DebrecenWhen in Debrecen, use your senses instead of just looking for the signposts. Look down ahead of you to see on what kind of planks the citizens walked the streets in days of old. Look up to the sky and marvel at the colourful facades of the merchants’ houses, built at the beginning of the previous century. Follow your nose to the pleasant smells from the busy Mediterranean squares and intimate cafés, or simply listen to your ears and let the charming music guide your steps.
Discover DebrecenDebrecen is Hungary’s second largest city. It is located east of Budapest, in the Northern Alföld, a region which, when it comes to geothermal resources, is Hungary’s richest. A mere two-hour drive from the capital via the new motorway, it also boasts one of the country’s few international airports. The city has served as the nation’s capital twice, in 1849 and at the turn 1944-45, respectively. Each time represented dramatic episodes of revolution and war, when the Reformed Big Church and the College became iconic venues of momentous historic occasions. Today, Debrecen exudes the feel of a pleasant provincial town with its colorful piazzas and spacious parks. At the same time, it also serves as Eastern Hungary’s commercial, administrative, cultural, and educational center. The presence of several multinationals as well as the university, with a student population of 30 thousand, including thousands of overseas students, lends a cosmopolitan atmosphere to the city. This is further accentuated by international sporting and cultural events. In addition to the internationally renowned annual Debrecen Flower Parade on August 20, the whole year is packed chock-full with boisterous festivals of cultural and gastronomic interest. However, the city is large enough to fully accommodate those who would rather get away from it all and find safe havens devoid of the noise of weekdays. The nation’s first designated conservation area, the Nagyerdő neighborhood, gives home to Aquaticum Health & Spa Center, which offers the healing power of thermal water as well as a wide range of recreational facilities. Debrecen is a place where state-of-the-art metropolitan facilities are in close proximity to the peace and serenity of nature. The cozy downtown “hidey-holes” are supplemented with the unique natural beauty and excursion options of nearby Erdőspuszta and Hortobágy National Park, the latter only a half hour-drive from the city center. This cornucopia of leisure activities offers holiday experiences without compromise to tourists of any age group. Whatever your pick, you sure won’t forget your stay in Debrecen.
HortobágyA designated UNESCO World Heritage site, Hortobágy National Park is the perfect archetype of pristine natural landscape. This is the place where everyone longs to find refuge from the monotony of modern human existence. Book a wagon ride, or go on a puszta safari to take the feel of the prairie and enjoy the freedom of the limitless horizon, the mirage, grazing herds, and monotonously nodding sweep-pole wells. In the nation’s oldest and biggest national park, also a European Destination of Excellence (EDEN) site, herdsmen’s traditions are still part of people’s means of subsistence and not mere promotional gimmicks. Hortobágy herdsmen are called different names depending of what kind of animals they tend. A “csikós” looks after horses, a “gulyás” cattle. A “juhász” herds flocks of sheep, while a “kondás” cares for pigs. Practitioners of each trade wear hats of different shape, but they are always sturdy affairs: they won’t lose their form even if someone should tread on them.
Top SightsWherever you go in Debrecen, either in the historic center or in the Forest Park area, you come across many interesting places. In the following we will provide a little taste of the main attractions of Debrecen which one should definitely see when visiting the city. Many visitors hold that if you’ve seen one church, you’ve seen them all. Debrecen, as the seat of three bishops, can easily refute that claim. The Reformed College, often referred to as the school of the country, as well as its legal successor, the University of Debrecen in the Great Forest area, are sights not to be missed, just like the latest attractions of the Great Forest, the Fog Theater and the water tower.
Family FunSightseeing with family? In Debrecen, not only is this possible, but it can even be fun. Kids, you will never forget those water-chute time trials at the Pleasure Baths and your visit in the Agóra Scienece Centre where you can get familiar with the little wonders of everyday life. The experience of traveling in the small railway cars drawn by the cute little steam engine will also be memorable. And you will give big hugs to Mom, when she takes you to a special place where you can pet cuddly live critters.
Do & See
You will never completely take in Debrecen unless you climb the tower of Reformed Big Church, or try to lift a “gerundium” at the Reformed College. You must see the “lícium tree,” probably the humblest symbol of the Reformed faith, as well as St. Anne’s Cathedral, seat of the Catholic Bishop, based, ironically enough, in “Calvinist Rome.” True, you can get insights into Debrecen’s past and form predictions about its future strolling in the city’s streets and squares at your leisure. However, you won’t see the whole picture until you check out the excellent exhibits at Tímárház, the Déri Museum, Medgyessy Ferenc Memorial Museum or Modem Museum of Modern & Contemporary Art. Don’t let these adventures into the realms of history and art prevent you from tasting a nice plate of Debrecen double sausage. Have you explored the historic city center, discovered the Big Market, and mapped the small downtown piazzas, whiled away some time on the terraces and at Roncs Bar? Why don’t you kick back and enjoy the pleasures of Big Forest? Pamper yourself at Aquaticum Pleasure Bath, relax at the Spa, or go for a swim at Debrecen Swimming Complex, the main venue of 2012 European Swimming Championships. Take a stroll in Nagyerdei Park, which was completely redesigned in 2014. Check out the walkways dotted with spectacular water attractions. Try some of the rides at Nagyerdei Theme Park, or sign up for fun classes at Agora Scientific Adventure Center, located on UD’s campus. Round off you sightseeing tour with a mouthwatering dinner at a fine-dining restaurant, a show at Csokonai National Theater, or a classical music concert by Kodály Philharmonic Orchestra. Sports junkies can also get their adrenaline rush by rooting for local soccer heroes at Nagyerdei Arena, while young folks can have a great time in the country’s biggest club, the Hall.
A visit to a new destination is invariably seasoned to perfection with local culinary delights. Your Hungarian gastro-adventure may start with just some choice morsels of a sample menu, but you will never forget our cuisine’s unique medley of spices, flavours, and aromas. Good and hearty fare is always unmistakably unique here, no matter if it is served from traditional sooty stew pots, the more exquisite crockery of fine-dining restaurants, or picked up at the stalls of various culinary events.
What could be a better break during long sightseeing tours than a refreshing coffee or some delicious cake? There are many ambient cafes, pastry shops, and confectioneries in Debrecen, beckoning visitors to relax, engage in intimate conversations, or just enjoy “la dolce vita”. In addition to the famous "kurtosh kalach" (chimney cake), a registered Hungaricum, which is a cherished delicacy in Szeklerland, Transylvania and Hungary, in the local confectioneries and pastry shops you can also try one of the home-style stretched strudels, which has close links to the Hajdú-Bihar county and especially the Hajdúság region, or the "country's cake", selected from several contestants each year.
Bars & Nightlife
Those out for parties will not have any difficulty in Debrecen. There are a number of bars and clubs both in the city centre and around the university campus. All elements of having a blast of a time are given: trendy environments, a diversity of the available food and drink options, live music and star performers, and of course, a fantastic atmosphere.
That joyful, tickling feeling associated with shopping must be familiar to everyone. The souvenirs we buy while visiting a city will help us remember the pleasant time spent there, and the only joy even bigger is what we can achieve by giving loved ones a well-chosen gift from our trip once we return.
The following information will give you practical help you may need during your stay in Debrecen.