Prizren, in Kosovo, is a charming city of mosques and monasteries dating back to the 14th century. Happily spared (mostly) from both the "destroy the old, build the new" drive of the communists during the early years of their rule in Yugoslavia, as well as the ethnic and religious atrocities that plagued the Western Balkans in the last decade of the 20th century, Prizren has the best-preserved old town in the country by far, and is often referred to as the cultural capital of Kosovo.
Clinging to the slopes of the lush Sharr Mountains, and divided by the river Lumbardh, Prizren, including its modern suburbs, was home to about 180,000 people in 2011, making it the second largest city in the country, after Pristina, the capital. The majority of the population is ethnic Albanian. Kosovo's Turkish, Bosniak and Gorani community is focused in Prizren as well. As such, the standard bi-lingual street signs in Albanian and Serbian are complemented here by Turkish, which can be freely used particularly in the old town, and with other Albanians. The local Serbs vacated the city in the aftermath of the Kosovo War of 1998–99, when Kosovo was de facto detached from Serbia, with their charred houses standing derelict on the upper streets leading to the fortress.
Prizren is also where the Albanian national awakening began, as the League of Prizren, a political organization for defending the rights of the Albanians, was founded here in 1878.
- 1 Tourist Information Office (Off the Old Bridge head toward the Tekke), ☏ , email@example.com. M-W F Sa 09:00-21:00; Su 17:00-21:00; Th off; lunch break 13:00-15:00. Buy printed guides and book guided tours here.
- GuideKS (Kosovo Tourist Guides Association), firstname.lastname@example.org, ☏ , email@example.com. umbrella organization of tourist guides in Kosovo. They will put you in touch with a local guide suitable for your activity.
- 1 Kukes International Airport (Albanian: Aeroporti Ndërkombëtar i Kukësit Zayed-Flatrat e Veriut, IATA:KFZ IATA, ICAO: LAKU). An international airport 40 km east of the city of Prizren. 2 airlines operate service to Kukes, with direct flights from some European cities.
- Air Albania, the national carrier operates service from Basel and Zurich.
- Wizz Air (from Basel, Memmingen, Karlsruhe and Vienna).
- 2 Main Bus Station (Stacioni i Autobusëve), Rruga Zara (To get to the main bus station take the road along the river and turn right at the traffic circle. The bus station is on the left. There are a couple of travel travel agencies in the area.). Buses are available to almost anywhere in Kosovo, usually via Pristina or Gjakova, Macedonia and Albania.
The best way to get to Prizren is by bus through Pristina (€5, around 2 hours). You can also take buses from Peja (€4) where the famous Orthodox monasteries are located.
You can also catch a bus from Tirana or Skopje. Most bus companies that run from Istanbul to Pristina continue onward and terminate in Prizren. There are several direct buses from Belgrade (7 hours, 1 day bus & 2 night buses, cost approximately €10, and stops depending on the route in Nis or Kruševac, Pristina and other towns on the road, information dates from February 2005).
From Albania, there are two good ways
- From Tirana on the newly-constructed highway via Kukës. This masterpiece of civil engineering takes you over and through the mountains with stunning views - about 3 hours.
- The more adventurous summer route is from Shkodra via Lake Komani. Catch a furgon from Shkodra at 06:00 to Koman. Catch the passenger or car ferry to Fierze, then furgon to Bajram Curri. At Bajram Curri get another furgon to Prizren via Gjakovë, arriving in Prizren mid-afternoon.
Daytripping from SkopjeEdit
With direct buses from Skopje arriving in the evening, and making their return in the morning, a day-trip from Skopje may not seem possible, but if you put some thought and effort into it, you will realize that it is entirely feasible. Read on:
Take the 06:00 bus from Skopje to Pristina. If the bus is not very crowded (particularly the case on weekdays), you won't lose much time at the border crossing, and arrive in the bus station of Pristina just in time for the 08:20 bus to Prizren. (You could have got off in Ferizaj on the way at 07:30, but you will need a lot of creativity to pass the time there until the departure of the next bus to Prizren at 09:15.) This bus will arrive in Prizren at about 10:15.
