From the museums and memorials of Pristina to mosques and fortresses in Prizren, here are the best places to visit in Kosovo!
“There are three, primary places you need to visit to understand Kosovo,” I was told by Bekim Xhemili, a cultural anthropologist who works at the Ethnological Museum in Pristina. “You have to visit Pristina, the new capital; Prizren, because it’s the ancient capital, and Peja, for the mountains and outdoor activities.”
These are the highlights of Xhemili’s home country; a country he saw ravaged by war during his childhood, as Albanian-Kosovars fought Serbians for independence during the final Breakup of Yugoslavia in 1999.
After declaring independence from Serbia in 2008, Kosovo remains a disputed nation. It’s only partially recognised, and with its tense geopolitical location in the heart of the former Yugoslavia, it just needs a spark to ignite trouble again.
But Europe’s newest nation is also packed with beautiful places to visit. The Accursed Mountains rise high above Kosovo’s border with Albania, Pristina is one of the most exciting and energetic cities I’ve visited in a long time and Prizren offers an Ottoman legacy that wouldn’t be out of place in Turkey.
Give Kosovo a chance, and you’ll not only be able to say you’ve explored one of the world’s least visited countries, but you’ll be given a fascinating insight into the divisions and similarities that so define the Balkans. Keep reading, as I list the best places to visit in Kosovo.
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Best places to visit in Kosovo
Pristina, Prizren and Peja to Gjakova, Mitrovica and the Accursed Mountains; here are the best places to visit in Kosovo.
Pristina, the capital city of Kosovo, is a fascinating, ever-evolving destination that offers a curious blend of history, culture and youthful energy.
Europe’s newest capital city showcases a unique mix of architectural styles, reflecting its complex past and rapid development. As you wander through Pristina, you’ll encounter Ottoman-era buildings like the 16th-century Carshi Mosque, alongside modern structures such as the iconic National Library, known for its striking (or as some say, ‘ugly’) design.
Start your journey at the symbolic Newborn monument, a testament to Kosovo’s independence in 2008, then move on to the brutalist heights of the Yugoslav-built Youth and Sports and Centre. There’s a fascinating Ethnographic Museum, the Kosovo Museum is home to ancient artefacts dating back to the Neolithic era and weapons and uniforms from the Kosovo Conflict in 1999, and the local markets are awash with fresh fruits and homebrewed rakia.
In the day, take a Free Walking Tour (daily at 10 am) to learn more about Pristina, and the newest country in the world. In the evenings, head to ‘Rakia Street’, where you can order 1 Euro beer and even cheaper shots of Rakia!
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2. Kosovo Museum
The Kosovo Museum in Pristina gets its own entry in my list because quite frankly, it’s one of the most significant cultural institutions you can visit when you’re exploring Europe’s newest nation.
Given the conflicts that Kosovo has been through, unfortunately, much of the cultural and historical wealth collated during the Yugoslavian era was lost (much of it was carted off to Belgrade, I was told when I visited the Kosovo Museum).
What remains has largely been put on display in the Kosovo Museum in central Pristina, which is located in an old Austro-Hungarian building dating back to the 19th century. The museum was founded in 1948 by the Yugoslavian government, and the collection spans the prehistoric to the modern period.
Inside, you’ll find Kosovo’s unique terracotta figurines, which are thought to date back to around 5000 BC. These are some of the earliest examples of anthropomorphised sculptures, and luckily, they managed to survive the Kosovo Conflict.
While the ground floor is dedicated to antiquity, the upper floor of the Kosovo Museum is devoted to more recent history. You’ll find a copy of Kosovo’s declaration of independence, for example, alongside weapons and uniforms used by the Kosovo Liberation Army in the war against Serbia.
3. The Gazimestan Monument
The Gazimestan Monument holds a significant place in the historical and cultural mindset of the Kosovar, and Serbian people. Located a few kilometres outside of Pristina, this tall memorial commemorates the Battle of Kosovo, a pivotal event in the region’s history. The monument stands on the site where the legendary battle took place in 1389 between the Serbian and Ottoman armies.
Gazimestan is where nations clashed, and for Serbians, it marks the loss of what they see as their ancestral homeland in Kosovo. The monument itself is a striking structure, featuring a tall stone tower adorned with Serbian medieval motifs and inscriptions. It stands as a testament to the courage and sacrifice of those who fought in the battle.
For those on all sides of Kosovar history, Gazimestan serves as a place of remembrance and reflection for both locals and visitors, allowing them to honour the historical legacy and pay homage to the bravery of those who fought for this blood-soaked land.
4. The Tomb of Sultan Murad I
The Tomb of Sultan Murad I, located just a short drive from the Gazimestan Monument on the outskirts of Pristina, is a historical site that holds great significance in Balkan history.
