Debrecen is one of the lucky cities, because it is a place where the silence of nature is close to hand. While there are few hills and no mountains, situated as it is on a flat plain. However, Debrecen has something of equal or greater value, with its surroundings rich in forests, providing many natural wonders to witness.
The Nagyerdő, (Great Park) is just ten minutes away from the historic city center, the Erdőspuszták or the largest continuous forest block of the Great Plain, which borders and surrounds the city from the northeast. It hides not only rich natural value, but also significant cultural and historical monuments, and therefore is worth visiting and exploring in your free time!
In addition to the above recommendations, below we have added some tips that offer a meaningful experience for beginners and advanced hikers, young and old, families with small children and groups of friends alike.
Wandering in the Botanical Garden of the University of Debrecen
The Botanical Garden of the University of Debrecen (UOD) shows its beautiful face in spring , when nature bursts forth, coming alive, a time when the trees and bushes bloom. Anyone who now visits the gardens can admire, among other things, the blooming anemone, saffron, spring fir, reddish and evergreen hazel and jasmine while taking a pleasant spring walk outdoors, accompanied by bird song.
The UOD herb garden dates back 200 years and was originally established to serve educational needs of the Reformed College and continuing this tradition, the UOD thereafter. The gardens were established by the Reform College in 1807 and located on today’s site of the Déri Museum – formerly known as Pap Lake. In subsequent years when the university was established, the garden was re-established to the rear of the University building in the Great Forest, on a 17 hectare piece of land provided by the city of Debrecen. With this, the herb garden of the College lost significance, and ceased to exist when the Déri Museum was built, while the new garden flourished.
The new herb garden at UOD was founded in 1928, which now awaits visitors as the Botanical Garden of the University of Debrecen. Nearly 6,000 plant species are registered at the facility. The garden has an arboretum with more than 750 woody species, including four cedar species known in the world today, special herbaceous and tropical collections, and, the so-called lily-of-the-valley oak. The garden’s collection of cacti and succulents is famous far and wide, and with about 1,300 cactus and 1,000 other succulent species, it is one of the largest in Central and Eastern Europe.
- The main building of the University of Debrecen : The University of Debrecen is one of the most important research universities in Hungary. Its roots go back to the 16th century, as the Reformed College of Debrecen, originally founded in 1538. The university’s imposing main building is cloaked in 100 years of eclectic-neo-baroque style, it is one of the most beautiful architectural monuments in Debrecen. It is an unmissable, picturesque sight from the front of the building, with the French-style park in the foreground.
- Statue of Mihály Fazekas and Sámuel Diószegi: In the Botanical Garden of the University of Debrecen, in a small clearing, there is a pair of sculptures of Mihály Fazekas and Sámuel Diószegi, the two authors of the famous Hungarian Herbal Book published in 1807, by sculptor Ede Kallós. Behind the statue is a hundred-year-old pedunculate oak of magnificent size.
- Agóra Scientific Experience Center: The modern building of the Adventure Center , which opened in 2014 in the area of the botanical garden, has a contrasting effect in the Nagyerdei environment, but its designers decided to designed it to be in organic harmony with the botanical garden. in which not only the light is filtered in, but also the sight of the surrounding nature. The 24-meter-high dome of the observatory and the associated stair tower stand out from the building with modern architectural solutions.
From the center of Debrecen by tram 1 exit at the University stop, from where you can walk to the entrance to the botanical garden (behind the building of the Life Sciences Center of the University of Debrecen).
The outdoor arboretum of the botanical garden can be visited every day from 8 am to 4 pm until March 20th, and from March 21st to 8 am to 6 pm for the purchase of a ticket, in addition to observing the rules of distance and wearing a mask. The Agóra Science Experience Center is currently closed, the building can only be viewed from the outside.
Walking in the Pallagi forest
Pallag is a few kilometers from Debrecen, an outer part, satellite settlement of Debrecen. The settlement, originally called Parlag, was mentioned as a village as early as the beginning of the 13th century in a written document. In the 16th century it was a village of 30-40 plots, then by the second half of the 17th century it was depopulated and the city of Debrecen took it over. Until the 1850s, a tap also stood here.
Starting from the Great Forest on a pleasant forest walk, following a marked hiking trail
We can reach the settlement in an hour on foot or by bicycle in a half hour. The area today, is known today for the Balásházy Agricultural Vocational High School, the Debrecen Football Academy and Debrecen International School. At the end of the tour, relax in the garden area of the local pub or on the terrace of the Pallag Spájz bakery for a refreshing drink. You can get back to Debrecen by the same route or by long-distance or through the forest.
- Balásházy Agricultural Vocational High School: The history of Pallag is also the history of the agricultural vocational school operating there. Pallag and the old Monastery had a 600-acre model farm of the Royal Hungarian Academy of Economics, which opened in 1901. The patinated building and ornamental garden of the academy, which still stands today, is the most recognizable building of the settlement. The Balásházy Agricultural Vocational High School operates here today. The famous students of the Academy were Wass Albert, a Transylvanian writer and poet, and István Fekete, another writer.
