Located in southeastern Kosovo, at the site where the Nerodimka River splits into two branches, is the city of Ferizaj. This city, roughly 22 miles south of the capital, Pristina, is home to just under 43,000 inhabitants, according to the 2011 census. It’s a picturesque Balkan city known for being a bastion of religious tolerance and cultural acceptance. So, naturally, its religious sites are among some of the top things to do in Ferizaj, Kosovo.
The History of Ferizaj
The city itself has a long and unique history that dates back to prehistoric times. During the 6th and 5th millenniums BC, the Starčevo culture began building homes of willow and mud along the region’s rivers and river terraces. They were followed by the Vinča culture, which first developed around 4300 BC, and the Bubanj-Hum and Baden cultures. The Dardanian Tribe, known for their wars with the Macedons, first appeared around the 8th century BC.
During the reign of the Ottoman Empire in the Middle Ages, Ferizaj was a village called Ferızovık. After a railway linking Belgrade and Thessaloniki opened and passed through the village, the burgeoning city underwent rapid development, accelerated by the opening of craft workshops and colonial shops.
Today, Ferizaj lies very close to Camp Bondsteel, a 955-acre U.S. Army base dedicated to keeping the peace in Kosovo. The base was built following the Kosovo War in 1999, during which two of Ferizaj’s Serbian churches and some of its Albanian neighborhoods were damaged or destroyed.
My Time in Ferizaj
Despite its struggles in the past, today, Ferizaj is a quaint yet thriving Balkan city. Between its historically significant religious sites, its unique geographical features, and its natural beauty, Ferizaj is quite stunning.
The city was the final stop on my nine-day road trip through Kosovo with my guide Erjan from Travel Media EU. It was the perfect way to cap off an adventure that served many highs as well as some challenging lows.
The greatest compliment I can give any location I visit is that it left me wanting more. Ferizaj is most definitely a city where I feel I could have spent more time. These are the top 5 things you must do in Ferizaj, Kosovo.
Visit St. Uroš Cathedral and Madhe Mosque
If you start your exploration of Ferizaj in the center of town, you won’t have to travel far to see two of its top attractions. A courtyard in the heart of Ferizaj is home to two of the city’s houses of worship, St. Uroš Cathedral and Madhe Mosque.
Stood just a few meters apart from one another, the closeness of the two represents the harmony between the Christian and Muslim communities in Kosovo.
St. Uroš Cathedral
The five-domed cathedral was built between 1929 and 1933 by Macedonian architect Josif Mihajlovic Jurukovski. Its architecture was partly inspired by that of Gracanica Monastery just outside of Pristina.
Inside, you’ll find gorgeous murals painted in the 1930s, as well as paintings of medieval Serbian icons including thrones and the Holy Trinity. The artwork survived the church being attacked in both 1999 and 2004, as well as damage caused by nationalist graffiti artists in 2013.
Due to its significance, it was named a Monument of Culture protected by the Cultural Heritage of Serbia.
The Church of the Holy Emperor Uroš
Madhe Mosque, also known as Xhamia e Madhe, dates back to the 1890s. The original mosque was destroyed during World War II and rebuilt in 1943. As is customary in any mosque, you must remove your shoes before you go inside.
I suggest admiring the main hall, which is decorated with bright carpets and a large, ornate chandelier. Just be as quiet as possible so as not to disturb any worshippers inside.
Regardless of which religion you subscribe to—or even if you don’t subscribe to any—visiting these houses of worship is one of the top things to do in Ferizaj, Kosovo.
Xhamia e Madhe
Eat at Restaurant Bifurkacioni
As I mentioned earlier, Ferizaj is home to a geographical feature so rare that only two of its kind exists in the world. Five minutes from the city center, you’ll find the bifurcation of the Nerodimka River. Here, the Nerodimka River splits into two branches, each of which flows into a different sea. One flows into the Aegean, while the other snakes its way to the Black Sea.
Restaurant Bifurkacioni takes full advantage of its unique location. The surrounding area is built up to resemble a peaceful park, with lots of greenery and flowers. You’ll also find beautiful terraces and benches, a playground, and even some 500-year-old mills that are still used to grind corn into flour.
The restaurant itself is rustic and cozy but still manages to be modern and traditional. You can choose to dine in either their large dining hall or some smaller, private rooms.
Regardless of which time of day you visit, I recommend starting with some of their smooth quince or pear rakija. Rakija is a strong fruit brandy that is extremely popular throughout the Balkans and can be made using a number of different fruits.
I visited the restaurant for breakfast and enjoyed a vegetable omelet, fresh pita bread, fresh cheese, and a gooey and creamy cheese-and-pepper tava. The fresh broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, olives, and tomatoes in the omelet contrasted nicely with the heavy, melted cheese.
I also couldn’t get enough of the cheese-and-pepper tava. Peppers are common in Kosovar cuisine, and many of them are quite hot, so be careful!
I suggest dipping small chunks of the fresh bread into the smooth cheese and yogurt of the tava. The combination of bread and different types of cheese is one of my favorite elements of Kosovar cuisine, and it did not disappoint.
Best of all, the food at Restaurant Bifurkacioni is farm-to-table, so you can rest assured that everything you eat there is as fresh as it gets! If tasty, authentic Kosovar cuisine is something you’re keen on experiencing, eating at Restaurant Bifurkacioni is among the top things to do in Ferizaj, Kosovo.