Murad I was the Sultan who led the Ottoman Empire during the Battle of Kosovo in 1389. This battle marked a crucial moment in the power struggle between the Ottomans and the Serbian forces, and arguably, was a direct precursor to the conflicts that have been fought centuries later.
The tomb, or mausoleum, consists of a beautifully crafted octagonal structure with intricate architectural details, showcasing a fusion of Ottoman and Islamic architectural styles.
The site serves as a place of pilgrimage and remembrance for many, attracting visitors who wish to pay their respects to Sultan Murad I. It represents a link to the past, connecting present-day Kosovo with its historical roots and the Ottoman legacy in the region.
Visiting the Tomb of Murad I offers an opportunity to learn about the historical events surrounding the Battle of Kosovo and the impact it had on the development of the Ottoman Empire and the Balkan region as a whole.
When I visited in June 2023, there was a fantastic new exhibition showcasing this history, and a wonderfully energetic museum curator who was happy to guide us around, and happy to discuss both history and modern politics.
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Mitrovica, in northern Kosovo, is a city known for its complex history and character. Divided by the Ibar River, the city is split between the ethnic Albanian-majority south and the ethnic Serb-majority north, each with its distinct atmosphere.
The city’s most notable landmark is the iconic Ibar Bridge, which symbolises the division of Mitrovica, and Kosovo as a whole. Walking across the bridge provides a tangible sense of the city’s unusual situation, and you’ll see the Italian Carabinieri unit which keeps the peace as a neutral player in local politics.
In the northern part of Mitrovica, you can visit the Serbian Orthodox Church of St. Demetrius, an important religious and cultural site for the Serbian community. The north also offers a chance to explore traditional Serbian cafes and shops.
The southern part of Mitrovica has a lively pedestrian street lined with cafes, shops, and restaurants, and the city’s central square, Skënderbeu Square, is a popular gathering spot and a hub of activity.
Mitrovica’s history, along with its cultural diversity, presents an opportunity to gain insights into the complexities of post-conflict Kosovo. To take advantage of this, I recommend organising a local tour with Mitrovica Guide, so you can hear stories from the conflict, understand the divides and tensions, and hear firsthand the thoughts and opinions of people who actually live in Mitrovica.
Prizren, often referred to as the cultural capital of Kosovo, was the first destination I ever visited in Kosovo when I crossed the border from Albania back in 2015. It’s a picturesque city, and being located at the foot of the Sharr Mountains, I couldn’t resist coming back again when I returned to Kosovo for a second time in 2023.
Prizren showcases a rich blend of Ottoman, Byzantine and Albanian influences. The city’s most iconic landmark is the Prizren Fortress, perched on a hilltop overlooking the city. Exploring its walls and towers provides panoramic views of the cityscape and surrounding mountains that form the borderland between Albania and Kosovo.
Prizren’s Old Town is a maze of narrow cobbled streets, lined with traditional Ottoman-era houses, shops, and restaurants. Wandering through the old town, you’ll encounter historical sites such as the League of Prizren Complex, which played a significant role in Kosovo’s history.
The Sinan Pasha Mosque, a beautifully adorned mosque with intricate frescoes, is another notable architectural gem in Prizren. The Church of Our Lady of Ljeviš, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, showcases stunning medieval frescoes and the mixed Christian heritage that exists here.
Read more: 18 Things to Do in Prizren, Kosovo
Peja, located in western Kosovo, is a small city known for its proximity to Kosovo’s best natural beauty spots. Hidden away at the foot of the Accursed Mountains, Peja is the gateway to the stunning Rugova Valley.
One of the highlights of Peja is the Rugova Canyon, a magnificent gorge with towering cliffs, crystal-clear rivers and picturesque waterfalls. Hiking and rock climbing opportunities abound, providing breathtaking views and thrilling experiences.
The city is also home to the UNESCO-listed Decani Monastery, an architectural masterpiece dating back to the 14th century. Adorned with stunning frescoes, the monastery holds significant religious and cultural importance.
Peja’s vibrant old town, with its Ottoman-era houses and cobblestone streets, exudes a fascinating atmosphere. The bustling Shadervan Square is a gathering place for locals and visitors alike, offering a taste of the city’s vibrant culture and hospitality.
8. Rugova Canyon
The Rugova Canyon is one of the best places to visit in Kosovo. Located in the western part of the country, close to Peja, the canyon stretches for about 25 kilometres as it’s carved from the rocks by the turquoise waters of the Rugova River.
Lush green forests, towering cliffs, and cascading waterfalls create a dramatic landscape that attracts nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike. Hiking through the Rugova Canyon offers breathtaking views and an opportunity to immerse yourself in the pristine wilderness of Kosovo.
