Prizren, Kosovo. How to write a mini tourist guide about all the places you should see in Prizren if I didn’t focus on places as much as on stary cats walking between rubbish containers, kids playing football in narrow, run-down streets, and shop assistants washing the windows of their small shops? What if those seemingly uninteresting things make me want to visit Prizren and Kosovo once again? What if I don’t care about the attractions to see in Prizren but about people I can talk to about their lives there? Let me show you what’s best in Prizren and these will not only be the famous tourist attractions.
How to get from Prishtina to Prizren by bus?
Take any travel guide and Prizren is deemed the best attraction in Kosovo. One of the biggest surprises in Kosovo? Public transport works really well! In Prishtina, there’s a central bus station from where you can easily travel to all other cities and towns in Kosovo. On this bus station, you will find timetables and, what is more, the busses actually work according to this schedule. Prices for tickets are the same for locals and for tourists (Montenegro, pointing fingers at you!) and I had no challenges find all the information I needed. I also have to say that public transport in Kosovo is very easy even if you are that type of person who pays little attention to things like being practical and logistics. :) The bus from Prishtina to Prizren takes 90 minutes and there are many connections during the day. Even though the bus had no air conditioning, the ride was pleasant.
What to see in Prizren, Kosovo?
To be frank, of all the historic sights being – at the same time – the biggest attractions that are in Prizren, I have seen two only. I visited the ruins of the famous fortress towering above the city (kalaja) and one Orthodox church, or to be more precise, its ruins.
My plan for Prizren was simple: I was meeting my long not-seen friend there, Gocha, and we wanted to talk, see the sunset from the fortress, drink some Croatian alcohol (Gocha lives in Zagreb), drink the famously delicious coffee in one of multiple cafes in Prizren. The plan turned out nearly successful. I didn’t drink much Croatian alcohol because I wasn’t feeling too much into it, but on the other hand, we were given a day without electricity in our hostel. :)
Seriously the best attraction – Prizren Fortress (Kalaja) and Internet connection in Prizren
The Prizren Fortress is a must-see attraction in Prizren. The views from the fortress are so amazing that I can’t imagine visiting Prizren and skipping the fortress. Prizren couldn’t be located in a more scenic surroundings. It lies just at the foot of the Šar Mountains. There’s the Bistrica river floating just in the middle of the city. And if you add red rooftops to that, you have a really amazing view. During the day, the fortress is not so crowded. It’s shortly before the sunset that the fortress becomes alive.
Gocha and me went to the fortress twice. During the day and shortly before the sunset. When the sun was slowly setting down, we were already sitting on the broad, stone wall eating a quick supper: buns and tomatoes. The space behind us was getting more and more crowded. Grandparents, young families, lots of kids, teenagers, couples, singles looking for someone to fall in love with – people were gathering to socialise and admire the sunset.
Prizren Fortress is that type of place where all the most interesting things happen that people later gossip about. Who dates whom, how is someone doing, who changed a job, etc. Prizren Fortress is also one of the most selfie-friendly place I’ve ever been to. I have to tell you that access to Internet in Kosovo is as certain as access to oxygen. Everyone seems to be connected to Internet at all times. Also, in Prishtina, you can connect to citi wifi. Shame, I found it out a bit too late. ;-) Not sure if Prizren has its own citi wifi too, but each cafe has internet and is willing to share the connection.
Destroyed Church of the Holy Saviour – not so postcard attraction of Prizren
When we were walking to the Prizren fortress for the first time, sometime during the day, we followed a wrong road. Not so much did we notice that something was wrong as we heard a someone shouting at us from the distance. As it later turned out, it was a guardian of the Church of the Holy Saviour – an Orthodox church destroyed by the Kosovars of Albanian origin during the 2004 unrest. Gocha speaks Serbo-Croatian so we decided to chat to the guardian and learn a bit more about the ruins of the church. I would not call it an attraction you must see in Prizren, but a witness of some really bloody times.
