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The capital of Kosovo was a place that fascinated me before my visit. After learning about the history of Kosovo (and the locals’ vision for the future) while exploring the best things to do in Pristina, I’m still just as captivated by the place.
Why? It’s new yet old, a little rough around the edges, a canvas for modern art, unbothered if some of its buildings are ‘ugly’ (what’s that anyway?) and there’s always, always coffee.
I really enjoyed my time in Pristina. I teamed up with a local guide to learn first-hand about Kosovo from an insider’s perspective, discovered the city through my tastebuds (Kosovan food is tasty and hearty) and soaked up the sights from brutalist architecture to vibrant street art.
Getting to Pristina
By air: Pristina International Airport is 20km from the city and takes 25 minutes to arrive by car or taxi. I use Skyscanner to find flights, searching by ‘whole month’ to get the cheapest prices.
By bus: I caught a local bus from Belgrade to Kosovo and it’s important to note that – due to Serbia not recognising Kosovo’s sovereignty – you should visit the cities in that order rather than Kosovo first. Global companies like Flixbus don’t serve Pristina bus station but local buses do. Prizren (Kosovo) and Skopje (North Macedonia) are popular destinations to visit by bus before or after Pristina.
From the bus station to the city, there are a few buses but the journey takes 40 minutes (at least according to Google Maps) including a walk. The drive only takes 10 minutes so I would advise taking a taxi; it will be less than €5.
Getting around Pristina
Walking: Pristina has the feel of a big town so most of the main attractions can be reached on foot.
Public transport: there are a few buses that will take you to out-of-town Pristina attractions like Gërmia Park but they’re not the quickest or most efficient way to travel. Tickets cost around 50 cents in cash to the driver.
Car hire: there are several things to do in Pristina like visiting the Bear Sanctuary that can’t be reached by public transport, as well as further afield places like Peja. Hire a car at the airport with Rentalcars.com.
Taxi: although you can’t hail them with the apps you usually would, taxis are a cheap and convenient way to travel around, for example to the airport or bus station.
Useful stats about Kosovo
Ethnicity: over 90% of Kosovans identify as ethnically Albanian.
Currency: Euro (although it’s not in the EU, they switched from the mark when Germany did in 2002).
Where to stay in Pristina
- Hostel – I stayed at Prishtina Center Hostel which is a comfy base to meet other travellers, right in the heart of town. The only downside is the many stairs to reach it! But the views from the balcony are great.
- Budget/mid-range – stay at Garden Downtown for bright, spacious rooms, a shared lounge, terrace and a restaurant serving tasty breakfast, all from €60 a night.
- Splash out – for 5-star luxury starting at just €115, Swiss Diamond has 2 restaurants, 2 bars, a heated swimming pool, spa and steam bath!
- Apartment – Select Apartments and Lux Apartments are comfy apartments with fully equipped kitchens and all your amenities from €45.
- Browse all hostels on Hostelworld and hotels & apartments on Booking.com.
The main things to do in Pristina, Kosovo
Here are the key tourist attractions in Pristina. Later, I’ll run through the hidden gems and where to eat and drink.
Find the Newborn Monument
There’s something poignant about one of the newest attractions in Pristina symbolising THE newest country in Europe. The Newborn Monument was built to celebrate independence from Serbia in 2008. It was put up on the DAY of independence, wasting no time!
There’s not a whole lot to ‘do’ in this area but it’s worth swinging by to see this emblem of the city. Our guide on the free walking tour told us that it’s currently decorated with images of strong women from society. Cheers to that!
Decide if the National University Library is cool or hideous
Voted one of the ugliest buildings in Europe alongside the Pyramid of Tirana, the Genex Tower in Belgrade and the Radio building in Bratislava (all buildings I have seen during my recent travels), the National University Library of Kosovo divides the masses.
In Brutalist style, much is theorised as to the meaning behind it. Some say the white domes resemble men’s hats worn in typical folk dress, thus blending the traditional with the modern (unless it’s just a coincidence of course).
