural perfume while you read a book, or even just people watch. For another peaceful walk, head over to the Japanese garden and be soothed by tranquil surroundings.

Get in Some Exercise

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One of the challenges of city life is finding fresh air and open space for exercise. Margaret Island provides a solution thanks to the 5k running track that rims the island. Along with the track, workout equipment on either tip of the island makes Margaret Island an ideal location for an al fresco workout.

Join a Class

Margaret Island's wide green spaces make it a favored place for outdoor recreation, especially during the summertime. There are countless groups that use the island as their stomping ground, from open-air yoga, joyful dancing, tai-chi, and whatever else you can think of. Who knows what new friends you might meet, or new skills you might pick up? Look on Facebook for current events!

Enjoy Family-Friendly Activities

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Margaret Island is one of the most family-friendly places in Budapest. Firstly, the aforementioned Palatinus pool and waterpark has kid-friendly amenities. For a closer brush with nature, you can take your little ones past the petting zoo. Or, for an activity for the whole family, you can rent a four person bike and ride around (more on that below!).

Grab a Drink at the Bar

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If you'd like to stop for a refreshing beer or cocktail, Margaret Island has a solid handful of bars where you can kick back and relax. Hippie Island is as colorful as its psychedelic namesake, while Stég Pub offers an inviting terrace as well as a hostel for those who would like to make the island their home base.

Catch an Outdoor Movie

The summer weather is too nice to spend your time in a dark cinema! Luckily, you can find an open-air movie theatre on Margaret Island. Paulaner Beer Garden Theatre shows a mix of family-friendly flicks and hot Hollywood blockbusters. You can check their Facebook for their weekly schedule. Grab some refreshments, kick back, and enjoy the show!

Go to the Spa

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We already mentioned that you can take a dip in Palatinus Pool, but to take your rest and relaxation to the next level, visit the Grand Hotel Margaret Island Spa. This four star spa is housed in a turn-of-the-century hotel, ensuring elegant accommodation in quiet surroundings.

Here, on a peaceful island, you really can get away from the hustle and bustle of the city for some true rejuvenation. Whether you're just passing through town or looking for a Budapest staycation, this spa will pamper you, body and soul.

Rent a Bike

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Since cars aren't allowed, one of the best ways to get around Margaret Island is by pedaling around. In fact, it's a popular activity to rent a “Bringóhintó” a special four-person bike, to enjoy with your friends. There is a bike rental stand near the southern tip of the island, just before the fountain--it's nearly impossible to miss.

Grab a friend or three and start wheeling your way around! And remember, even though there are few cars on the island, these bikes can still pack a punch! Make sure to stay aware when crossing the street!

Visit a Festival

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Margaret Island's wide open spaces make it a prime area to host festivals. Get away from the crush of the city and eat your fill at the annual Food Truck Show during the fall. And if you're feeling thirsty, Budapest's answer to Oktoberfest happens on Margaret Island in the fall as well. Walk your way from bar to bar and sample delicious beers from all over--all in a fresh outdoor setting!

Margaret Island is truly one of the best gems of Budapest. If you make the short trek over Margaret Bridge, you'll soon be rewarded with a breath of fresh air, outdoor recreation, and a peaceful spot in the Hungarian capital.