From a lofty fortress and Ottoman-built bridges to mountainous national parks and film festivals; here are the best things to do in Prizren.

Prizren, located in the foothills of the mighty Sharr Mountains in Kosovo, has long been one of the most prized cities in the Balkans. The cultural capital of Europe’s newest nation, Prizren has a long history stretching back to antiquity.

First mentioned during the Roman era as far back as the 2nd century AD, Prizren became an important trading hub during the Byzantine period, before serving as the capital of the Serbian Empire in the mid-14th century.

Empires come and go in the Balkans, and Prizren came under Ottoman rule in the late 14th century, transforming it into a centre of Islamic culture. The city flourished architecturally, with many mosques and hammams (Turkish baths) being constructed, including the Sinan Pasha Mosque.

In the 19th century, Prizren gained prominence as the site of the League of Prizren, an Albanian political organisation advocating for autonomy within the Ottoman Empire. The 20th century brought significant changes and challenges, with the city changing hands between various states before finally becoming part of an independent Kosovo in 2008.

Today, Prizren represents a unique blend of East and West, a testament to its enduring history at the crossroads of Europe. And for travellers, that makes this a fascinating destination to visit. If you’re planning your Kosovo itinerary, then keep reading, as we explain the best things to do in Prizren.

The best things to do in Prizren

Prizren was the first destination I visited when I crossed the border from Albania to Kosovo during my trip to the Balkans in 2015. I didn’t know what to expect, and I was surprised to find a city, with its minaret-filled skyline and stone bridges that looked like Istanbul in miniature.

From the top of the fortress, the call to prayer drifted over the rooftops below, and I found myself enthralled by the sight of the green, green mountains that separate Kosovo from Albania. It’s a unique place, and on my second trip here in 2023, I began to better understand the politics at play in Prizren. Albanian and Kosovar flags line the streets, and the letters UCK (Albanian for KLA, or the Kosovo Liberation Army) are lit up every night on the castle walls above the city.

As it has been for decades, Prizren remains a centre for Albanian nationalism, but it’s a city that’s also claimed by the Serbians too, and the Orthodox Churches speak to this divided history. For me, that makes Prizren all the more fascinating a destination, and while you can tick off the main sights in a day or two, stay longer and you can truly start to learn about Balkan history and politics.

Read more: Where are the Balkans? Everything You Need to Know.

1. Hike to Prizren Fortress

Prizren Fortress, also known locally as the Kalaja, is one of the most significant historical landmarks in Kosovo. Standing atop a tall hill overlooking Prizren, the fortress is an enduring symbol of the city’s history, offering spectacular views of the city and the surrounding Sharr Mountains.

The fortress’s origins can be traced back to the Byzantine period, and perhaps earlier to the Iron or even Bronze Ages, but most of what remains today is from the medieval era when Prizren was a significant centre of the Serbian Empire. The fortress was used primarily for defence, and its strategic position on a hill made it a formidable barrier against invading forces.

Under the Ottomans, the fortress maintained its military importance and underwent several reconstructions. However, by the end of the 17th century, it was largely abandoned.

Today, the fortress is open to the public, and its walls still whisper tales of the past. The archaeological remains within the complex include ramparts, towers, bastions, and water cisterns, testifying to the fortress’s historical military significance. It’s a steep, uphill hike to Prizren Fortress from the Old Town below, but it’s well worth the effort for the supreme views over Prizren.

The walls of Prizren Fortress

Read more: Kosovo: Finding Freedom in Prizren

2. See an Ottoman legacy at the Sinan Pasha Mosque

The Sinan Pasha Mosque, located in the heart of Prizren’s Old Town, was constructed in 1615 by Sofi Sinan Pasha, an Ottoman vizier. One of Prizren’s most prominent landmarks, the mosque’s grandeur is evident in its large dome, which measures over 14 meters in diameter, supported by four massive pillars. The minaret, reaching towards the sky, offers a striking contrast to the surrounding urban landscape.

Inside, the Sinan Pasha Mosque is famed for its exquisite decorations. The walls and dome interior are adorned with intricate Arabic calligraphy and floral patterns. Painted in vibrant colours, these decorations illuminate the mosque’s interior, creating a tranquil and spiritual environment.