Upon returning, the last bus to Skopje leaves Pristina at 17:00, making a stop at Ferizaj bus station at about 18:00. This means that you will have to catch the 13:45 bus to Pristina from Prizren (which will let you stroll around Pristina for a little more than an hour—to spare more time for Pristina, take the 13:00 bus from Prizren), or the 17:00 bus to Ferizaj (and hope it arrives at its scheduled time of 18:00, and doesn't miss the last bus to Skopje—the 14:30 bus, which arrives in Ferizaj at 16:10, is probably a better bet). Note that the evening bus to Skopje is often almost completely full by the time it arrives in Ferizaj, which means that, should you decide to take it there, you may have to travel standing for part of the route, and then take a taxi in a village near the border for the rest of the route to Skopje, perhaps because of a rule regulating border crossings.
If you prefer a faster and more efficient day-trip from Skopje, is possible to arrange a private round-trip tour by car to Prizren for approximately 180 EUR. Inquire with local tour companies about this, preferably with a driver/guide who speaks Albanian and can navigate the border crossings. Additionally, this option may allow you to take the more scenic route through the mountains back to Skopje (preferably in the afternoon).
From the bus station, everything is within walking distance.
Taxis are abundant and quite inexpensive: you can get around the city for €3.50 at most.
- 1 Shadervan. The main square in town, this stone piazza is surrounded by cafes, bars, restaurants and ice cream parlors. During the day this is an excellent place to sit and have a coffee, or have lunch and watch the town go about its business. The fountain in the center of the piazza is safe to drink from and is a central gathering point during hot summer afternoons. From about 21:30 to 00:00 on almost every night in the summer the streets around Shadervan are crowded with locals walking the corso, meeting, chatting and drinking.
- 2 Prizren Hamam, Adem Jashari, (near the center of town, just up from the main post office). It is a distinctive complex of low brick domes. No longer used as public baths, the building is occasionally used for art exhibits. The Hamam of Prizren is an early Ottoman-era monument in which oriental and local traditions combine. It was built in the heart of the city in 1563/4 by Gazi Mehmet Pasha, at the time when he was also building the nearby mosque. The Hamam has two large and nine small domes and is separated into men’s and women’s sections. As one of the most precious Hamams in South-East Europe, it embodies special architectural, historical, cultural and social values. Integrated for centuries in the lives of the citizens, it has become a symbol for the spiritual and cultural heritage of Prizren and its region. The building functioned as a Hamam until 1944. It then served for cheese production, as a warehouse, and later the entrance area was used for cultural events. In state protection since 1954, the Hamam was repaired and maintained until 1981 when it was left at the mercy of time. After the NATO intervention in Kosovo in 1999, some limited measures were undertaken for the monument’s protection.
- 3 Suzi Celebi Mosque. It was built in 1513 and is the oldest in town. The grave of famous Prizren poet, Suzi Celebi is surrounded by a small wall and the year of death is signed on it.
- 4 Orthodox Church (Our Lady of Ljevis, Xhuma Xhamia or Shën Premtja), Sahatkulla. The cathedral was badly damaged during the riots of March 2004, but has largely been repaired since. As of April 2010 however it was not open to the public (there's a sign on the gate to contact the Prizren Police office for entry). There is usually a police officer guarding the cathedral. If you show him your passport, you will get access. Occasionally an Orthodox monk is present who will happily tell you the history of the church. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Small chapel (across the street from the cathedral which was also destroyed in March 2004).
- There are other Orthodox churches in Prizren.
- 5 Church of St. Nicholas. Serbian Orthodox church founded in 1331–1332 by Dragoslav Tutić, whose monastic name was Nikola (Nicholas), and his wife Bela.
- 6 Prizrenasja Hydro Power Plant Museum (on the Lumbardh River mouth 2.5 km (1.6 mi) from Prizren). In 1979 it opened as the Electrical Museum of Kosovo, exhibiting many original materials and photographs that reflect the development of the electrical economy in Kosovo.