Although many travellers just admire (or whatever the opposite of that word might be) the library from the outside, you can go inside to browse more than 2 million library items!
My opinion? I didn’t hate it. The chains around the building made me think of the metaphorical chains that surrounded Kosovo for so long. It’s also worth a visit for the history: it acted as a shelter for Bosnian and Croatian refugees during the breakup of Yugoslavia, and a Serbian headquarters in the Kosovan War.
Visit Mother Teresa Cathedral
One of the most famous buildings in Pristina is Mother Teresa Cathedral named, unsurprisingly, after the famous Macedonian nurse born to Albanian parents. Given that over 90% of Kosovans identify as ethnically Albanian, she’s highly revered in Kosovo. As you’ll notice, there’s also a square, statue and boulevard dedicated to her.
Climb the Bell Tower
The main reason to visit Mother Teresa Cathedral is to soak up the views from the bell tower, the tallest vantage point around. You can take an elevator to the top for just €1.50. Once there, walk around the tower soaking up 360-degree views of the city and countryside.
Bill Clinton Boulevard
Anyone not yet clued up on Kosovan history may wonder why on earth there’s a statue and boulevard dedicated to an ex-US president. This is why I recommend reading up on the history before you explore the attractions in Pristina.
Built in thanks to the US for helping them win the war against Serbia, the boulevard represents gratitude for Kosovan independence. The same level of admiration applies to Tony Blair (which seems controversial given later events) and apparently many Kosovan teenagers are named after him.
Spot the Përmendorja statue
Another structure that may raise eyebrows is the Përmendorja statue. It does make you wonder who approved these crazy designs!
It’s a memorial to brotherhood and unity, dedicated to fallen soldiers during the Liberation Struggle (WWII). From past photos I’ve seen, it used to be a bleak grey colour. Now a jazzy purple, it’s worth working into your Pristina sightseeing plans.
This square is the heart of the action. I stayed in a hostel overlooking it from the balcony. I loved to drink my morning coffee and watch the buzzing city come to life. Unlike the much bigger Skanderbeg Square (one of the top attractions in Tirana), it’s a small square that marks the start of Mother Teresa Boulevard which runs for 1.5 miles and connects many of the top things to do in Pristina.
Find the Mother Teresa statue
This bronze statue on Mother Teresa Boulevard is dedicated to the Nobel Peace prize winner. She stands with a small child apparently meant to represent the less fortunate of the world.
Enjoy the atmosphere on the Boulevard
MT Boulevard is one of the key places to visit in Pristina and, better yet, it’s people-watching central.
Cafes and grill restaurants spill out onto the streets with locals soaking up the sun or sheltering from the cold. In my opinion, your time in Kosovo is better spent learning about the history and culture than hitting up must-sees so I recommend a long, leisurely afternoon meandering the boulevard and stopping for coffee(s), grill food and rakija!
Cultural things to do in Pristina, Kosovo
Once you’ve ticked off the main things to see in Pristina, get stuck into the culture. There are plenty of museums and galleries covering topics from contemporary history to ancient ways of life.
To learn about the history of Kosovo from prehistoric times to independence in 2008, visit Kosovo Museum. Admittedly it’s not the best museum in the world: there’s not loads to see, plus some exhibits are under construction.
Entry is free so it’s a good thing to do in Pristina if you’re on a budget and have an hour to kill. You can give a donation which is probably a good idea as it may go to improving the museum!
One of the top things to see is the world’s largest staple mural with no less than 1.5 million staples depicting an image of Mother Teresa’s face.
The Ethnographic Museum is inside a lovely old house on stilts surrounded by trees, indicating how people used to live. Inside, it feels less like a museum and more like someone’s home, preserved in time several centuries ago. You’ll see period furniture and traditional Kosovan folk outfits.
Entry is FREE and includes a guided tour. How good is that? Our tour was from a member of staff who was enthusiastic and passionate.
