Hungary has become a short break hot spot over recent years and while Debrecen is not the capital city now, it once was, – several times! It, therefore, has a lot to offer in the historical sense.
While Debrecen is much smaller than Budapest, this has its benefits, it is easy to navigate and generally far greener and quieter than Budapest, ideal for a short family-friendly trip.
It also has the benefit of being easy to access via the cities international airport, the only one outside of the capital, with direct flights from London’s Luton airport and from Heathrow Airport (with one-stop), as well as flights to many other countries.
If you decide to venture off the beaten track, or shy away from mass tourism and want the experience the real Hungarian deal, – then you need the Debrecen Experience. Here are some must-see and do activities while in Debrecen.
The starting point of any short trip to Debrecen has to be the central square. Just a short walk or a short 5-minute tram ride from most of the major hotels (link to hotels section) in the city. Investigate the Great Reformed Church, which dominates the central square, or just absorb the ambience of the city with an easy walk to decompress after traveling, it’s fountain’s make for a relaxing backdrop. There are cafés and restaurants on all sides so it is the perfect place to experience local cuisine and Hungarian fine wine. You may even find a street fair here, featuring local crafts and street food vendors serving all kinds of traditional Hungarian foods, including the famous Debrecen Double Sausage. A short walk from the square is also the cities main shopping plaza “The Forum”, which also has a substantial food court.
The Reformed College Museum
The Calvinist Reformed College museum is a short, 3-hour introduction to Debrecen and the wider region, located behind the Kossuth Square and the Great Reformed Church. The museum has an exhibit dedicated to the college’s rich 480-year history, telling the story of how Calvinism became popular during a period of Ottoman occupation. Whether you are interested in Calvinism or not, this exhibit is a great record of the region.
The museum introduces the revolution of 1848-1849 when the Hungarian Parliament met in exile in the Great Hall and Orangery of the Reformed College. It was also where the declaration of a Free Hungary was made in 1849 from the Hapsburg rule.
During the second world war, Debrecen once again served as the capital, where parliament met in the Great Hall. Later in 1956, the reform college was the site of the declaration of a Free Hungary, from the both the Russians and the Hungarian secret police were made here.
Spread over three sights the Déri Museum has plenty to offer, with pride of place given to the museums most famous pieces, including the Christ Trilogy by artist Mihály Munkácsy. While the weapons collection is the biggest of the collections, housed in the same building.
The Ferenc Medgyessy Memorial Museum is another of the collections, managed by the Déri Museum. The location of this collection is in a different building, 28 Péterfia Street, which is a 15-minute walk from the main Déri Museum building. Ferenc Medgyessy was one of the most significant Hungarian sculptors of the 20th century and was particularly well known for his staggeringly beautiful bronze sculptures of horses. On the same site, facing this exhibit building is the animation museum which is a great diversion for the kids. Please note that this museum site is closed on Mondays.
After your museum visits in the morning, we would suggest a relaxing bath in the afternoon to soothe your weary feet.
Just like all of Hungary, Debrecen sits atop a vast reservoir of steaming hot thermal water of a temperature ranging between 36-39 degrees. Thermal baths are often sought out by those suffering from a variety of medical ailments and by those who just want to relax.
Thermal water can be found in Debrecen at several bath locations, but we suggest the Aquaticum Spa be your destination because it is geared up for wellness and medical tourism and because it is located in the heart of the Great Forest. Thermal water has long been known to have many medicinal qualities and is particularly helpful in treating a wide range of skin conditions.
The Great Forest Park
Behind the Acquaticum Spa is the Great Forest, a beautifully landscaped and modern park with a lake in the centre with lots of ducks and goldfish and is of particular fascination for the little ones. There is an outstanding playground, creatively designed, and the kids love it. The park is also the site of many of the biggest events of the year. To one side of the park is the open-air theatre and on the opposite side is the DVSC Football stadium and the iconic water tower, which wears many hats throughout the year, in part a tower to climb to view the surrounding city, but also a music venue and a rock climbing centre.
On the far side of the Football stadium, within the Great Forest recreational area is Debrecen Zoo, adjacent to the city’s Retro Theme Park. Both of these destinations are ideal for family fun. Before deciding your short trip dates we recommend checking the annual event schedule, since several large events take over key locations in the city, including the Great Forest. You may find them appealing, or not. Be sure to book well in advance if you wish to come during a big event weekend.