Призрен, Prizren, Exploring Kosovo, Kosovë, Kosova, Косово

Prizren – Exploring Kosovo

Prizren is a city in the southern part of Kosovo. This is considered to be the historical capital of Kosovo and with a population of around 220.000 inhabitants within the municipality, it is the second-largest city in the country. If Pristina offers a more modern atmosphere the historical past is a lot more visible in Prizren. The city can in itself be considered a tourist attraction, with sights such as the Prizren Fortress and the 16th-century stone bridge. With around 80% of the population, the Kosovo Albanians are in majority within the municipality. There are however large minorities of Bosniaks, Turks, Romani, and Ashkali living here. Needless to say, Islam is the main religion with only small numbers of Roman Catholics and Orthodoxs.

Our Visit to Prizren

We visited Prizren in the summer of 2023. We stayed in Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia, and went on a day trip to Kosovo. During this excursion, we spent some time in both Pristina and Prizren.

A Short History of Prizren

There is a belief that one of the oldest parts of Prizren can be found within the fortress. The fortress might have been built already in the 6th century, but people have probably lived here for a much longer time. The city has been contested, not only by the region’s different kingdoms but also by regional noblemen. The city was during the Middle Ages located along important trade routes and the city was for a short period the capital of the Serbian Empire.

Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman conquest of what is today Kosovo took place in 1454 and Priren finally surrendered in 1455. The city became the seat of the Sanjak of Prizren, which later became a part of the Kosovo Vilayet. It was during the Ottoman rule that the city got Islam as its main religion. The city was also at the center of cultural and intellectual life both for the region of Kosovo, but also for the Albanians in the region.

The Albanians of Prizren would cause a headache for the Ottomans on a few occasions. They did join forces with the Austrians during the Austrian-Ottoman wars in the 17th century. The city was later in 1878 home to the League of Prizren, a movement for Albanian unification.

The 20th Century

Priren became a part of the Kingdom of Serbia during the First Balkan War in 1912. This was no good news for the local Albanians who were persecuted by the invading forces. The city was occupied once more during the First World War when forces from Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria entered the city. After the war, the city and the rest of Kosovo became a part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, which in 1929 became the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. It would only take until the Second World War before the city was occupied once more. This time it was by Italy and the city became a part of the Italian-controlled state of Albania.

After the war, Prizren and the rest of Kosovo became a part of the People’s Republic of Serbia within the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The peace lasted until the 1990s.

An Independent Kosovo

The Kosovo War broke out in 1998 and in the initial stages, the city’s Albanian population was forced to flee. The second stage of the war did instead see the return of the Albanian population. This time it was instead the Serbian and Roma part of the population that had to escape. The war left the city with an almost homogenous Muslim population of Albanians, Bosniaks, and Turks. Other than the effect on its population, the city was spared much of the war’s destruction.

Things to Do and See

Priren is a city whose center comes to life in the summer. There are plenty of cafés and restaurants in the area close to the river. In addition, many of the city’s sights are within easy reach. Well, the fortress might demand a climb up the hill, but the narrow streets here hide plenty of other sights. Mosques and churches are to be found spread out over the city and then there is that impressive oriental stone bridge. You might need some luck to get it for yourself to take a photo without interruption.

Prizren Fortress

Prizren Fortress is one of the most impressive sights in the city. This hilltop fortification might be demanding to reach if you hike up the hill. But the rewards are spectacular. In addition to the historical sight itself, the fortress also offers an impressive view of the city and its surroundings. The fortress dates back to the 6th century and the Byzantine Empire. It has, however, seen many rulers over the centuries since and was expanded during both the Serbian Empire as well as the Ottoman Empire. In Albanian the fortress is known as Каlаја e Prizrenit, while in Serbian this is Prizrenski grad.

Old Stone Bridge

The Old Stone Bridge is probably one of the most photographed sights in the city. It is considered a cultural heritage monument within the city and dates back to the 16th century. The bridge was, however, seriously damaged during construction work in the 1960s and was eventually destroyed in the floods of 1979. The current bridge is the reconstruction that was completed in 1982.

Sinan Pasha Mosque

The Sinan Pasha Mosque is in the center of the city. It dates back to the early 17th century and its minaret is 43.5 meters high. This mosque is easily located when looking out over the city from the fortress, and you will most likely walk by it when exploring the central streets of Prizren. In Albanian this mosque is known as Xhamia e Sinan Pashës.

Our Lady of Ljeviš

Our Lady of Ljeviš is a Serbian Orthodox church located a bit to the northwest of the city center. The church dates back to the 14th century and is today a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Medieval Monuments in Kosovo. Its Serbian name is Bogorodica Ljeviška, while in Albanian it is known as Kisha e Shën Premtës.

How to Get to Prizren

  • Flights: The nearest airport is Pristina International Airport, to the east near the capital Pristina.
  • Car: Prizren lies along the motorway R7 between Pristina and the border with Albania.

Looking to Explore more of Kosovo and Europe?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.