If you’re planning on taking the free walking tour, don’t come to the Ethnographic Museum beforehand because it’s included as a stop. Whether you want to return afterwards is up to you; the stop on the tour was enough for me.
Visit the National Gallery
Another free thing to do in Pristina is visit the National Gallery near the ‘ugly’ University Library. Established alongside the University of Pristina’s Faculty of Arts, it’s a small gallery focussing on the struggle for Kosovan independence with some captivating photography and artwork.
Christ the Saviour Orthodox Cathedral
This is another attraction in Pristina that won’t mean anything unless you read up on the history or visit with a guide. This abandoned and unfinished building is a stark reminder of Kosovo’s dark history, dubbed the ‘political church’.
Kosovo has a Muslim majority so it was with force that Serbia began building this Orthodox church. Although the environment around such churches is important (hence many are beside parks), this church ended up surrounded with barbed wire to prevent attacks.
When Serbia withdraw from Kosovo, the orthodox cathedral was left unfinished. It’s now empty, leaving locals to ponder what it could be used for instead. My vote is a quirky nightclub!
Free walking tour
The steps of the National Theater (Teatri Kombetar) are where free walking tours begin. They’re a great (and affordable) way to get immersed in the history and culture of Kosovo, from a local’s perspective.
Tours run daily at 10am and 4pm, lasting around 2.5 hours and finishing at Mother Teresa Cathedral. Booking on the website is advised. Give €5-10 if you enjoy it.
They also organise other tours at a surcharge for example to the Bear Sanctuary and Gracanic Monastery, plus food tours, war tours and nightlife tours.
Spot street art
I had a fantastic time exploring the street art of Pristina and trying to work out what the murals mean… If anything! You’ll see some in the city centre including one of Dua Lipa (did you know she’s Kosovan?) but it’s also worth seeking out other locations.
The Kino Armata centre is a cool spot, then there’s a huge mural of a woman here close to Pishat restaurant. If you walk down Bill Clinton Boulevard away from the city, you’ll find tons of urban art by the big roundabout (pinned here).
For a fun thing to do in Prishtina, take a tour with Kosovo Walker or use Street Art Cities to find mural locations.
Browse Pristina Bazaar
If you want to see local life, get down to Pristina Bazaar. This sprawling market stretches through the cobbled streets of the old town selling fruit, vegetables, electronics, utensils, clothes, souvenirs and everything else you didn’t know you needed.
In use since the 15th century during the Ottoman era, this historic part of Pristina is credited with the economic and social development of the city. It was largely destroyed in the 1950s but is now restored and as bustling as ever.
For a visual look at the market, watch this YouTube video from Dabble & Travel.
Visit the mosques
Xhamia e Madhe, known as the Stone Mosque, is the best one for tourists to visit. Marking the start of the Old Town, it’s just a 6-minute walk from Skanderbeg Square.
Translating as the King’s Great Mosque, it was built in 1460 during the Ottoman era. It was briefly converted to a Catholic church during Austrian rule and a famous poet was buried here. Later, he was exhumed and it became a mosque once again.
Tourists can go inside provided they’re wearing long pants and women cover their hair. I didn’t go inside but I enjoyed admiring this intricate blue ceiling (which reminded me of one in Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina) from the inside.
Find the Heroinat Memorial
Directly across from the Newborn Monument is an unusual piece of what looks like modern art but is actually a memorial to women who suffered during the War. Since the Newborn Monument is currently decorated with images celebrating women, these two work together to celebrate yet also educate and share dark, recent stories.
The Heroinat Memorial is made up of 20,000 pins, the same number of women who survived sexual violence at the hands of Serbian soldiers. It’s certainly good for educating visitors (I wouldn’t have known otherwise) but I’ve since read that many don’t like it because it reduces survivors’ stories to a nameless pin.
Culinary things to do in Pristina
For me, half the fun of visiting a new place is finding all the best food and drink, taking food tours, cooking classes and whatever else I can find!
