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Top 10 Things to do in Debrecen

After we spent some days in the wonderful city of Kosice the next stop on our great Eastern Europe adventure took us to another country. Since we already had visited Budapest on our previous Central Europe Trip in 2014 we wanted to try something different this time, something more “east” and so our route took us to Debrecen, Hungary’s second largest city. The city is surprisingly charming and notably quiet for being Hungary’s second largest city. It’s a quietness in a good way though; calm, laid back and relaxing. Enjoy reading more about the top 10 Things to do in Debrecen.

The most important sight to visit in Debrecen

1. The Great Reformed Church of Debrecen

The most important sight to visit and the one you can neither miss nor overlook when you enter the downtown area of Debrecen is the massive Great Reformed Church of Debrecen – a magnificent piece of architecture and the symbol of Debrecen. This church is widely recognized to be a symbol of Protestantism in Hungary being as well the largest Protestant church in the country which all in all makes it the most important Protestant church. Got it? It even houses the Rákóczi Bell which is the largest bell in Hungary. Before this church was erected in the early 19th century there were several other churches which were all destroyed and thus the construction of the church you see today was started in 1805. It was constructed in a neoclassical style with Baroque elements which were later on added to the roof of the tower. If you’re looking for a wonderful view of the city from above, I can highly recommend climbing the tower to the top – the hard work and sweat and tears are worth it.

Enjoy this magnificent view of Kossuth Square

2. Kossuth Square

Right in front of the Great Reformed Church you will find yourself standing on the main square of Debrecen, the Kossuth Square. Due to its size and location in the city, Kossuth Square has become an important space for the city’s community and has developed itself to normally playing host to all sorts of public events, from being the site where the city’s Christmas tree is placed every December, to countless cultural summer events such as the Turkey Days, the Flower Parade or the great gastronomic program. The square contains an impressive statue and memorial of Lajos Kossuth after whom the square was named. He was an important revolutionary figure in Hungary during the 1848 Revolution in the fight for national independence, for the granting of civil rights and the embodiment of other important historical events. And by the way, to get THIS view of the square and the city you will have no other option but to take that damn climb of the tower in the church.

An afternoon stroll through the park

3. Nagyerdei Park

You defenitely don’t want to miss an afternoon walk in this magnificent park. Only a ten-minute ride from downtown the Nagyerdei Park offers a calm and quiet atmosphere in the midst of the city of Debrecen. The name actually means ‘Great Forest’ but the park certainly has a lot more to offer than just trees. The park is a huge retreat from the city and offers all kind of qualities like ponds, lakes, memorials, the Water Tower, promenades and many other entertainment options. The walkways in the park are beautifully tiled, wide and nicely curved. Besides from functioning as a magnificent park the Nagyerdei Park is as well the nation’s first conservation area. Within this gigantic park is the local stadium, the Nagyerdei Stadium, and the Water Tower with a café on the ground floor and an observation platform on top. The park is definitely worth a visit at every season but it might be best at summer time.

One of the most popular attractions in the Nagyerdei Park is the Water Tower

4. The Water Tower

One of the most popular attractions in the Nagyerdei Park is the Water Tower which has been around for over a century though serving a rather modern purpose these days. So don’t be fooled by the name, because the Water Tower is more than it seems at first glance. When you visit the Water Tower during the day time you will find a quiet café on the ground floor and an observation platform on the top which provides you a fantastic view of the surrounding Nagyerdei Park and the stadium area. During night time you will find the Water Tower transformed into a lively place lightened up by colourful lights on the entire structure of the tower. No matter the time of day though, the tower is a fantastic point to visit during your walk through the Nagyerdei Park.

The stadium is a nice piece of architecture

5. Nagyerdei Stadium

For all the architecture lovers out there (and who doesn’t like a nice piece of architecture to gape at every once in a while, right?) have a visit to the Nagyerdei Stadium, which has won a whole lots of plaudits from around the world for its aesthetics and design. The first initial plans of a future stadium were first presented in March 2010 for this new piece of architecture. This stadium which you can see today opened in May 2014 as a replacement for the former stadium which had served as the home of Debreceni since 1934. This is Hungary’s most modern sport arena and the third largest stadium of the country with an all-seater capacity of 20.340 people in an asymmetric shape. The outside of the stadium features a spectacular “suspension sidewalk” with a running track, skirting the entire building at a height of several meters.