- 7 Mosque of Sinan Pasha, Mimar Sinani. The largest mosque in the city, dominating the town center is the Mosque of Sinan Pasha. This is one of the most important monuments from the time of the Ottoman Empire in this territory. According to the inscription inside the mosque, Sofi Sinan Pasha, built it for his co-citizens, on hijrij year 1024 (1615). The mosque was built with walls over 2 m thick, more than 50 windows, and the minaret is one of the highest in the city. The airy interior is adorned by floral paintings, slightly reminiscent of (but much plainer than) the Painted Mosque of Tetovo, on the Macedonian side of the Sharr Mountains. The mosque is very rich in ornaments of many colours and shapes. The interior of the mosque is decorated by arabesques and other decorations of flora and fauna in the baroque style. There are two layers of paintings in it, the paintings of the time when the mosque was built (17th century) and a second layer of paintings (19th century). In the entrance the mosque has a fountain, built by the founder.
- 8 Bajrakli Mosque. The 16th-century Mosque of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror can be reached on the first left street in front of the Hamam. The Bajrakli mosque dates from 1566 and is possibly the most beautiful mosque in Prizren with ornate wood work and detailed blue and white paintings.
- 9 Halveti Teqe. It is a 350-year-old tariqah in the center of Prizren. The tekke object of the Halveti is found in the Saraçët neighborhood, near the Kukli Mehmed Bey's mosque. The Havlet Tariqah was established at the end of the 16th century, by father Osman who came to Prizren and lived in Kukli Mehmet-Bey's mosque. The object is simple, built of stone and mud while the coverage is made from traditional brick. The tekke complex consists of several buildings, such as the tekke, rites room (semihane), shrine, residential building and waiting room. More generally, the complex consists of two parts: the tekke and the rites room. Free.
- 10 Cathedral of St. George, Marin Barleti. A prominent monument in the city centre, the large Episcopal Church from 1887 is situated on the site of an earlier church. The interior was originally richly decorated with ashlar stones, polished onyx, marble panes, frescoes, icons gathered here from various churches, and a wooden iconostasis. Restoration by a multi-ethnic team of craftsmen was finished in the early 2020s, and work on the white marble interior was completed in early 2010. Casual visitors are welcome to have a look inside after asking permission from the police stationed outside. Right beside the Episcopal Church stands the small Church of St George, or Runović’s Church, from the 14th-16th century. This picturesque single-aisled chapel has a barrel vault and used to be richly decorated with 16th century frescoes.
- 11 Catholic Cathedral (Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour), Papa Gjon Pali II (stands at the top of the stone street that leads from the “Shadërvan Square”). Prizren’s main Catholic church from 1870 is a fairly typical Italian-inspired building with three naves and marble-clad columns. The façade is remarkable for the variety of stone used, while the interior frescoes above the door depict the medieval Christian Albanian hero Skanderbeg who unified Albanians and kept the Ottomans at bay, against all odds. The Skanderbeg portrait is the only one presenting him on the frontal position. Depicted beside him is the great Transylvania Ottoman-slayer, János Hunyadi or Iancu de Hunedoara, who did Christianity a great favour by defeating Mehmed II’s army at Belgrade in 1456.
- 12 Church of the Holy Saviour. Orthodox church built around 1330.
- 13 Prizren League Complex. An old complex where its namesake political organization was founded in June 10, 1878. The Albanian Prizren League began with a gathering of 300 representatives of all Albanian regions. In the meeting there were also Bosnians from Bosnia and Sanjak. The aim of the meeting was to form an autonomous Albanian state that would cover the Ottoman regions (vilayets) of Prizren, Shkodra, Monastir and Yanina. The League was the first serious effort to create an united Albanian region since the medieval era of Skanderbeg.
- 14 Namazgah. Namazgah is also known as the "Kırık Mosque," (Broken Mosque) among the people of Prizren. This important cultural heritage was built on the order of Sultan Mehmed II, better known as Mehmed the Conqueror, so Ottoman soldiers could pray in the city after they conquered it in 1455. Built by İsa Bey, one of the sultan's commanders, it was the first Muslim house of prayer in the city. 0.
