The History of Gjilan

If you want to take great photographs, I suggest heading back down the hill to the ruined homes and wells. From there, you can take photos among the ruins with the imposing castle in the background. It’s one of the best things to see and do in Gjilan, and is perfect for history enthusiasts!

The Gjilan Massacre is commemorated every year during Flaka e Janarit, a three-week-long cultural festival that begins on January 11. An annual festival since its inception in 1991, Flaka e Janarit attracts Albanian artists and art enthusiasts from around the Balkans. Its participants celebrate the lives of Albanian martyrs such as writer Jusuf Gërvalla and war hero Skanderbeg.

Modern-Day Gjilan

As I mentioned earlier, one of my favorite things about traveling through the Balkans is the abundance of fresh, organic food. I can’t overstate how different meat, dairy, and vegetables are when they haven’t been raised or treated with antibiotics, pesticides, and other chemicals. One of the best places to taste that difference is at AB BioFarm.

My Time in Gjilan

The meat pairs perfectly with their earthy mushroom sauce, but I almost preferred the meat without the sauce. One of the great pleasures of enjoying Kosovar meat is the fact that it usually doesn’t come overdressed with sauces. That allows the flavor of the meat to shine on its own rather than being covered up.

Visit the Sunday Market in Llabjan

But by far, the best dishes on the menu are their poultry and meat. I can’t recommend their boneless chicken enough, which is roasted to crispy, juicy perfection.
The restaurant is located in a rustic house that’s over a century old in the city center. It has a small outdoor dining area, as well as an outdoor terrace.

Gjilan 60000 Kosovo
Resort PLANET Gjilan

In their busy kitchens, the cooks prepare everything from fish to lamb to chicken, as well as local favorites like byrek and flija.
Although I’m definitely a carnivore, one of my favorite things about Kosovar cuisine is its fresh vegetables. The salads are Restaurant Cuco are superb and contain crispy cabbage, carrots, lettuce, cucumbers, beets, and tomatoes. The tomatoes in particular are some of the juiciest I’ve eaten in my life and are full of flavor!

I spent roughly 48 hours exploring Gjilan in October of 2020 with my guide Erjan Guxha from Travel Media EU. With some help from our friends at Rental Car Albania, we drove around the city, visiting as many sites as we could while enjoying tasty food at its signature restaurants. It’s one of my favorite cities in Kosovo and was a major highlight on my road trip though the country. These are the top 5 things you must see and do in Gjilan, Kosovo.

Check out the Top 10 Things to See and Do in Prizren, Kosovo

Try Grilled Kosovar Food at Restaurant Cuco

To reach the fortress, you’ll have to navigate a rocky path leading up the hill. The climb is fairly easy and takes roughly five minutes. Once you reach the top, you’ll enjoy beautiful views of the surrounding area. Some of the landmarks you can spot include old wells, ruined stone houses, and a dilapidated mosque.
Built around 1285, the 14-meter-high castle was built atop a boulder-strewn hill as part of a defensive ring with two other nearby castles. The other two castles now lay in ruin.

I also must mention their beef steak, which is served medium-rare and sliced right at your table. As should be expected in the Balkans, the meat tastes fresh and high-quality. It’s also melt-in-your mouth tender. Best of all, the serving size is big enough for at least four or five people, so be sure to take your friends or family!
Because Gjilan is known for its traditional restaurants, I highly recommend visiting a few of them to try some of the best food in the area. One of these eateries is Restaurant Cuco, a family-owned restaurant first established in 1996. Without question, eating there is one of the top things to do in Gjilan, Kosovo.
One of my favorite things to do when I travel is to visit local markets. I find that they’re not only some of the best places to find unique and authentic souvenirs, but they’re also great spots to immerse yourself in the local culture. Among the highlights of my time in Gjilan was the morning I spent at the Sunday Market in Llabjan, a village just outside of the city.

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But if you’re looking to stay in the main building, Resort PLANET Gjilan’s rooms are beautiful and comfortable. My room had a cozy queen-sized bed, a twin bed, and a couch. A big-screen TV hung on its walls, and its bathroom was clean and modern with a cool neon light around the mirror!

At the Sunday Market, you’ll find locals selling a wide variety of products, including clothing, pottery, fresh produce, and even live animals. This market has been happening for years, but you’ll only find it on Sundays, so I suggest visiting early in the morning.
Resort PLANET Gjilan is one of the biggest resorts in and around Gjilan. Its main building houses 70 rooms, and over 50 residences can be found elsewhere on its expansive grounds. The grounds also contain an outdoor terrace and a manmade stream. With the nearby mountains visible from the grounds, the resort reminded me of my time in the Swiss Alps!

Framed by the majestic Karadak Mountains in the Anamorava region of southeastern Kosovo is the town of Gjilan. This quaint, beautiful city is located roughly an hour’s drive southeast of the capital, Pristina. The city is well-known for its unique architecture and its traditional restaurants. There are several other things to see and do in Gjilan, Kosovo, including its markets, historical sites, and more.
M25-3, Kmetoc
M25-3, Kmetoc

BONUS: Stop by AB BioFarm

Restaurant Cuco
Although the doors were closed, I was able to peek inside the castle through a hole in the door. The inside looks to be in poor condition, which may have been the reason for the renovations.
You’ll also have some customary bread, cheese, and yogurt as an appetizer before your main entrees arrive. I suggest the veal ribs, which are as tender and smooth as butter, as well as the T-bone steak and vegetables. Ordering them is definitely one of the best things to do in Gjilan, Kosovo!
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Today, Gjilan is known as one of Kosovo’s most beautiful towns. Its urban area is home to a little over 54,200 residents as of the 2011 census. The majority of its people are Albanian, though there is also a sizeable Serb population.
Abdullah Tahiri 26
In a dark moment in its history, Gjilan was the site of the murder of roughly 8,000 Kosovo Albanians during World War II. The incident, known as the Gjilan Massacre, was the work of Yugoslav Partisans and took place on January 23, 1944.
Obviously, you can’t spend two days in Gjilan without having a place to lay your head at night. If you’re ever in town, I highly suggest staying at one of the area’s premier resorts, Resort PLANET Gjilan. It’s easily one of the best things to see and do in Gjilan, Kosovo.


The market is essentially a small square lined with shops. It’s a popular place where Kosovar men buy gifts for their wives and girlfriends. Best of all, the prices are quite reasonable at only 45 Euros per gram.
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