Greetings Internet Stranger! I congratulate you on wanting to spend 24 hours exploring the best things to do in Kosovo. If you’re around my age, you remember growing up with stories about the genocide in Kosovo on the news. Some people think Kosovo is still a war zone today, but that’s not true! Now tourists come from all over the world to spend time in Kosovo’s cities Pristina and Prizren and learn about Kosovo’s complicated history.
Since we only have 24 hours to find the best things to do in Kosovo, I suggest going on a guided tour. I chose to take an all day tour with Explore Macedonia Tours from Skopje, which is the capital of North Macedonia, one of Kosovo’s neighbors. It was an excellent way to see as much of Kosovo as possible in a short amount of time. I hope you’ll agree after following me on this itinerary!
Best Things to Do in Kosovo
Where to Stay
Since this is a day trip of Skopje, I’m going to recommend the hotel where I stayed in that city. Skopje is not a huge city but the main square is really fun to walk around at night, so you’ll want to stay in a centrally located hotel. I recommend the Hotel Cara 1928. It’s clean, comfy, and very centrally located. Plus there was a tasty, ginormous breakfast included for free at the restaurant next door every morning. For some reason, I forgot to take a photo of my hotel room, but you can see the real and spectacular brekkie pictured above.
If you’re in the mood for something else, and you’d rather explore great deals on over 800 other hotels in Skopje, click here!
Best Things to Do in Kosovo
What to Pack?
You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do today on our exploration of the best things to do in Kosovo. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
Kosovo is hot in the summer, so don’t forget the sunscreen. My favorite is the Neutrogena spray bottle because it’s so easy to apply. And as a solo traveler, I can actually use it myself on my own back. I just put it in my purse and re-apply throughout the day.
Finally, if you’re American, you need a universal adapter if you’re going to plug in electronics. European electrical outlets don’t work with American plugs. I suggest the NEWVANGA travel adapter. It’s usable with any electrical outlet in the world, so you won’t need to keep buying new adapters. I always carry two with me, just in case something happens to one.
Best Things to Do in Kosovo
On this tour we’re going to see the two most famous cities in Kosovo: Pristina and Prizren. No list of the best things to do in Kosovo is complete without these two places. Most people say Prizren is prettier, but Pristina is the capital so we’ll stop here first. Keep in mind that Kosovo is not in North Macedonia, so you’ll need to bring your passport if you take the same tour I did. But don’t worry about currency! Kosovo uses the Euro and your guide will happily show you an ATM if you need one.
You’re going to get a driver to take you back and forth to Skopje and a separate local guide once you arrive in Kosovo. Lucky you! And you’ll be even luckier when I teach you…
Three Facts: Pristina Edition
1) Are There Signs of The War?
If you’re asking if Pristina looked like a war zone, the answer is definitely no. It looked like a busy and thriving city that was getting ready for an upcoming film festival. I did see some peacekeeping troops in town, but they looked pretty relaxed and friendly. But there are certainly monuments relating to the Kosovo War all over the city.
This war was between Kosovo and Yugoslavia (mainly Serbia), and even though things are much more peaceful now, there is still conflict between Kosovo and Serbia. Serbia still doesn’t recognize Kosovo as an independent country, though almost 100 countries, including the United States, do. This monument above is in honor of the Kosovar women who were affected by the war in Kosovo. Thousands of Kosovar women were raped by Serbian forces during the war. Even though I had learned about some of this on the news when it happened, nothing can prepare you for the shock of seeing monuments like this in Kosovo itself.
2) Why are there three flags everywhere?
Above you can see three flags: the blue and yellow flag of Kosovo, the red and black flag of Albania, and the American flag. I hadn’t realized that there are many people of Albanian ancestry in Kosovo. And I really wasn’t expecting to see the American flag quite so prominently displayed. As an American, I’m much more used to hearing my country criticized rather than praised by foreigners, and for the most part I can understand why.
But many people in Kosovo are grateful to the United States for its assistance during the Kosovo War. They have streets named after Americans…
That’s a fun way to spell Madeleine Albright, who was the US secretary of state during the Kosovo War.
They have a giant statue of Bill Clinton, who was president during the Kosovo War. For any American, seeing this statue is one of the best things to do in Kosovo regardless of one’s politics because it is so unexpected and huge. The statue is in fact seven feet tall. My guide asked me if President Clinton was really this tall and I said no. He responded that Clinton is seven feet tall in their hearts. Man, President Clinton must love spending time in Kosovo. I bet he has a vacation house here.
Now this is what I call a warm welcome for an American tourist. Thanks Kosovo! I’m going to send all my American friends to visit you so you can shower them with love too.
3) What About Religion in Kosovo?
Man, you like wandering into controversial topics, Internet Stranger! Many Kosovars are Muslim, but other religions are certainly honored here. Above you can see the statue of Mother Teresa, who spent time in Kosovo. My guide told me that all locals love her regardless of religion.
Part of the conflict between Serbia and Kosovo was over religion because Serbia is an Orthodox country. The National Library of Kosovo, which you can see above, was actually involved in this country. It was built back in the 1980s, and some Serbians suspected that the architect was trying to send a secret Muslim or pro-Albanian message with the design. They thought it might be referring to the Muslim concept of the 99 names of God. Or perhaps it was designed to look like a traditional Albanian hat. But the architect insisted no, that it was just a library.