A truly stunning piece of Neo-Baroque architecture is the University of Debrecen

6. University of Debrecen

A truly stunning piece of Neo-Baroque architecture is the University of Debrecen. Oh, how I wish I’d studied there, it feels like stepping into a different world. There will be no spoilers here about the inside, so you have to go and see for yourself, okay? The University of Debrecen is the oldest continually operating university in Hungary which was established all the way back in 1538. After walking though the Nagyerdei Park you will find this beauty laying at the far edge of it, with a stunning French park lying directly in front and the grand University Botanical Gardens in the back which is worth a visit as well. The interior of this building is equally impressive as the exterior, decorated with the most beautiful details. But the most impressive about this building is the huge atrium covered with a vaulted glass roof.

Don't miss out on this museum

7. Déri Museum

The Déri Museum, named after Frigyes Déri, one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the Habsburg lands, is partly compiled by the huge collection of artifacts brought together by Frigyes himself which he originally had displayed for his wife and himself in his own Castle. Once Frigyes decided to donate his huge collection to Debrecen the city began to erect a building that could provide a place for the artifacts which was finished in 1924. As one of the finest museums in Hungary, the Déri Museum is also home to the greatest works of one of the country’s most famous and celebrated artists, Mihály Munkácsy. This eponymous museum though also houses other permanent exhibitions which are equally fascinating and varying, from samurai courthouses to ancient Egyptian collections and much more. The museum is perfectly sized to see in half a day or even less and therefore perfectly doable for both a longer or shorter stay at Debrecen.

The main Catholic Church in the city of Debrecen is an iconic landmark

8. St. Anne's Cathedral

Within walking distance from the main street you’ll find the St. Anne’s Cathedral, the main Catholic Church in the city of Debrecen and definitely an iconic landmark. As the Great Reformed Church has such a strong hold in the religious history of Debrecen, it is surprising that there is such a prominent Catholic church in this city especially taking into consideration that at the time of its construction the number of Catholic representives was low. This beautiful architectural masterpiece can be seen from afar but should as well be appreciated close up and by going inside it will astonish you even more with the intricate details and ornaments. The St. Anne’s Cathedral was built in Baroque style in 1746 to which there later were added two towers in 1834. Compared to the Protestant Church though which anchors the main touristic traffic, St. Anne’s Cathedral is sizable, open daily and has no entrance fee.

Church-hopping in Debrecen

9. Small Reformed Church

If there’s a Great Reformed Church in Debrecen, there's gotta be a small Reformed Church, right? The distance from the Great Reformed Church to the small one isn’t very far though. Actually, if you follow the main square Kossuth Tér southwards you will get to it within five minutes. The church was originally constructed in 1600 but due to a fire in 1727 where it suffered severe damage and a storm-wind in 1907 it was repaired on numerous occasions. Also, the tower was originally covered by a dome. However, due to the wind-storm in 1907 it was damaged and the tower was rebuilt only to be completely destroyed again by an even bigger wind-storm. After trying so many times to rebuild the tower the architects finally gave up their idea of a pointed dome and settled for a bastion-shaped tower. Since then the church has also been called the “Truncated Church”.

Don't miss out on this monument in Debrecen

10. Pasti Street Synagogue

There are two surviving synagogues in Debrecen; the oldest of them was built in Pasti Street in the early 1880’s. Some years ago the synagogue was renewed while still maintaining its original structure. In 2015 the Holocaust memorial commemorating the victims from Debrecen was dedicated to the Orthodox synagogue now standing in the yard – although considering the history this memorial reflects, it is still a fabulous monument which you should not miss when you visit this synagogue. This memorial contains the names of six thousand local Jews who perished in the Holocaust due to forced labor, in concentration camps or in the ghetto. All these names are carved into the wall made of concrete and black mental.


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