Kosovo is a hidden gem within the Balkans, a region in Europe that’s already hugely underrated. With a rich history, beautiful architecture, friendly locals, and cheap prices, Kosovo is a Balkans itinerary must-see. If you’re planning a trip to the Balkans, consider spending three days in Kosovo!
Because of Kosovo’s small size, it’s possible to visit many beautiful places during just three days in Kosovo.
Tip: Be mindful of Kosovo’s history
Kosovo has been occupied by the Ottoman Empire, Serbia, Bulgaria, and by communist Yugoslavia. Endless fighting took place between the occupants and local ethnic groups, to try and establish majority rule over Kosovo.
Sadly, many lives were lost during these conflicts, and many historical and cultural buildings in Kosovo were destroyed. To Serbia, Kosovo is still considered land that was forcibly taken from them.
It’s important to keep this history in mind when exploring the streets of Kosovo today. It’s a young country full of hope, trying to grow its own sense of identity, while preserving the current state of peace.
But First... How to get to Kosovo
The Balkan conglomerate of countries is very easy to navigate by bus. Countless busses run to/from Kosovo and Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania, the countries that Kosovo shares borders with. The largest hubs from which you can easily catch a bus to Kosovo are Tirana, Albania, Skopje, Macedonia, and Nis, Serbia.
Overland Border-Crossing from Serbia to Kosovo
Kosovo’s neighbor to the east, Serbia, does not recognize Kosovo as independent from them. To Serbian border patrol, Kosovo is still Serbia. This is important to keep in mind when traveling between the two countries.
Traveling from Serbia to Kosovo, there is no problem – you won’t get a Serbian exit stamp, but you will get a Kosovo entry stamp. You can freely continue from Kosovo to Kosovo’s other neighboring countries.
You WILL run into trouble going in the other direction, from Kosovo to Serbia!!
Trying to cross from Kosovo to Serbia with only a Kosovo entry stamp and no Serbian entry stamp means you are illegally in Serbia! You will not be allowed to enter Serbia, unless you previously had a Serbian entry stamp.
Serbia – Kosovo – somewhere else = OK
Serbia – Kosovo – back to Serbia = OK
Somewhere else – Kosovo – Serbia = NOT OK
If you itinerary takes you West to East, from Kosovo towards Serbia, it’s best to detour through travel hub Skopje, Macedonia. Then you will be legally entering Serbia through Macedonia and you will receive a Serbian entry stamp. Therefore:
Kosovo – Macedonia – Serbia = OK
Three Days in Kosovo, Day 1 - Pristina
The capital of Kosovo, Pristina is a town with a small but growing population of just over 200,000 people. It’s a logical first step on your three days in Kosovo itinerary.
Different parts of Pristina have different ambiances, but none give off the feel of a war-torn country. The town center feels fully metropolitan, filled with men and women in business suits. One street over feels like a university town with students carrying books and backpacks. And the old bazaar will take you half a century back in time to an Islamic market!
Although Kosovo is a majority Muslim population, most women choose not to wear headscarves. Women and men walk side by side through Pristina’s large streets, as do equal numbers of male and female students on the University of Pristina campus. I felt like I could’ve been anywhere in Western Europe when I was walking down Pristina’s central Mother Theresa street!
Things to Do In Pristina:
- See the “Newborn” sign – Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a split that is still unrecognized by some countries including Serbia and Russia. This “Newborn” sign was erected upon independence in downtown Pristina, and was changed to “New10rn” in 2018 to celebrate 10 years of independence.
- See the statue of Bill Clinton (on Bulevardi Bill Klinton), who is credited with ending the Kosovo War in 1999 and is held in very high esteem by Kosovans.
- Mother Theresa Street – this mostly pedestrian-only street is where the young students, schoolchildren, and gossiping old ladies hang out. Clothing shops, banks, and convenience stores line the streets. Street vendors here sell snacks and Yugoslavian-era souvenirs. It’s a great place to sit and people watch, and get a feel for what it’s like to be a local Kosovan!
- Visit the Church of Christ the Savior, which is an unfinished Orthodox Serbian Christian church, which was abandoned when the Kosovo War started. It was an unwelcome construction project that started when Serbs were trying to take over (take back?) Kosovo. The church was being built on the campus of the University of Pristina. Many Kosovans today want this building torn down.
