Margaret Island: Explore a favorite stop on Hungary’s illustrious spa route

This oasis of meticulously kept gardens, medieval ruins, and relaxing medicinal baths acts as the unofficial border between Buda and Pest.

Julie O'Shea

Written by Julie O'Shea Published on 21.11.2023 17:00:00 (updated on 21.11.2023) Reading time: 5 minutes

Margaret Island – an oasis of meticulously kept gardens, medieval ruins and relaxing medicinal baths that acts as the unofficial border between Buda and Pest – has long been a central figure in the Hungarian capital’s bustling landscape. 

Beloved by locals and frequented by tourists, Margaret Island (Margit-sziget in Hungarian), has a lot to offer. It’s a popular exercise spot, with paths for joggers and cyclists that circle the perimeter and take you past its famous gardens, romantic musical fountain, landmark water tower and ancient chestnut trees. 

But undoubtedly one of its biggest draws is its hot spring, discovered more than 150 years ago some 1,200 meters beneath the island’s north bank. This 2.5 km stretch of land in the middle of the Danube has since become a favorite stop along Hungary’s illustrious spa route. 

Ready to plan your trip to Margaret Island? Take advantage of Ensana’s Black Friday deal at the Grand Margaret Island Health Spa Hotel or Thermal Margaret Island Health Spa Hotel. Book between Nov. 21-27 and save 30 percent on stays between Dec. 4 and April 30.

Shortly after medicinal water was unearthed in 1867, prominent Hungarian architect Miklós Ybl was asked to design a spa complex for the entire island. 

In addition to the main bathing house, restaurants and several villas, Ybl’s vision also included the neo-renaissance Grand Hotel. Today, the stately property is known as the Grand Margaret Island Health Spa Hotel. Part of the upmarket Ensana Hotels portfolio, it has attracted its fair share of notable guests over its 150-year history, including a number of Hungarian poets, writers, painters and athletes. 

The adjacent Thermal Margaret Island Health Spa Hotel, meanwhile, is considered to be one of the best health and wellness hotels in Budapest. In fact, it was the first spa hotel to be established in a European capital city and is now part of the Ensana group

The property boasts indoor and outdoor pools as well as a sauna, steam room, aroma cabin, thermal bath and fitness room, making it an ideal spot for those looking for a unique spa holiday. Thermal Margaret Island also has an onsite therapy center with an extensive range of health treatments to help you relax and protect or restore your health.

The island’s thermal waters – measuring around 70 degrees Celsius these days – are particularly effective in treating various chronic medical conditions like locomotor diseases, problems stemming from the body’s muscular and nervous systems, peripheral circulatory disorders, and digestive issues.

The water brought up to the hotel is significantly cooled to temperatures of 34 degrees Celsius, 36 degrees Celsius and 40 degrees Celsius before it’s used in a broad range of balneotherapies.

After recharging your batteries, it’s time to explore Margaret Island on foot or by wheels. Motor-vehicle use is limited on the island, but you can easily rent a go-kart, pedal-car, bicycle or monster scooter at a stand near Margaret Bridge.

Connecting both banks of the Hungarian capital, the island, which had once comprised many smaller islets before merging in one, has had a profound impact on the city’s cultural renaissance over the centuries. From a hunting reserve for royalty in the Middle Ages when it was known as “Isle of Rabbits” to a home base of various religious orders, a stroll around Margaret Island’s 238 acres is like stepping back in time. 

Vestiges from the past are everywhere. In the middle of the island, you’ll find the gothic ruins of a 13th-century Franciscan monastery, destroyed during the Turkish Conquest.

To the north lies the remains of a Dominican convent, where King Béla IV banished his daughter Margaret after she refused her father’s efforts to marry her offer for political gain. She died young and was later canonized. The island now bears her name.

While certain attractions such as outdoor theater performances may be on hiatus for the season, the island’s mini zoo is open all year round while the Palatinus Strand Baths, known as “Pala” to Budapest locals, feature thermal pools as well as water slides and an adventure pool (the latter of which are open in the summer).

Thermal Margaret Island Health Spa Hotel

At the modern Spa and Medical Centre at the Thermal Margaret Island guests can relax and enjoy the dedicated attention of staff in a tranquil and caring setting. The center offers a wide range of spa and beauty treatments, as well as professional medical treatments designed to restore and protect guests’ health.

There is also an on-site dental clinic, a laser eye clinic and a cosmetic surgery. Its state-of-the-art facilities combined with the expertise of its medical personnel make this one of the most popular and sought-after hotel medical spas in Budapest.

The four-star hotel offers 285 guest rooms, offering stunning views of the island’s landscaped gardens, the water tower, or the majestic Danube River. The Platán Restaurant has a colorful and youthful vibe, and its open kitchen is a delight to observe. The restaurant offers a generous buffet-style breakfast and dinner.

Guests will find a variety of healthy, low-fat, low-salt dishes with no added sugar here, and dishes that are consistent with a balanced Ayurvedic diet. The bistro-style Boróka Bar, meanwhile, provides a wide range of light snacks and desserts, as well as fresh and healthy meal options. 

Grand Margaret Island Health Spa Hotel

The Grand Margaret Island Health Spa Hotel, celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, appeals to guests’ mind, body and spiritual wellbeing. The hotel’s elegant fin-de-siècle architecture and the panoramic views it offers of the Danube and the verdant grounds of Margaret Island are sure to delight the senses.

Guests staying at the Grand Margaret Island Health Spa Hotel have access, via a heated corridor, to one of the largest state-of-the-art medical spas in Budapest, located in the neighboring Thermal Margaret Island Health Spa Hotel. 

Ensana Nov2023 GRAND MARGARET new-grand-viktoria_hall_01
The Viktória bar gets its name from the 150-year-old Victoria-patterned Herend porcelain coffee machine that is still used there today and is now considered a valuable work of art.

The hotel offers 164 rooms furnished in a classical style but incorporating the latest in modern comforts and amenities. They offer stunning views of Margaret Island’s landscaped gardens, its water tower, or the majestic Danube River.

The Széchenyi Restaurant, furnished in a manner reminiscent of the prosperous era of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, the Viktória Bar with its authentic club atmosphere, and the Margaret Pub and Brasserie welcome guests with seasonally adjusted food offerings and a range of local and international drinks and cocktails. Opening hours vary according to the seasons.

This article was written in cooperation with Ensana. Read more about our partner content policies here.

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