“Broke but sexy” is arguably the title pursued by any city attempting to recover from near-collapse. And Pristina -- the tiny Kosovan capital brimming with gritty, post-communism blocks -- seems just about ready to cross over from broke and war-torn to trendy and lively.For a bit of background: 16 years ago, Kosovo and Serbia ended their brutal, possibly genocidal civil war. Then, just seven years ago, the just over 4,000-square-mile country controversially declared independence from Serbia -- which Serbia, and host of other countries, refuse to recognize. Even as recently as three months ago, protests had erupted between the Kosovar majority and the country’s Serbian minority.
But don't let this deter you from Pristina. As with many nations with rich history, the capital is where unbelievable art and youthful energy bubble into something that's altogether different. And Europe's youngest city here in Kosovo is well on its way to becoming the newest capital of cool.
Regeneration of Culture and the Arts
The clash with Serbia destroyed much of Pristina’s infrastructure, and it’s taken years to even begin the reconstruction. But, with a slew of NGO-funded projects, the capital’s beginning to see pristine restorations to its once famous cultural sights -- like the Brutalism-displaying National Library, Ethnographic Museum, and the Great Hamam. We think the statue of Bil Klinton deserves a peek, too.
But nothing represents the city and its artistic shift quite like the ever-changing Newborn monument, which gets a new paint job makeover each Independence Day. If you want a quick glimpse into the city's current mood, the sculpture should give you some idea. It's part of the artistic movement happening all over the city, too, with street artists painting a brighter picture of Kosovan life.
A Youthful City Brings Youthful Energy
Kosovo is the youngest European country, in both in terms of its establishment year and in terms of its demographic. The average age here? 26. And like its citizens, Pristina -- and Kosovo -- seem to itch for an identity. You’ll find an assortments of artists, musicians, and general DIYers tirelessly working to transform this city, particularly between Bil Klinton and Tony Blair boulevards. And Pristina arguably has a cafe culture rivaling Italy’s, with locals claiming the best macchiato in the world, citing the cream on top of the milk as the secret.
On top of that, a free-spirited nightlife recalls the techno raves in '90s Berlin -- quite literally at the happy hour-happy, Smiths-playing club Miqt (€1 happy hour, anyone?). Bars like raucous-filled SKHA Bar and White Tree attract trendsetters beginning their night out. The emerging cosmopolitan has brought an assortment of restaurants on the scene, ranging in cuisines from traditional Balkan and Turkish, to Himalayan and Nepalese, to Mexican and vegetarian spots you’d expect to see in Portland. Even microbreweries, like Sabaja, which serves up lemony ales, are sprouting throughout the city.
The best part? Considering that drinks rarely run you over €5, and meals over €10, it's easy for travelers to experience Pristina and be a part of its revitalization.