- 15 Marash Maple.
- 16 Fortress of Prizren (It takes just 15-20 min to walk up from the main mosque). 24/7. Has a wonderful view over the town and is a popular sunset destination. The fortress dates from the Roman era. Free.
- 17 Archaeological Museum (Turkish bath with clock tower, Muzeu Arkeologjik), ☏ . Monday-Saturday 08:00-16:00. Once functioning as a Turkish bathhouse and built by Ahmet Shemsedin Bey in 1498 although possibly dating to back before this time, Prizren’s Archaeological Museum opened its doors in 1975. Now fully renovated in one of the loveliest interiors in Prizren, the museum holds over 800 items of archaeological interest from antiquity to the 19th century, discovered in Prizren, Dragash, Rahovec and Suhareka. A fascinating insight into the history of the region, the building also features a clock tower built towards the end of the 19th century with Baroque elements by Eshref Pasha. The tower used to have a chiming clock which was removed in 1912. The view from the city and surrounding mountains from the observation post (babafinga) at the top is well worth the struggle to get up there. €1.
- 18 Kino Lumbardhi. It is a great cinema, open since 1952. Nowadays it is a cultural centre and you can see films occasionally.
- 19 Beledija. Beledija (Ndërtesa e Kuvendit të Vjetër) is the building where the first Municipal Assembly of Prizren was held at the end of the 19th century. The building is used as an information center for cultural inheritance and for tourists’ orientation.
- 20 Katip Sinan Mosque. It was supposedly built in 1591. It was repaired in 1893–94 based on an inscription.
- 21 Brezovica, the ski resort (to the east and southwest). The area around Prizren, particularly to the east and southwest is also scenic. Heading east from town toward the old Yugoslav ski resort of Brezovica takes you through the Zupa Valley. There are numerous restaurants following the river along this route. The ski slopes at Brezovica are open for skiing during the winter. The runs were once considered some of the best in Yugoslavia, and the site was a back-up for the Sarajevo Winter Olympics in 1984.
- 22 Dragash, the mountain town (To the southwest). To the southwest, toward the Albanian border the landscape is also dramatic. About an hour's drive from Prizren is the mountain town of Dragash. Although there is no skiing in the mountains surrounding Dragash, the area is beautiful. Friday is market day in Dragash.
- 1 Riverside walk up to the fortress (circular walk, distance about 4.5 km - follow the river east out of town "Marash" district). Through the attractive river valley, passing next to a 600 year old tree. At one point the path seems to come to a dead-end, retrace your steps and cross the bridge. Eventually the path leaves the river and turns right, uphill through woods where there is abundant wildlife (butterflies, woodpeckers, lizards, salamanders and tortoises have been sighted!). The path eventually leads to the fortress, from where you can make your way back down past the Orthodox Cathedral.
- 2 Nashec. Cycle to the nearby village of Nashec, next to the river Drin (the biggest in Kosovo), 9 km away from the city centre.
- 3 Recan. Cycle to the village of Recan, 9 km towards the Sharr national park.
- 4 Shtepia e Malorve (The Mountaineers Hut) (just behind the fortress, take the first right). It is an easy-medium hike for around 3 hours, in which you pass couple of village until you reach The Mountaineers Hut.
- 5 Oshllak (get a bus that goest to Brezovica and tell the driver to stop at Oshllak). Take the bus at 07:00 or 10:00 that goes to Brezovica and stop at "Oshllak peak". From there you can hike back until the city, which should be around 7-8 hours. EUR2.
The main event in the city is Dokufest, an annual international documentary and short film festival held in August.
- 6 Dokufest. It is the largest film festival in Kosovo. In addition to the main theater spaces, improvised screening venues are also installed, including atop the Prizen fortress. During the Festival, the town is full of people and various parties go late at night in the bars. Documentary photo exhibitions, debates, master classes and lively music events are also part of the 9-day festival.
- NgomFest. NGOM Fest is a yearly music festival held at the beginning of June in Prizren.