- Also on the University of Pristina campus is the National Library of Kosovo, one of my favorite buildings in the Balkans. I’ve never seen such a quirky and interesting building with its many blocky rooms, domes, and cage-like exterior.
- The Old Bazaar – This was a great place to be transported back in time. Here there were the usual market stands with fruits, vegetables, bags, shoes, and bags of grain and herbs. But further in the back there were tough-looking men selling electronics – old headphones, cassette players, bits and pieces of radios and televisions.
- The Kosovo Museum – At this free museum you can take a peek into Kosovan history, and find a room filled with flags of the countries that recognize Kosovo as an independent country. The other exhibits show relics of pots and plates found around Kosovo thousands of years ago, or featuring weapons and army gear that was used throughout the many Balkan wars.
Places to Stay in Pristina:
I highly recommend Oda Hostel in Pristina, which has every amenity that a backpacker needs in a place to stay for $8 USD per night. The beds and blankets were cozy, each bed (and even the lockers) had a personal light and outlet!
Pristina is full of highly-rated options for accommodation including:
Three Days in Kosovo, Day 2 - Prizren
Prizren is the second city on my three days in Kosovo itinerary and also my favorite. Prizren has the local charm and character that I felt Pristina was lacking. A small river runs through the center of town, with stone bridges crossing over it. Many chic restaurants with patios are built along one side of it, and park benches line the opposite side.
Busses leave several times per day from Pristina’s main bus station (30 mins walk from city center or short taxi ride). Busses to Prizren cost €4 per person, plus a €0.10 platform fee at the bus station (common in Kosovo and the Balkans).
Things to Do in Prizren
- Prizren Fortress – the main tourist attraction and great viewpoint over town is the Prizren Fortress. Located at the top of a steep 20-minute hill climb, you’ll find what’s left of a massive stone enclosure. You’re free to wander around the open rooms and onto the walls, where you’ll see many locals and tourists alike taking selfies with the beautiful view of Prizren below.
- On the path towards the fortress is the Church of Holy Savior, another ruin that was originally built by the Orthodox Christian Serbians. During a period of unrest between the Kosovan Serbs and the Kosovan Albanians in 2004 the church was mostly destroyed.
- Explore the town center – Grab a coffee or a meal at any of the restaurants and cafes that line the central square or river. Stop by a bakery and pick up a burek, a flaky, rolled pastry filled with spinach, cheese, or ground meat.
Places to Stay in Prizren
A hostel I highly recommend here is Arra Hostel. The owners are super friendly young Kosovan guys who make amazing breakfast, and can teach you about Kosovo’s history. It’s a bit of a hike to the hostel, but the view from there is truly spectacular, and it puts you halfway up to the Prizren fortress at the top of the hill!
Other highly-rated options include:
- Budget – M99 Hostel, Ura Hostel
- Standard – Hotel Prizreni, Prior Hotel
- Luxury – Hotel Tiffany, Premium Park Hotel
Check out other places to stay in Prizren here.
Three Days in Kosovo, Day 3 - Peja
Take a local bus from Prizren up to the mountains of Kosovo where the little town of Peja is located. Busses cost €4 to make the 2-hour journey.
Peja is located at the foot of the same mountain range that stretches through northern Albania and southern Montenegro, known for its beautiful valleys, small villages, and staggering mountain peaks.
It’s a town I regrettably missed visiting because I was planning on trekking the mountains in Albania. It’s a town similar in charm to Prizren but with massive, green rolling hills surrounding it. There’s a main shopping strip and bazaar, as well as a bright red orthodox monastery that has withstood the many years of Serbian buildings being destroyed.
Mountains around Theth, a small village in northern Albania for reference.
Find places to stay in Peja here.
This concludes my three-day Kosovo itinerary. Because of each city’s small size and how close the towns are to each other, it’s possible to see a lot of Kosovo in three days. You can consider basing yourself out of one city to make day trips to the other locations as well.
Be sure to include three days in Kosovo on your next Balkans itinerary to discover this young, beautiful country!