Monday, April 23, 2012

The history of Margaret Island and the main sights on it

The Margaret Island is a beloved chill out site for many people living in Budapest, or visiting the city. As you could see from my blog, I like the place a lot too and whenever I am in Budapest I try to get there alone or with my friends. Independent from the seasons this place is always nice to visit.

In the winter you can enjoy the silence here and watch the ice on the Danube from the Margaret-bridge. In the spring and the summer the island is full of people jogging, dating, meeting friends and drinking wine, partying. Families come here with small children. In the landscape parks people picnic, do sports like yoga or capoeira. There is even a swimming pool and a bath on the island.

It is often the case with places we visit frequently that we actually know the least about their history and their background. We just always have been going there, it is our place, but if someone would ask us, we could not say too much about the history of the place. I know that there has been a monastery on the island where one famous Hungarian kings daughter, St. Margaret, was living as a nun, and the island was called "the Island of rabbits", but otherwise I am not so well-informed either. So: this made me to do a small research on the internet and share my findings about the island here.

Monika Csapo- All Rights Reserved
Did you know, that...

The Kinghts of St. John settled here first in the 12th century? After the island has been settled by nunneries, churches and cloisters until the 16th century. During the Ottomans the inhabitants fled and the buildings were destroyed.

In the 18th century it was chosen as a resort of Palatines (in Hungarian "nádor"), who was the highest dignitary in the Kingdom of Hungary after the king. It was declared a public garden in 1908 only, when the city of Budapest bought the island from Prince Joseph. It is hard to imagine that for so long time the island was not open for the public at all, because nowadays it is so obvious secene of the life of the people living in Budapest.

Since 1980 entry by cars has been limited and only single bus lines and taxis are allowed to enter. Which is really good, since the island is really a real relax oasis in the middle of the city center.

About the names of the island

The island got his name from St. Margaret who was a princess of the Arpad-lineage and lived in the Dominican nunnery in the 12th century. Otherwise the island has had many names so far: Island of the Rabbits, Island of St. Andrew, Island of the Holy Mother, Maria-island, Buda-island, Palatinus-island etc.
It is commonly known that it was called as Island of the Rabbits, because the island was populated by wild rabbits.

Some archaeologists claim that no matter if there were wild rabbits living here or not, the name Island of the Rabbits is not coming from the rabbit population, but from a more practical connection. According to them in the middle age the island was used as a quarantine for leprosy patients and when the epidemic ended as a consequence of middle age-PR they left one letter out from the name "Insula Leprorum" in order to get a name with better connotation. So it became "Insula Leporum" which means Island of the Rabbits.

Small things make big difference, yeps...

Some historical sights on the island

Water Tower

After 1908 when the island became fully open to the public they planned also the Main Botanic Garden of Hungary on the island (it was not accomplished), and also the parks and the buildings needed proper water supply. 

The water tower was built in 1911. During the second world war they used it as a military object. It lost its original function in the 60s . There used to be a gallery on the top floor (Kilátó Galéria), but it was closed in 2011 May.

The Music Well

The fountain was renovated in 2002. The hydraulic-system and the choreography of the 60 min music show was planned by Technoconsult Kft.

The width of the fountain is 36 m and the highest ray of water is going up to 25 m height.

Japán kert

Source:, Photographer méGis

It is one of the most famous oriental garden of the country. In 1882 György Magyar became the main gardener of the island and planted 16.000 roses on the island (1400 different species). He was the one who established the Japanese garden too.

In the Japanese garden you can find hundreds years old trees and evergreens. The small lakes are connected through channels. Crossing the bridges you can see the cute turtles and goldfishes swimming around. Although the garden lost its glory with time, but it is still a magical place. No coincidence that using the atmosphere of the place they organize here theater plays for example. 

I am not sure if they do the same with classical concerts, but I would visit for sure, if there would be some nice open air classical music concert here.

"The fairy garden of Budapest! One piece of the Paradise- without the forbidden tree of the Garden of Eden.."
- Mór Jókai

Palatinus Spa, the Margaret Island Zoo and the Centennial Memorial are also historical sights. I might write about them in the second part of this article, but now I wanted to write about the sights above.


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