Imagine a provincial city that suddenly becomes the capital of the new, independent country. What’s more, the country is still a disputable territory under the observation of international forces hence often in the spotlight.
That’s the story of Pristina, Kosovo – a newborn capital.
There aren’t any major things to do in Pristina, the city isn’t often named one of the Balkan highlights.
For most of the visitors the capital of Kosovo might be just ugly and boring and I get that, that was my very first impression too when I visited Pristina as the day trip from Skopje (capital of Macedonia).
The city started growing on me and I was dreaming of returning. And so during my second visit, I loved more or less everything about Pristina!
So what it doesn’t have any major tourist attractions or highlights! Instead, it’s the city with the amazing vibe and cafe culture, both are among the best I’ve ever experienced!
Now I’m in Pristina for the third time.
I didn’t really plan to come here during this Balkan travel but since I was so close and had to get from Belgrade, Serbia to North Macedonia I figured why not stopping in Pristina along the way and enjoy it again.
And so here I am, writing the post about reasons to visit Pristina, Kosovo from my favorite cafe (my computer even remembered the wifi password here! ;))
Reasons to visit Pristina, Kosovo
I literally can’t decide which order I should put those in as each of them is a very solid reason for me to visit Pristina. So, here we go:
Coffee in Pristina is the best, hands down. Everyone thinks so and even me, who is not so crazy about coffee, can vouch for it. With the prices starting at 1€ (and 2-2,5€ for the most expensive coffee in the menu) you can be sure Pristina is pure heaven for every coffee lover!
The city is full of cafes, you can find one every few steps! Some of them are just random places with few tables, others are stylish and trendy (and so is the clientele there). You can be sure that you will find something for yourself in Pristina!
My favorite places are Soma Book Station (where I’m sitting right now), Dit e Nat and Half & half cafe.
If you’re wondering why the cafes are busy day and night there’s a second truth to the phenomenon (besides being the favorite pastime activity of locals in the Balkans).
The unemployment in Kosovo is huge, also among young people. Therefore, instead of sitting at home and feeling miserable people head to the cafe, order one cup for 1€ and spend hours sipping it and chatting with friends.
Pristina has one of the coolest vibes I’ve ever encountered! Just like the cafes, the main pedestrian street – Bulevardi Nënë Tereza – is always full of people walking it up and down.
When I arrived today (on Monday!) at noon I was surprised how many people are out there, taking a stroll. Even if the weather was gloomy and it was about to rain any second people were there.
That’s actually what I remember the best from my first visit to Pristina. It was midweek somewhen in November and the city was vibrant and alive.
It seems like everyone is on the boulevard!
Teenagers and students head there after school, young people who have nothing better to do hang around there, so do older people who want to kill the time, in the afternoon people in formal clothes hang around here after work (numerous government and international institutions are located nearby) and in the evening literally everyone is here.
I remember last time I was in Pristina on the warm weekend it was almost impossible to walk through, there were so many people! And everyone had a great time!
Albanian people even have a word for this activity – xhiro – and that’s what makes the cool Pristina’s vibe for me!
This is one of two main attractions of Pristina – the NEWBORN monument. Kosovo is the youngest country in Europe, declared its independence on 17th February 2008 (and still only 115 countries recognize Kosovo as the independent state).
The NEWBORN sculpture is a peculiar symbol of the new country.
At first, it was only painted yellow but eventually, it was covered in flags of the countries that recognized Kosovo independence. Now, every year on 17th February, the monument changes its look.
I’ve seen it in the military pattern or covered in clouds but the most I like the current look with bricks and letters N and W lying down. It means there should be no walls (hence N and W are used) and I think it says a lot about current times.
Anyway, NEWBORN makes a very good excuse for me to visit Pristina – I simply have to see the current look of the sculpture!
Newborn in 2014
Newborn in 2016
Newborn in 2017
The ugliest / prettiest library in the world
Former Yugoslavia really knew how to built buildings in brutalists style (Skopje being probably the best example here).
But for me, the most beautiful brutalist building, ever, is in Pristina.
Some call it the ugliest library in the world, I call it the prettiest!
