It’s funny how after so many years of travel, a place can still take you by surprise…
Walking the bustling, cafe lined streets of Prizren, I realised that there is still so much to explore in this world. Undiscovered destinations, even in Europe.
We had to get out of Greece and the EU because my Schengen visa had expired – boo. As winter was fast approaching we decided to head towards Montenegro where we figured it would be reasonably priced and the weather wouldn’t be too ridiculously cold. But first we had to get there by bus- and a few countries stood in our way.
It was meant to be a get in get out ASAP kinda stop. We arrived at the bus station and, based purely on the grey, eastern block feel, decided straight away to leave again the following morning.
We wanted to spend as little time as possible in this town… In the end we stayed for 3 nights and didn’t want to leave.
Prizren, Kosovo – Why You Should Visit
If you are old enough to remember, it was as recent as the late 90’s when this country was war torn. In a fight for independence from Serbia or formerly, the Yugoslav republic. Kosovo has only been a country since 2008 and some countries around the world still do not recognise its independence.
Because of these issues, and memories of the war on our TV screens, many tourists are hesitant to visit Kosovo. Even my parents were concerned when we said we were visiting – “are you sure you should be going there?” they asked.
But it didn’t take us long to see that Kosovo isn’t some impoverished war beaten place – well not Prizren anyway. All you have to do is ask any local and you will hear the same words from every mouth “Kosovo is safe, Kosovo is beautiful, please tell people to come visit.”
And that’s what we promised we would do – because they are 100% right.
10 minutes walk from the Bus station, the depressing architecture transforms…
We were so pleasantly surprised at what a beautifully designed, trendy, yet historic city we had walked into. There is a bustling downtown area that is mostly for pedestrians. The cobblestone streets are bordered with boutique clothing stores, restaurants and bars all full of locals out enjoying coffee and life – the essence of Balkan lifestyle.
Through the centre of town runs the Bistrica river which means ‘clear water’ in Serbian. You can wander across the stone bridges from side to side, exploring the numerous cafes and restaurants along its shores.
There wasn’t a place we went where we weren’t welcomed and made to feel at home. Many people in Prizren spoke enough English that visiting this beautiful city wasn’t a hassle in any way – in fact we loved it so much we didn’t want to leave. And what makes it even better – it’s one of the most affordable cities we’ve visited in Europe so far.
Food In Prizren
Much of the food in the Balkans is fairly similar, with local variations. Mostly it’s based around grilled meat, stews, salads, breads and cheese – mmmm cheese.
The best thing is that everything is incredibly affordable in Kosovo. You can go to a really nice – even fancy restaurant, eat yourself stupid, have a couple of beers and still pay around 10 euro for 2 people.
Here’s a few of the must try dishes in Prizren.
A ground meat patty that is often stuffed with cheese. You can choose to have it without the cheese – but that just seems crazy to us. Often served with chips and salad.
PRICE: 3-4 euros
Pide is a flatbread that is similar to a pizza. These are common in many countries in Eastern Europe, however we’ve found they are all a little different in each country and well worth trying.
PRICE: 3-4 euro for a large (enough for 2 people), smalls are about 1.50
Sharr Cheese with bread
Sharr cheese is a local specialty from the Sar mountains of Kosovo. It’s a hard cheese of both sheep and cow’s milk and it often grated on top of salads and main dishes. It’s quite salty in taste but very enjoyable.
PRICE: Bread – 1 euro; Cheese 1.50 euro
Shope Salate (salad)
A simple but tasty salad made of tomato, cucumber, onions and grated sharr cheese
PRICE: 1.50 euros
This is the number 1 cheap and tasty dish you can find all over the Balkans. Often filled with cheese, but you can also find burek with spinach or meat fillings.
PRICE: .25 cents – 1 euro
To date there is only 1 hostel in Prizren – and it’s one of our favourite hostels on the planet.
Budget Friendly: Prizren, City Hostel.
This hostel is owned and run but the one and only Mr G. A host who makes your hostel experience a memorable one. When we arrived we were welcomed with a shot of raiki (local hooch) and if that wasn’t to our taste he had coffee and beer available too. That’s our kind of welcome!
In fact this hostel offers free beer and snacks to its guests every night. It’s common for all to come down and hang out in the reception/common room and enjoy each other’s company. In the morning, breakfast is complimentary and it’s a rare thing to walk downstairs and not be offered a fresh made coffee any time of day by Mr G or his staff.
