A Day in Kosovo’s Capital

Kosovo sunset

The sun was setting behind distant mountains when I landed in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo. After a weekend in London for Wimbledon, I was kicking off my big summer adventure: two weeks in Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania and Macedonia. Four new countries for me in an area of Europe I have wanted to visit for years!

My arrival was smooth and I was greeted by a friendly officer at passport control who laughed as he flipped through my crowded passport trying to find a place for my entry stamp. My taxi driver spoke great English and chatted me up the entire drive into the city. Much of it was a preview of what I would hear a lot of during my time in Kosovo: the effects of the Balkans War (which most Kosovars talk about it as if it was just yesterday) and how much Kosovars love Bill Clinton. He also gave me the heads up that I was visiting during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, but told me I probably wouldn’t notice it much in Pristina. Despite the population officially being about 90% Muslim, he compared the way most in the capital practice to Christians who only go to church on Christmas and Easter.

orthodox church

My hotel was a small, family run place not far from the main square and my room was enormous for just 40 Euro (although the air conditioning didn’t work). I would only have a day to explore Pristina, so I was up early the next morning to make the most of it – and to try to beat the heat as temperatures were expected to soar toward 100 degrees. When I first set out from my hotel, I was wearing a skirt just past my knees and a tank top with a light, white cardigan – mainly to cover my shoulders and be respectful since I was in a predominantly Muslim country. That didn’t stop me from attracting constant stares from all the men I passed on the sidewalks (and until I got to the main square, it felt like I was only passing men!). However, as I got into the square, I saw Kosovar women all around in short skirts and tank tops – far less conservatively dressed than I was! So given how hot it was, I ditched the cardigan.

Pristina is very small for a capital city and I walked all around the center easily. I passed Pristina’s famously abstract library and an abandoned orthodox church. I stopped at a cell phone store to get a SIM card for my phone and I trekked up to Martyrs’ Hill for a nice view of the city.

Pristina library

Pristina view

war memorial

Pristina main street

Pristina center

I found the famous “Newborn” monument and took a mandatory selfie in front of it and then tracked down the Bill Clinton statue (unfortunately Bill was too tall for a good selfie). I also got a good laugh as I passed the corner of Bill Clinton Boulevard and George Bush Avenue – only in Kosovo!

Newborn monument selfie

Newborn

Bill Clinton

new church

I wandered through the market and found the ethnographic museum, where I found a great English-speaking guide to give me a tour. Even though I was in Kosovo, it was fascinating to me how much of the culture on display at the museum was Albanian. This was another theme throughout my time in the country.

Pristina market

museum

By the time I headed to the bus station around 3:30 p.m. to catch a bus to Peja, I was ready to move on. I enjoyed my day in Pristina, but I felt like that was probably enough.

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8 thoughts on “A Day in Kosovo’s Capital”

  1. Fascinating writeup – thanks for sharing. I’m planning a trip similar to yours that would include the southern Balkans, but less centered around hiking.

    I was planning on skipping Kosovo originally and focusing on Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Albania, but may have to reconsider! 🙂

    1. You can easily add in Kosovo in just 2 days – do a day in Pristina and a day in Prizren (have a post on Prizren coming up soon – that was my favorite!). You could go Skopje-Pristina-Prizren-Skopje by bus.

      Check out my posts on Bulgaria – was there last fall and really enjoyed it. Only had a week and wished I had more time!

  2. I got similar looks in Pristina a couple of years ago, even though I was dressed the same as other women I saw. Possibly didn’t help that I’m so pale so I stood out!

    I went to a ethnographic museum in Prizren and was surprised by Kosovo’s history. I knew a fair bit about the most recent war, but didn’t realise the battle for that territory between Albania and Serbia went so far back. I found the old maps that showed the changing borders really fascinating.

  3. Hi Katie. I spent 2 days in Pristina and pretty much did all the same things as you. The only real extras were a cool pub crawl at night (some great bars), I visited the National Football Stadium and had lunch at the Revolving restaurant which has a great view of the city. I stayed in Buffalo Backpackers which was a cool place. Safe travels, Jonny

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