However, the mosque is not just a place of worship but also a symbol of Prizren’s often conflicted history. It was built using stones from the nearby Serbian monastery of the Holy Archangels, reflecting the complex intertwining of cultures and religions in the city.

Read more: 14 Places to Visit in Kosovo

3. Experience Prizren’s divided history at the Church of Our Lady Ljeviš

The Church of Our Lady of Ljeviš is a remarkable example of the city’s Christian heritage. Constructed in the early 14th century under the reign of Serbian King Milutin, the church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is renowned for its exquisite frescoes and architectural significance.

From the outside, the Church of Our Lady of Ljeviš is a mix of Romanesque and Byzantine architectural styles. Its sturdy stone structure, coupled with delicate decorative elements, speaks to the diversity of influences in Prizren’s history.

Inside, the church is adorned with beautifully preserved frescoes, considered some of the finest examples of Byzantine and Serbian medieval art. The vibrant depictions of Christian saints and biblical scenes create an immersive, sacred atmosphere that continues to inspire awe among visitors.

Unfortunately, the church has faced challenges throughout its history, including damage during the Kosovo War in 1999. Today, it stands not just as a place of worship, but also as a symbol of endurance and resilience, a monument echoing the tumultuous history of Prizren and Kosovo as a whole. For anyone interested in history, art, or spirituality, the Church of Our Lady of Ljeviš is a must-visit destination in Prizren.

An Orthodox Church in Prizren

4. Explore the Old Town around Shadërvan Square

Surrounded by traditional Ottoman-style houses and the narrow cobblestone streets typical of Prizren, Shadërvan Square serves as a popular gathering spot for locals and visitors alike in the Old Town.

At the centre of Shadërvan Square is an age-old fountain, where it’s customary for visitors to drink and make a wish. During the summer months, the surrounding area buzzes with energy as outdoor cafes, restaurants, and ice cream parlours spill onto the square.

Shadërvan Square is also the gateway to Prizren’s historic district. Notable landmarks such as the Sinan Pasha Mosque, the Church of Our Lady of Ljeviš and the Prizren Fortress are all within walking distance.

Prizren’s Old Town from the Fortress above

5. Step back in time at the Archeological Museum

The Archeological Museum of Prizren is housed in a traditional Ottoman-style building in the city’s historic district. It offers a fascinating glimpse into the region’s past with its extensive collection of archaeological artefacts, many of which were discovered in and around Prizren.

The collection spans various eras, from prehistoric times to the Byzantine period, and includes pottery, jewellery, coins and statuettes. The museum is a testament to the rich history and diverse cultures that have left their mark on this region.

The entrance to the Archeological Museum in Prizren

Read more: 33 Things to Do in Pristina, Kosovo

6. Admire the old Clock Tower

The Clock Tower (Sahat Kula) is another noteworthy historical monument in Prizren. Located near the city centre, right by the Archeological Museum, it’s one of the many traditional clock towers found in cities across the Balkans.

The tower, which dates back to the 19th century, stands as a symbol of the city’s Ottoman past. Its rhythmic chimes have marked the passage of time for generations. As such, it’s a constant reminder of Prizren’s long-standing history and heritage.

Prizren’s Clock Tower

7. Learn about Albanian nationalism at the League of Prizren Complex

The League of Prizren Complex is an important historical site marking a significant chapter in Albanian national history. Established in 1878, the League of Prizren was a political organisation that aimed to unite all Albanian territories within the Ottoman Empire.

The complex that housed the League now serves as a museum dedicated to this crucial period. Situated amidst a beautiful garden, the museum comprises a series of buildings that include the original meeting house of the League, a library and a small mosque.

Inside, visitors can view a fascinating collection of documents, photographs and artefacts that illustrate the activities of the League and the broader Albanian national movement. Key exhibits include the original document of the League’s declaration and photographs of its members.

Of particular interest is the Assembly Hall, where meetings of the League’s leaders took place. Here, visitors can appreciate the gravity of the discussions that once shaped the future of the Albanian people.