The building of the National Library of Kosovo was designed by the Croatian architect Andrija Mutnjaković and opened in 1982. It is especially known for the distinctive domes (99 of them to be exact) and the metal fishing net that covers the whole structure.
It’s interesting to peek inside too and see how the domes look from that perspective! Every time I see this building I can’t help but smile, it’s so pretty!
Perfect daytrip base
Pristina can be a great base to explore Kosovo!
The city is centrally located and there are regular bus departures to more or less every city in Kosovo (and to Skopje!). The longest journey would be to Prizren, around 2 hours and 4€.
And there is so much to see in Kosovo!
Prizren for beautiful old town with the fortress above (a place that everyone loves but for me it kind of lacked the vibe Pristina has), Gjakova for the great old bazaar (also full of cafes), Peja as the getaway to the Prokletje Mountains or Mitrovica – a city divided between Albanians and Serbs.
But as great all those places are it was Pristina that stole my heart and returning here in the late afternoon was great, just in time to enjoy the social runaway on the main pedestrian street!
Pristina, Kosovo – practical information
If you decide to visit Pristina (I highly recommend it!) here is also a mini cheat sheet to the city!
How to get to Pristina?
Pristina has an international airport and recently it’s been served by low-cost airlines too!
I once took EasyJet from Berlin, now there is also Wizzair flying from Budapest.
You can also fly to Skopje, Macedonia and from there it’s only 2 hours to Pristina, buses run regularly and the price should be around 5€.
There are also bus connections from Belgrade, Serbia – I took it this morning. The ticket costs 18€ and the journey was 6 hours (it was supposed to be 7!).
There are conflicting information about crossing the border of Serbia with the stamp from Kosovo in your passport.
Most of the people claimed to have problems with it (which involved angry Serbian border police) but some said it wasn’t the problem at all.
To stay on the safe side I use my Polish ID to cross the Serbian border (in Kosovo the allow only passports) – check with your Ministry of Foreign Affairs which documents you might use when crossing borders of both Kosovo and Serbia!
Also, if you entered Kosovo from any other country than Serbia and want to continue to Serbia you might have issues too as Serbians would think you entered their country illegally.
In that case, it’s better to go to Serbia via Macedonia.
What to see in Pristina?
Besides NEWBORN monument and the National Library there are few more things to see in Pristina!
My newest discovery (that I found out about from Instagram) is the view from the tower of the cathedral. It costs only 1€ to ride the elevator up and you can admire the whole city and its surroundings from there.
Be sure to find the statue of Bill Clinton (with hilariously enormous hands!) surrounded by blocks of flats – it’s so very random!
Where to stay in Pristina?
Unfortunately, Pristina still lacks the affordable accommodation but it is definitely improving!
This time I’m staying in Han Hostel and for 25€ I have a spacious single room with breakfast. The hostel is located right by the main pedestrian street, few steps away from my two favorite cafes!
The only downside – it’s on the 3rd floor with no elevator (but the stickers on the stairs tell you how many stairs you have left!).
If you’re looking for a hotel or apartment in Pristina check the best deals on accommodation in the city here!
Where to eat in Pristina?
If you’re after a quick bite I can definitely recommend Papirun, it’s the best!
They serve cheap and delicious sandwiches, salads or soup! In lunchtime it can get very busy here!
Just downstairs you can find Baba Ghanoush with delicious food from Middle East.
If you’d like to try to local food and have a proper meal then restaurant Liburnia is a place for you.
The interior is really beautiful with so many flowers and plants and the food is to die for! The good thing about prices in Kosovo is that they won’t ruin your wallet!
Is Pristina safe?
Yes! I actually find it one of the safest cities I’ve been to!
Streets are full of people until late night hours and no one really bothers you! Locals are friendly and willing to help you if needed.
Often you will also see soldiers of international forces around but mostly just killing time walking up and down the street, as everyone else does.
The only downside of Pristina was some backstreets weren’t properly lit up but it wasn’t too much of the deal either.
In general Kosovo is a safe country to visit and you should travel there as soon as possible!
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