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Sights of Debrecen (Debrecen)

For several hundred years Debrecen has been the natural centre of culture, economy and commerce in the Northern Great Plain region. Thousands of visitors come each year to this city which has a wealth of cultural relics and historic and ecclesiastic sights, as well as its festivals and spa.

The medieval settlement was established at the meeting point of three regions; the Nyírség, the Hajdúság and the Hortobágy. The trade route connecting Transylvania with Upper Hungary (today Slovakia) and Poland crossed the town thus elevating it to significance.

Due to conscious land purchasing policies Debrecen's territory was extended significantly during the 16th and 17th century and thus its border reached as far as the River Tisza. Based on aristocratic and religious values, the strict Calvinist leadership of the city always bore the interests of the populace in mind, efficiently protecting them. It is not by chance that Debrecen is the capital of Protestant theological education, a stronghold of the Hungarian Reformed community to this day. More recently it has become the seat of a Roman Catholic diocese, too.

Following the Trianon Peace Treaty Debrecen had to assumed the role of Oradea/Nagyvárad, a nearby large city annexed to Romania. Debrecen has been the seat of Hajdú County since 1876 and of Hajdú-Bihar County since 1950. When, in 2000, Hungary was organised into seven regions Debrecen deservedly became the official centre of the Northern Great Plain regionconsisting of the counties of Hajdú-Bihar, Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok and Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg.

Acknowledged throughout Europe, the Reformed College has made Debrecen a renowned college town for hundreds of years. Debrecen University unites the city's universities of science, medicine and agriculture, its colleges, and the István Wargha Teacher Training College at Hajdúböszörmény, many of them boasting a great past, thus creating a multi-campus university in a Western European sense. High quality research work carried out in the local institutions makes Debrecen one of Hungary's scientific centres.

Debrecen is a venue of several events which are also important tourist attractions. Outstanding among them are the annual Flower Parade and Carnival (Virágkarnevál) on the 20th of August, the Debrecen Spring Festival, the Debrecen Jazz Days staged annually since 1972, and the Béla Bartók International Choir Competition, a prestigious European music event.

With several decades of history, the Debrecen Summer School (Nyári Egyetem) deserves a special mention. Diplomats preparing for service in Hungary, university students interested in the country and the language as well as second or even third generation of Hungarians born and living abroad are among those who arrive to join the courses. Participants take good experiences back to their home countries thus spreading Debrecen's and Hungary's excellent reputation abroad.



Déri MuseumDéri Museum Debrecen

The history of Debrecen, the works of painter Mihály Munkácsy, the region's flora and fauna, the folk art of Debrecen and of the county are on display in the exhibitions of this museum.

The biggest attraction of the fine art collection in the museum is the 'trilogy' by Mihály Munkácsy. The three pictures can be seen together: Christ before Pilate, Golgotha, and the Ecce Homo.

The permanent exhibitions of the Déri Museum are: The history of Debrecen from the 13th century to 1945 (Debrecen története a XIII. századtól 1945-ig); The art of Mihály Munkácsy (Munkácsy Mihály művészete); the Déri Collections selected from a rich collection of fine and applied arts and including material from outside Europe; Birds of our region (Tájunk madarai); The world of minerals (Ásványok világa); and an archaeological exhibition.


Reformed College

One of the homes of the intellectual centres of Hungarian Reformation, the college is an outstanding masterpiece of Classical architecture. In the great library not only the books, but also the superbly crafted furnishings are of considerable value.

The college was built between 1804 and 1816 according to the plans of Mihály Péchy. Designed by Alajos Vasél, the courtyard wing was erected between 1870 and 1874.

The fine Classical building's stately look is accentuated by protruding engaged columns and a projection with a tympanum. The relief portraits of famous reformers and prominent personalities connected to the school greet the visitor at the entrance.

The original building of the old college was destroyed in a 1802 fire. Plans for a new college had already been made prior to the fire and, in response to the new situation, Mihály Péchy altered the plans to suit the finances available. Nationwide fundraising was initiated to support the work.

As early as the 16th century protestant mentality already dominated the merchant town's school. With its significance continuously growing, it was considered to be the 'school of the country' by the 18th century. It is impossible to list the vast number of Hungarians who rose to fame from the college. Perhaps even more significant was the enormous impact the institution had on Hungarian educational policy.


Reformed 'Great Church'

Reformed Great Church DebrecenBuilt between 1805 and 1820, the Classical-style Great Church is the symbol of Debrecen and Hungarian Reformation. The dethronement of the Habsburgs' was declared here on the 14th April 1849. 

