What to eat, where to sleep and what to see in Pristina! Dua Lipa’s birthplace is still off the radar of most of the travellers passing through the Balkans. Yet, it is a generous and buzzing city that has charmed everyone I know with its energy, its good people and its amazing food, coffee culture and nightlife.
How to get to Pristina
There is an international airport with many international connections. You can also look into airports in neighbouring countries such as Nis and Belgrade in Serbia, Skopje in Macedonia and Tirana in Albania.
When to go
Avoid winter. It is polluted so the air is awful and smells burnt wood and coal. When the snow falls, it’s pretty. But afterwards, it’s very slippery and buses might not be able to run as usual.
Summer can be very warm but a lot of events are happening at this period in the country and in Pristina, so it’s also a great period to visit! You can always escape the heat at
take the girl out of kosovo but cant take kosovo out of the girl— DUA LIPA (@DUALIPA) October 11, 2015
Where to stay
I have only stayed in hostels and can recommend three of them. They are all cheap, clean and modern with lockers and a cooking area. Pristina’s hostels have the best mattresses!
- The White Tree is the nearest to the bus station. It has a bar and a terrace in summer. If you’re looking for a good company, parties, movie nights and music, then it’s the right place for you!
- Han Hostel is on Mother Teresa Boulevard at the centre of all the activity and just a few metres away from highly popular spots like Soma Book Station and Dit’ e Nat’. That’s where I’ve been staying the most in the past couple of years. People working there are always nice and helpful, eager to chat and to make sure you’re having a good time.
- Prishtina Centre is in the building right next to Han. It looks a lot the same but seems bigger to me. I stayed there once in January 2019 and even celebrated their 3rd birthday with the team and their friends. It also has a nice long balcony overlooking the pedestrian street. They have dorms but also private rooms that people I met last time were very satisfied with. Also, my friend Erëlinda is working there now.
What to see
Pristina is not a very big city. It is expanding fast, but the landmarks are almost all within walking distance. Most of the monuments are scattered around Mother Teresa’s boulevard.
Grand Hotel: located at the beginning of Mother Teresa’s boulevard, it is the common meeting point for everyone in the city. Before the war, it belonged to the Yugoslav government and was used as, you guessed it, a hotel. Now only a few rooms are available while the rest of the building is pretty much falling apart. It is a remarkable example of Yugoslav architecture in the city, although a giant advertisement is covering part of it and one aisle is covered in “modern” materials.
Mother Teresa’s Boulevard: the one long pedestrian street in the city. It is full of cafés and restaurants. Don’t miss the statue of Mother Theresa, the Djukagjini bookstore and at the other end of the street (opposite of Grand Hotel), the Parliament of Kosovo, the National Theatre and the statue of the Albanian hero Skanderbeg.
The New Born Monument: It was inaugurated for the first time on February 17, 2008, when Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia (who has never recognized it). In 2008 it was letters painted in bright yellow on which more than 150,000 people wrote messages. But its designer Fisnik Ismaili changes it every year. It always depicts something linked to the young country’s history and current situation. In the past years, it was often alluding to the lack of freedom of movement of Kosovo inhabitants who have a very week passport and need a visa even to enter the EU (despite years of promises from the EU that visa will be soon waived). People in the city like to hang out around the monument that is placed in the centre and to take thousands of pictures.
Heroinat: Facing the New Born monument, this art installation was inaugurated in 2015. It is made of 20,000 medals put together to represent the Albanian woman. It is dedicated to the Kosovo Albanian women who struggled during the war with Serbia in 1998-1999. According to a Human Right Watch report, as many as 20,000 of them were victims of sexual violence as a weapon of war.
Saint Mother Theresa’s Cathedral: The construction was started in 2007 but only completed recently. It was inaugurated officially in 2010, before its completion and consecrated in September 2017. There are an estimated 65,000 Catholics living in Kosovo, a fraction of its population yet the Cathedral is one of the tallest building in Pristina. You can actually climb up the tower (with an elevator) for a small fee and get a very nice view over the city.
The National Library: In 2009 the website Virtual Tourist ranked it the 9th ugliest building in the world. I love this building. It looks like from outer space, it is so intriguing and delicate. It was inaugurated in 1982 and designed by Croatian architect Andrija Mutjakovic. It has 99 white glass domes that were designed to let as much natural light in as possible while the metal net wrapped around the structure was created to protect the books by deflecting sunlight. The domes also resemble the Plis, the traditional Albanian hat. It is said, although the true idea of the architect is still being debated, that it was designed to blend in Byzantine architecture.
The inside is equally incredible.