- Debrecen Football Academy: The modern training center is located in Pallagon, on an area of 13 hectares provided by the University of Debrecen. The nearly 2,000-square-foot modern sports complex was handed over on April 27th, 2013 in a ceremonial setting. Its purpose is to educate youth.
- Debrecen International School: The school, located next to the Debrecen Football Academy opened its doors in 2019. The building of the Debrecen International School (ISD), was designed by Bord Architect Studio, who was selected as one of the best architectural works in the world in the A’Design Award 2019-2020 international design competition.
From the center of Debrecen by tram 1 to the Klinikat stop, then on foot on the forest path running parallel to Pallagi út on the hiking trail marked with a red cross or from Kossuth utca with the trolleybus 3 passing through the forest on a hiking trail marked with a red cross.
Useful information: There are still wild animals (deer, wild boar) in the Pallagi forest, so it is worth finishing the hike before dark. Comfortable, waterproof shoes and clothing are recommended. It is only possible to see the affected sights and buildings from the outside.
Hike in the Erdőspuszta
The Erdőspuszta stretches in a semicircle about ten kilometers east of Debrecen. It is a popular excursion destination, a cycling and hiking center with fabulous forest hiking trails, tree-lined lookouts, sparkling water lakes, diverse flora and fauna and a beautiful natural environment. The former large-scale lily-of-the-valley oaks are found in smaller or larger patches. The area’s rich birdlife is stunning, but wild boar, deer, rabbit and fox are common in this area. Fragrant pine forests alternate with meadows dotted with wooded patches of forest and wildflowers. From early spring to late autumn, the hiker can return home with many botanical experiences.
The popular tourist attraction of Erdőspuszta is the 138-year-old “Zsuzsi” train. The railway it runs along is the oldest narrow-gauge forest railway in Hungary, where Zsuzsi has been running through the picturesque landscapes of the Erdőspuszta around Debrecen since its opening in 1882.
There are paths for bikes forest hiking trails, so you can explore the wonderful wildlife of the area by bike or on foot. On the way, it is worth stopping at the Csereerdő stop of the small railway to explore the area, where in addition to natural wonders, you can also find ancient monuments, but at the terminus of the Zsuzsi train, in Hármashegyalja , there are also many attractions, both natural and built.
- Starting point of the Zsuzsi Forest Railway : The Zsuzsi Forest Railway, Hungary’s oldest, operating small railway, east of the “heart” of Debrecen, adventures its passengers with an unparalleled experience, adventuring in the picturesque landscapes of the Erdőspuszta. The first section of the 138-year-old light rail was opened in 1882. Initially, two locomotives were operated, the 107 HP wood-fired locomotive with track number I was given the name Zsuzsi, which it still prides itself on today. The Ruyter street departure station of the Zsuzsi train shows many monuments, including the most patinated locomotive, the Zsuzsi steamer manufactured in 1923, and the Nagyfűtőház and Kismotorszín, built in the 1920s.
- Nagycserei resting forest: Nagycsere settlement is located east of Debrecen, on the north side of road 48, which is famous for the “Nagycserei Kőrises” arboretum. The soul of the forest consists of an old oak-ash-elm grove, in the deeper parts of which the Hungarian ash predominated in spring. This stand is one of the most beautiful groves in Nyírség. The arboretum is known as the “Pál Szabó Memorial Forest” by foresters, the memory of the founder Pál Szabó is preserved, (a forester) with a wooden monument.
- Ördögárok: On the western edge of the Erdőspuszták, on the line of the Zsuzsi Forest Railway, near the Csereerdő stop, there is one of the reconstructed remnants of the Ördögárok rampart system, which is a demonstration site. The Ördögárok (Csörsz árka) is an ancient fortification system in the northern and eastern parts of Hungary. There are wooden poles pointed in the 2-3 meter deep ditch and a wicker hedge runs along the top of the accumulated embankment. The fortified rampart was built by the Sarmatian tribes settled in the Great Plain and then used by the Romans as limes.
- Hármashegyalja: At the terminus of the Zsuzsi Forest Railway, in Hármashegyalja, there is a wonderful forest environment, educational trails, a fishpond, a lookout tower, a playground and a picnic area await nature lovers. At the highest point of the site is a 25-meter-high lookout tower, which offers an unparalleled view of the surrounding forests, the natural and cultural values of which can be better explored on a forest study trail.
From the starting station of the Zsuzsi train on Ruyter street, on the railway route on road 48 towards Vámospércs to the Csereerdő stop or the Hármashegyalja terminus.
The Zsuzsi Forest Railway is not currently available, so the tour is recommended on two wheels on the cycle path running on the railway route or on foot on the marked forest hiking routes. There are still wild animals (deer, wild boar) in the area of Erdőspuszta, so it is worth ending the tour before dark. Comfortable, waterproof shoes and clothing are recommended.
