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When planning a trip to Kosovo, it was important that we see more than just the main destinations there. Having experienced Pristina and Prizren, my friend and I were curious to see what other parts of Kosovo were like. For that, the small city of Gjakova suited us perfectly. Not only was it a convenient stopping point between Prizren and Peja, where we would go hiking, but I’d noticed a few people recommend Gjakova as one of Kosovo’s smaller tourist destinations.
Now, that’s hardly definitive advice on whether Gjakova is worth visiting, but I’ve gone on less. Gjakova is a city of roughly 100,000 people and has long been a fairly important regional centre. The city was quite a major trading point under the Ottomans and that kind of money typically means there’s things to see. Unfortunately, the city was particularly hard hit during the Kosovo War and has spent most of the years since recovering.
So questioning if there was anything left to see in Gjakova felt quite justified. The good news is that yes, there are plenty of things to see in Gjakova that warrant adding it to your Kosovo itinerary. Here’s what you have to look forward to when sightseeing in this less well-known destination.
Without a doubt the main thing to see in Gjakova is the Old Bazaar in the Old Town. In fact, the Gjakova Old Bazaar pretty much is the Old Town. Known locally as the Çarshia e Madhe, this was once the largest bazaar in the Balkans. Like most of the city, it saw a lot of damage at the end of the 90s. It’s importance though made it a priority during the city’s restoration work and the results speak for themselves.
You can spend a nice little while wandering around the Old Bazaar, admiring its quaint Ottoman look. Up at its northern end you’ll find a dense patch of bars and restaurants who’s tables and chairs almost swallow the street entirely. When we were there this section was decorated with flowers hanging overheard to beautiful effect. I’ve never seen anything like it before, so it immediately made Gjakova memorable.
Walking through the Old Town of Gjakova, one sight that quickly caught our eye was the Hadum Mosque. From the street we could clearly see beautiful gardens outside the mosque, not to mention the elegant portico over its entrance. The mosque bears a medieval design, indicating that the Hadum Mosque has been around since the early days of Gjakova. Besides its prayer hall, the mosque features a library, school and small cemetery. As everything was closed up while we were there, we weren’t able to see inside, but by all accounts its quite pretty inside.
Sheikh Emin’s Tekke
While there are quite a few buildings with Ottoman architecture in Gjakova, Sheikh Emin’s Tekke is hard to miss. Sitting at the northern end of the Old Bazaar, this tekke or Sufi dervish monastery is an obvious important cultural monument. The tekke was built back in 1700, reconstructed in 1856 and renovated in 2017, explaining its current refined look. Incredibly, it’s now cared for by the 13th generation descendants of founder Shejh Zeynelabidin.
It’s not everyday that you get to eat lunch at a historic tavern, but it’s definitely possible at Hani Haraçisë in Gjakova. We randomly found this nice lunch spot wandering the Old Town, which is made up of the Old Inn and the New Inn. The New Inn holds the restaurant these days and dating from 1901 isn’t really all that new. While we ate down in the courtyard, it was nice to see the traditional interior upstairs. As with all things in Kosovo, lunch at Hani Haraçisë was super affordable.
An Old Stone Bridge
One of the most cherished landmarks in Gjakova is the Terzijski Bridge near the village of Bistražin. That was a little too far out for us to quickly visit, but as it happens there’s a smaller version on the southwestern edge of the city. Both share an unusual zigzag design from the Ottoman period that make them quite a captivating sight to see.
Judging by photos of the two, the Terzijski Bridge is the more impressive, being both longer and better preserved. That being said, it’s really quite hard to tell the two apart to the point that for a while I thought we had visited the Terzijski Bridge after all. Either way, I was rather taken with the bridge we saw, which comes up on Googlemaps as “Tyrbja e Tahir Efendiut”.
When you’re down in Gjakova, your attention is bound to be drawn to the large hill to the west of the city. That is Çabrati Hill, known for its restaurants, bars and views. Sounds like somewhere not to miss right? Upon walking up the steep hill past some really nice houses, we strolled about before settling in at Oxygen Restaurant. Despite my expectations of Oxygen Restaurant being overpriced and overly reliant on its views, it turned out to be a great place for dinner.
Now speaking of views from Çabrati Hill, people usually focus on the views down to the city centre. However, I think the view the other direction is just as memorable. Looking west away from the city you’re treated to grassy fields leading to distant mountains over on the Albanian border. As we’d timed our walk up there for just before sunset, we enjoyed some superb views from Çabrati Hill as the sun fell behind the mountainous horizon.
Travel Tips for Visiting Gjakova
Hopefully at this point it’s clear that Gjakova is well worth a stop when you’re in Kosovo. We only spend a single night there and that felt appropriate for how much there is to see in Gjakova. Theoretically, you could manage a day trip there from Prizren or even Pristina, as both aren’t all that far away.
The best Gjakova bus connections though are with Prizren and Peja, with both roughly one hour’s travel. Should you choose to stay in Gjakova overnight, I highly recommend the Garden Guesthouse. As the name suggests, you’re out in a self-contained guesthouse surrounded by a lovely garden with very welcoming and kind owners. They made us feel at home, offered suggestions and even did our laundry.
Have you heard of Gjakova Kosovo? Does this look like somewhere you’d want to visit when travelling in Kosovo? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
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