Try local dishes
Kosovan food is tasty and hearty, although vegans might not agree. Here are a few top dishes to look out for (many of which can be found in other Balkan countries too):
- Stuffed peppers – usually containing minced meat
- Borek – this flaky pastry dish is found in all the Balkan countries
- Shopska salad – hard sheep’s cheese with cucumber, tomato, pepper and onion
- Grilled meats – usually served with salad
- Tavë Prizreni – casserole with lamb and eggplant
- Sarma – minced meat wrapped in cabbage leaves
- Flija – cream and baked batter are layered, a bit like a white lasagne
- Cevapi – grilled mince meat sauces served with onions and sour cream
- Ajvar – rich red pepper paste is a popular condiment found in Kosovo and other Balkan countries.
Explore the restaurants
- Shpija e Vjetër – my favourite restaurant in Prishtina with indoor trees and quirky clutter. The food is incredible: I tried kofta casserole and roasted peppers in yoghurt sauce. Wash it down with local wines or rakija!
- Caffez – this is a stylish restaurant with a large terrace area. It’s a good place to try modern Kosovan cuisine for example my giant mezze plate with sweet stuffed peppers, meats, fried white cheese, chicken wings and onion rings
- Pishat – this is one of the most popular restaurants in Pristina for good reason! It’s a great place to try tasty local foods in atmospheric surroundings (there’s indoor and outdoor seating). The coffee with cognac is worth a try.
- Liburnia – this old house from the Ottoman period is filled with vintage furniture and serves unusual, tasty Kosovan dishes like chicken with chilli and peaches.
- Baba Ganoush – the best place for Middle Eastern food in the city is also one of the best places in Pristina for veggies and vegans. Yum!
For a fun activity in Pristina for foodies, I can vouch for a food tour with Kosovo Walker. We discovered lots of traditional dishes while learning about their origins. When the huge platter above was the starter, I knew we were in for a good time!
- Borek (flaky pastry with spinach, cheese and meat)
- Roasted peppers stuffed with rice and meat in a rich goulash sauce
- Bean soup
- Kofta casserole
- Roasted peppers with yoghurt.
Choose from traditional food tours, gourmet food tours and even a veggie food tour. There’s also a beer tour and a wine tour. On that note…
Try Kosovan wine
You’ve probably never tried Kosovan wine before. I found in the Balkans that each country had delicious, locally-produced wine that rarely makes it out of the country.
Why? Firstly because the locals drink it all (and who could blame them?) and secondly because wineries usually produce on a small scale. During the communist era, they were state-owned, focussing on quality rather than quantity. It’s not surprising they’ve taken a while to get back on their feet.
I haven’t tried all the Kosovan wines yet but I can vouch for Stone Castle Cabernet Sauvignon. This dry white wine with low tannins went down very easily!
Enjoy the cafe scene
From local cafes where you’ll rub shoulders with locals to cool cafes serving third-wave coffee, it’s an exciting time for the Kosovan cafe scene. Once you’ve ticked off the main things to do in Pristina, kick back at…
- Soma Book Station – this has to be the most beautiful cafe in Prishtina with shelves of books and a garden. As well as coffee, they serve food like burgers (veggie ones for €3.50!) and mezze. At night it becomes a lively bar. Make sure to book ahead for dinner.
- Matcha Coffee and Eatery – as a matcha fan, I loved this cafe serving hot and cold matcha drinks. They also do healthy bowls, salads and brunch dishes from €2! The cafe itself is very aesthetically pleasing.
- Dit’ e Nat’ – a lovely open-plan cafe with shelves of books, a co-working area and garden. It’s a simple menu of coffee, cocktails, wine, beer and snacks from €1.
Things to do in Pristina at night
The Kosovan capital is a lively city once the sun goes down. Here’s what to do at night:
Korriku Street, just off Mother Teresa Boulevard, is informally dubbed rajika street because so many bars serve the famous Balkan beverage popular in Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, North Macedonia and Albania.
