Pristina

10 things to do in Pristina, Kosovo

There is an expression in Hebrew "Medina ba-derech" ("country on the way"), which means a young country.  In Kosovo you have a chance to witness how a new country is being born. Kosovo declared Independence in 2008 and its status is still questionable.

Kosovo is full of employees of international organizations, from UN peacemakers to European bank clerks, so English here is widely spoken and understood. Posh hotels, hipster coffee shops and Thai massage salons came to Pristina together with foreigners.

For a tourist, Pristina is a nice and hospitable place, although the tourist infrastructure is also "on the way" – no information center, most of the museums are on a reconstruction.

We were lucky to get a tourist map of Pristina from our host and I am gladly sharing it with you – please feel free to download and use (map+legend).

Kosovo Pristina
Mother Teresa boulevard

1. Stroll down the Mother Teresa boulevard from the statue of national Albanian hero Scanderbeg to Grand Hotel. This is the main pedestrian street of the city full of cafes, street musicians and souvenir shops.

2. Pay attention to the names of the streets, squares and boulevards – they are quite unique. Where else in the world can you find a crossing of Bill Clinton Boulevard with the Emperor Justinian Street?

newborn pristina
Newborn monument

3. Take a photo with the most famous city monument – giant letters "NEWBORN", celebrating the creation of the state of Kosovo. Local artists re-paint and re-design the letters every several months.

Ugly building
Pristina University Library

4. Visit the university campus to see the library building, that was included in the list of "30 ugliest buildings in the world".

5. Note the old architecture as well – mosques and traditional houses. One of such houses hosts an ethnographic museum, but it was closed during our stay in the city.

Ibragim Rugova
Independence house

6. Sign the visitors book in a tiny modest Independence House – the former resident of Ibragim Rugova, the first president of Kosovo. 

7. Enjoy the food tremendously. This deserves to be the first item on this to-do list. The choice of restaurants in Pristina is beyond imagination, the food is fresh and tasty and the prices are still very affordable. My personal recommendation – Pishat restaurant with Balkans food and the coffee shop Dit' e Nat' (Day and Night) with great coffee and satisfying breakfasts.

Prizren
Our Lady Church in Prizren – Unesco heritage

8. Go for a day tour to Prizren, a town a hour away from the capital by bus. The main highlight of Prizren is the XIV century Serbian Orthodox Church "Our Lady of Ljevis". It is a UNESCO protected site, but it is closed and tangled with barbed wire. Still, even the abandoned church is impressive. The center of Prizren is worth a long slow walk – a picturesque riverfront with a beautiful stone brigde, cobbled pavements, old houses, mosques, traditional bathing house, Sufi tekke. 

Gracanica
Frescos in Gracanica Monastery

9. Take a taxi to Gračanica, small town in the Serbian enclave, ten kilometers from Pristina. It is a weird place where you can feel the tension in the air – the Latin alphabet changes to Cyrillic and Albanian flags to Serbian. This town is worth visiting because of a monastery with incredible frescos – wall paintings. At the exit from the town you may see a very sad monument – huge letters "Missing" with the portraits of Serbs still missing as the result of the latest war.

10. Buy stamps of Kosovo at a post office for your collection or for your friend's collection.

tekke
Streets of Prizren old town

Useful information 

– The citizens of the U.S. and European Union do not need a visa to Kosovo. All the rest may check the visa requirements here.

– Serbia does not recognize Kosovo as a separate country. Thus if you enter Kosovo from any other country except for Serbia (including flying directly to Pristina airport) and then try to exit to Serbia, the Serbs would not let you enter. From their point of view you have illegally entered Serbian territory. Thus, plan your trip so that you both enter and exit Kosovo from Serbia or both enter and exit from other countries – Albania or Macedonia.

– The currency of Kosovo is euro. Neither Albanian leks nor Serbian dinars are accepted.

– As of 2017, the only way to get from Pristina airport to the center of the city is by taxi, which costs 25-30 euro. Surprisingly, the Kosovar taxi drivers almost do not bargain, they declare a final price from the beginning.

– There are buses from Pristina bus stations to Tirana, Skopje and other large cities of the region. The buses are not new, but reasonably comfortable and air-conditioned. The taxi from the bus station to the city costs 5 euro, from the city to the bus station you can agree for 3.5 euro.

– A young country's disadvantage – not all roaming packages cover Kosovo. Check with your mobile operator before the trip in order not to find yourselves disconnected.

– Same with car insurance – check the terms. The roads in Kosovo are not that bad – average for the region.

– There are plenty of hotels in the city – thanks to expats. But renting an apartment is usually cheaper. We stayed in a nice yellow studio on Airbnb and highly recommend it. You may get a $35 discount off your first order on Airbnb by this link.

– Last but not least, don't push your political agenda to the locals. You may ask questions and they would answer, but this is not the place to express your political views or try to impose them on your local companion. The trauma is too fresh and too painful.


16 Comments

  • Kavey Favelle

    08.07.2017

    I would love to visit Kosovo, and you have definitely given me reason to bump Pristina up my wishlist. The food is a big draw for someone like me but I am loving the history, the architecture, the modern in with the old, and the list of practical tips is really helpful.

    Reply
    • Elena Nemets

      09.07.2017

      If you are a foodie, don’t miss Tirana, the capital of Albania, as well – the restaurants there are a-ma-zing!

      Reply
  • Miranda

    09.07.2017

    Love that local artists get to redesign and paint the newborn monument–what a really cool opportunity for them!

    Reply
  • Jenn and Ed Coleman

    09.07.2017

    The Pristina Library is almost so ugly that it's cute. I don't know if I am a fan, but I am sure that I don't hate it. Solid advice on not pushing politial agenda, especially with how fresh everything is. This was fascinating look at a very young country.

    Reply
    • Elena Nemets

      09.07.2017

      I love weird architecture, and this library was at least unusual!

      Reply
  • Punita Malhotra

    09.07.2017

    What a delightful place Pristina is! The streets are so typically European. And that cute little Independence House…where first president of Kosovo stayed!

    Reply
    • Elena Nemets

      09.07.2017

      He lived there! What a modest man he was, indeed!

      Reply
  • Travelling Dany

    09.07.2017

    Thank you very much for sharing your map!!! You're right, it's not easy to find information on Pristina! I'll save this for later use, because it's such a useful article!

    Reply
    • Elena Nemets

      10.07.2017

      You are welcome! The map was such a valuable asset to us! We usually expect to find maps in the information center, but there is none in Pristina! (although it is possible to buy a map in a bookstore).

      Reply
  • Lara Dunning

    10.07.2017

    Food, museums, old churches, weird architecture – I'm sold! Would love to visit one day. 

    Reply
  • Wow what an interesting place. I will be bookmarking this for when I go, very useful! 

    Reply
  • Jennifer

    10.07.2017

    I thought the Pristina University Library was very cool looking.  Although, I guess I can see why it made the ugliest buildings list:)

    Reply
  • Sarah

    11.07.2017

    Really great tips here. Love the sound of the restaurants. Seems like a great stopover on our tour of Europe!

    Reply
    • Elena Nemets

      12.07.2017

      It is indeed a great stopover!

      Reply
  • Corinne

    12.07.2017

    Fascinating! Kosovo is one of our final four countries to visit in Europe. We've been to all of the other Balkan countries and would love to finish off with a week in Kosovo. How is renting a car there?

    Reply
    • Elena Nemets

      12.07.2017

      We actually did not take a car there, travelled from Albania and to Macedonia via Kosovo by bus. But there are rental agencies in Kosoo itself and also in other Balkans countries covering Kosovo.

      Reply

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