Gjakova, one of the most historic cities in Kosovo, is known for its well-preserved Ottoman-era buildings, many of which date back to the 16th century.
One of the highlights of Gjakova is its Old Bazaar, an Ottoman marketplace that’s still bustling today, several centuries after it was founded as a stopping-off point on the busy trade routes between East and West. Stroll through its narrow cobblestone streets lined with shops, cafes, and workshops, and you can find traditional handicrafts, copperware, textiles, and local delicacies.
Gjakova’s architectural highlights also include the beautiful Hadum Mosque, an impressive Ottoman mosque with exquisite decorations and a peaceful courtyard. The Clock Tower, standing tall in the city centre, provides panoramic views of the surroundings after it was rebuilt in the aftermath of the Kosovo Conflict when it sustained serious damage.
Exploring the city’s old town, you can admire the traditional stone houses adorned with wood-carved elements and visit the Ethnographic Museum, which showcases the local culture and traditional way of life. Gjakova is located halfway between Prizren and Peja, making it a great stopover when you’re exploring western Kosovo.
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10. Gracanica Monastery
The Gracanica Monastery is a Serbian Orthodox monastery located near Pristina, and it offers a chance to understand the multicultural history of Kosovo, and why the land here is so disputed.
Dating back to the 14th century, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its remarkable medieval architecture and beautiful frescoes.
The monastery’s exterior features intricate stone carvings, while the interior is adorned with well-preserved frescoes depicting religious scenes. The serene atmosphere and spiritual significance of the Gracanica Monastery make it a must-visit destination for those interested in religious and cultural heritage in the Balkans.
11. The Kosovo Bear Sanctuary
The Kosovo Bear Sanctuary, located near the village of Mramor, is a haven for rescued bears in Kosovo. Operated by Four Paws, an international animal welfare organisation, the sanctuary provides a safe and natural environment for bears that were previously held in captivity, often in inappropriate conditions.
The sanctuary spans over 16 hectares of forested land, providing the bears with ample space to roam. Visitors to the sanctuary can take guided tours to learn about the bears’ individual stories, their journey to the sanctuary from often appalling scenarios and the ongoing conservation efforts.
The Kosovo Bear Sanctuary focuses not only on providing a high standard of care for the bears but also on raising awareness about the importance of animal welfare and wildlife protection. It serves as an educational facility, promoting responsible tourism and advocating for the welfare and conservation of bears in Kosovo.
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12. Bjeshkët E Nemuna National Park
Visiting the Bjeshkët e Nemuna National Park in Kosovo is a treat for nature enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers. Located in the western part of Kosovo, in the Gjakova and Peja area, this national park covers a vast region of rugged mountains, deep valleys and wilderness.
The park is home to the magnificent Accursed Mountains, also known as the Albanian Alps, which offer stunning panoramic views, glacial lakes, challenging hiking trails and the tallest peaks in Kosovo.
Hiking and trekking are popular activities in the park, with trails ranging from gentle walks to more demanding routes for experienced hikers. The park also presents opportunities for other outdoor activities such as mountaineering, rock climbing, and wildlife spotting. Keep an eye out for rare species like lynx, chamois, and golden eagles that inhabit the park’s remote areas.
13. Sharr Mountains National Park
Visiting the Sharr Mountains National Park offers an outdoor experience like no other in the heart of Kosovo’s Sharr Mountains. Located in the southern part of the country, this national park is a nature lover’s paradise, renowned for its tall peaks and rich biodiversity.
The Sharr Mountains boast soaring mountains, alpine meadows, crystal-clear lakes and dense forests, creating a diverse and picturesque environment. Exploring the park allows you to embark on scenic hikes, take in panoramic views, and connect with nature in its purest form.
The Sharr Mountains straddle the border with North Macedonia, and as such, they’re an integral part of the newly opened High Scardus Trail. This cross-border hiking trail takes you from North Macedonia, through Albania and into Kosovo, allowing you to explore this wild part of the Balkans.
Aside from hiking, the park offers opportunities for skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing during the winter months. In the summer, you can enjoy picnics, camping, and mountain biking against the backdrop of stunning natural vistas.
14. The Mirusha Waterfalls
The Mirusha Waterfalls are a hidden natural gem located in the picturesque Mirusha River Canyon, these cascading waterfalls offer a stunning display of nature’s power and allure.
The Mirusha Waterfalls consist of a series of steep cascades and turquoise pools, formed as the Mirusha River meanders through the canyon. The crystal-clear waters, surrounded by towering cliffs and lush greenery, create a scene that’s perfect for nature lovers and photographers.