Locals (if you’re reading) please don’t hate me but rajika isn’t my favourite drink. But of course, I’ve drunk it many times because it’s constantly handed around and rude to refuse!
Grab a seat in Taverna Tirona or anywhere else nearby and let the fruit liquor flow!
Watch sunset from a rooftop bar
One of the best places in Pristina for a sundowner is Hotel Sirus. I found a rooftop bar with beers from €2 and Aperol Spritz for €4. Bargain! Better yet, the bar has great views and faces towards sunset.
It was a bit quiet when I visited but perhaps it gets busy later. They also serve cocktails from €4 but they all seemed a bit sugary and girly for my liking; not a marg in sight. Hell.
Things to do near Pristina
It’s easy to exhaust the attractions in Pristina centre because it’s not the biggest city. The advantage of hiring a car is that you can get into the countryside and visit a few other places of interest. Otherwise, I’d recommend travelling as part of an organised tour because public transport is hit and miss.
The best place to visit near Pristina for fresh air and nature is Gërmia Park. There are walking and running routes amidst pine forests in this 62km park and a seasonal swimming pool. In the winter, you can even go skiing!
There are a few restaurants in the park if you get hungry but it’s also a lovely place for a picnic. Buy some borek or bread, cheese and ajvar in Pristina and bring it along.
Drive to the park in 10 minutes or catch bus number 4 from the city centre.
Just a 20-minute drive from the city is one of four UNESCO Heritage sites in Kosovo known for its mesmerising frescos inside. Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to take photos of them so you’ll have to use your imagination and go see them for yourself!
Gračanic Monastery was one of the last buildings of King Milutin Nemanjic’s reign, finished in 1321. Although it’s been damaged during attacks through the centuries, it has managed to survive. I’m glad because the interior is simply stunning.
It’s worth a visit if you’re en route to the Bear Sanctuary which is a 10-minute drive away.
Note: if your legs aren’t covered (mine weren’t), you’ll have to hire a cover-up at the front entrance before going inside the monastery. Have some small change handy.
Bear Sanctuary Pristina
This wonderful bear sanctuary out in the countryside is the place to see beautiful brown bears rescued from cruel captivity. I learnt from my guide that it was legal to keep bears in Kosovo until 2010 and businesses like restaurants used them to entertain guests.
Luckily, the charity Four Paws gives them a better life at this 16-hectare sanctuary. For animal lovers, one of the best things to do near Pristina is wander past their spacious enclosures, learn about their rescue stories, and even complete bear quizzes at boards dotted around.
Entry to Pristina Bear Sanctuary costs just €2, visit between 10am and 7pm daily. I’d also recommend joining a guided tour (running hourly between 11am and 6.30pm, Thurs-Sun).
Right beside the Bear Sanctuary is Badovac Lake, a lovely stop in summer. Locals use it to escape the city and swim, fish, picnic and relax in nature. Why not join them?
You won’t find much to eat or drink around here so your best bet is to pack a picnic. If you’re visiting Gračanic Monastery and the Bear Sanctuary, make a half day of it.
One of the most beautiful places to visit near Pristina is Peja, a countryside region with abundant opportunities for adventure. Although, when most people hear ‘peja’, they will instantly think of Kosovo’s most famous beer!
Hike and explore caves in Rugova Gorge, visit the Patriarchate of Peja Monastery, admire White Drin Waterfall and Sleeping Beauty Cave, then check out the Ethnological Museum and Bajrakli Mosque in Peja town. There’s lots to pack in but you can do it as a day trip from Pristina if you’re up early.
How to visit Peja: With most of the attractions dotted around the countryside, it’s not somewhere you can visit with public transport. Your best bet is hiring a car or taking an organised trip. It’s a 1 hour 20-minute drive from the capital.
