15 Best things to do in Leskovac (Serbia)

In the fertile farmland of the Leskovian valley, the southern city of Leskovac receives national attention every October for its “Roštiljijada”. The festival can best be described as a giant barbecue, with the aroma of charcoal smoke and searing meat wafting across the city’s central boulevard. Carnivores from all over the country come to enjoy kebabs, Serbian-style burgers and other mouthwatering chargrilled cuts.

Leskovac has much more, like the ruins of Justiniana Prima, the entire city built on the orders of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in the 6th century, or natural settings like the beautiful and ancient Mount Hisar.

Let’s explore the best things to do in Leskovac:

1. Justiniana Prima

Justiniana Prima

Near the village of Prekopčelica, not far west of Leskovac, lie the ruins of a city built from scratch by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I in the 6th century.

The purpose of Justiniana Prima is to serve as the grand seat of an archbishop who has authority over the entire central Balkans.

However, it only existed for a century until it was sacked in 615 by the Avars advancing along the Danube.

The city has been excavated over the past 150 years and has a lot to explore: you’ll come across baths, a sewer system, fortifications, stone-paved squares, and mosaics and imprints of the Church of Justinian Cathedral with capital letters.

2. Leskovac BBQ Festival

Leskovac BBQ Festival

In late August and early September, thousands of people come to Leskovac for Roštiljijada, a barbecue festival that takes over the city center.

The main road at this time, Bulevar Oslobodjenja has an endless string of makeshift grills grilling sausages, suckling pigs, pork, lamb and beef cuts, as well as pljeskavica patties: these are like burgers, made from a seasoned mix of pork and beef. Cheng and mutton, a bun.

Public entertainment is also scheduled during the festival: we’re talking barbecue contests, concerts, folk dance ensembles and quirky side events like trying to cook the world’s largest pljeskavica.

3. National Museum

National Museum, Leskovac

The National Museum is housed in a hall in Stojana Ljubica, but the institution is also responsible for a number of other buildings and sites in the area.

The museum’s extensive collection of more than 33,000 objects showcases the archaeology, ethnography and art of the Leskovac and Jablanica districts.

The Town Hall Museum in Leskovac also hosts exhibitions of regional clothing and traditional crafts.

The main hall houses the artifacts of the Justiniana Prima and the 3,400-year-old Hisar settlement, which we will be visiting soon.

4. Ozarklia

Ozarklia, Leskovac

This church in the center of Leskovac is really strange: it dates back to 1803, when the city was still under Ottoman control.

At the time, the city’s Christians were forbidden to rebuild the medieval church that once stood on the site, so they converted a church disguised as a house.

Odžaklija has a rectangular floor plan with white stone arches and is probably the only church in the world with a chimney.

Abandoned in the 20th century, the roof collapsed in 1963 and was then fully restored in 1992.

5. Šop-Đokić House

Šop-Đokić House

Leskovac’s tourist office is housed in this fabulous early 19th-century house, probably the best in the city.

It is in the Balkan style and is owned by the wealthy Šop-Đokić family.

Two hundred years later, the same family is trying to reclaim the now state-protected property.

The house’s most striking detail is the facade, where a wood-framed gallery sits above the porch.

This is covered by exaggerated eaves, a hallmark of traditional architecture in southern Serbia.

Try looking at the main hall, which has a sensational carved wood ceiling, one of the few remaining examples.

6. Pašina Česma

Pasina Chesma

When Leskovians crave peace and fresh air, they turn to this beautiful spot 10 kilometers from the city.

In summer, buses run from the centre of Leskovac to Pašina Česma, but you can also easily get there by bike.

Pašina Česma (Pasha Fountain) has 86 hectares of meadows, oak and pine forests, where people play football, tennis, bikes, walks and even go hunting.

There is picnic space for 700 people, just to give you an idea of ​​how popular the park is.

A new luxury hotel has also just opened in the leisure centre, with a modern restaurant.

7. Hisar

Hisar, Leskovac

A natural barrier to the south of Leskovac, Hisar is a hill 341 meters above sea level.

You can easily walk from the city center, following winding paths through the taiga to the summit.

From time to time there are benches where you can look down at Leskovac through the branches.

The panorama at the top is fantastic and there is also an archaeological site to hold you here.

From the Neolithic to the early Middle Ages, the mountain has been inhabited for thousands of years, and you can make out mysterious walls, houses and the ruins of early churches.

8. Kukavica

Road through Mount Kukavica

Hardy souls can enter this forbidding massif just a few kilometers southeast of Leskovac.