Building work started under the supervision of architect Mihály Péchy, who also designed the Reformed College here, but was subsequently assumed by József Tallherr. The 55-metre long building's 15 metre-wide nave stands on medieval foundations; the transept is 38 metres long and over 14 metres wide. The two towers stand 61 metres tall.

The monumental mass of this building sited at the end of Market Street (Piac utca) is truly an impressive sight, yet just as startling is the puritan simplicity of its spacious, vaulted interior. The richly gilded Empire pulpit is one of the most attractive of its kind in Hungary. The communion table and the pews are the work of the Debrecen master József Dohányosi.

An unparalleled view of the town rewards those who are not afraid of exercise and take up the challenge of climbing the 260 steps leading up to the west tower. While climbing the steps visitors can also inspect the Rákóczi Bell. If there is a opportunity to hear a concert here, then jump at the chance. Listening to the recently renovated organ as its sound fills the huge space is truly an unequalled experience.

The Great Church is one of the shrines of Hungarian national history. Hungary's independence was declared here on the 14th April 1849 and Lajos Kossuth was voted as governing president. The chair Kossuth used on this occasion is a reverently preserved relic to this day.

Incorporating medieval sections as well, the Great Church is an important monument in the city's history. It is not only the symbol of Debrecen, but also symbol of Hungarian Reformation. Most recently the archaeological display of the medieval foundations of the St Andrew's Church and the Red Tower further accentuates the building's medieval roots.

Outside opening hours the church can be visited upon prior request. Opening hours might change due to services and events.


Golden Bull Hotel

Designed by Alfréd Hajós and Lajos Villányi, this Secession-style building complex was built between 1913 and 1915. The hotel was extended in 1976.

In 1882 Imre Steindl, the architect of the Parliament, planned a two-storey hotel. This had to be replaced in 1913 due to the growing demands on it. In 1915 what is now the old wing was erected in its place following the plans of Alfréd Hajós and Lajos Villányi. The facade ornamentation is the work of Italian stone-carving craftsmen.

Today a venue for concerts and other larger events, the ceremonial hall upstairs known as the Bartók Hall deserves a mention. The bust of architect Alfréd Hajós, Hungary's first Olympic champion and the building's designer, stands near the entrance. Built in 1976, the new wing joins the old section in a fashion debatable from an architectural and aesthetic point of view.

The land itself once belonged to a wealthy man from Debrecen, Bálint Bika (Valentine Bull), and was the site of an inn. The wrought iron, copper-plated sign hung on the facade in 1810 shows a butting bull. Thus, the current hotel took the name 'The Golden Bull Hotel' (Aranybika Szálló) from the name of the former Bika family inn.


Great Forest

One of the oldest conservation areas in Hungary and indeed in Europe, popular for a stroll or a rest. The 1082 hectare area of centuries old common oaks, European hornbeams and silver limes is carpeted by lily of the valley each spring.

This is what remains of the once continuous Nyírség forests. The Great Forest was most likely named after the size of the trees rather than the area since there were much more extensive forests around the town. Often reaching heights of 25-26 metres, the largest trees of the lily of the valley-covered sandy land are the common oaks, some of them as old as 200-300 years. There are approximately 700-800 recorded species of plants growing in the area of the Great Forest (Nagyerdő).


Main building of Debrecen UniversityMain building of Debrecen University

The neo-Baroque university building was constructed between 1927 and 1930. Monumental yet intimate, the French-style landscaped park in front of it is the most attractive of its kind in town.

The impressive main building of Debrecen University stands at the end of University Avenue, an important route connecting central Debrecen and the Great Forest.

Entering through one of the enormous doors visitors walk up a wide staircase to arrive at the balustrade running around the formal inner courtyard. Stop for a moment to sense the atmosphere of this temple of science and meeting point of the university's bustling youth. Opposite the university library, names of famous people inscribed in the walls of the first-floor corridors commemorate the traditions of higher education in Debrecen.


Museum of the Reformed College

A rich collection of valuable objects of educational, art, and ecclesiastical history are held in the library of the Reformed College in Debrecen, as well as antiques, paintings and implements of experiments.

The College has an extensive collection of material: 4,000 historical, 3,800 educational history, 2,000 fine art, 3,400 applied arts, 400 ethnographic, and 900 archaeological items, along with 360 coins.

The educational exhibition presents a classroom of a Reformed primary school in its original state complete with objects connected to a pupil's life. Masterpieces of old Hungarian goldsmith work, painted church furniture and interior details, as well as outstanding examples of Hungarian embroidery in the form of communion table cloths can be viewed at the ecclesiastical exhibition.

The foundations for the museum began in 1745 with a numismatic collection. The legacy of the Debrecen Art School was added in 1821, while the ethnographic collection of Jakab Sárvári was incorporated in 1841. The gathering of stuffed animals started in the 1850's. The present museum was opened from this rich material in 1964.


