Kosovo is a mysterious country in the Balkans, and its status is still disputed. Not many people visit its capital, Pristina, but adventure travelers will enjoy the city’s authenticity. On this basis, here are the best things to do in Pristina, Kosovo.
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Welcome to Pristina: the Disputed Capital of Europe’s Youngest Country
Kosovo was part of Yugoslavia and later Serbia. The area’s inhabitants are majority Albanian Muslims.
In 1999, a brutal war raged between Serbia and its then-province of Kosovo. Atrocities happened, and NATO countries, spearheaded by US President Bill Clinton, decided to intervene.
They started bombing the Serbian capital of Belgrade, ending the Kosovo-Serbia War. Between 1999 and 2008, Kosovo was under UN administration.
In 2008, Kosovo unilaterally declared independence, breaking away from Serbia. In the following years, 97 UN member states – including the US, UK, France, and most of the European Union – recognized Kosovo as an independent nation.
Crucially, Serbia’s staunch ally Russia did not recognize Kosovo’s independence, preventing it from gaining UN membership.
As such, Kosovo’s status is still disputed. The small country has friendly relations with the US, the European Union, and its brother nation of Albania, but not Serbia and its allies.
Apart from politics, Kosovo is a fascinating place to visit. It has lots of historic sites and various national parks. Better still, it’s one of the most authentic places in the Balkans as there are close to zero tourists here.
So, if you are one of the few curious travelers who visit Kosovo, here are the top things to do in Pristina, the capital of Europe’s youngest country.
Check out my Pristina vlog on Youtube
The Best Things to do in Pristina, Kosovo
There aren’t a ton of Pristina attractions to speak of, but there is enough to do for a full day or even two. You can explore the city on foot as most tourist sites are within walking distance from one another. Here are some of the best things to do in Pristina.
The Newborn Monument
On February 17, 2008, Kosovo declared its independence. On the same day, the city officials unveiled the Newborn Monument.
Designed by Kosovar artist Fisnik Ismaili and creative agency Ogilvy Kosova, it’s a letter sign in central Pristina. Every year on Independence Day, the monument gets a new design.
It’s the primary sign of the country’s independence and the ideal place to start your Kosovo sightseeing trip.
The National Library
When it comes to the top things to see in Pristina, the National Library is up there.
Completed in 1982, the building supposedly blends Islamic and Byzantine architecture. Its style was controversial in the 80s, and it is still today. Apart from that, the building is a bit rundown.
Nevertheless, its collection of over 1.8 million books, journals, pictures, and digital resources makes it one of the top places to visit in Kosovo.
Mother Teresa Cathedral
Construction of the Cathedral of Saint Mother Teresa started in 2007. The building isn’t 100% complete, but most parts are open to the public. It’s dedicated to Mother Teresa, the Catholic nun of Kosovar/Albanian origin who was born in Skopje in the early 20th century.
Mother Teresa spent most of her life in India, but she is a beloved figure in the Balkans thanks to her heritage. Mother Teresa also acts as a symbol to the Catholic minorities in both Albania and Kosovo.
The Cathedral’s best feature is the terrace on the bell tower. You can access it by elevator and enjoy breathtaking views over the entire city.
The Bill Clinton Monument
US President Bill Clinton was one of the staunchest supporters of NATO intervention in Serbia.
As a consequence, the people of Kosovo are fond of his presidency and himself as a person. For that reason, he has a statue and a massive banner in the center of Pristina.
The Most Beautiful Mosques in Pristina
The various Ottoman mosques in the city are undoubtedly among the best places to visit in Pristina.
The best one is arguably the Imperial Mosque (Xhamia e Mbretit), built by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1461.
Apart from that one, Jashar Pasha’s Mosque (Xhamia e Jashar Pashës) and Xhamia e Llapit are also worth a visit. Most of the mosques are in the old Turkish area near the Kosovo Museum.
The Kosovo Museum
The largest museum in the city is the Kosovo Museum, and it’s undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Pristina.
The Austrian-style building dates from 1898 and was originally used by the Turkish army. After that, it was a Yugoslav army complex.
The museum used to house a vast collection of prehistoric objects, but most of them were transferred to Belgrade in the 1990s.
Today, the museum still displays archaeological items. As such, it’s one of the best places to learn about the history of Kosovo and the surrounding region.
The Authentic Local Market
Between the streets of Ilir Konusjevci (main street) and Iljaz Agushi, you’ll find one of the city’s largest markets. It doesn’t have a name, but you can buy everything from fake Rolexes to vegetables and clothes here.
Shopping at a traditional Balkan market is an experience in itself – and one of the most fun things to do in Pristina.
Where to Stay in Pristina
You can find a small selection of decent hotels in the center. There are no international chains here, but the local ones cater to what you need.
I stayed at Hotel Sirius, and it was excellent. The hotel is on the expensive side by Balkan standards, but it has a gym and a rooftop bar.
Find more places to stay in Pristina here.
Things to do in Pristina: Know Before You Go
To complete our Pristina, Kosovo guide, here are some useful things to know.
How to Get to Pristina
Pristina has a modern international airport with connections to some European countries and Turkey.
Another simple way to get to Pristina is by taking a bus from either Skopje, North Macedonia, or Tirana, Albania. Both the Albania and North Macedonia land borders are friendly and open.
From Tirana Bus Station (20 minutes from Skanderbeg Square on foot), you can take the company Arditi. They will get you to Pristina in 4-5 hours for around 10€.
Is Kosovo Safe?
Pristina and Kosovo, in general, are safe places to visit. Because there isn’t much tourism, you don’t have to worry too much about pickpocketing. Common sense will suffice.
Of course, if your country of origin doesn’t recognize Kosovo, you won’t have any embassies or other diplomatic relations.
The border region with Serbia has political problems and military presence, so it’s best to avoid this part of Kosovo – unless you’re familiar with the territory.
Language and Currency
People in Kosovo speak Albanian, but many know some English thanks to the UN administration. Lots of Kosovars go to Germany and Switzerland for work. As such, German is also quite common.
Kosovo uses the Euro as its currency.
Is Kosovo Worth Visiting? The Bottom Line
Kosovo doesn’t have a million tourist attractions, but it’s still worth a visit if you enjoy authenticity. Apart from Pristina, the small town of Prizren on the Albanian border is home to some stunning Ottoman architecture. There are also several national parks – including Rugova Canyon.
All in all, I enjoyed my time in Kosovo. It’s authentic and the locals are super-friendly.
It’s so untouristy that people asked me multiple times whether I was a NATO soldier or some kind of UN or EU project worker. Almost all foreigners in Kosovo are part of those two categories.
In all honesty, I wouldn’t recommend Pristina to first-time Balkan visitors. There are undoubtedly better tourist destinations in this region.
I visited every country in the Balkans, and Kosovo was the last one. That should tell you something about its status as a destination.
Here is my conclusion: if you’ve done most of the Balkans and want to see something off the beaten path, Kosovo is worth a stop.