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Debrecen eager to become a must-visit destination in Hungary

Sights

By repositioning itself as a top family destination, Debrecen wishes to become a standard item on the bucket list of Hungarians and expats alike. A targeted events strategy aims to help make that high-flying dream come true. 

The Nagyerdei Water Tower.

Debrecen has recently been making headlines with its ambitious plans to attract quality investments, mainly in the SSC sector. Now it is time to get used to the fact that the cityʼs name will pop up more often in the context of tourism too.

“We are ranked number 10 on the list of local destinations in terms of guest nights in Hungary, which is a nice start,” says Gábor Gődény, head of the Visit Debrecen division of Főnix Kft. that was set up with the very purpose of boosting tourism revenues. “However, we firmly believe that we have a vast competitive edge that predestines us for a lot more.”

The vision has now got a major boost: Debrecen (along with Hortobágy, Lake Tisza and Hajdúszoboszló), has recently been declared the fifth main touristic area in Hungary by the government. Budapest, Balaton, Sopron and the Tokaj regions are the other four such areas. The privilege comes with targeted funds of HUF 35 billion.

Gődény, who brings 20-plus years of experience, gained mainly in Western Europe, is confident that this development will supercharge the city’s efforts that have been already bearing fruit thanks to a strong events schedule.

“Nearly every summer weekend offered something that made a visit worthwhile,” he highlights. The signature flower carnival is no longer the only attraction. The Gourmet Festival in June, the grandiose Campus Festival (featuring The Prodigy and Lukas Graham) in July, and the Wine and Jazz Days in August all drew large crowds. So, too, did the Sparkling Wine Festival, held at a very special location.

“An old water tower has been restored and completely redesigned, and with its wine bar and climbing wall, it is now an extraordinary place to hang out,” Gődény adds. “When it’s lit up at night, the atmosphere is so great that I could imagine having it even in Central Park, New York.”

Running through a canopy

A diverse range of events is key to attracting guests, and one of the ultimate goals is to impress families so that Debrecen becomes an obvious choice for long weekends.

“Having a spa is no longer anything special. What matters a lot more is what happens after you get your hair dry,” Gődény stresses.

In the case of Debrecen, the thermal center with an indoor aqua park is located in Nagyerdő, a huge leafy park that fascinates locals and visitors alike. It’s home to playgrounds, a zoo, the cozy Békás lake and the brand-new football stadium of the local first-league team.

This latter has an elevated Astroturf-like running track around the facility that makes you feel as if you are running through a canopy of trees. Rent a bike, stroll around, pop by an event – there is always something to do after the water fun is over.

“What we need to work on is to arrange more programs for teenagers, because it’s hard to compete with their gadgets for their attention,” Gődény acknowledges.  

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