Discover Debrecen, the capital of Eastern Hungary

You are probably about to discover Debrecen. Keep reading, it’s worth. Debrecen is the second largest city in Hungary, just after Budapest, and one of the most important cultural centers in all the country. It is located in Hajdú-Bihar County and should be a must-visit in any itinerary around Hungary.

Debrecen is an active and lively city, with street festivals, amazing nightlife and a host of tourist attractions. It is a very classic-choice city for Erasmus students. The center, old but renovated in a very nice way, with the iconic views of the Szent Anna Székesegyház, its cathedral, while the tram passes is really a delight.

A bit of recent History

Debrecen has been for long a city on the border of big empires which fought against each other. This applies also for recent history. During the country’s war of independence (1949), the Hungarian government fled here for five months. Here, the dethronization of Habsburgs and the independence of Hungary were proclaimed by Lajos Kossuth. But as a result of the Treaty of Trianon, after World War I, the city’s role changed. Hungary lost a relevant portion of its eastern territory to Romania and Debrecen became a border city.

At World War II, bombings and other military actions caused severe damage in the city, and more than half of the buildings were destroyed. Nevertheless, in between 1944 and 1945, Debrecen once again briefly served as Hungary’s capital. In the 1950s a large-scale industrialization took place in the city following the soviet patters that interfiered with the tradicional good-looking buildings.

On October 23, 1956, the revolution started in Debrecen and it was same relevant as in Budapest. Nowadays, the city is taking over its important national role and it has changed and evolved following the ancient very local Magyar character which bring the city to be a top city in Hungary.

When to go to Debrecen 

Christmas in Debrecen is one of the highlights of the city. They set up a large Christmas market with wooden stalls selling all kinds of Christmas decorations. A large Ferris wheel is even installed and its streets are decorated with awesome lights. Because of its spectacular atmosphere, Christmas in Debrecen is one of the seasons that receives the most tourists in the city. 

Discover Debrecen on Christmas

Another of the most famous events in Debrecen is the Carnival of Flowers. In August, the streets of the city host a great parade with floats decorated with thousands of flowers. It is one of the most popular events in Hungary

What to discover in Debrecen

Nagytemplom, the Great Protestant Church

It is the symbol of the city, it is an important building of Hungarian Protestantism. The style is neoclassical with baroque elements in its towers. If you wish, you can climb the tower to see the views of the city. There are more than 200 steps and you will be able to see the Rákóczi Bell, the largest bell in the country.

Kossuth Square

It is the central square of the city, in it you can see historical buildings such as the Hotel Aranybika, the Town Hall, the Statue of Lajos Kossuth and a musical fountain. At Christmas you can see the Christmas market and the beautiful lights.

Saint Anna Church

It is the most important catholic church. It is known to be the Cathedral of Debrecen. Saint Anna is probably the second most iconic building in town, after the Nagytemplom. The admission is free.

Csokonai Theater

It was built in the 19th century. The building is currently renovated and in its surroundings you will find a nice park. It is the oldest and largest theater in the city. Outside you can admire a lot of sculptures.

Small Reformed Church in Debrecen

Small Reformed Church is at Piac utca in the city’s main square. The original building was constructed in the 17th century, but it has been renovated many times. Locals call it informally the Truncated Church. It has a particular interest its bizarrely-modern clock façade. Visits are available throughout the summer, but on sundays it is not allowed to get in.

Batthyány Avenue

Batthyány Avenue is a pedestrian walkway located in the historic center of the city of Debrecen. It begins on the left side of the Cathedral of Saint Anne and ends on Széchenyi Avenue, a few meters from the famous Nagytemplom.

Déri Tér

Déri Tér Square is one of the oldest and most important in the city of Debrecen. It is located a few meters from the Kalvin tér Square, within the historic center and in its surroundings is the building of the National Bank of Hungary and the Déri Museum.

University of Debrecen

One of the most prestigious universities in Hungary is the University of Debrecen. The central building is neoclassicist, you will be able to see its fountains. It is located in a privileged place, next to the Great Forest. On campus you will find the Botanical Garden or the Agora, a scientific center with various interactive exhibitions. The garden was created by Samuel Disszegi in 1820, it has a neoclassical and neobaroque style.

Great forest

The green lung of the city, it is a wild forest and nature reserve. It has a man-made lake, picnic areas, an open-air theater and many walking paths.

Moving around Debrecen

Walking itinerary in the center of Debrecen

We offer on this map a less than half an hour itinerary to discover Debrecen and the best main seven tourist attractions of the old town.

Debrecen by tram

To reach the University and the Great forest, which are a bit farther away, you can take Tram 1. A trip by tram would complete also your visit expectations and improve your Debrecen experience.

What to eat in Debrecen

The gastronomy of Debrecen stands out for being rich in aromas and spicy flavors, in which meat and natural products are stars in its dishes. The best traditional soups and sausages are especially popular in Debrecen.

  • Csokonai Restaurant: you can take the opportunity to try some of the typical dishes of Debrecen cuisine, with high quality and a good price. The staff is very professional and their desserts excellent.
  • Rózsás Csárda: Traditional looking like csárda. The food is really good and traditional and the prices reasonable. A csárda is a traditional homemade cuisine Hungarian restaurant. Some of them could be a tourist trap but we can recommend this one as very trustworthy.

Where to stay in Debrecen

In some periods of the year, Debrecen could be busy. There are many students and their families go to visit them in special occasions. Debrecen has many events and yearly festivals which attract many visitors to the city. It is a good idea to check your opcions and to book accommodation in advance. From here you can go directly to booking.com to compare all the prices.

How to get to Debrecen

Plane

Debrecen International Airport is the second airport of the country and the best way to arrive to the city. It is located around 6 minutes by car from the city center and it is better to arrive there by taxi or similar rather than by any other public transport. You can check here your opcions for a direct transfer.

Bus

There are several bus lines departing to other cities of the county from the Bus Terminal of Debrecen. International and other bus lines to the main cities of Eastern Hungary start also from here.

Car

From Budapest to Debrecen is 230 km long trip. We suggest to take the exit to Görbeháza on motorway M3 to get to Debrecen on motorway M35. You can easily rent a car in Budapest, the best prices are at the airport. As some readers reported to us, if you appreciate your money, you should better avoid the tricky cheap Klass Wagen Company to rent in Budapest. Check your options on Rentalcars.

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5 Replies to “Discover Debrecen, the capital of Eastern Hungary”

  1. usfman – South Florida – I accomplished a rewarding career as a teacher and professor for 28 years.No more daily lesson plans now frees my curious mind to experience life on my own terms now.
    usfman says:

    I’m of Hungarian descent which makes me curious about what is the essence of local Magyar character?

    1. Hi Usfman, very good question. In absolute terms I would say it was just poetry. Historically, though, Debrecen has had an importance which currently is barely recognized. A visit there shows a capital made by locals for locals, since the locals are the main clients (besides the foreign students of the famous University) of the bars, restaurants of the downtown. You can find there shops and services that locals need like hardware stores or old school clothing shops. That in Budapest is quite different. Thanks a llt for your comment!

      1. usfman – South Florida – I accomplished a rewarding career as a teacher and professor for 28 years.No more daily lesson plans now frees my curious mind to experience life on my own terms now.
        usfman says:

        I’d like to visit a smaller place such as this. My grandparents had rural roots there.

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