The League of Prizren Complex is a significant destination for anyone interested in understanding the history of Kosovo and the Albanian struggle for autonomy. It provides a poignant glimpse into a defining moment in the region’s past.

Read more: Kosovo: Tear Gas and Protests in Pristina

8. Visit the Gazi Memhet Pasha Hammam

The Gazi Mehmet Pasha Hammam is a fascinating vestige of the city’s rich Ottoman history. Hamams, also known as Turkish baths, were an integral part of Ottoman culture, serving both hygienic and social functions.

Built in the 16th century by Gazi Mehmet Pasha, the hammam is one of the largest and most elaborate in the Balkans. Its structure, comprising a series of domed chambers and halls, is a remarkable example of Ottoman bathhouse architecture.

Once, the Hamam was filled with the chatter and laughter of men and women (in separate sections or at different times of day) indulging in the ritual of cleansing, relaxation, and socialisation. It was a place where community news was shared, friendships formed, and deals brokered.

Though the Gazi Mehmet Pasha Hamam no longer operates as a bathhouse, its historical and architectural significance remains. Today, it occasionally hosts exhibitions and cultural events, thus maintaining its role as a social hub.

Read more: Bathing with the Romans

9. Watch a film at the Lumbardhi Cinema

Lumbardhi Cinema was established in the mid-20th century, and it quickly became one of the most important cinemas in the former Yugoslavia. The cinema building, with its distinctive modernist architecture, is itself a piece of cultural heritage.

However, with the rise of home entertainment and multiplexes, Lumbardhi Cinema struggled to maintain its audience and eventually ceased operations. Thankfully, this was not the end of its story. A concerted effort by the local community, supported by cultural organisations, managed to save the cinema from demolition.

Today, Lumbardhi Cinema is a thriving cultural centre and the heart of the Dokufest International Documentary and Short Film Festival. Its auditorium, once again, resonates with the excitement of film screenings, discussions, and events, while its outdoor area transforms into an open-air cinema during Dokufest, contributing to the unique charm of the festival.

Read more: Photos From The Road: Life In The Former Yugoslavia

10. Get cultural at Dokufest

Dokufest, held once a year in Prizren, is an internationally renowned documentary and short film festival. Since its inception in 2002, the festival has rapidly grown, attracting filmmakers, critics and cinema enthusiasts from around the globe.

The festival is celebrated for its diverse and high-quality program, showcasing a range of films from established and emerging filmmakers alike. Besides screenings, Dokufest includes workshops, masterclasses, panel discussions, and musical performances, making it a vibrant hub of creativity and learning.

Screenings take place in various venues around Prizren, including open-air cinemas, which adds a unique charm to the experience. The festival is not just about film, but also about community, offering a platform for cultural exchange and dialogue.

11. Stroll along the Bistrica River

The Bistrica River is lined with quaint stone bridges and historic buildings, offering visitors a picturesque slice of Prizren’s natural and man-made beauty.

Take a leisurely stroll along the riverbank, where you can appreciate the city’s diverse architectural styles and ambience. The sound of the flowing river coupled with the sight of Prizren’s stone houses creates an almost tranquil environment when it’s not teeming with tourists.

Cafes, bars and restaurants line the river, offering the perfect spot for a relaxing meal or drink with a view. Here, you can savour traditional Kosovar cuisine and coffee while watching the city life unfold around the river.

The Bistrica River

12. Cross the Old Stone Bridge

The Old Stone Bridge is a historical and architectural landmark spanning the Bistrica River.

Constructed during the Ottoman period, the bridge exemplifies the architectural style of the time. Its sturdy stone structure and rounded arches bear the marks of centuries of history, and the bridge has witnessed the city’s evolution from an Ottoman stronghold to a contemporary cultural hub.

Whether you’re crossing it to explore the city or merely taking a moment to appreciate its historical significance, the Old Stone Bridge is a must-visit when in Prizren.