Rr.Epopeja e jezercit
Ferizaj 70000 Kosovo
Explore the Main Boulevard
Another point of interest you’ll find in the center of Ferizaj is the main pedestrian boulevard. Like most pedestrian streets in Europe, it’s lined with a wide range of options for locals and tourists alike, including restaurants, stores, bars, cafés, lounges, and street vendors.
As you stroll down the boulevard, you’ll pass shops blaring traditional Albanian music, as well as residential buildings and other commercial spaces. Some of the vendors there sell knockoff goods, so I advise being wary before making purchases there.
Even during the global COVID-19 pandemic, the atmosphere along the street was jovial and light-hearted. On the day I visited, it was quite chilly, but lots of people were still out and about, and music constantly emanated from the shops. The vendors were also quite friendly; one of them kindly gave me flags for both Albania and Kosovo!
Dine at Restaurant Adriani
Not far from the main pedestrian street is arguably the best place to try traditional slow food in town. Restaurant Adriani is located in a traditional house with an outdoor terrace and two indoor dining halls.
Slow food, in essence, is a movement that celebrates and supports local produce, sustainable farming practices, and traditional dishes. Everything from the rakija they serve at their bar to the vegetables and meat on your plate is locally sourced here. No list of the top things to do in Ferizaj, Kosovo is complete without dining here.
The restaurant even has a below-ground cellar where they store their cabbage and pickles. They keep the cabbage in the cellar for three days before they jar it and turn it into a pickled dish called turshi.
The turshi is among the menu’s appetizers . It’s crunchy and moist, with a nice, fermented flavor. Eat it alongside their dense goat cheese, which you can enjoy drizzled with a bit of extra virgin olive oil. I also can’t recommend their enormous, juicy tomatoes enough!
As is customary, you’ll also enjoy fluffy, freshly baked bread, which I advise trying with their mozzarella-like cow cheese and spicy peppers.
The Main Course
Kosovar cuisine is very meat-heavy, so it should come as no surprise that Kosovar chefs are masters at preparing hearty meat dishes. The bean-and-dried-meat tava is among the highlights on their menu.
The combination of the tender beans and the dried meat was heavenly. It reminded me of the fava beans I had enjoyed during my time in Asturias, Spain.
If you’ve followed my blog and YouTube channel for a while, you’ll probably know that I am a massive fan of veal. If you think you don’t like veal, I suggest trying it here. I had both the veal neck and veal ribs, and both blew me away. The meat was so juicy and fatty, and practically fell off the bone at the slightest touch.
One of my favorite dishes that you can find in southeastern Europe and Asia Minor is sarma. It consists of cabbage leaves stuffed with rice and meat. This fermented dish is full of flavor and contains a delicious tomato sauce!
I can’t forget the pite, which is a stuffed pastry that felt almost like a cross between byrek and pizza. The top comes nicely browned and crisp, while the underside is a bit doughy. If you’re familiar with Latin-American cuisine, it reminded me of a tasty meat empanada!
Rakija and Wine
Of course, you can’t visit one of Ferizaj’s best restaurants and not enjoy some rakija. I personally loved the pear variety, which contained very little sugar. You can order flights of rakija if you want, but I recommend taking it easy at rakija can be deceptively strong.
If you’re more of a wine lover, they also offer numerous local varieties. The wine in Kosovo is quite fantastic, so don’t miss out on it! Trying it is one of my favorite things to do in Ferizaj and Kosovo in general!
Gezim Sahiti 1
Ferizaj 70000 Kosovo
Stay at Hotel Rubis
If you’re planning on spending more than a day in Ferizaj, you’ll need a place to crash at night. One of the best accommodations in town is Hotel Rubis, an elegant boutique hotel that boasts 21 rooms. They also have a bar and restaurant.
The décor and architecture is like that of a brick hotel in the mountains. Their 111 Suite is a gorgeous room with a large bed, an office space, a couch, and a chic bathroom.
I stayed in one of their artsy and minimalistic junior suites. They offer lots of seating, a king-sized bed with lights around the headboard, and a flatscreen TV. The bathroom is modern with a sleek, black backsplash. If you like staying in boutique hotels while traveling, this is where to stay in Ferizaj.
Behind the hotel, you’ll find an outlet shopping center called The Village. It consists of a large, outdoor terrace lined with shops and roughly six restaurants. It’s new and modern and has a nice, laid-back atmosphere.
The Village is a great spot to have a drink with friends without having to go far from the hotel. The crowd there is young, mostly between the ages of 25 and 35, and it’s a great place to people watch!
Rr. Ahmet Kaciku no.1
Ferizaj 70000 Kosovo
When you visit Kosovo, I highly recommend setting aside some time to explore Ferizaj. At less than an hour’s drive from Pristina, it makes for an easy day trip. However, I suggest staying at least 48 hours to experience everything. The people in this part of the country are so warm and accommodating, and there’s plenty of history and culture to explore. In other words, Ferizaj is a quintessential Balkan town and yet another reason why this is one of my favorite regions on Earth to explore. Book a trip to Kosovo today to experience the beauty of Ferizaj for yourself!
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