The Balkans are full of fascinating destinations which appeal to tourists. While the city of Pristina in Kosovo may not seem like one of them at first glance, the capital city of Kosovo is the natural entry point for many travelers to the country.
If you’re curious about what this Balkan city has to offer, then take a peek at this Pristina itinerary and see what the city is all about. Inside you’ll find what to do in Pristina in 1 day, so you can judge for yourself whether or not to visit. If you’re after something different on your European travels, this is a great place to start.
Best Time to Visit Pristina
Like any destination you visit, you’ll want to give some thought to the time of year you travel to Pristina. Like most places in the Balkans, Pristina experiences all four seasons and you’ll be greeted with drastically different weather depending on when you go. The city’s inland location on the Balkan peninsula means summers can get quite hot and winters quite cold and snowy.
All of this means that the best time to visit Pristina is during the months of April, May, June, and September. The weather at this time of year is warm and relatively dry, making it the most pleasant time to be outdoors. That said, the summer months of July and August can still be quite comfortable and you certainly won’t have to worry about summer crowds.
How to Get Around Pristina
Pristina isn’t that large of a city, even compared with other major cities in the Balkans. This means that you shouldn’t have much trouble getting around while sightseeing. Most of the attractions we recommend you see when visiting Pristina are either found in the city center or a short walk from it. Therefore, exploring on foot really is the best way to get around.
Should you need to use public transport in Pristina, the city has a network of buses that can be quite useful for travelers. Single trip tickets can cost as little as €0.40 and are bought from a conductor onboard. Taking the bus is particularly useful if you’re arriving at the bus station as it’s a little removed from the city center.
If you are arriving in Pristina by plane, getting from the airport to the city is quite easy. Just take the 1A Pristina Airport bus which runs a loop past several major landmarks in the city center such as the Cathedral of Saint Mother Teresa and the Grand Hotel Prishtina. Tickets cost €3 from the driver and the journey takes around 40 minutes, depending on where in the city you alight.
Where to Stay in Pristina
Travelers may be surprised by just how many accommodation options there are in Pristina, given its somewhat untouristy nature. What that means though is that you have plenty of choice regarding where to stay in Pristina, so you should find somewhere that suits your style of travel and budget. Generally speaking, the best places to stay in Pristina are ones found within walking distance of Mother Teresa Boulevard because you then have easy access to both attractions as well as restaurants and bars.
Visitors to Pristina seeking somewhere special will want to look at Swiss Diamond Hotel Prishtina for their stay. Rooms in this five-star hotel are wonderfully spacious and elegantly designed, while the hotel also boasts a central location and amenities like a bar, gym, and wellness center.
A great choice for those looking to balance cost with comfort are the Boulevard Prishtina apartments. Not only are they right in the heart of Pristina, the apartments are spacious, modern, and tastefully decorated, making them a welcome sight at the end of the day.
For a great budget friendly option near the city center, be sure to look at Prishtina Center Hostel. Featuring both dorms and private rooms, this hostel right in the city center is phenomenal value for money with great staff and plenty of extras to keep you entertained.
The Perfect 1-Day Pristina Itinerary
One day often isn’t enough when visiting cities in Europe, fortunately though that’s not the case with Pristina. If you’re simply interested in sightseeing around the city, you shouldn’t feel rushed at all with just 1 day in Pristina. That said, those looking to really get to know the city deeply will want to spend longer here. The following is a Pristina travel itinerary that highlights the city’s best attractions to ensure you don’t miss anything important.
However, before we get to our Pristina itinerary and the best things to do in Pristina we just wanted to remind you to purchase travel insurance. You never know what will happen and trust us, you do not want to get stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills. As a wise man once said, “If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.” So don’t leave home without it.
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So, with that covered, how about we dig into the best places to visit in Pristina. See these places and you should feel confident that you’ve experienced the best of Pristina.
National Library of Kosovo
Possibly the most iconic landmark in Pristina, the National Library of Kosovo is essentially famous for being ugly. The strange brutalist architecture of this library on the campus grounds of the University of Pristina makes a sight that needs to be seen. With its design of concrete blocks, surrounded by a metal mesh net and topped with 73 small bubble domes, you won’t be able to take your eyes off this building finished in 1986. It’s also worth paying a quick visit inside, to see its equally unusual interior.
Cathedral of Saint Mother Teresa
Across the road from the university campus and National Library stands the strikingly new Cathedral of Saint Mother Teresa. Although it was only consecrated in 2017, this modern cathedral has a relatively traditional architectural design. Step inside the cathedral and you’ll spot vivid stained glass windows lighting up the pristinely white church hall. While here, be sure to climb up the cathedral’s bell tower for the absolute best panoramic views of Pristina.
Scattered around the center of Pristina you’ll find quite a few monuments to the region’s complex history, but the Newborn Monument is easily the most popular. This typographic sculpture is tied to Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia on 17 February 2008, and its appearance is changed each year on that anniversary. With a backdrop of the old brutalist Palace of Youth and Sports, the importance of this landmark is all about the symbolism and evolving artistic themes related to it.