The Old Stone Bridge, Prizren

13. Explore the Sharr Mountains National Park

Visiting the Sharr Mountains National Park is an exhilarating experience for nature lovers and adventurers. Only a short drive away from Prizren, the park offers an oasis of untouched wilderness in one of Europe’s richest biodiversity hotspots.

The Sharr Mountains stretch across Kosovo, North Macedonia and Albania, boasting scenic landscapes, diverse flora and fauna, and stunning peaks. Among its most notable inhabitants are the Balkan Lynx, an endangered species, and numerous bird species, making it a haven for wildlife enthusiasts.

The park is crisscrossed with hiking trails that range from easy walks to challenging treks. The Via Dinarica trail, which passes through the park, is particularly popular among hikers. In winter, the Sharr Mountains transform into a prime skiing destination, with the Brezovica ski resort offering slopes for all skill levels.

Read more: Crazy Sh*t To Do In The Balkans

14. Try traditional Kosovar food

Prizren is home to a wide array of restaurants that serve traditional Kosovar and Balkan cuisine. Here are a few recommendations:

  • Restaurant Besimi-Beska: Located near the Shadervan area, Besimi-Beska offers a wide range of traditional dishes, from qebapa (small grilled sausages) to tava (a hearty casserole), all served in a cosy setting with warm hospitality.

  • Kod Pera: Situated in a traditional stone house, Kod Pera is a popular spot among locals for its well-prepared dishes like burek (savoury pastry), lamb roast, and various traditional pies. Its charming interior and picturesque terrace enhance the dining experience.

  • Antika Restaurant: This place is known for its mouth-watering traditional food and idyllic setting near the river. Try their flija, a layered pancake-like dish baked for hours, it’s a must-try!

  • Te Syla: Located near Sinan Pasha Mosque, Te Syla is famous for its qebapa and traditional oven-baked bread. The rustic decor adds to the authentic dining experience.
I love Bureks, absolutely love them!

15. Go veggie in Prizren

While traditional Kosovar cuisine is often meat-based, vegetarians and vegans visiting Prizren can still enjoy a variety of delicious local dishes.

Many restaurants offer vegetarian options such as stuffed peppers and vine leaves, traditional pies filled with spinach or cheese, and mixed vegetable stews. Kosovar salads, typically consisting of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and local cheese, are also a tasty and healthy choice.

For vegans, options may be slightly more limited, but dishes like fasule (bean stew) and tavë kosi (though traditionally made with lamb, some restaurants offer a vegetarian version with eggplant) are flavorful choices. Bread, a staple in Kosovar cuisine, is usually vegan, as are many traditional desserts like baklava and fruit compotes.

The concept of vegetarian and vegan diets is growing in popularity in Prizren, and there’s even a dedicated vegetarian restaurant serving up an ever-changing menu of local dishes. You’ll find Noja hidden away down a side street in the Old Town, and it’s well worth a trip for breakfast, lunch, dinner; or all three.

A falafel wrap from Noja

16. Tackle the High Scardus Trail

The High Scardus Trail is an epic long-distance trail that covers some of the most beautiful terrains across the Balkans, passing close to Prizren when it winds its way through the Sharr Mountains to the south.

The High Scardus Trail starts in North Macedonia, then makes its way across the border to Albania, into Kosovo, and then back into North Macedonia. It’s a relatively new trail, having only opened in the last year or so.

Starting from Prizren, hikers can embark on a segment of this trail that weaves through the heart of the Sharr Mountains. This adventure will take you through thick forests, across meandering streams, and up rugged mountain paths to heights offering panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes.

Remember to be well-prepared with maps, weather information, and sufficient supplies. Also, consider hiring a local guide, especially if you’re not an experienced hiker. It’s an adventure that combines the best of nature and culture in one epic journey.

17. Enjoy a walking tour of Prizren

A walking tour is a great way to explore Prizren, but unlike in Pristina, I couldn’t find any free walking tours to join here. Instead, I put together my own little walking tour around the city, which goes like this:

  • Begin your tour at the lively Shadërvan Square, the heart of the city. Take some photos by the iconic fountain, and try some local breakfast (try the Bureks!) in one of the many cafes surrounding the square.