One of the most popular excursions in Debrecen’s Erdőspuszta is Fancsika , where fishponds, lookouts, picnic places, hiking trails, a country house and arboretum, and of course a beautiful natural environment await visitors. The Fancsikai area got its name from the village of Fancsika in the Árpádian period , where our ancestors began to settle in the early 12th century. In the 1550s, more than two hundred people lived here, but in 1574 the Turks destroyed the settlement. The remnant of the former village is the ruins of a medieval church, which is one of the popular destinations for excursions in the area. It is worth visiting Fancsika by bus or car, then continue the tour on foot, touching the Bánki recreation center.
- Fancsikai Lakes: The Fancsikai Lakes were established in the 1970s for reservoir and fishing. To this day, it is a popular excursion and relaxation place with picnic areas and plenty of fishing opportunities. The dams of the lakes are easy to walk around and open to the public. It is an important nesting place for many protected bird species, such as ducks, and herons, making it a popular destination for nature photographers as well.
- Bánki Recreation Center: In the building corresponding to the natural image of Erdőspuszta, the Erdőspuszta Country House was opened in 1982 in the area of the Bánki Recreation Center, through the exhibitions of which we can get to know the wildlife of the area. In addition to the country house, there is a herb garden, an arboretum, an educational trail and a children’s playground. The 15-hectare herb garden consists mainly of a collection of trees, deciduous, pine and shrubs, and when it was established in 1978, 1,200 seedlings of pine, deciduous and shrub were planted. The arboretum was established in 1989. Thanks to its protected environment, we can find not only carefully maintained diverse vegetation, but also rich insect and bird life, as well as smaller vertebrates, mammals and amphibians.
- Fancsikai church ruins: The church of the Árpádian village called Fancsika was found on privately owned sand hill, which was known as Templomhegy in the 1920s. Excavations in the area proved that the church, cemetery and inner plots of the village were located on a large sand hill south of Diószegi út. According to historians, the church stood as early as the middle of the 12th century. This was confirmed by the fact that II. Royal coinage from the time of Béla (1172-1196) was found.
Debrecen by car on the road 48 towards Vámospércs, then to the right of the sign pointing in the direction of the Fancsika lakes.
The Erdőspuszta Demonstration House is not currently available, but the Arboretum can be visited from 9 am to 4 pm. Comfortable, waterproof shoes and clothing are recommended for the forest hike.
Excursion in the Gúthi forest
Nyíracsád, 34 km from Debrecen, and Gúthpuszta and its territory were formerly the destination of the Zsuzsi Forest Railway, when the forest was still used for logging. Here, north of Nyíracsád, lies the largest contiguous forest block of the Great Plain , the Gúthi Forest. Although a significant part of it has already been replaced by acacia, some of the beautiful old stands of the former birch oak forests can still be seen today. These old oaks hide a rich birdlife and diverse flora. In addition to natural value, the forest also preserves a significant cultural and historical monument , the red brick ruins of an Árpádian church. The area is also famous for its wildlife, especially its famous pair of fallow deer. The Gúthi Forest and the ruins of the church are an ideal destination for a pleasant spring trip.
- Gúthi church ruins: A Romanian-style monastery dedicated to the Blessed Virgin was built in the 13th century on the border of Nyíradony, in the Gút Forest, by the Gutkeled family. The remaining walls of the former single-nave church with a sacristy are divided by narrow window openings. The picturesque Pusztatemplom, located in a picturesque, wooded environment and with a romantic atmosphere, is a popular destination for hikers.
Debrecen by car on the 471 road, or by long-distance bus, train to Nyíradony, then from there on foot or by bicycle to Nyíracsád.
Excursion to the church ruins in Zelemér
The ruin of the church in Zelemér, located between Debrecen and Hajdúböszörmény, is one of the favorite excursion places of the locals. It is no coincidence that the remains of the medieval church offer a special sight at all times of the year and day . The church ruins of Zelemér can be reached on a comfortable walking or cycling tour.
The history of the church in Zelemér can be traced back to the reign of King St. Stephen, when a decree was made for every tenth village to build a church. It was then that the original Romanesque church was built. During the Tartar invasion, the settlement became depopulated and the medieval church collapsed. The construction of the church, which can still be seen today, began around 1310. The sanctuary of the late Gothic, single-nave, half-octagonal buttress may have survived from the former church. During the Turkish conquest, Zelem was looted and set on fire, and the stones of the church were almost completely carried away in the following centuries. Today, only eighteen meters of stumps from the church tower, which is about thirty meters high, and a small piece of the north wall of the church remain, which has been a monument since 1907.
The ruins of the church and its surroundings have been completely renovated. The monument was surrounded by a wood fence. The area was landscaped, resting and cooking areas were created, and a 3-meter-high statue of St. Stephen was erected at the foot of the hill. The kunhalom under the church has been protected as a natural value of local significance since 1981.
From the center of Debrecen, take tram 2 to the Doberdó utca terminus, then walk north on Kartács utca following the yellow sign.
The hiking tips were compiled by Tourinform Debrecen.