Get to know the past of the civic city through the iconic buildings of the past, this includes the museums and memorials of the city center, these are all within walking distance of the central square. For an alternative experience, buildings also provide us with the opportunity to discover the heritage of the common folk and citizens of the city, see where they lived, and investigate the remaining imprints of their daily lives on their homes and the city.
The “civic” status of Debrecen peaked in the 16th and 17th centuries and went into decline thereafter, losing its place in a civilized society of the 19th century and had entirely disappeared by the 20th century. Today, just remnants remain. Despite the huge change, many houses of the time still exist and these remind us of what it was like then.
Let’s see the most beautiful “civis period” cottages, with the guidance of architect Attila Harangi and photos of Viktor Löki. Looking into courtyards of today that remain as they were at the turn of the century, we can travel back in time to then and even earlier.
Hatvan utca 23: One of the truly ancient streets of Debrecen, Hatvan utca, located west of the Reformed Great Church. Many valuable houses still stand here. Among them, at number 23, the pale green listed building is one of the most significant from a historical point of view. Here, once stood the birthplace of Csokonai, to be later replaced by the first museum of Debrecen. Lajos Zoltai, a local historian, museologist, and ethnographer, worked here, who himself did a lot of research on the past of Debrecen and the civic houses. On the facade of the building, pay special attention to the column figureheads, winged female in form.
Hatvan utca 57: Today, the House of Folk Crafts operates in this newly renovated building. By visiting the craft specializations and occupations of the Hajdú-Bihar County Folk Art Association, we can not only get to know the built environment, but we can also learn about the heritage of handicrafts and folk traditions in Debrecen. Special features of the building are the original, richly carved windows and doors, as well as the vaulted gateway and the circular attic through which hay and other fodder were loaded into the attic.
Mester utca 27: In addition to the representative houses, there are also more modest gable houses on the irregular, winding streets of the former Árpádian settlement, including in Mesterfalva – on Jókai, Csokonai, Garai, Cserepes, Tanító, and Borz streets. There are not many “civic” residential houses on these streets, but the unique atmosphere and tranquility can still be experienced. On the busy Mester Street bordering the area to the north, a very nice, unified street scene detail from a row of huge civic houses has survived. The Art Nouveau house at No. 27 (Mester street) should be visited for its beautiful windows decorated with traditional sunflower carvings.
Darabos utca 19: The even-numbered side of Darabos utca, together with an entire part of the settlement, was renovated in the second half of the 1970s and ten-storey prefabricated houses, which still define the street image today, were built in their place. As a result, the street is an interesting prospect, with a row of panels on one side and classic old houses on the other. During the construction of Debrecen Plaza, they spared the small house on the corner of Darabos and Hunyadi streets from demolishment, where the poet Mihály Csokonai Vitéz spent his last years before dying in 1805. Today, the building houses the Susmus Café.
Bajcsy-Zsilinszky utca 51: The quiet Bajcsy-Zsilinszky street, which opens from the main street, is worth walking through in several respects. The bourgeois atmosphere of Piac Street is a pleasant contrast to the idyllic village milieu at the other end of the street. It is worth pausing a bit at number 15 because there is an original civic house, which is currently used as business premises. The house at 51 is recommended for its beautiful façade, decorated with allegorical female figures. Similar sculptures can be found in several houses in the city, which reveal the standard designs of the building decoration around the turn of the century.
Széchenyi utca 6: At the beginning of one of the busiest and most ancient streets in Debrecen, there are baroque houses with dignified proportions and heavy, arched gates. Among them, the oldest house in Debrecen is located at number 6. The construction of the former Diószegi house, which functions as a post office, can be traced back to the 1690s. The original porch and cellar of the building can still be seen today. The history of the house includes a visit from Charles XII, King of Sweden who stayed here for a couple of nights in 1714. Today, the building houses a boutique hotel and restaurant named “Régi Posta Fogadó” (Old Post Inn) where we can taste traditional civic dishes in an authentic environment.
St. Anna Street 18: This old civic house hiding among the church and educational institutions of the ancient St. Anna Street was built by a count’s family. Its façade and glass-enclosed wooden gate stand out from the building. Today, the Belvárosi Alkotó Műhely (Downtown Creative Workshop) operates in the house.
Vígkedvű Mihály utca 35: The Árpádian settlement called Torna and later renamed Boldogasszonyfalva, once stood on the southern border of the city center, until it finally merged with the city in 1657. In 1811, during the last major fire in Debrecen, the district was completely destroyed, the area was rehabilitated and new, more regulated plots were designated in its place. At the end of the twentieth century, this part of the settlement had disappeared permanently, and today only the block bordered by Tímár and Vígkedvű Mihály streets remains. The house at 35 Vígkedvű Mihály utca is the hidden gem of the district. It is worth admiring its carved gate, richly decorated, beautifully preserved façade, and putty laced windows.