  • From Shadërvan Square, make your way towards the Sinan Pasha Mosque. This majestic mosque is an excellent example of Ottoman architecture.

  • Continue your walk towards the Church of Our Lady of Ljeviš, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that stands as a testament to Prizren’s Byzantine heritage.

  • Next, visit the Prizren League Complex, which is a short walk from the church. Here, learn about the Albanian resistance against the Ottoman Empire in the late 19th century.

  • From the League Complex, head towards the Gazi Mehmet Pasha Hamam. While no longer functioning as a bathhouse, the structure is a notable example of Ottoman architecture.

  • Then, it’s time to explore the Prizren Ethnological Museum. This traditional Ottoman house offers insights into the lifestyle and customs of Prizren’s past.

  • Finally, begin your ascent to the Prizren Fortress. The climb may be a bit steep, but you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the city and the surrounding landscape.

This walking tour should take about 2-3 hours, depending on how long you spend at each location. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and take water with you, especially for the climb to the fortress. After the tour, relax at one of the many riverside cafes or restaurants and enjoy a traditional Kosovar meal.

A view of Prizren on the walk to the Fortress

18. Take a day trip from Prizren

Prizren makes for a great base when you’re exploring western Kosovo. You can even make a day trip over the border to Kukes, in Albania. Here are a few ideas for day trip inspiration:

  • Brezovica Ski Resort: Located in the Sharr Mountains, Brezovica is the largest ski resort in Kosovo. Whether you’re a seasoned skier or a novice, this trip offers fun winter sports opportunities.

  • Pristina: Kosovo’s capital is a vibrant city with a mix of Ottoman, Yugoslav and modern architecture. Visit the National Library, the Ethnographic Museum and the Newborn Monument, which symbolises the country’s independence.

  • Peja (Pec): Known for the Patriarchate of Peć, an Orthodox monastery and a UNESCO World Heritage site, Peja is also the gateway to the Rugova Gorge, a stunning natural landscape ideal for hiking and outdoor adventures.

  • Gjakova (Djakovica): Visit the city’s old bazaar, which has been restored to its former glory. The city also hosts the Çabrati Hill, offering panoramic views, and the Hadum Mosque, a significant cultural monument.

  • Mirusha Waterfalls: Located in Mirusha Park, the series of waterfalls and lakes offer a refreshing retreat. Enjoy a picnic, go for a swim, or explore the surrounding hiking trails.

  • Visoki Decani Monastery: A UNESCO World Heritage Site located near the town of Deçan. This Serbian Orthodox monastery is known for its well-preserved frescoes and its significant cultural and historical value.

  • Kukes: Just over the border in Albania (around a 45-minute drive each way) is Kukes, where you can explore a vast network of underground tunnels built by the communist regime.
Kukes, over the border in Albania

Map of the best things to do in Prizren

Here’s a map of the best things to do in Prizren:

Where is Prizren?

Prizren is located in southern Kosovo, near the borders with Albania and North Macedonia. The city is set in a valley, surrounded by the Sharr Mountains, offering a stunning natural backdrop.

Regular bus services run between Pristina and Prizren, the Kosovar capital. The journey usually takes around two hours, depending on traffic and cost 5 Euros. Buses depart all throughout the day from Prizren’s main bus station, which is within walking distance of the Old Town (just turn up, take a seat and pay on the bus once it’s moving!).

Pristina itself has an international airport, with flights connecting to various European destinations. Therefore, if you’re travelling from outside Kosovo, you can fly into Pristina and then proceed to Prizren by road.

If you’re travelling to or from Albania, then there are direct bus connections from Prizren to major cities like Tirana. Alternatively, you can take a shared taxi from Prizren bus station to Kukes, which is just over the border (a half journey away). From Kukes, there are regular buses and Furgons (the Albanian minibus) to almost all destinations in Albania.

A border crossing between Kosovo and Albania, in the Sharr Mountains

The best time to visit Prizren

Prizren, like most of Kosovo, experiences a continental climate with warm summers and cold winters.