Depending on your budget there are rooms for all, from dorm beds to private rooms with ensuite. Many of which had woodfire heaters that were lit by the staff at night to keep us warm in the cooler months.
Prices range between 9 – 30 euro per night and availability depends on season but walk-ins are more than welcome.
Free Activities included:
- Walking tours
- Beer and raki in the evenings
- Mr G Will be your friend 🙂
Treat Yourself: Hotel Centrum Prizren
Situated in the very heart of Prizren, this newly built hotel offers all of the quality & comfort you can expect of any international hotel. Spend you days exploring the history of the city, and then come back to your hotel to enjoy some modern comforts as well.
If you are looking for more hotel or hostel options in Prizren, we prefer to use HotelsCombined. They have a great selection and help you get the best possible price!
The Sights of Prizren – What to do…
Many of the sight around the city have been listed as UNESCO world heritage and are currently under renovation. You can gain access to many attractions if you know the right people (like Mr G) or you can still wander around and enjoy them from the outside. As they are doing their best to improve these sites for tourists, please be patient and understand that these things take time – but still go and check them out.
There’s not many places in Prizren where you can’t see this fortress towering high up above the city. Opinions vary on the exact history of this site. There has probably been an armoured settlement on this site since the 5th or 6th centuries BC. This newer medieval fortress dates back to the 11th century when Prizren was occupied by the Byzantines. Although it is mostly ruins now, the view of the city is one not to be missed.
Church of St. Savior
On the way up to the fortress (on the town side) you’ll come across this old church about half way up. Although it is in ruins now, it’s quite beautiful to walk around and get some great pictures.
A fantastic place to sit back, enjoy a coffee or meal and people watch. This place could be considered the centre of Prizren, it’s where culture and social development meet. More literally Shadervani means ‘fountain with many streams’ and in the centre of the square is a fountain that provides fresh drinking water to the people of Prizren. We drank the water – it’s fresh and delicious, but it’s up to you.
Take a walking tour with Mr G (The Hostel Owner)
(Mr G’s hostel is now permanently closed – this may no longer be an option)
This was a great way to see the sites of Prizren. Mr G has inside knowledge to help take you around town and get you into some of the places of interest that you may not be able to get into on your own. The tour is completely free and a minimum of 5 people is usually needed – just ask around the hostel and you’ll find eager participants.
Catch A basketball game
Turns out basketball is the sport of preference in Prizren. Who’d have guessed! Locals love to go an watch the local matches, which often feature international players – even from the USA on occasion.
Tickets are normally around 2 Euros. Dates vary but weekends are the most common time. Ask at your accommodation about upcoming events.
We were meant to spend 1 night in Prizren – and we spent 3 because we fell in love with this beautiful little city. The people are so friendly and welcoming, the history is fascinating the food is not only delicious but affordable. Did we mention that you can get a pint of beer at a nice bar for as little as 1.50 euros – score!
Most of all, there is life! The locals are out, drinking coffee, eating a meal with family, having a beer with friends. Even in the off-season. There are always people around enjoying themselves and this can be infectious, in the best possible way.
If you’re looking for things to do in Kosovo – why not come to Prizren. It’s safe, it’s friendly and it’s waiting for you to visit.
We have a feature Podcast episode about Prizren.
Take a Listen!
Daily Budget Breakdown – Per person
- Stay at The Prizren City Hostel. 10 Euros
History & Culture:
- So much to see for free in Prizren. Walk around and enjoy the historical sites and amazing views from the fortress. $FREE!
Food & Drink:
- Grab your free breakfast of local bread, cheese and Ajvar (pronounced “Ivar”, a sweet pepper Salsa) from the hostel. $FREE!
- Take lunch in one of the riverside restaurants. 4 Euros
- Enjoy a pide or kebab for dinner. 1.5 Euro
- Once you are done with seeing the town, join the locals for a coffee in one of the many central cafes. 60 cents
- Enjoy a basketball game. 2 Euros
- Just hang with other travellers and Mr G at the hostel and drink the free beer. $FREE!
- Head out to any of the late night bars. 1.5 Euros per pint
So, you can have a great stay in Prizren for less than 20 Euros per day (About $25 USD).
Want to experience Kosovo but you’re not to certain about travelling independently? We recommend Intrepid travel, they have some great itineraries and 3 styles of travelling – so there’s something for everyone.
What’s your favourite lesser known destination? Tell us in the comments