It was a sad view, this destroyed orthodox church. It had no roof, no inner walls, and hardly any interior elements left. Church of the Holy Saviour is not the only orthodox church that was destroyed or partly destroyed during the 2004 unrest. The famous, UNESCO-listed Cerkiew Bogurodzicy Ljeviškie in Prizren was also destroyed inside.
Old Stone Bridge on the Bistrica river – the most famous attraction in Prizren
To see an old stone bridge in the Balkans is not a surprise. They are actually pretty frequent. The Old Stone Bridge in Prizren dates back to the XVI century but was later on destroyed during a flood and rebuilt in 1980. When I was walking on this bridge, I was feeling as if I moved back in time. Especially in Prizren when the historic town was behind my back and run-down streets and ugly buildings in front of me.
Shadervan in Prizren
Shadervan is the prettiest and the most touristy part of Prizren, definitely one of the best attractions this city has to offer. We walked around this district, drunk a coffee or two, ate dinner, but I was still under the impression that more interesting things are happening somewhere else. When we were in Prizren, there was an electricity cut. Half of the city was out of power. What did it mean? Beer was being served warm and there was no coffee in those cafes which didn’t have their own batteries. The laid back atmosphere of a tourist town was slightly destroyed by the never ending noise of the batteries.
All the other streets you won’t find in tourist guidebooks about Prizren in Kosovo
Lubię się szwendać tam, gdzie mnie oczy poniosą, Gocha podobnie. Zapuściłyśmy się w ulice bardziej mieszkalne niż historyczne i ewidentnie dla mieszkańców nie był to codzienny widok, bo miałam wrażenie, że ciągle byłyśmy na świeczniku.
I like travelling of the path. Therefore, after spending some time in the historic part of Prizren, we decided to leave the map in the backpack and go wherever we felt like. We entered narrow streets where there were not as many cafes as before and here, it was not so easy to disappear in the crowds – there were no crowds at all.
We were walking past a lady who was cleaning the front door of her garage. Boys who were lingering in front of a small shop, just waiting for something interesting to happen. Young girls coming back from school who started laughing as soon as they noticed I was carrying my camera. An elderly man in the window who kept shouting after us until we stopped for a chat. Kids playing football so intensely that they didn’t even notice us. A man who pissed near a small bench where we sat down for a while. This was also Prizren but its other face.
Is Prizren in Kosovo safe for solo female travellers?
I get asked this question a lot and the answer is not simple. I would say that Prizren, as much as whole Kosovo, are safe for solo female travellers. If you behave with common sense, just like you would in your home town, you should be fine. I travelled solo in Kosovo and the only time I was not feeling comfortable was in Peja when I run into stray dogs. I did not experience any inconvenient situations from the locals. Don’t let doubts prevent your from travelling solo and experiencing the world!
Prizren City Hostel with no electricity
We stayed in the Prizren City Hostel. I am not sure if I can really recommend this place and that’s because of two things. When we were in Prizren, the hostel had no electricity at all. This meant no warm water (I didn’t care about that much) and no possibility to charge batteries. I don’t care about my phone, but I do care about my camera. On the other hand, half of the city was down on electricity – but some places had their own batteries.
Secondly, in theory the price covers breakfast. It is supposed to be served at a certain hour. Well, we finally got our breakfast but much later than planned ad only after we reminded the receptionist about that. He then left for some 30 minutes to do the shopping. If someone was in a hurry to catch some bus, he or she would not have the breakfast for which he or she paid. On the other hand, I somehow expect such situations to happen while travelling in the Balkans especially that this hostel was really cheap.
Also, the rooms were very clean and on top, there is a really nice balcony with a view over the city. So if you don’t have very high expectations, I would recommend staying there.
Is it worth visiting Prizren in Kosovo?
Yes – it’s worth visiting Prizren! I would like to come back there and spend a little bit more time investigating the city history. This time, however, I would plan to visit Prizen during Doku Fest – one of the biggest and most important documentary film festivals in Europe. And I would like to have more time to hike around the Šar Mountains. And spend even more time walking off path in the narrow streets of Prizren. If you are thinking of visiting Kosovo, this guide might help you.
For more posts about Kosovo and what to see there, click here.