Another option for Leskovians, this range promises wilderness, adventure, sparkling air and perfect seclusion.

The highest peak in the range is Vlaina, located in 1442 and can be conquered on the 28 km trail from Leskovac.

The entire plot is surrounded by a dense mixed forest of oak, beech and pine.

There are wild grasses on the trails too, and people even hike to pick rosemary and sage.

Furthermore, on the north side of the Kukavica River is the Vučjanka River, which winds through a gorge 300 meters deep and 2 kilometers long.

9. Sijarinska Banja

West Yalinskabania

This spa resort is located near Justiniana Prima, among low, beech and oak-covered peaks at 1,000 meters above sea level.

The Romans were the first to use these waters for their health benefits, and the resort was reborn under Ottoman rule in the 1600s when they built a public pool and spa.

There are a total of 18 springs in Sijarinska Banja gushing from the ground at temperatures between 32 and 72 °C. During the cooler months, you can see steam rising from the water, while in summer the pool is full of bathers.

Most people just come to take a relaxing bath and check out the geysers, which spray hot water more than eight meters into the air.

10. Cathedral Church

Cathedral Church, Leskovac

Back in the centre of Leskovac, the Orthodox Cathedral adjoins the Odžaklija Church, which took shape in the early 1920s.

In 1931, Alexander I of Yugoslavia attended the dedication of the church.

The design is neo-Byzantine, and if you know a little about the area’s monuments, you might see similarities with Kosovo’s UNESCO-listed Gracanica Monastery.

It is well thought out, and the church imitates the Serbo-Byzantine style with its slender windows and domes over lanterns.

11. Kosta Stamenković Memorial

Kosta Stamenković Memorial

The National Museum in Leskovac also manages the humble residence of revolutionary, communist and workers’ rights activist Kosta Stamenković.

In some ways he was a national hero, always part of the labor movement, but after losing his left arm in a mill accident in 1926, he became increasingly engaged. By the 1930s, Stamenkovic was a prominent political figure.

It wasn’t until World War II, when he was killed fighting the partisans against the Chetniks who were then collaborating with the Axis powers.

This little worker’s cottage sheds light on family life in the first half of the 20th century.

Items owned by Kosta and his daughter Lepša remain where they left off, along with memorabilia from the labor movement to 1942.

12. Summer Leskovac

Leskovac in summer

Held around midsummer, the event is a two-week ode to the city’s traditional culture.

During this period, Bulevar Oslobodjenja is closed to road traffic, and street performers and musicians entertain people on the night promenade of this central artery.

There are also religious and secular processions, while the main hall of the Šop-Đokić House is an atmospheric stage for concerts and dance performances.

13. Lake Frasina

Lake Frasina, Serbia

The largest man-made lake in Serbia is a day to remember.

This huge body of water is located on a plateau at an altitude of 1,211 meters.

It was born in the early 1950s when a dike flooded the peat bog where the Frasina and Fra rivers meet.

There is nothing but flawless nature on the coast, wild horses galloping through birch and evergreen forests. The lake is glassy and the summer temperature rises to over 20 degrees, making it a swimming paradise.

One of the lake’s more bizarre features is its floating islands, chunks of peat covered in vegetation and blown across the lake by the wind.

14. Visit Kafana

Kafana, Leskovac

These taverns are institutions in Serbia and the Balkans.

Kafanas are not only a way to learn about the cuisine, but also an introduction to the culture and customs of the region.

People usually go to Cabanas for lunch, but since a meal here requires six courses, it’s a weekend event, not a weekday: there’s an appetizer, hot appetizer, soup, main course, dessert, and coffee.

Not to mention the rakija (strong Balkan brandy), or the wonderful performances of the folk bands playing in these venues.

15. Food and drink

Preskavica

As you probably already know, Leskovac’s kebabs are popular: kebabs, chitterlings, pljeskavica (Serbian burgers) and bacon-wrapped chicken are some of the delicacies at the barbecue festival.

In another case, red bell peppers are grown in the countryside of the Leskovac region.

These are the main ingredients of the city’s most famous preparation: Ajvar is a paste made from roasted red peppers, garlic, eggplant, sunflower oil and chili peppers.

This is a homemade snack usually prepared in October or November when the peppers are harvested.

For this custom, families would come together and produce many jars that could be kept throughout the winter.

We cannot fail to mention rakija, the national drink of Sebia, a brandy made from papaya, plums, apples and apricots.

Where to stay: The best hotels in Leskovac, Serbia
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