Best Things to Do in Kosovo
Afternoon: Explore Prizren
Pristina might be the capital of Kosovo, but many say that Prizren is the more charming city. And certainly we can’t say we’ve seen the best things to do in Kosovo if we don’t stop here! You could spend at least a day in Prizren seeing all the sights, but we only have the afternoon. So allow me to quickly introduce you to…
Approximately Top 5: Prizren Edition
1) Gracanica Monastery
So this is cheating a little bit because if you take this tour, you’ll stop at the Gracanica Monastery in between Pristina and Prizren. But it’s such a lovely place, I wanted to include it anyway. And if you’re exploring Kosovo on your own, be sure to stop here in between Pristina and Prizren.
This monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage site, but it’s listed as being one of Serbia’s UNESCO sites because Kosovo’s independence is not universally acknowledged. The most beautiful feature of this monastery is the stunning paintings inside. The paint was mixed with wax, so even though the art was made in the 14th century, they look like they were painted yesterday. Picture taking is forbidden in the monastery, so you’ll just have to go see these beauties for yourself.
I liked the story my guide told me about a very religious Serbian princess who wanted to attend church here. It wasn’t allowed because she was female, so she had a little hidey hole made inside the church so she could sneak in and attend the service. I think if you forbade teenagers from attending church a lot more of them would want to go. That’s just science.
By this point you’ll be hungry! My guide set me up with a yummy plate at one of the restaurants off the main square in Prizren. I was definitely happy to have him because not all the waiters speak English, and I basically don’t speak any Albanian or Serbian, which are the two official languages of Kosovo.
I love all foods, so I enthusiastically tucked into this Meat Plate, which came with assorted salads and potatoes. Meat is very popular in the Balkans, though you won’t see much pork in Kosovo as there are so many Muslims in the country and pork is not halal. This was truly an insane amount of food for less than five American dollars. I predict that Kosovo will take off soon as a popular budget travel destination.
3) The main square
The main square of Prizen has a number of interesting features, and I wouldn’t have known about any of them without my guide. There is a charming fountain in the middle of the square that is traditionally a popular place for making promises. I like the idea of having a special place for making promises because perhaps it would make it more likely you would keep said promise. I know I’d feel very guilty if I broke a promise to a Special Fountain.
My guide also showed me these little buildings that used to be home to Prizren’s Jewish population. He said that they pretty much all left during the Kosovo War, so there aren’t really any Jewish people in Prizren anymore. New Life Plan! I shall make a fortune, buy one of these houses, and be the only Jewish person in Prizren! This might get me in the Guinness Book of World Records.
4) Emin Pasha Mosque
This mosque is one of the most famous in Kosovo because of its beautiful paintings. Like many mosques, it uses calligraphy as a decoration. After all, mosques generally are not allowed to have images of humans or animals. But this mosque has an incredible amount of Baroque images as well as calligraphy.
My guide, who was Muslim, showed me how he prays in a mosque. He said that they lower themselves so God can take their burdens. He also told me that Islam means peace, so anyone who is violent has nothing to do with Islam. He did ask me if I was alright with having a little demonstration on prayer–it was meant to be informative and not proselytizing. I said of course! Why would I turn down the chance to learn something new?
5) Statue of a Teacher
This statue is a memorial to a teacher from Kosovo who became a freedom fighter and died during the Kosovo War. My guide told me that he had known this man and that he was just an ordinary man, not a professional soldier. My guide thought it was good to have a monument like that to honor the regular people who were lost in the war. And for once, even I cannot come up with a joke. Some things are too serious for anything but silence.
6) The Picture Postcard View
But to end on a lighter note, this is the most famous “picture postcard view” in Kosovo. My guide told me that they are getting more and more tourists looking to check Kosovo off their bucket list. But for some reason, there is a postcard with this picture on it that is extremely popular in Japan. So often Japanese tourists come and ask him to help them take a picture on this exact spot.
But this is a great place to end our tour of Kosovo because you can see a mosque in the foreground and an old Serbian Orthodox church in the background. I hope one day all people in Kosovo will be able to live alongside one another as peacefully as the buildings in this picture.
Best Things to Do in Kosovo
Evening: Dinner at Skopski Merak
Remember, we are returning to Skopje in North Macedonia for the evening, so it’s time for a traditional Macedonian dinner! Let’s go to Skopski Merak, which I was told was a good place to try Macedonian cuisine. Are you ready for some Balkan meats? I’m sure it’s possible to be vegetarian in the Balkans, but I am not quite sure how. My father’s family is originally from Romania, and there they like to say that the best vegetable is pork. But I’m sure there are plenty of Balkan vegetarians and I just couldn’t find them.
You can get really excellent tomatoes in Macedonia in the summer, so I suggest starting with a juicy tomato salad. I washed mine down with a flavorful local beer, but they also offer Macedonian wines. Beer and fresh tomatoes is kind of the perfect beginning to any summer dinner in my opinion, though.
Then on to the MEAT. Or maybe this doesn’t actually count as meat since it is pork stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon. This is as tasty as you would expect bacon + cheese to be. In fact, I hope this is what they would serve at a Macedonian McDonalds instead of a bacon cheeseburger and fries.
And That’s the Best Things to Do in Kosovo!
What do you think are the best things to do in Kosovo? Have I made you more excited to visit this off-the-beaten-track destination? And is Bill Clinton seven feet tall in your heart? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours with the best things to do in Kosovo.