As Europe’s newest country – Kosovo declared it’s independence in 2008 – tourism in Kosovo is slowly but surely increasing. Located in the centre of the Balkans, it’s not as popular of a destination as its neighbors, but it’s just as lovely, if not better!
GUEST POST BY ERIN MARTIN
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What’s the best time to visit Kosovo?
Kosovo is located in Southern Europe and is a country of mountains and valleys. April to September is spring and summer, and it is a great time for hiking and other outdoor activities. Winter brings snow to the mountains and Kosovo has some great ski hills, with prices being cheaper than other places in Europe.
A Few facts about Pristina
Throughout the years, the area has been ruled by the Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans, Bulgarians, Serbians and more recently, as a republic of Yugoslavia. Now an independent Republic, Kosovo’s capital is Pristina. Predominantly Albanian, it’s the largest city in Kosovo and the second-largest Albanian speaking city after Tirana, the capital of Albania.
Pristina is one of the safest capital cities to visit. It’s certainly not the prettiest city but there’s an interesting mix of traditional and modern architecture along with the vibe of a smaller town, and the friendliest and most welcoming people you’ll meet. Open to change and looking forward to the future, it’s an intriguing place to visit.
One Day in Pristina Itinerary
Pristina is a city where the sights aren’t as big of a draw as the people and the atmosphere. You can definitely see all the sights in one day, but don’t rush – slow down and embrace the culture.
Start your day off with a leisurely walk down Mother Teresa Boulevard, a pedestrian-only area filled with cafes and restaurants. Take some time for an espresso coffee, splurge on a macchiato (locals claim it’s the best in the world), or grab a pastry at any of the shops along the street. Then it’s time to see Pristina’s sights!
Palace of Youth and Sports
Located just off the Mother Teresa Boulevard at the Palace of Youth and Sports, the Newborn Monument is probably the most famous monument in Pristina. Unveiled on the day Kosovo declared their independence, the monument represents the birth of a new country. Standing 10 feet tall and weighing 9 tons, this monument is hard to miss! Each year, the letters are repainted and display a different design.
Located opposite the Newborn monument, the Heroinat Memorial honors the contribution and sacrifice of ethnic Albanian women during the 1998-1999 war in Kosovo. It is made from 20,145 medals, representing the number of women who suffered violence during the war. The medals are at different heights, to create a portrait in relief, representing Albanian women as both survivors and war heroines.
Center of Pristina
One of the main streets in Pristina is Bill Clinton Boulevard. Bill Clinton is highly regarded by the people of Kosovo, and credited for ending the Kosovo War. In addition to naming a major street after him, the 10 foot tall Bill Clinton statue was erected in 2009. Across from the statue is a women’s clothing store, aptly named Hilary.
Further along, Bill Clinton Boulevard lies the Cathedral of Saint Mother Teresa. This is the first Roman Catholic Cathedral in Kosovo. Although only a very small minority of the population is catholic, Mother Teresa was an ethnic Albanian and both of her parents were from Kosovo. The locals, and others throughout Albania and Macedonia, are very proud to remind the world that Mother Teresa was Albanian.
Through the park of the University of Pristina is the National Library of Kosovo. It’s hard to miss and some have called it the “ugliest building in the world”. Topped with 99 domes and encased in a metal net, it’s certainly a unique building.
During the Balkan wars, the building was housed refugees from Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina and was also used as a command centre for the Yugoslav army. Anyone can visit the Library but items cannot be borrowed and must be read inside, in any of the reading rooms.
Take a break from seeing the sights and head back to Mother Teresa Boulevard for a bite to eat. The Boulevard is filled with cafes and restaurants and many have a patio or seating area, which makes for a great spot to people watch. The food is cheap and you can fill up for only a few euros. Vegetarian options are limited, but many restaurants will offer salads.
After lunch, head north about 10 minutes, walking along Mother Teresa Boulevard and you’ll reach Skenderbeu Square. This square is a popular meeting spot for locals and true to its’ name, has a large statue of Gjergj Skenderbeu (George Skanderberg). Skenderbeu was an Albanian hero who fought against the Ottomans for decades. Pristina is one of three capitals, along with Tirana and Skopje, to erect a statue of this hero. This square is a popular meeting spot for locals.
As you reach the end of the pedestrian area, you’ll find the older quarter of Pristina. The Carshi Mosque marks the beginning of the Old Town and is the oldest building in Pristina. It was once the centre of the Bazaar and is sometimes to as the Bazaar Mosque or “Stone Mosque”, as the stone-topped minaret has survived for over six centuries. Another noteworthy mosque is the Sultan Mehmet Fatih Mosque, also known as the Imperial Mosque.
Built in 1461, the mosque was considered the largest construction for that time. For a short period, it was also used as a Jesuit church! Opposite the mosque is the Clock Tower. It still keeps time but now operates on electricity, as it was damaged during the war. Up the street from the Clock Tower lies The Ethnological Musuem. Inside a large walled garden, two well-preserved Ottoman-style houses show what traditional Kosovar life was like. English speaking guides will lead you through the house and answer any questions.
After a busy afternoon, head to Liburnia Restaurant, close to the Old Town. It’s cozy, casual, has great service and fantastic traditional food, all for a really decent price.
Some other options, if you prefer to head back down to the central area are:
Tiffany, serving organic, Albanian food. Most of the servers are English speaking.
Pishat, serving Albanian food but caution if you’re a non-smoker, as it can be smoky inside.
Babaghanoush is 100% vegetarian, serving a variety of Middle Eastern mezes. The falafel plate is great!
Where to stay in Pristina, Kosovo
Swiss Diamond Hotel Prishtina
Mother Theresa St, 21000 Pristina
Centrally located next to the National Theater, the Swiss Diamond Hotel Prishtina is a luxury, 5-star hotel. The hotel boasts conference rooms, two restaurants, a heated indoor swimming pool and a fitness centre. Wifi is available and free of charge. With its great service, good breakfast and central location, it’s a great choice for business or travelers.
Çajupi 4/a, 10000 Pristina
For a mid-range hotel, Hotel Lido is a good choice. It’s clean, well-recommended and just a short walk to the center of Pristina. Featuring free wifi, air conditioning and flat screen tv’s in each room. There’s a restaurant on the property and continental breakfast is included.
If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, Hostel Han and Prishtina Center Hostel are clean, friendly and well-recommended. Located in the centre of Pristina, (both are on the same block) both hostels offer air-conditioned dorms with free wifi, a 24-hour front desk and a shared kitchen. Pristina Center hostel is adults only and also offers an airport shuttle.
Day Trips from Pristina
If you have a bit more time in Pristina, here are some easy day trips from the capital.
Pristina Bear Sanctuary is located just outside Pristina, in the village of Mramor. Buses run from Pristina to the end of the road, but you will have to walk about 2.5km from the bus stop to the Sanctuary. Alternatively, a taxi will take you right to the sanctuary.
Prizren is a short day trip from Pristina. Local buses run frequently, and the trip is just over an hour, costing 5 euro. Although it’s the second largest town in Kosovo, it still has a small-town feel. The Old Town is full of cobblestones and cafes, with an old stone bridge and the Kaljaja fortress towering over it all.
Peja is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located in Northwestern Kosovo at the foot of the Accursed Mountains. Buses run from Pristina, taking an hour and a half and cost 4 euro.
Extra Tips for visiting Pristina
Kosovo’s currency is the Euro.
Most of the population speaks Albanian, although quite a few people speak English.
Food, accommodation and attractions are very inexpensive compared to Western Europe.
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