WIZZ AIR recently launched a new line that goes from Israel directly to the city of Debrecen in Hungary. The great thing about WIZZ AIR is that the tickets are sold at a very low price, and the distance you will be traveling is only about three and a half hours. I had the opportunity to visit Debrecen, a city I had never visited before.
When I told my friends that I was going to visit Debrecen, they asked me, "What are you going to do there?" To be fair, I did not really know how to answer that question. When I returned from my trip to Debrecen, they asked me again, "What is there to do in Debrecen?", and this time I did not know where to start because I had so much to say, since there are so many attractions and interesting places to visit in Debrecen.
A great aspect about Debrecen is that all of the attractions are within walking distance of each other. In fact, there are two main areas that are known to interest tourists. One such area is the city center. And, the second area is the Nagyerdo Park area. Additionally, right outside of Debrecen, there are interesting tourist sites worth visiting on what is known as "star trips".
The symbol of Debrecen and its noteworthy trademark is a great yellow building that is their main Reformed Church. This church is also in the city center. And, in the plaza in the front of the church, there is a monument that was created in memory of King Nagy Lajos, who was crowned in Debrecen. Also, over the roof of the church, there is a large terrace with wonderful panoramic views that overlook the city. You can get there by taking the elevator to the sixth floor, and then climbing up one more floor to get to the balcony.
I also recommend going up to the second floor of the church, where the "Small Models of the Bible" exhibition is, there are models of the Temple and the Tabernacle as seen by Christian artists. Kids of all ages absolutely love this exhibition.
Behind the main church, there is the local college of Debrecen, that has one of the most important libraries in all of Europe. Since the year 1400, university leaders have instructed every student and lecturer who travels to other countries to buy books and then bring them to the library.
Over the centuries that have past, over 600,000 books have been collected at this library, some ancient and others expensive. The library truly has an atmosphere of sanctity. The lighting is somewhat dim. Very quiet among the tall bookcases, and the pleasant smell of old trees and moss is found throughout. Only the sound of the creaking wood floor terrifies the silence and the extremely dignified atmosphere. When I visited the amazing library with a group of Israeli journalists, the chief librarian came out and brought a cart wrapped in red velvet. He took off the red velvet, and underneath, there was a large cardboard box. The librarian was wearing white cloth gloves, and he proceeded to carefully go into the box and take out two old Hebrew books from the year 1654, as well as a very ancient copy of Megillat Esther. The librarian then told us that he was willing to show these and other books to any group of Jewish tourists who would request viewing these books at least two days in advance.
From the church, there is also the pedestrian street Piac, which is now the main street of Debrecen. Piac is the shopping and cultural center of Debrecen, with theaters, shopping malls, luxury shops, and the magnificent town hall. Piac is also a beautiful and very pleasant area for hiking both day and night.
One of the most spectacular things to see in the summer in Debrecen are the many flower stands along Csapo Street, which emerges from Piac Street. Debrecen is a real "paradise" for shopping enthusiasts. It has many great shopping malls with all of the latest innovations in both fashion and technology, and all at very low prices.
The second tourist area in Debrecen is Nagyerdo Park, which is located in a forest where the city is currently spreading. There is an amazing park here with many attractions.
Debrecen also has a wonderful reputation for its many medicinal thermal baths. In various places in the city, there are pools that feed on hot springs. I was staying at the Aquatikum hotel, which has great thermal baths with lots of pools and a spa that has different temperatures. These different mineral pools have water that come directly from the various hot springs nearby. Most of the thermal pools are located in closed halls. Also, there is a water park that was created just for children, which is great.
Next to the park is the University of Debrecen, housed in an ancient and beautiful building. Across from the university, there is a huge area with water pools and fountains. And, it is worth visiting the university courtyard as a modest memorial to the victims of the Hungarian popular uprising against the influence of the Soviet Union in Hungary that occurred in 1956. This particular revolt was brutally suppressed by the Red Army.
In the evening, you take a stroll to the Nagyerdei Water Tower, which is illuminated by colorful projector lights that paint and adorn the evening darkness and beautiful way. At the foot of the water tower are coffee shops, where it can be pleasant to sit and finish a day of sightseeing in the city.
Debrecen has a rich cultural life, and also has many festivals throughout the year. Among them are the Flower Festival in mid-August, and the wine and jazz festival at the beginning of the month. For those who plan to travel to Debrecen during the summer months, I recommend going to these festivals in August, even though there is always something to see and do in the city of Debrecen.
Debrecen is also the home base for "star trips" throughout northern Hungary. Nearby is the Hortobágy National Park, formerly part of the city, and is now considered a separate municipal authority. UNESCO designated the park a global conservation site.
It's a true paradise for both horsemen and riders, and for bird watchers as well. Tourists also have a special coach ride to the large reserve, during which they can watch skilled riders, wagon drivers with oxen, and also black sheep pens that are special to the area, since it is where their milk produces special cheese. Families traveling along with their children always enjoy the visit to the reserve, which is about a half hour drive from Debrecen to the city center.
Another destination for a star tour is the Tokaj district, which has world famous wine produced in dozens of private wineries in the area. The vineyards are actually planted on light basalt soil from volcanoes that erupted many years ago, giving the vines a special quality of the region. Many wineries are open to tourists, and offer a guided tour of the winery with tastings, as well as the possibility of buying bottles of wine directly from the source.
Another star tour that is available is in the mountain region of Hegyalja, which also has wineries, and is located in the museum in the castle Rákóczi, in the town of Szerencs. In this specific town, there are also many festivals pertaining to chocolate and wine, and it is recommended to arrive in this area during the time of year that these festivals occur.
As a city, Debrecen is very high-tech. There are global high-tech plants that have established production lines there, and the largest of them is the Israeli pharmaceutical company Teva. The residents of Debrecen are considered friendly courteous, and relaxed.
The Municipality of Debrecen is making a lot of efforts to make the city a tourist center. Today, fewer than 300,000 tourists arrive in Debrecen yearly, compared to three million tourists who visit Budapest every year. The deputy mayor told us that the city council has set a target of a million tourists a year in about 7-8 years from now. For this reason, the city council has gone out of their way to treat tourists with good services that are also inexpensive, and also have developed amazing tourist attractions. The city council of Debrecen has also attached great importance to the Jewish travelers, since it is said that Israeli tourists loves to shop, which helps the economy of Debrecen more dollars than European tourists do when they visit, since they don’t usually spend as much money.
My parents were born in Hungary, and I visited Budapest quite a bit in the past. But on this trip to Debrecen, I was happy to discover that Hungary also has a life outside of Budapest.