The Great Church
The Great Church

Debrecen  is Hungary’s second largest city after Budapest.

It is the regional centre of the Northern Great Plain region and the seat of Hajdu-Bihar county. It was the largest Hungarian city in the 18th century and it is one of the Hungarian people’s most important cultural centers. Debrecen was also the capital city of Hungary during the revolution in 1848–1849. During the revolution, the dethronement of the Habsburg dynasty was declared in the Reformed Great Church. The city also served as the capital of Hungary by the end of the World War II in 1944–1945. It is home of the University of Debrecen.

Debrecen is located on the Great Hungarian Plain, 220 km (137 mi) east of Budapest. Situated nearby is the Hortobagy National Park. The settlement was established after the Hungarian conquest. Debrecen became more important after some of the small villages of the area (Boldogasszonyfalva, Szentlaszlofalva) deserted due to the Mongol invasion of Europe. It experienced rapid development after the middle of the 13th century.

In 1361, Louis I of Hungary granted the citizens of Debrecen the right to choose the town’s judge and council. This provided some opportunities for self-government for the town. By the early 16th century, Debrecen was an important market town. King Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor, as part of a treaty with Serbian ruler Stefan Lazarevic, gave him the opportunity to rule Debrecen in September 1411. A year after Lazarevic’s death in 1426, his role was taken over by his successor, Durad Brankovic. Between 1450 and 1507, it was a domain of the Hunyadi family.

During the Ottoman period, being close to the border and having no castle or city walls, Debrecen often found itself in difficult situations and the town was saved only by the diplomatic skills of its leaders. Sometimes the town was protected by the Ottoman Empire, sometimes by the Catholic European rulers or by Francis II Rakoczi, prince of Transylvania. Debrecen later embraced the Protestant Reformation quite early, earning the monikers “the Calvinist Rome” and “the Geneva of Hungary”. At this period the inhabitants of the town were mainly Hungarian Calvinists. Debrecen became a sanjak between 1558 and 1693 and orderly bounded to the eyalets of Budin (1541–1596), Egri (1596–1660) and Varat (1660–1693) as “Debrecin”.

In 1693, Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor elevated Debrecen to free royal town status. In 1715, the Roman Catholic Church returned to Debrecen, and the town gave them a place to build a church, so the Piarist monks could build the St. Ann’s Cathedral. By this time the town was an important cultural, commercial and agricultural centre, and many future scholars and poets attended its Protestant College (a predecessor of today’s University of Debrecen and also of Debrecen Reformed Theological University). In 1849, Debrecen was the capital of Hungary for a short time when the Hungarian revolutionary government fled there from Pest-Buda (modern-day Budapest). In April 1849, the dethronization of Habsburgs (neglected after the fall of the revolution) and the independence of Hungary was proclaimed here by Lajos Kossuth at the Great (Calvinist) Church (Nagytemplom in Hungarian.) The last battle of the war of independence was also close to Debrecen. The Russians, allied to Habsburgs, defeated the Hungarian army close to the western part of the town.

Acces : Coordinates:47.52997, 21.63916  /  Airports :  Debrecen International Airport, DEB About 5 km S of Debrecen Oradea International Airport, OMR (Romania) About 60 km SSE of Debrecen Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport, BUD About 179 km W of Debrecen

By car : It can be easily accessed from Budapest by driving on the M3 highway and then the M35 (about at 186 km sign) highway but vignette is required. It is about a 2-hour drive. Or follow the main road 4 from Budapest or anywhere except east (more than 3 hours travel from Budapest), but it is not recommended because main road 4 is overcrowded and accidents are common.

By train : From Budapest: There are trains from Budapest to Debrecen every hour during the day. InterCity trains, the fastest option, take 2.5 hours to reach Debrecen, and also stop at Budapest Airport (Ferihegy station). When buying a ticket, specify the exact train because there is a supplement with compulsory seat assignment on the IC trains. As of 2016, the price is HUF 4605 (2nd class) or HUF 5595 (1st class). The best option is to leave Budapest from the Budapest Nyugati railway station because even tough there are trains from the Keleti as well but the travel time is over an hour longer.
From Vienna: Starting from 2015, the Hortobagy EuroCity train directly connects Debrecen to Vienna. Travel time is about 5h 15min. The price starts from 19 € one way (buying in Hungary the ticket has a significant discount, buying in Austria will be more expensive).

Trams from the Grand Railway Station to the center (lines 1 and 2) and further to Nagyerdo (line 1 only).
Trolleybus from the coach station to the center and the Grand Railway Station (3,3A,4 and 5 respectively).
Buses 25,41,45 from the coach station via the center to the Zsuzsi railway.
Bus 44R between the Grand Railway Station and Debrecen Airport.

  • The Great Church : After the war, Debrecen slowly began to prosper again. In 1857, the railway line between Budapest and Debrecen was completed, and Debrecen soon became a railway junction. New schools, hospitals, churches, factories, and mills were built, banks and insurance companies settled in the city.

The appearance of the city began to improve too: with new, taller buildings, parks and beautiful villas it no longer resembled a provincial town and began to look like a modern city. In 1884, Debrecen became the first Hungarian city to have a steam tramway. After World War I, Hungary lost a considerable portion of its eastern territory to Romania, and Debrecen once again became situated close to the border of the country. It was occupied by the Romanian army for a short time in 1919.

Tourism provided a way for the city to begin to prosper again. Many buildings (among them an indoor swimming pool and Hungary’s first stadium) were built in the central park, the Nagyerdo (“Big Forest”), providing recreational facilities. The building of the university was completed. Hortobagy, a large pasture owned by the city, became a tourist attraction.

  • Deri Museum : During World War II, Debrecen was almost completely destroyed, 70% of the buildings suffered damage, 50% of them were completely destroyed. A major battle involving combined arms, including several hundred tanks (Battle of Debrecen), occurred near the city in October 1944. After 1944, the reconstruction began and Debrecen became the capital of Hungary for a short time once again.
  • The citizens began to rebuild their city, trying to restore its pre-war status, but the new, Communist government of Hungary had other plans. The institutions and estates of the city were taken into public ownership, private property was taken away. This forced change of the old system brought new losses to Debrecen; half of its area was annexed to nearby towns, and the city also lost its rights over Hortobagy. In 1952, two new villages – Ebes and Nagyhegyes – were formed from former parts of Debrecen, while in 1981, the nearby village Jozsa was annexed to the city.

Highlights :

  •  Kossuth Square and Big Reformed Church ,
  • Reformed College , 3. Deri Museum ,
  • Big Forest and Aquaticum Mediterranean Spa & Water Park ,
  • Main building of the University of Debrecen , St. Anna’s Cathedral
  • Garden of Ruins and Memorial Garden , Kalvin Square , MODEM Center of Modenr and Contemporary Art ,Csapo Street Promenade
  • Piac market Street – Kossuth Square , Hortobagy National Park – UNESCO World Heritage Site , Hortobagy inns ,Hortobagy “Nine-Hole” Bridge
  • Hortobagy Wildlife Park – Puszta Zoo

Activities : sightseeing / photo opportunities / trekking

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