Hungary’s second biggest city, Debrecen, can normally get overlooked and I get it. It’s small and there aren’t huge landmarks to visit. Here are places to visit in Debrecen even if you’re going there intentionally or find yourself passing by from one place to another.
I’ve only had the opportunity to visit in the late fall/early winter. Let me tell you, it is COLD. Like cold enough to wear two pairs of pants, three top layers, a scarf, gloves, leg warmers, and a hat. Maybe I exaggerate, but with all that I wasn’t feeling too chilly anymore. Something to be aware of in Debrecen, or Hungary in general, is that the weather changes often. It’ll be sunny one moment, rainy the next. It’s best to know this now to better pack and prepare for your upcoming trip.
I plan to go back during the late spring/early summer to enjoy the parks and green spaces that Debrecen has to offer. There’s even a water park and baths (way cheaper than Budapest) to enjoy here. Many people leave the city to a large lake not too far away during the summer, leaving it rather empty for tourists to enjoy.
Places to visit in Debrecen🇭🇺 :
Reformed Great Church of Debrecen
The church is located in the main plaza in Downtown Debrecen. It’s had the status of national monument since 2013 and has been rebuilt several times over the years. Definitely beautiful to look and have as a backdrop for photos, but going to the top is where it’s at. Only if you’re brave enough for the steep climb. You can use an elevator most of the way up, but the last couple flights will be on stairs.
🗓 Monday – Friday 9am-4pm. Saturday 9am-1pm. Sunday CLOSED. Opening times do vary by season so check out their website for the latest info.
🎟 Adult: 1,100 HUF. Student & Seniors: 700 HUF. Family (2 adults and max of 4 kids): 4,500 HUF.
Debrecen Reformed Theological University (Debreceni Református Kollegium)
The Debrecen Reformed Theological University is located right behind the Great Church and is a member of the Debrecen Reformed College. The university is one of the influential centers of theological sciences and training of intellectuals in Hungary. The library (pictured above) inside is beautiful and was one of the main reasons I wanted to visit. I didn’t go with a tour so I got it to myself for a while which was nice and let me take some photos and videos.
🗓 Monday – Saturday 10am-4pm.
🎟 Adult: 1,500 HUF. Student & Seniors: 700 HUF. Joint Adult Ticket (Great Church & Museum): 2,500 HUF. Joint Student Ticket (Great Church & Museum): 1,200 HUF.
This is the City Museum of Debrecen and the idea of its construction dates back to the 1860s. At the time, the city’s efforts were aimed at demonstrating the modernization of Debrecen and its development of cultural life. Thus the idea to found a museum came about even though it did not officially open until May 22, 1905. Now the museum boasts permanent, temporary, and virtual exhibitions.
The permanent part of the collection that surprised me the most was the “Dwellers of the Starry Sky” because it has an Egyptian tomb and paintings that represent that area and time period. I did not expect to see this in a Hungarian museum. I would suggest two hours to visit the museum, but maybe a little less or more depending on your interest in the material.
🗓 Tuesday – Sunday 10am-6pm. Closed on Mondays.
🎟 Adult: 1,800 HUF. Children, Students, and Seniors (62-70): 900 HUF. Seniors over 70: Free.
University of Debrecen (Debrecen Egyetem)
Debrecen is a university city. So many students flock here to do their ERASMUS or study at the Medicine Faculty. The majority of programs are done in English making it easy for people from all over to come here to study. The university itself is so beautiful and worth it to visit. The grounds are huge and a great place to walk around for a morning or afternoon.
🗓 Open almost always except for holidays. Check here for more information.
As part of the university grounds there is a botanical garden. During the fall most of the plants and flowers are dead, so the outside part isn’t the greatest to visit. There is a greenhouse with plants year round and a room attached with a variety of cacti. If you’re planning on visiting here, make sure to do so either before or after your visit around the university.
⏰ Everyday 8h to 18h (6pm)
🗓 October 21 to March 20 (Monday-Sunday) 8h to 16h(4pm)
March 21 to October 20 (Monday-Sunday) 8h to 18h(6pm)
Closed between December 24 and January 2
🎟 500 HUF ($1.50 or 1,35€)
Great Forest Park (Nagyerdei Park)
Right next to the university is the Great Forest Park with acres of green space. This is a great place to visit during the summer as they have concerts in their stadium and there’s lots of space to have a picnic with friends. Right next door is the water park that’s only open during the summer months. From what I saw there are a variety of slides and pools to enjoy. Continuing through the park is the Aquaticum Debrecen Termal and Wellness Hotel with thermal baths to enjoy at a more reduced price than the ones you’ll find in Budapest. Across the street from the park you can find a ‘Debrecen’ sign to take photos with. If you get hungry, you’ll find a few different restaurant options.
⏰ 6h to midnight
The best way to get around the city is the tram of which there are two lines. The cost for a one way trip is 300 Hungarian Forints. You can buy a ticket at most of the stations and you validate it on the tram. From experience, I’ve noticed that most of the time no one comes to check if you have validated it or not, but it’s better to do so to avoid a possible fine. If you stay in Debrecen you may only use it a couple of times to go to the university and Great Forest Park.
Downtown Debrecen has lots of local stores, cute little cafes, and a couple malls. Aside from the main plaza, there aren’t too many other landmarks. In the plaza you can find the Reformed Great Church of Debrecen and a statue of Lajos Kossuth, the Governor-President of Hungary in 1849. During Christmastime this is where the main Christmas market is along with a large Ferris wheel. You can read more about it in this post.
Aquaticum Mediterrán Élményfürdő (water park)
Waterpark found near the Great Forest Park and University. There’s a hotel, thermal bath, sauna, ‘beach’ (outside water park), and indoor waterpark. The outdoor part doesn’t open until late June or early July and definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area during the summertime.
🗓 Monday – Thursday 11am-7pm. Friday – Sunday 10am-8pm. Hours can vary by season, double check on their website here.
🎟 Ticket prices vary depending on who is going and at what time. Website has detailed info.
I know you’re probably thinking, “bowling?” I know, hear me out. Sometimes when I’ve been traveling for a while, it’s nice to do something ‘normal’ that I would do at home with friends. This place is right next to the train station and has a restaurant, bar, bowling, and billiards. They charge by the time you stay at the pool table or bowling alley. I spent about an hour to an hour and a half with a friend and we each had a beer. It came out to under $8 😱. It’s a great place to spend some time if it’s raining or you feel like it’s too cold out.
⏰ Sunday-Thursday 10h to Midnight, Friday & Saturday 10h to 2h (following day)
🗓 Closed on a few major holidays
🎟 Depending on what you consume
Let me know if this has inspired you to visit this smaller city. I plan to add more to this list of places to visit in Debrecen once I’ve spent time there during the spring or summer. Next posts will cover food to eat in Hungary, Hungarian currency, and places to visit in Budapest. In the meantime you can check out my Where to Spend Christmas where I talk about the Christmas experience in Debrecen.
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