Roman Catholic church of St. Anne

Roman catholic church of St. Anne DebrecenBuilt between 1719 and 1746 based upon the plans of G. B. Carlone, this most prominent Catholic church of the city was made a cathedral on the establishment of the Diocese of Debrecen-Nyíregyháza in 1993.

Probably the artistically most valuable asset of the church is a statue of St Joseph Calasanctius, founder of the Piarist order. It stands besides the second altar and is held in a splendidly carved Baroque frame.

Dedicated to St Anne, the church was constructed at a rather slow pace in the first half of the 18th century, between 1719 and 1746. Originally built without a steeple, the twin towers, significant in the cityscape of modern Debrecen, were added in 1834 when the final facade was also achieved.


Zoo and Botanical Garden of the Great Forest Park

Native domesticated animals together with mammals and birds of distant countries can all be watched here.

Among the native and exotic species the collection of mammals and birds is particularly remarkable. More interesting species include the jungle cat (Felis chaus) and the spider monkey (Atales paniscus). The tropical shell and snail exhibition is also fascinating.

Covering a 3.4 hectare area, the zoo was founded in 1958. Due to excellent natural conditions a botanic garden was subsequently established here in 1992.


County Hall

The Secession county hall was built in 1911. The most attractive features of the ceremonial hall are Károly Kernstok's stained glass windows depicting the seven Home-founding chieftains.

Decorated with leaf and palmette motifs and pyrogranite glaze, the building emanates harmony and vitality. The statues of two Hajduk soldiers stand on the second floor facade by the windows of the ceremonial hall.

Another representation of a Hajdu stands on the top of the ridge turret in the centre of the roof. The windows, the roof, the main entrance, the decoration and figures of the balcony are all the products of the famed Pécs Zsolnay ceramics factory.

Especially richly decorated is the meeting room adorned by the village crests of the settlements of the historic Hajdú County established in 1876. The stained glass windows depicting the seven founding chieftains of Hungary are the work of Károly Kernstok. Although seriously damaged in World War II, the central figure, Chieftain Árpád, has been fully restored and enhances the dignity of the hall. The artistic value of the windows is significant.


Csokanai Theatre

This Romantic-style theatre building was erectet between 1861 and 1865. By the early 20th century, following the addition of new boxes, it seated 600 people. The theatre has housed an opera company since 1952.

The building's facade is ornamented with the figures of two muses, Melpomene and Terpsikhore, and with the statues of six famous Hungarian poets who were connected to the theatre.

Above the proscenium arch is a painting by Debrecen artist Károly Telepy (1828-1906) commemorating the prominent actors of the early days of Hungarian theatre who also performed in Debrecen.


Debrecen Museum of LiteratureDebrecen Museum of Literature

Nearly 5000 objects, manuscripts and works of art can be seen in the museum presenting Debrecen's rich literary traditions.

The collection displays manuscripts, documents and fine art works from the 18th century to the present day alongside the material of a Hungarian intellectual youth movement between 1928 and 1934 in former Czechoslovakia, called the Sarló ('sickle').

The museum of literature was established from material provided by the Csokonai Circle established in 1890 and from the collection on the history of literature of the Municipal Museum.


Déri Square with statues

Of the collectiona s of statues seen on the square in front of Déri Museum , seven were designed by Ferenc Medgyessy, and the eighth by Tivadar Debreczeny.

In front of the museum et of stairs leads into the dried-up bed of Pap Lake, a natural basin decorated by empire shells on either side. Above the basin are four larger than life size statues by Ferenc Medgyessy, reclining acts that allegorise the contents of the museum.

On the eastern side of the square, the first sculpture portrays Ethnography (a male figure holding a horn), the next represents Arts (a female figure with statue models in her left hand). On the other side of the stairs the first figure is that of Science (a male figure reading) and finally Archaeology (a beautiful female figure with curly locks showing from under a cap, a stone axe in her hand). The artist modelled the figure of Archaeology after his sister, that of Ethnography after himself. The four statues won a grand prize at the 1937 Paris World Exhibition.

On the opposite side of the square in front of the Déri museum there are three additional Medgyessy sculptures to admire: on the southwestern corner the sitting figure of the writer Zsigmond Móricz, then the figures of the Venus of Debrecen, and finally the Dancer. The fourth and final work in the line is a bronze sculpture by Tivadar Debreczeny, entitled The Daydreamer; the sitting female figure is an embodiment of feminine charm, grace and fragility.

On the west side of the square the wall of the National Bank is also adorned by the work of Ferenc Medgyessy, here in the form of reliefs.


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