Exploring the Mirusha Waterfalls involves hiking along well-marked trails, crossing wooden bridges, and descending into the canyon to reach the different levels of the falls. Visitors can enjoy swimming in the refreshing pools, sunbathe on the rocks, or simply sit back and admire the cascades.
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Map of the best places to visit in Kosovo
Here’s a map of the best places to visit in Kosovo:
How to travel to Kosovo
Here are a few tips on how to visit Kosovo:
- By Air: The easiest way to reach Kosovo is by flying into Pristina International Airport (PRN). The airport is well-connected with several European cities, and there are regular flights from major airline carriers, including budget carriers like Whizz Air. I flew direct from London Luton Airport, in the United Kingdom, on my recent trip in 2023.
- By Land: If you are travelling from neighbouring countries, you can reach Kosovo by bus or car. There are bus services that connect Kosovo with Albania, North Macedonia and Montenegro. I travelled from Prizren to Albania, for example, using local buses and shared taxis. Border crossings can vary, so it’s important to check entry requirements and any visa regulations before travelling. In particular, pay attention to Serbian border crossings, as they don’t like it if you’ve entered Kosovo from other countries (they see it as an illegal entry!).
- Entry Requirements: Before travelling to Kosovo, check the entry requirements for your nationality. Some countries may require a visa, while others may have visa-free entry for a limited period. Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay.
- Transportation within Kosovo: Once in Kosovo, you can travel between cities and towns using public transportation like buses and shared taxis (I paid five Euros for a journey from Pristina to Prizren for example). You can check bus timetables in Kosovo using Gjirafa Travel, although it’s not always completely accurate.
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Best time to visit Kosovo
Here’s a breakdown of the different seasons you can expect to experience in Kosovo:
- Spring (March to May): Spring brings pleasant temperatures and blooming landscapes, making it an ideal time for outdoor activities such as hiking (try the newly opened High Scardus Trail or the fairly established Peaks of the Balkans Trails) and exploring cultural sites. The weather is generally mild, with occasional rain showers.
- Summer (June to August): Summers in Kosovo can be hot and sunny, with temperatures reaching their peak in July and August. This is the peak tourist season, too, with longer daylight hours and major festivals in Prizren and Pristina. It’s a great time for outdoor adventures, and especially for swimming (try Rugova Canyon or the Mirusha Waterfalls!)
- Autumn (September to November): Autumn in Kosovo offers mild temperatures, beautiful foliage, and fewer crowds. It’s a great time for sightseeing, enjoying outdoor activities, and experiencing the harvest season.
- Winter (December to February): Winter in Kosovo brings cold temperatures, snowfall, and opportunities for winter sports like skiing and snowboarding. The mountainous regions, such as Brezovica and the Sharr Mountains, are popular for winter activities.
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FAQ on the best places to visit in Kosovo
Here’s an FAQ on the best places to visit in Kosovo:
Q1: What are some must-visit cities in Kosovo?
A: Pristina, the capital city, is a must-visit with its blend of Ottoman, Balkan, and contemporary architecture. Prizren, Kosovo’s cultural capital, is another favourite for its rich history and preserved Ottoman-era architecture. Peja, situated at the foot of the Rugova Mountains, offers beautiful landscapes and ancient monasteries.
Q2: Are there UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kosovo?
A: Yes. The Medieval Monuments in Kosovo, which include the Decani Monastery, Patriarchate of Peja Monastery, Our Lady of Ljeviš, and the Gracanica Monastery, were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2004.
Q3: What natural sites can I explore in Kosovo?
A: Rugova Canyon and the Bjeshkët e Nemuna (Accursed Mountains) National Park offer breathtaking hiking trails. Additionally, the Mirusha Waterfalls, located in Mirusha Park, are a unique series of waterfalls and lakes worth exploring.
Q4: Are there any famous fortresses in Kosovo?
A: Yes. The Prizren Fortress, dating back to the Byzantine era, offers panoramic views of Prizren. Similarly, the Novo Brdo Fortress, once a significant mining and trading centre in the Balkans during medieval times, provides a glimpse into the region’s past.
Q5: What can I see in Pristina?
A: Pristina houses the Kosovo Museum, the National Library, the Ethnographic Museum Emin Gjiku, and the Newborn Monument. The city’s unique architecture, vibrant nightlife, and local markets are also worth experiencing.
Q6: Are there religious sites to visit in Kosovo?
A: Yes. The Sinan Pasha Mosque in Prizren, the Catholic Cathedral of Blessed Mother Teresa in Pristina, and the medieval Serbian Orthodox monasteries are some of the religious sites in the country.
There we have it, the best places to visit in Kosovo! Let us know your favourite places to visit in the comments below!