Mosques of Pristina Old Town
The city of Pristina isn’t really known for having a traditional historical center, but it does have a small Old Town that’s worth visiting. It’s here that you’ll find many of the city’s most significant mosques, most notably the Çarshia Mosque, the Jashar Pasha Mosque and the Imperial Mosque.
While it may be the most plain looking, the Çarshia Mosque is said to be the oldest building in the city, dating from 1389. Jashar Pasha Mosque on the other hand has recently been restored and has a beautiful wooden exterior to its prayer room. Finally, there’s the Imperial Mosque built by Sultan Mehmet II Fatih in 1461, which is a protected cultural monument.
Kosovo National Museum
Another place to visit while exploring Pristina’s Old Town is the Kosovo National Museum. Set inside quite a grand Austro-Hungarian building, this museum details the history of the region and is the largest museum in Kosovo. On a visit you can learn more about the history of Kosovo, starting in the prehistoric era all the way up to World War I.
The other museum in Pristina that you should be sure to visit is the Ethnographic Museum at the northern end of the Old Town. Set inside the traditional Emin Gjiku Complex, the museum includes the main exhibition as well as several authentic Ottoman buildings. On display in the museum are an assortment of historic clothes, tools, weapons, and furnishings. There you’ll also have the chance to explore an Ottoman family home, a guest house, and an arts studio.
Mother Teresa Boulevard
Running right through the heart of Pristina’s center is Mother Teresa Boulevard which is very much the center of city life. That might not be apparent during the day time, but make sure to visit in the evening to see Pristina come alive. There is a local habit in Pristina known as korza, which is when people of all ages come to this pedestrian street to catch up or hang out. Set yourself up at a bar or cafe like many locals do and join in on some good old-fashioned people watching to see what modern life is like in Kosovo.
Have More Than 24 Hours in Pristina?
Making the most of your first 24 hours in Pristina you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting through most of the city’s main sights. While you could choose to move on, there’s value in sticking around. With more time you can explore at a more relaxed pace and get to know the burgeoning food scene in Pristina. But you can also use that extra time to do some interesting day trips from the city. Here are just a few to get you started.
The second most popular city in Kosovo is historic Prizren. Unlike Pristina, Prizren is home to an intact Old Town that’s full of character, making it a great idea for a day trip to see the contrast between the two.
Start your visit on the scenic riverfront with the charming Stone Bridge, before heading over to Shadervan Square from where you can start to explore the streets of the Old Town. Prizren is home to quite a few mosques and churches, but the most important house of worship is the Sinan Pasha Mosque, which dates from 1615.
On the far bank of the Prizren Bistrica river, there are also a number of sights to see, including the Turkish Baths and the local Archaeological Museum. While off limits to visitors now, make sure to stop at the Church of Our Lady of Ljeviš, an important Serbian Orthodox church and UNESCO world heritage site. Finally, don’t miss a trip up to Prizren Fortress which has great views across the city.
2. Pristina Bear Sanctuary
In the countryside to the southeast of Pristina lies the Pristina Bear Sanctuary, a wildlife refuge for 20 brown bears that were once kept captive as “restaurant bears”.
In this large outdoor park, you’ll learn how these creatures, native to the forests of Kosovo and Albania, were held in small cages at restaurants. Once the practice was finally outlawed in 2010, these bears were left abandoned, suffering from severe psychological trauma. Since 2013, the Pristina Bear Sanctuary has cared for an increasing number of these bears in open-air habitats while trying to rehabilitate them.
Walking through the sanctuary, you have the opportunity to spot some of these bears within their large enclosures. At each enclosure you can read about the bears, learn about both their history as well as their progress since arriving at the sanctuary.
With North Macedonia so close to Pristina, why not consider doing a day trip across the border to the capital city of Skopje. Heading over to Skopje, you’ll have the chance to see one of Europe’s most unusual capital cities.
Begin by making your way straight to Macedonia Square, the main plaza in the city center. There you’ll find fountains surrounding the gigantic statue known as the “Warrior on a Horse”, as well as quite a few large statues and the Porta Macedonia gate. At the northern end of the square lies the Vardar River, whose riverfront is a mix of historic attractions and modern, grandiose architecture. On the historic side of things is the Stone Bridge from the 6th century, while the city’s Archaeological Museum is a textbook example of Skopje’s new look.
Venturing across the river you’ll arrive in the Ottoman side of the city, which centers around the Old Bazaar. Spend some time looking through its shops and cafes, before walking up to Kale Fortress, which watches over Skopje.
That just about sums up everything you can look forward to when you plan to see Pristina in 1 day. You’ll probably agree that while it may not be a main tourist destination in the traditional sense, it’s a Balkan city that’s well worth a visit.