Budapest: Margaret Island and Óbuda

Yes Pub

I knew before we arrived in Budapest that it had been formed in 1873 from the cities of Buda and Pest which lie on opposite banks of the Danube. What I didn’t know was that there was a third settlement involved: Óbuda (Old Buda) which, although largely modern these days, still had a historic town centre. One morning we set off to walk there.

Our route took us from our hotel in Pest to the Margaret Bridge (Margít hid). On the way, we were amused by this pub sign – has the campaign for Scottish independence now reached Hungary?

Margaret Bridge is slightly V-shaped with a spur in the middle onto Margít-sziget, or Margaret Island, walking the length of which gives access to another bridge leading to Óbuda. Like many places we’ve visited at this time of year (it was early March) the island was still gearing up for the tourist season – nothing had been planted out yet in the gardens, and there were several diversions to avoid repairs which were being made to the roads and footpaths. There was still plenty to see though. I made a friend.

I don’t know who he is, but later in the week we saw a photograph of children playing on the same statue in the 1960s, so he’s been there for a while.

We saw the ruins of a Franciscan Church from the 13th century, and a chapel with a Romanesque tower dating back to the 12th.

There are also ruins of the Dominican Convent inhabited by St Margaret of Hungary (1242-1271) after whom the island and bridge were named in the 19th century.

Margaret was the daughter of King Béla IV who vowed to bring her up as a nun if Hungary survived the Mongol invasion. When it did, he consigned her to the convent at 9 years old. What a father! She seems to have made the best of it by curing lepers and performing other saintly deeds as well as, allegedly, never washing above the ankles. Eurgh! Although she was beatified soon after her death, she didn’t actually become a Saint until 1943.

Other attractions include two thermal baths and an outdoor theatre, all probably very busy in the summer. Behind the convent sign above you can see an Art Nouveau water tower peeking through the trees, and below is the Japanese garden.

Árpád híd at the far end of the island is just a big modern road bridge, so we strode over that as quickly as possible to reach Óbuda which, as I said, is largely modern but still has some attractive historic buildings.

The town square houses several museums, one of which is dedicated to Imra Varga who created the sculptures with umbrellas below. This time it was John’s turn to make friends.

As I’ve observed before, Budapest is fond of its outdoor sculptures and statues. The signpost amused us – 2336 km to Stirling which is not far from us. I wonder why they chose it?

This statue is Pál Harrer who initiated the founding of Budapest. It’s good to see him honoured.

We had a quick lunch in a café but didn’t linger to visit any of the museums. John had a plan – he wanted to visit a cave. The hills to the west of Óbuda have a network of caves formed by rising thermal waters, two of which are open to the public. We set off to walk to the nearest, Pál-völgyi Cave. I have to confess I was a bit grumbly here, as the walk was not very interesting: uphill through residential areas. Also, I was far less keen on this idea than John was. I’d read the description of the cave in the guidebook which mentioned 400 steps and a 7 metre ladder. Steps I can deal with, but I wondered where this ladder would be taking me.

In the end, I needn’t have worried. Although not all that spectacular, the cave had some interesting formations and fossils.

The ladder wasn’t too bad – you can see me disappearing up it, feeling glad that it didn’t look like the other one pictured which, I’m assured, is there for illustrative purposes only.

From the cave, the walk back to Margaret Bridge was all downhill, thank goodness. This time we stopped to admire its sculptures – and to rest my weary feet.

By the end of that day I had done 31,744 steps! This was our longest day in Budapest by almost 10,000 steps, and my longest ever since I started wearing a Fitbit in February 2016. The only other time I have cracked 30,000 was hiking the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River – I didn’t expect to exceed that in a city. All in all, I feel totally justified in linking this to Jo’s Monday Walks. She’s in sunny Portugal again this week.


44 thoughts on “Budapest: Margaret Island and Óbuda

  1. restlessjo May 22, 2017 / 11:42

    She wishes she was in sunny Portugal this week! 😦 It started off quite beautifully here but it didn’t last despite the forecast. 🙂 Margaret Bridge is rather beautiful, isn’t it? The ladder made me smile because yesterday I was at an Open Garden in Yorkshire and popped into the church for a look. There was a very hair raising ladder in the corner for the bell ringers! Thanks for an interesting walk, Anabel. I do love street sculptures and umbrellas seem very appropriate somehow. 🙂


    • Anabel Marsh May 22, 2017 / 11:50

      Thanks Jo! Umbrellas are very appropriate here too. I have been doing my guided walks and getting soaked every time 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  2. maristravels May 22, 2017 / 12:04

    It’s so many years since I was on Margaret Island, Hungary was still under communist rule then, but I remember it as amazingly beautiful, and of course, all the cultural events and entrances to museums and places of interest were at rock bottom prices so that the people had access to them. I hope it hasn’t changed too much since then, but I suppose it has to – it’s a different world now.