  • Spring (April to June): The weather is pleasant, and the city begins to bloom with flowers, making it a beautiful time for sightseeing. The temperatures range between 10°C and 20°C. There’s occasional rain, but overall, the weather is agreeable for outdoor activities.

  • Summer (July to September): This is the warmest period with temperatures reaching up to 30°C. If you don’t mind the heat, summer is an excellent time to visit, especially for the famous Dokufest, an international documentary and short film festival held in August.

  • Autumn (October to November): The weather starts to cool down, and the city is adorned with the colours of autumn. The temperatures are typically between 10°C and 20°C, similar to spring, and it’s still a good time for outdoor activities.

  • Winter (December to March): The temperature often drops below freezing, with snowfall common, especially in January and February. While it might not be the best time for sightseeing, it’s a great time for winter sports enthusiasts who want to ski in the nearby Sharr Mountains.

Is Kosovo a country?

Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008, and it considers itself a sovereign country. Currently, 101 United Nations member states, including the United States and a majority of EU member states, have recognised Kosovo as an independent country.

However, Kosovo’s independence is not universally recognised. Several countries, most notably Serbia, Russia, China, Indi, and Spain, do not recognise Kosovo as an independent state. This has prevented Kosovo from gaining membership in the United Nations.

The situation is further complicated by ongoing political disputes and negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo, mediated by the European Union and other international entities.

In terms of day-to-day governance, Kosovo operates as a separate political entity with its own government, parliament, and institutions. It has its own flag, issues its own passports, and participates in various international organizations and sports events.

Kosovo is a de facto independent state but lacks full de jure recognition from the international community.

Flags of countries that recognise Kosovo

Read more: Is Kosovo a Country? Everything You Need to Know.

FAQ on the best things to do in Prizren

Here’s an FAQ on the best things to do in Prizren:

Q1. What are some of the top historical attractions in Prizren?

The Prizren Fortress, the Sinan Pasha Mosque and the Church of Our Lady of Ljeviš are among the most significant historical sites in Prizren. They offer a deep dive into the city’s rich past and multicultural heritage.

Q2. Where can I get the best view of Prizren?

The Prizren Fortress, perched on a hill above the city, offers panoramic views of Prizren and its surroundings, making it the perfect spot for scenic city views.

Q3. What are some unique cultural experiences in Prizren?

Visiting the Ethnographic Museum, strolling through the old town, attending the Dokufest film festival, or seeing a film at the Lumbardhi Cinema can provide unique cultural experiences.

Q4. Where can I experience local cuisine in Prizren?

There are several restaurants in Prizren that serve traditional Kosovar cuisine, including Restaurant Besimi-Beska, Kod Pera, Restaurant Tiffany, Antika Restaurant and Te Syla.

Q5. What are some outdoor activities to do in Prizren?

Walking along the Bistrica River, crossing the Old Stone Bridge, or hiking in the nearby Sharr Mountains National Park and the High Scardus Trail are great ways to enjoy the outdoors in and around Prizren.

Q6. What are the shopping options in Prizren?

Prizren’s old bazaar area is the perfect place to shop for local products, handicrafts, and souvenirs.

Q7. What are some day trips from Prizren?

Day trips can include visiting the Sharr Mountains National Park, the Brezovica Ski Resort, the capital city Pristina, or the towns of Peja (Pec) and Gjakova (Djakovica).

Q8. What events or festivals can I attend in Prizren?

Prizren is famous for Dokufest, an annual international documentary and short film festival. It’s also known for the Prizren Carnival and the NGOM Festival (a multicultural music festival).

Q9. What options are there for vegetarian and vegan food in Prizren?

While traditional Kosovar cuisine is often meat-based, many restaurants offer vegetarian options like stuffed peppers, spinach pies, and vegetable stews. For vegans, dishes like fasule (bean stew) and traditional bread are generally available.

Q10. When is the best time to visit Prizren?

The best time to visit Prizren largely depends on your planned activities. For outdoor activities and sightseeing, late spring, summer, and early autumn are ideal. For winter sports enthusiasts, the winter months, particularly January and February, would be best.

There we have it, the best things to do in Prizren, Kosovo! What’s on your Kosovo bucket list?