- 7 Zambaku i Prizrenit. It is a music festival held every year since 1986 at the end of June and beginning of july.
- Old Timer Fest. Old car festival held on mid July every year since 2006.
- Bunar Fest is a festival held in June/July. It features rafting through the Lumbardhi (Prizrenska Bistrica) river using tractor-tire inner tubes.
There are few traditional crafts that are still practiced in Prizren and the surrounding area. In Pristina, there are some women's cooperatives selling carpets and embroideries, and there may be one or two in Prizren as well. Ask around and someone will be able to direct you. The most traditional craft for Prizren has always been filigree. Very ornate pieces are made for traditional local wedding feasts, but more simple pieces are available in any of the shops that line the road leading into town. Poke around and ask to see the older pieces.
- 1 Market. Market day is Wednesday. The town fills up with merchants from all of the surrounding villages. In addition to crafts such as wordworks, there are also cheap mass produced tchotckas and knick-knacks.
The center of the town is full of barbecue restaurants (qebaptore). Prizren is well known in Kosovo for its barbecues as they make everything in front of your eyes. In the downtown or in Shadervan you can get plenty of these restaurants.
Various downtown sweets shops offer sweets such as baklava and tullumba which are traditionally made locally in Prizren. For traditional sweets try Shendeti (near Shadervan), which also sells Boza (fermented cornflour drink).
- 1 Noja Kuzhine, Pushketaret (in the city centre). 10:00-22:00. The only vegetarian restaurant in the old town, with a decent variety of local dishes and affordable prices, in a nice setting. Don't miss the pancakes, which are not mentioned in the menu. Try salep if you like sweet and hot drinks. €2-5.
- 2 Te Syla (along the river). Te Syla is one of the most famous kebab eateries in Prizren. Simple menu and affordable.
- 3 Qebaptore "Ura e gurit" (in the Old City). Great place to have qebapa and drinking beers.
- 4 Furra Prizreni. 08:00-14:00. It has great Toplia, a simple breakfast product that you can have with tea.
- 5 Qebaptore Afrimi. A small place hardly known to anyone, but the gourmets think it has the best kebap in Prizren.
- 6 Restaurant Ambienti, Vatra shqiptare, (In the center walk east from Shadervan, and the restaurant is up a slope overlooking the river.). Offers a nice view of the town. International fare at modest prices.
- 7 Tiffany Restaurant, Marin Barleti st. 16, ☏ . Traditional Albanian home cuisine in an upscale setting.
- 8 Restaurant Sharr Mount, Brezoviza (16 km from Prizren, in National Park Sharr), firstname.lastname@example.org. One of the best lamb and traditional pastry (flia).
There are plenty of coffee shops, bars, and pubs in the downtown Shadervan. Also, various bakeries exist in the area with the most outstanding pastries and fresh daily specials.
- 1 BarAca. Interesting and cosy bar with a British touch, serving ales and ciders besides the usual. They also have a large liquor, spirits and cocktail menu. The music is 60s, 70s and 80's.
- 2 Destill. 10:00 - 24:00. It is a nice and friendly bar with a private backyard where DJs occasionally play selected tunes of various genres.
- 3 Te Kinezi. A nice bar next to the orthodox church, where you can drink different local beers.
- 4 Idris Boza. It is a small shop located in the main street. It has the best fresh Boza in town.
- 5 Syrrush Spirits (from Shadervan Square, head up, on the right), ☏ , email@example.com. spirits, cafe, and gift shop. The owner makes her own Syrrush Spirit from family vines in Rahovec.
There are a number of places to stay in Prizren.
Room availability may be rather limited in August for the Dokufest film festival.
- 1 Hotel Theranda, Str. Adem Jashari 01, Prizren, Kosovo (across the main street from the Stone Bridge, in the corner), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. The hotel opened in 1964 and was renovated in 2012.
- 2 Hotel Prizreni, Rr. Shen Flori Nr.2 (Shadervan) 20000 (across from Hotel Theranda), ☏ , email@example.com. Near the city center and river. It is rising in popularity with foreign travelers.
