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Pristina in Kosovo is Europe's youngest capital city and is full of intriguing contrasts. In the old town, you can bargain with vendors in the thriving bazaar or relax over a macchiato (a source of pride in the city). As you wander around, you'll see painted mosques and towering churches side by side with Soviet-era architecture. You don't have to go far for nature either: the hiking trails and pretty picnicking spots of Germia Park are within walking distance of the centre.
Some hostels in Pristina run free walking tours to help you get to know the city. In between exploring, you can hang out on a shady outdoor terrace and meet your fellow travellers. There are some Pristina hostels that have bright and airy private apartments, while others have balconies in every room – ideal for admiring the views over the terracotta rooftops. You will often find free Wi-Fi in a Pristina hostel as well as free breakfast and shared kitchens.
Pristina's central neighbourhood is around Bulevardi Nëna Tereza (Mother Teresa Boulevard), a pedestrianised street lined with cafés and a direct view of the 99 domes of the National Library of Kosovo. The Ottoman old town is a short walk, and among the narrow lanes and historic houses you'll find the bazaar. The café culture of Santea neighbourhood comes alive every evening, and as the night goes on, follow locals to the bars and clubs on Bill Clinton Boulevard.
Pristina's key sights highlight the various influences on the city. Admire the intricate frescos of Sultan Mehmet Fatih Mosque (the Imperial Mosque) or the modern Newborn Monument celebrating independence (its huge letters are redecorated annually). Emin Gjiku Ethnographic Museum is tucked behind the Kosovo Museum in restored Ottoman houses and shows traditional Kosovan life through the centuries. To day trip like locals, make the hour's drive for a swim in the pools of Mirusha Waterfalls or explore the 25 underground lakes and sculpted rocks of Shpella e Gadimës, the Marble Cave (a 30-minute drive).
To get into the city from Pristina International Airport, you'll need to take a taxi (20 minutes) as there's no public transport. You can also reach Pristina by bus from cities in Serbia, Albania and Montenegro. The bus station is outside the centre, so it's best to take a taxi there. Although Pristina does have an extensive local bus network, the city is fairly compact so most visitors walk everywhere. If you do use the buses, buy your fare on board.