  3. joylovestravel May 22, 2017 / 13:49

    31K is hugely impressive – I bet you slept well that night! Been enjoying reading about Budapest – somewhere I’ve never been but would very much like to visit.


    • Anabel Marsh May 22, 2017 / 15:00

      I think we did! Glad you’re enjoying the Budapest posts – a bit more still to come.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. hilarymb May 22, 2017 / 17:39

    Hi Anabel – gosh what a day that was … and I’m pleased you were able to grumblingly accommodate John – on what was obviously quite an interesting trip … wonderful place to visit – one day, one day … ! Cheers Hilary


  5. Donna May 22, 2017 / 18:13

    Again, I loved this virtual tour and photos, Anabel. I was very intrigued by the sculpture of the ‘namesless man’ on the bench on Margaret Island. Makes me want to know more about him!


    • Anabel Marsh May 22, 2017 / 19:59

      I know! I can’t remember if there was a plaque at the time and googling it later didn’t help. I really should write things up more quickly before the old memory begins to fade……


  6. Marcia Strykowski May 22, 2017 / 23:13

    These pictures are fascinating, love the history. You look so tiny with your new friend and I love the umbrella ladies, too!


  7. Birgit May 23, 2017 / 02:48

    This is just so wonderful to see this great city including the parks. I wonder if that guy is an author?? Love how old the churches are and the history. It seems John likes the ladies:) they remind me of the suffragettes that are having tea in Ottawa.


    • Anabel Marsh May 23, 2017 / 07:35

      I don’t know, I can’t find out who he is! Yes, John liked his lady friends…


  8. the eternal traveller May 23, 2017 / 06:48

    Two thermal baths and Margaret didn’t take advantage of them!! I’m with John. I love a good cave.


  9. Blue Sky Scotland May 23, 2017 / 10:41

    A man after my own heart. I enjoyed the city tour but as soon as I hear ‘caves’ I really come alive- I love exploring underground and the more ladders and narrow passageways the better.


    • Anabel Marsh May 23, 2017 / 10:58

      I get a bit claustrophobic! John was a caver when we lived near Derbyshire and I went a couple of times but would only consider show caves now.


  10. Sarah Ferguson and Choppy May 23, 2017 / 17:43

    I don’t think I could have resisted thermal pools!

    I have only hit 30,000 steps once – it involved walking around without rest for many hours one day. I am not sure there is a repeat of that day in my future, ever!


  11. Ellen May 23, 2017 / 20:56

    I love your take on Margaret making the best of being forced to be a nun 🙂 Sounds like a fascinating city. One my list to get to one of these days.


    • Anabel Marsh May 23, 2017 / 22:28

      As someone else pointed out though, a pity she didn’t take advantage of the thermal baths to have a wash!


  12. Helen C May 24, 2017 / 01:40

    What an interesting walk, Anabel. People asked us where we went during our Danube river cruise, and I always mentioned Budapest. After reading your post, I think I should stop telling people I had been there. I, apparently, didn’t see anything!
    Have a wonderful day/evening.


    • Anabel Marsh May 24, 2017 / 07:28

      Thank you – we were there a week and didn’t see everything!


  13. BeckyB May 24, 2017 / 06:39

    oh my and all of this just in one city – how amazing and how wonderful. Glorious walk today, and wow that must have been around 15miles!


  14. Jessica (Diverting Journeys) May 24, 2017 / 18:28

    I don’t blame you for being grumbly! I love a cave, but not one that involves 400 steps and that scary looking ladder (not as scary as the other ladder maybe, but it still looks steep enough to have freaked me out! I don’t do particularly well with that sort of thing.). At least you got some good statue-ing in!


    • Anabel Marsh May 24, 2017 / 23:32

      It wasn’t as bad as I expected! More like a steep metal staircase – I was worried it would be a free standing ladder with rungs. Good excuse for a grumble though.


  15. rosemaylily2014 May 30, 2017 / 09:21

    I wondered where Óbuda was when we visited Budapest – knew it was somewhere on the hill near Buda but didn’t have time to visit. Still getting over the story of Margaret and her ablutions (or lack of!). Such an interesting post and fascinating photos 🙂


  16. Liesbet June 5, 2017 / 10:39

    Anabel! We just came back yesterday from three days in Budapest. There are so many different and interesting areas. We never made it to Margaret Island and Obuda, so, thanks for sharing some photos and insights of that!


    • Anabel Marsh June 5, 2017 / 13:23

      Did you! Look forward to reading your take on it. I still have a couple more posts to go.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Liesbet June 5, 2017 / 14:10

        So much to see there! I took heaps of photos and hope to go through them one of these days. My post about Budapest will have to wait a little while. I have a lot, lot, lot to catch up on first and urgently need to downsize all my stuff at my parents’ place. Less than two weeks to go, before we return to the US!

        Liked by 1 person

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