The National Gallery of Kosovo: a small building on the university campus that hosts various temporary exhibitions.
Fatih Mosque and Çarshia Mosque: There are not many buildings in Pristina dating from before Yugoslavia. Fatih Mosque, or the Imperial Mosque, dates from 1461. The Çarshia Mosque, or bazaar Mosque, is the oldest building in the city. Its foundations were laid in 1389.
The Ethnological Museum: make sure you mark the location of this one on your navigation app as it can be a bit tricky to find! There are signs on the streets but the colours are faded and sometimes they fall so they’re easy to miss. The museum is located in what was once the residence of the family of Emin Gjikolli. It shows in one or two buildings (depending on renovations) the everyday life in Kosovo under the Ottomans’ domination, from the 15th century to the 20th century. You will see for instance the way people were dressing, weapons, and very impressive wood carving.
The National Museum of Kosovo: The outside is remarkable as it one rare remaining building built in the Austro-Hungarian style. It was actually constructed to become a military building of the empire in 1889 and was later, in 1949, opened as a museum. Unfortunately, there is very little going on inside. Have a look anyway, as there might be some temporary exhibition worth your time. I once saw one displaying very old photos of villagers from the early 20th century, it was very interesting!
Germia park: Your ultimate breath of fresh air in Pristina. This gigantic park is the green lung of the city where people come to hang out, exercise and have fun. It has a swimming pool in summer and also many restaurants.
The tomb of Sultan Murad: located outside of the city, the mausoleum is dedicated to the Ottoman sultan Murad I, who died at the battle of Kosovo Polje in 1389 against a coalition of Serbian princes and their allies (the Ottomans won nonetheless and the battle has since become the centre of Serbian national mythology). The mausoleum was built by the sultan’s son and is said to be the first example of Ottoman architecture in the country. That’s pretty much all there is there so it’s only worth it if you’re very much into this kind of sightseeing and history.
The Bear sanctuary: another site located outside of the city but reachable by local bus. Bears used to be captured young and kept in poor conditions to entertain guests in restaurants. This is illegal since 2010. The sanctuary opened in 2013 to care for the rescued bears and attend to their need in an environment as natural as possible. You can visit the sanctuary and learn about bears, their history in Kosovo and you can even spot them if you’re lucky. Make sure you don’t visit while they are hibernating, though!
How to get around
Most of the interesting sites are a walkable distance from each other. If you’re tired and not up for walking uphill to have the most delicious lunch ever at Sonder (see below), taxis are fairly cheap. The best way to avoid being scammed is to have someone from the the café or the hostel call a cab for you. For instance, a ride from Han or Pristina Centre to the bus station will cost you less than 3€.
You can also use the public transportation system, which may still look chaotic but actually has improved over the past few years. For more on this, check out this post by Kosovo Girl Travels: A guide to public transport in Pristina.
Where to eat and drink
I have had some of my best culinary experiences in Kosovo. In Pristina, you will easily find a healthy mix of local cuisine and international dishes. Just as anywhere else in the Balkans, people love to sit and chat over coffee and many places have just the right atmosphere for that! The local cuisine involves a lot of meat, but you can quite easily find vegetarian dishes
I actually have a whole “Ultimate Eat&Drink in Pristina Guide” listing all my favourite places in the city and why. But if you just want a quick peek at what is out there, here are some of the places I recommend you visit during your stay:
Monet Art, Cup o’Tea, Bake& Cake and Trosha are nice places for coffee, tea and snacks. I often get a rest in one of those places during the day. Prince, right under Hotel Grand, is a common meeting place for coffee. But coffee is really not hard to find in the city. It is even said that Pristina has the best espresso outside of Italy, but I’ll let specialists be the judges of this statement.
For lunch, I highly recommend the amazing Tartine (oh, this mushroom soup!), Sonder (so healthy and yummy) or Taverna Tirona (try the mezze for the delicious cheese). Dinner at Tiffany for local food and Soma for the atmosphere and the international cuisine.
For drinks, I don’t even know where to start! Half&Half is right in the middle of Mother Teresa’s Boulevard. It’s a place where you can sit all day long, for coffee in the morning, Salep in the afternoon, wine in the evening… Soma is also a great place for drinks and has live music during the weekend. Next to it, Dit’ e Nat’ has a more homey vibe. I also like Lulu’s coffee and wine and the pub-like atmosphere of
Pristina might be young and facing many difficulties as the capital of the youngest country in Europe. But it will welcome you with open arms and give you one of the best experience of your life.
Have you been to Pristina? Do you have something else to recommend? Comment and share your opinion!