If you just visit one other place in Kosovo, I highly recommend Prizren. It’s a charming small city (that feels more like a town) with beautiful mosques and sunsets from the Fortress.
There isn’t loads to do in Prizren but it’s a great place to relax, stroll the waterfront, people-watch from Prince Coffee House (the best place for an iced coffee) and eat tasty food even cheaper than in Pristina! Noja Kuzhine is a lovely veggie cafe where I had breakfast and coffee for €3.
I planned to visit Prizren as a day trip from Pristina but, because it was so hot and I wouldn’t arrive until late morning when it was already scorching, I decided to stay overnight so I could sightsee early and late. This worked well because it was actually closer to my next stop of Skopje in North Macedonia.
It’s easy to catch a bus from Pristina to Prizren for a couple of Euros. I stayed at Ura Hostel which is a lovely, modern base close to everything with superb reviews.
Is Pristina safe for solo travel?
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the best experience. I didn’t feel unsafe but I found attitudes toward women old-fashioned, from blonde jokes to comments about women cooking. I also experienced wolf-whistling in the street.
Maybe it was just bad luck and I’d never want to tar a whole country with the same brush, but I can only speak based on my experiences.
It was a shame since my walking tour guide had pointed out statues highlighting women’s experiences in the war and the murals of strong women on the Newborn sign. Not to mention their ambassadors of Rita Ora and Dua Lipa! My expectations were high so I felt disappointed with the experiences I had.
Hopefully, it was just bad luck and that attitudes and values will change over time. It’s worth noting I never felt unsafe, even while walking at night. It was just bloody irritating.
Is it worth visiting Pristina?
If you’re looking for a city that’s squeaky clean and polished with endless attractions, well, Pristina may not be for you. But if you’re keen to explore somewhere that many tourists don’t and learn about a fascinating part of the world (with very cheap prices!), then yes, it is worth visiting Pristina.
How cheap is Kosovo?
It’s one of the cheapest places I’ve been, almost on a part with Southeast Asia. Hostels start from €8, restaurant meals from €3 and beers from €1! I took out €100 when I arrived and it easily lasted my whole 3-day trip.
One thing to note is that you can rarely pay with bank card so you will need to carry cash. However much you withdraw from the ATM, there’s a €5 charge.
How long to spend in Pristina?
A day in Pristina is long enough to see the main sights. However, if you want to take some day trips, visit countryside attractions or simply relax and enjoy the coffee scene, I would suggest spending 2-3 days in Pristina.
What is Pristina known for?
Pristina is known for its recent history and being the newest country in Europe. I would add that it SHOULD also be known for its coffee culture and the beautiful countryside around it!
Thanks for reading!
I hope you have a better idea of what to do in Pristina and where to eat, explore and relax. Enjoy!
Read more Balkan blogs:
- 2 day Sofia itinerary
- What to do in Tirana, Albania
- 2 week Albania itinerary
- Things to do in Belgrade, Serbia
- What to do and see in Skopje, North Macedonia
- 2 week Romania itinerary
- Things to do in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina
- What to do in Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina
- 10 day Montenegro itinerary
- Things to do in Kotor, Montenegro
- 7 day Croatia itinerary
- What to do in Split, Dubrovnik, Zadar and Zagreb, Croatia
TRUSTED RESOURCES FOR VISITING KOSOVO
Getting around by air – I use Skyscanner and search by month to see the cheapest dates.
Driving in Europe – use Rentalcars.com to compare car rentals in European countries (and all around the world).
For hotels and self-catering apartments, I use Booking.com. You can filter by review score and price to find the best-rated budget places. For hostels, I use Hostelworld.
To save money on accommodation, I use Trusted Housesitters, a website that connects homeowners going away and travellers who can sit their homes & pets.
Browse tours and Prishtina activities on GetYourGuide and Viator.
Need travel insurance? I use World Nomads. They cover 150 counbtries and have 24-hour emergency assistance.
Check out my resources page for more travel discounts and budget tips from my 10+ years on the road!