Nagy-Gál István utca 6: In addition to trading, the people of Debrecen were also famous for their handicrafts. The manufacturers’ workshops operated in a guild-based system, typically operating from one of the rooms in downtown houses. In many cases, manufacturers of a specific industry have grown dynamically in an area, taking over entire streets as indicated by the street names. There is a tanner’s workshop in its original location, at number 6., which is an exceptional industrial historical monument of Debrecen. In addition to the permanent tanner history exhibition, the Tímár Ház (Tanner’s House – the House of Craftsmen) awaits visitors with temporary handicraft exhibitions, while we can learn various crafts from the masters themselves in its visual workshops.
Nap utca 6: Here we can feel the atmosphere of the civic houses the most in this western part of the city center known as the Árpádian settlement of Debrecenfalva. The focal point of the area is Méliusz tér with the Red Church (Verestemplom) built-in 1887. The square is cut in half by the busy Kossuth Street. On the northern side of the square is the largest street view of Debrecen consisting of civic houses. On the south side, there are other valuable houses (historically speaking). The special feature of the clinker-brick-faced civic house at 6 Nap Street is that it was also designed by the famous Budapest architect, Samu Pecz who also designed the Red Church.
Kígyó utca 42: According to local historian Lajos Sápi, Kígyó utca and its surroundings are among the oldest parts of Debrecen. The small area with its winding streets, old houses, and village scale are located within walking distance, just a few minutes away from the city center and it exudes a truly unique atmosphere. Here we can find perhaps the oldest of the civic houses in the city, which in some details can be hundreds of years old, but in many cases the exterior of most houses has already been significantly remodeled. Narrow civic houses perpendicular to the street were extended backward and they have a characteristic triangular top closure on the street front. They are often closed with an accentuated gate or a large wooden fence. There are only roughly 30 such houses that have retained their original character. One of the most valuable, (historically speaking) of these is the civic house at number 42 of Kígyó street.
Lórántffy utca 19: In addition to the original decorations of the Art Nouveau civic building at 19 Lorántffy Street, the year of its construction was also included on the facade: 1910. The history of this house is that it functioned as a military hospital during World War II. You can even see the original military inscriptions on the wall of the gateway.
Csapó utca 27: One of the oldest streets in Debrecen got its name from the old craft of “gubacsapó” (cloth-makers) who formed a guild in 1395. In addition to the modern building of the Fórum shopping center in the pedestrian zone of the street, you can see many valuable facades and old residential houses. The first ruined pub in Debrecen opened in such a disused building eight years ago. It is a testament to the rethinking of the use of disused listed old buildings that need to be preserved. During your conversation and beers, it is also worth admiring the vaults of the former living rooms in addition to the eclectic furnishings.
Péterfia utca 28: Péterfia street connects the city center with the Great Forest, it exudes a uniquely, bourgeois atmosphere. The Ferenc Medgyessy Memorial Museum and the House of Literature in Debrecen operate in the house of the former town manager under number 28. The earliest part of the building dates back to the 18th century. It was established in the middle of the 19th century, it has vaulted ceilings and a row of arcades. The works of Ferenc Medgyessy, the Debrecen born Hungarian sculptor and physician complete the intimate atmosphere of the courtyard, framed by an arched porch of the Ferenc Medgyessy Memorial Museum, the building which preserves the sculptor’s legacy.
Egymalom utca 3: The charming Egymalom utca leading to the part of Szentlászlófalva was the last street that remains intact, where each house was a civic residential house that remains in its original form. The uniform street view of the even side can also be discovered on Péterfia and Rákóczi streets, so it is an important area of preservation in Debrecen. Walking through the cozy streets, it is worth lingering for a while at the house at number 3. of Egymalom street. Its gate is decorated with a statue of a man with a respectable beard. Known from Roman mythology, the head statue of Bacchus, the god of wine and intoxication, is complemented by female head statues in the windows.
5 places where you can worship culture and culinary delights in an authentic civic environment:
Vintage World Café (Arany János utca 6): The eclectic, ornately faced downtown house hosts a cozy café. On the terrace of the amber-enclosed courtyard, we can travel back to the hidden, intimate world of the former houses with a delicious coffee.
Egri Winery (Bajcsy-Zsilinszky utca 4): The cult-like winery, the Eger Winery, is not housed in a typical civic house but its old building is special in its kind. Despite its name, the place is not only a simple wine bar but also a cultural arena, with regular club concerts and art exhibitions in its vaulted cellar. In addition to the wines of Eger, we can also taste the local’s favorite food on Thursdays and Fridays: slambuc.
Reskontó Restaurant (Péterfia utca 34): Zsigmond Móricz’s novel Be Good to Death (Légy jó mindhalálig) inspired the philosophy of the Reskontó Restaurant, which opened its doors in a beautifully renovated house close to one of the novel’s locations, the Reformed College.
Incognito Club (Eötvös utca 11 / a): The cult Incognito in the city part “Szentlászlófalva” is located in an old corner house. Its entrance, beautifully carved windows, interiors and furnishings still evoke the former civic milieu. The place is not only a popular pub but also a cultural and community space, where we have a good chance to stumble upon cozy club concerts on weekends.
Fácánkakas Sörőz (Maróthy György utca 38): It has been the home of young people and those of the rock music persuasion for generations, despite the fact that the pub itself is not located in a frequented place, but in one of the oldest parts of Debrecen, in the quiet Szentlászlófalva. This cult place awaits its guests in an old civic house hiding among family houses.