By: Kate Nwachukwu
Are you bored of spending every weekend here in Budapest? Are you seeking a thrilling adventure and place to go this Easter? Do you have a birthday celebration due, and want to visit somewhere interesting on the weekend? If yes, then Debrecen, just 2 hours and 30 minutes away, awaits you.
Debrecen is the second largest city in Hungary with a population of 202,520 residents as of 2016 and it’s located in the northern Hungarian Great Plain (Alföld). According to the 2011 census, around 50% of its inhabitants speak English, and as of 2020, 30,000 students were enrolled in university education in this region. Here are some personal recommendations for places you might find interesting on a weekend visit to Debrecen.
The easiest approach to make the most of your time in the city is to break the weekend into a two-part vacation. The first day will consist of outdoor activities, such as visiting Debrecen’s prominent culture centers and Calvinist churches, and the second day will consist of indoor activities, such as bathing houses and massages to prepare for the start of a new week.
The Debrecen Zoo, located in the city’s great forest (Nagyerdő), is the first destination I would recommend seeing. It was established in 1958, and comprises 17 hectares of land, taking around 3 hours to explore. The zoo’s animal population ranges from monkeys to reptiles, frogs to meerkats, and penguins to leopards. There is a wide variety of animals available for viewing, and tickets to the zoo can be purchased on the day of your visit, or on their website. There are buffets and cafés along the stops within the park, where you may refuel your energy, as well as stores where you can purchase souvenirs. As the spring holidays approach, passes such as the walking pass, which allows visitors to the park 365 days a year, the experience pass, and the VIP ticket, which includes the entrance cost for events with separate gates and the ability to avoid lines, are available for purchase. A regular adult ticket costs 4,200 HUF and a student ticket is 3,000 HUF.
The second place is Hortobágy National Park, Hungary’s largest area for wildlife protection and conservation, as well as a registered cultural, folklore, and natural heritage. The park was established as a national park on January 1, 1973 (the first in Hungary) and was named a World Heritage Site in 1999. They frequently offer programs, like as an early spring hiking tour in Magosliget, or an open stables weekend in Hortobágy, where you may observe horses, falcons, cattle, moles, sheep, buffaloes, lambs, ducks, and donkeys.
If you don’t want to spend hours wandering about in nature, another option is to go to one of Debrecen’s most iconic locations, the Great Calvinist Church (Magyarországi Református Egyház).This majestic structure, located in the city center, is the largest protestant church in Hungary, with the greatest bells of any protestant churches in Hungary. It is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and also provides Sunday services, baptisms, and marriages for regular churchgoers, while tourism is limited during this time. Their website provides a more detailed picture of the church’s schedule and hours of operation. The entrance ticket rates range from 1,100 HUF to 1,700 HUF, but there is also the option to attend as a group and receive discounted prices, as well as tours in English.
Another intriguing architectural landmark is the Déri Museum, which hosts both temporary and permanent exhibitions, with the formal featuring a memorial hall, a samurai residence, a chamber of miracles, and a presentation of weapon history. The temporary education comprises of the color by color, Potosi, and Vikings of the Carpathian basin. A full-price entrance ticket costs 1,800 HUF per person, but a ticket to attend the temporary exhibition costs only 600 HUF per person. Guided tours cost 5,000 HUF per group.
The Aquaticum Thermal & Wellness Baths is the first indoor location I recommend visiting. It is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and serves not only as a hotel but also as a massage spa and gourmet restaurant, offering breakfasts, buffets, and dinners in deluxe apartments or double rooms. The hotel also occasionally offers entertainment activities, as well as the lively Aquaticum Mediterranean Aquapark (which has its own fees).If you want to stay in Debrecen for one or two nights, I recommend this hotel, but keep in mind that half of the cost is necessary to reserve a room prior to arrival, and occasionally a message is required to be sent to the hotel to quote the price of a room before booking. Costs range from 42,000 HUF/night to 162,000 HUF/night, depending on the number of rooms or services required. This center is located in the Nagyerdei park; thus it is conveniently located to a variety of other activities.
Secondly, the MODEM Centre for Modern and Contemporary Arts, located in the center of the vibrant city, is a contemporary art museum with numerous exhibitions, like ‘Opening Close to the Ground’ and ‘IT Tunes In,’ which function as a viewing displays visually immersing museum goers. Another regular activity, conducted in the museum, is the guided tours that take place every Tuesdays.
Of course, Debrecen has a plethora of additional attractions, such as churches such as the Saint Anna Cathedral and Parish Church, as well as religious institutions such as the Pásti Street Orthodox synagogue and the Reformed Church. All of this is to imply that if you decide to visit any of these locations, phone the numbers shown on the pages ahead of time if you need more information or to ensure that the site is available to tourists that day.