We never even would have heard about Debrecen, Hungary if it weren’t for the Flower Festival that they hold every August. Now at its 50th iteration, this popular festival is one of the largest cultural events in all of Hungary. As luck would have it, our travel into Hungary lined up perfectly with the flower festival.
Truth be told, we probably would have skipped visiting Debrecen altogether if it weren’t for the Flower Festival. But we’re glad we got to come, because it really highlights the stark contrast between Budapest and the rest of Hungary. Debrecen is very much a small, quiet city that sits in the shadow of Budapest’s world-renowned beauty.
Despite being Hungary’s second largest city, Debrecen is a relatively small and quiet city. Situated near the country’s eastern border with Romania, Debrecen has a population of about 200,000 people. It is an important cultural hub in Hungary, making it a semi-popular spot for tourism.
During our time in Debrecen, we found lots of fun things to do! Here is our list of 17 fun things to do in Debrecen, Hungary.
17 Fun Things to do in Debrecen, Hungary
1. Visit the Great Reformed Church
The Great Reformed Church is one of the most important historical sites in Debrecen. It holds a lot of significance to Hungarian people, simply because of the amazing things that happened here! It was here that Lajos Kossuth read the Declaration of Independence in 1849, changing Hungary’s history forever.
In addition to being a great historical sight, it can also give you a great vantage point to see Debrecen. Climb to the top of the towers for beautiful views of Kossuth Square and the surrounding areas.
2. Explore The Great Forest Park
The Great Forest Park (or Nagyerdei Park) is one of the most popular parks in all of Debrecen. Here, you’ll find beautiful walking paths, restaurants, and even an open air amphitheater where shows sometimes take place. This was a popular location during the Flower Festival, with lots of events being held in its expansive grassy areas.
3. Take a stroll down Piac Utca
Piac Utca (Hungarian for “Market Street”) is the main street in Debrecen’s city center. It’s lined with shops, restaurants and hotels, with wide sidewalks for pedestrians to stroll along. Just by walking along this street, you’ll find plenty to do and explore! There’s also a cable car that runs along this street, so if you need to take public transportation anywhere this is a good place to do it.
4. Attend the Flower Festival
We couldn’t write a blog post about Debrecen without mentioning the iconic Flower Festival! The Flower Festival takes place every August in Debrecen, and it’s one of the largest cultural events in Hungary. During the festival the city center is transformed with beautiful flowers everywhere. Live music, dancing, and art events take place throughout the course of a week. Many of the events are free to the public!
5. Take a picture with the Debrecen Sign
If you are looking for the ultimate touristy pic, look no further than the Debrecen sign in Kossuth Square! This modern block letter sign is located right next to the Great Reformed Church and makes a great photo opp for Debrecen tourists. You can even sit inside the letters!
6. Catch a show at Csokonai National Theatre
Csokonai National Theatre is the largest and oldest theatre in all of Debrecen. You can check showtimes and buy tickets on the theatre’s website. But even if you can’t find a show in English, just come to admire the building’s architecture. It is stunning in person, with elaborate carvings and statues carved into the yellow facade.
7. Pick up a colorful ice cream cone
As we were strolling through the Great Forest Park one afternoon, we couldn’t help but notice the ice cream everywhere! Tons of people were walking around with colorful ice cream cones, so we decided to indulge. The cone we picked up had chocolate and mango ice cream, with sprinkles on top. It was absolutely delicious, and cost less than $2 USD.
8. Explore the historic Grand Hotel Aranybika
The Grand Hotel Aranybika is a historic hotel in Debrecen’s city center. Dating back to the 17th century, this beautiful building has to be enjoyed in person. Take a walk inside to see the beautiful lobby, complete with stained glass ceilings and chandeliers. The building also houses a bar and a Starbucks.
9. Admire the Veres Church
We strolled by the Veres Church on the way from our Airbnb to Debrecen’s city center and couldn’t help but stop and admire the beautiful architecture. If you are in the area, it’s definitely worth checking out. They have a tower that might offer beautiful views of the surrounding areas.
10. Have a drink at Paparazzi Terrace
I had Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” stuck in my head for days after visiting this place! It was worth it, because this chic bar is the perfect place to grab a drink after a long day. Pictures of celebrities cover the walls, and comfy seating can be found all over the place.
Paparazzi Terrace is definitely a cool bar that is well worth checking out, especially since it’s right in the city center. Their outdoor patio is the perfect place to people watch.
11. Try the pastries at the famous Gara Cukraszda
We strolled by Gara Cukraszda one afternoon and could tell by the crowds of locals inside that it was a great spot. Whether you sit on the patio or inside, treat yourself and order something decadent. You won’t regret it.
12. Visit the Debrecen Zoo and Botanical Garden
The Debrecen Zoo and Botanical Garden is a great outing if you love animals or have kids that do. The zoo has everything from lions and hippos, so it’s the perfect way to spend half a day checking out all the exhibits.
13. Go shopping at Debrecen Plaza
Debrecen Plaza is a massive shopping mall located in the city center. The mall features multiple modern floors of clothing shops, cafes, restaurants and more. There is also a money exchange booth, so if you need Hungarian currency this is a good place to come.
14. Walk on Water at Ködszinház
Ködszinház is a small man made pond located right next to the Great Forest Park. The pond features fountains and has beautiful surroundings. The coolest part is the path of blocks that leads through the water. This allows visitors to actually walk on water! There is also a projector screen where films are sometimes shown during the summer months.
15. Visit the Aquaticum Termalfurdo
Aquaticum Termalfurdo, Debrecen’s thermal and wellness hotel, is an awesome hotel option, but also a great place to visit for some quality rest and relaxation. The thermal baths and waterslides are fun for visitors of any age. It costs about $10 USD for an all-day adult pass to the park.
16. Visit Kalvin Square
Kalvin Square is a park and walking area located just behind the Great Reformed Church. It’s the perfect area to sit on a bench and enjoy the warm summer weather, or even take a picnic. You can also check out the sundial in the park and try to guess what time it is.
17. Test your wit at Exit the Room
Exit the Room is an escape room in Debrecen. Their 60 minute live experience games are a fun way to test your logic and combination skills. This is an awesome thing to do especially if you are traveling with a group!
There are tons of awesome things to do in Debrecen, Hungary. Whether you are traveling solo, with your partner, family or friends, there are plenty of cultural and fun activities to do.
Lastly, we really recommend planning your trip around the Flower Festival! Debrecen can be a pretty quiet city so visiting during the Flower Festival will ensure that there is plenty going on to keep you busy.
Don’t forget to check out our other posts from Hungary:
- Ultimate Guide to the Flower Carnival in Debrecen, Hungary
- Budapest Street Food Guide: Best Foods and Vendors
- Celebrating St. Stephen’s Day in Budapest, Hungary!