PristinaCopyright: Andrii Lutsyk/Shutterstock.com
PristinaFew places in Europe have remained off the beaten path as much as the Kosovar first city; fewer yet have been at the heart of a political dispute as agonising in recent history. Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, one of the world's youngest states, boasts a youthful populace to match, and exudes a lust for life that's virtually tangible. Still rough around the edges and with no tourist information offices in sight, Pristina remains uncharted territory, a state of affairs foreseen to change as the city attracts a growing number of visitors.
The CityThings are happening fast in Pristina, capital of Kosovo, one of the world's youngest states, and although leisure tourism still seems to not have much affected this part of Europe, the situation is predicted to soon change, with no longer just expat employees of the EU or UN walking the city streets. Kosovar cultural scene is now in transition from budding to full bloom, with art, music and sporting events held frequently, and exhibitions for visual arts showcasing works by international talents (most notably, the National Gallery of Kosovo's "Muslim Mulliqi" and "Gjon Mili"). Cultural outings are easily broken up with frequent trips to the cafes – coffee is a serious affair in Kosovo, some maintaining that it is here that the world's best macchiato is to be had – and at rock-bottom prices.
Do & See
Although Pristina isn't as conventionally attractive as some other European capitals, there are a few things to keep visitors occupied for the duration of a short stay. Some attractions not to be missed are the National Library building, whose facade has sparked heated debate and varying interpretations, the Ethnographic Museum, and the city's curious monuments, from "Newborn" spelled out in block letters, inaugurated as symbol of the newly emerged state, to Bill Clinton doing a friendly wave from a pedestal on his namesake boulevard.
Political and cultural ties to Albania manifest themselves in Kosovar cuisine, although local specialities do vary by region. Some of the staples to be found at nearly any local eatery are grilled meat sausages (qebapa or salsiccia), lamb chops (tavë, or tavë kosi - baked with yogurt), stuffed peppers, cabbage rolls, and a whole variety of pies, such as burek or Albanian Flija. There is no shortage of quality restaurants in modern-day Pristina, including those representing world cuisines.
Some say Europe's best macchiatos are brewed in Pristina. Luckily, there are plenty of places to go and challenge or confirm the assertion: coffee houses and cafes are aplenty, leaving visitors with many to choose from. There are several great spots around Fehmi Agani Street, and in the lively southern neighbourhood of Santea.
Bars & Nightlife
The Muslim-majority Kosovo is overwhelmingly secular when it comes to nightlife, and with Europe's youngest populace, the Kosovar capital is coming of age together with its residents, sprouting an increasing amount of hip hangout spots, microbreweries and bars from one day to the next. The first craft brewery that took root in Pristina is Sabaja (its brews are served at bars across town and, sicne recently, internationally), now followed by Birra Prishtina, Grembeer (brewing with clear Gremnik Mountain water), and others. Areas to head for evening drinks include the Fehmi Agani Street, Pejton & Santea neighbourhoods.
Local handicrafts make for some of the best souvenirs to bring back from Pristina. These range from jewellery produced by local silver smiths to wood carvings, leather goods, embroidery, traditional Albanian pieces of clothing, woven rugs, and even musical instruments. Admiration for the Clintons has manifested itself here not only via statues and street names, but also a couple of clothing stores named after Hillary Clinton, with items on sale carefully selected to replicate Clinton's sense of style. The old bazaar retains little of its former glory, but is an exciting cultural experience not to be missed.