- 3 Pension Oltas (around the corner from the Catholic Church in the center. Someone should be able to direct you from the church.), ☏ , , firstname.lastname@example.org. This is also a small hotel. All rooms have their private bathrooms. The price includes breakfast and laundry. The rooms are very clean and quite nice. They all have cable television, air condition, refrigerator and wireless. Also, computers with internet access are available in rooms and reception. Check-in is closed between 00:00 and 08:00. Single/double €25/35.
- 4 Ura Hostel, ☏ . Affordable hostel in the centre of the town. €15-25.
- 5 Hotel Pik-Nik. This is very reasonable, and the owners and staff are more than willing to cater to your every whim. Hotel Pik-Nik also has a beautiful restaurant and upstairs rotunda and seating for privacy. The restaurant menu is filled with traditional Balkan cuisine, and serves the best calzone in Prizren.
- Hotel Alvida (10 minutes of walk from bus station), ☏ . Breakfast costs €2 extra. The staff is very hospitable and the hotel is very clean. Single/double €20/25/40.
- 6 Hotel Tiffany, Marin Barleti nr. 16. a 6-minute walk from Mahmet Pasha Hamam. With a bar, the 4-star hotel has air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi, each with a private bathroom. The property provides city views, a terrace and a 24-hour front desk.
- City Hotel. Location : Edit Durham, a 16-minute walk from Albanian League of Prizren Museum, and features a fitness center, a bar and a shared lounge. Among the facilities of this property are a restaurant, a 24-hour front desk and room service, along with free Wi-Fi. The hotel provides city views and a terrace.
- Hotel Residence (8 minutes walk?), ☏ .
- Hotel City (10 minutes of walk), ☏ .
- Bujtina (Downtown), ☏ .
- 7 Hotel OK (5 minutes of drive), ☏ .
- Classic Hotel - St. Shuaib Spahiu PN. Enjoying a central position in Prizren, along Lumbardh River, Classic Hotel Prizren offers air-conditioned rooms fitted with free WiFi. Shadervan fountain and the Old Stone Bridge are just a short walk away.
- 8 Hotel Albatros, Rr. Besim Shala (Nashec), ☏ , email@example.com. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. All units are soundproof rooms, equipped with safety boxes, minibars, air conditioning, flat-screen TV and free Wi-Fi. The private bathrooms feature bath, hairdryer and bathrobe. Free parking is provided at the hotel. Offers refreshing drinks and snacks at the hotel's bar and bistro. There's a terrace on the 5th floor with views of the nearby mountains. It's near the local bus and train stations, the Ottoman period spa remains and the Nashec park promenade with its lake. €20-55.
- Sharr National Park (20 metres away from the "Marash bridge", there are buses going towards Brezovica.). M-Sa 07:00, 10:00, 12:00. Wonderful journey through the national park passing around 15 villages and a lot of restaurants on the way. The bus ticket is €2.50.
- Shishtavec. is a village in Kukës County in eastern Albania that represents rich unique folklore, endless varieties of customs, traditions, stories, songs, legends and inspiring landscape.
- Rahovec - Kosovo's wine country
- Pristina (There are buses every 30 minutes until 19:00. The price is €5 and it is paid on the bus, leaving from the main road out of town.).
- Gjakova (€2.5 paid on the bus, leaving from the bus station 36 km, 45 min away). closest city in Kosovo with the largest Ottoman-era bazaar in the Balkans
- Kukës. is a small town in northeastern Albania, last one to the Kosovo border. It is the only town in the world that has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Kukës received this honour in 2000 for receiving hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Kosovo War.
- Tirana (The buses stops at the kiosk outside the bus station at 06:30, 7:30, 9:00, 12:30, 13:30, 15:30, 16:00, 17:30 and 23:55.). Albania is generally considered a safe country to visit. €15 one away, €20 return ticket..
- Shkoder (There is only one bus that leaves everyday at 10:00 from the bus station.) €15
- Skopje (Buses at 05:30 and 09:00). €9.
- Ulcinj, Montenegro (Closer to summer you can also get buses to here).
- Istanbul. bus tickets around €30.