It was established as a trading town, sporting the largest bazaar in the Balkans, called Çarshia e Madhe (the Grand Bazaar). The tradesmanship spirit and some of the trades practiced still remain in the city. The city is centrally located in the Dukagjin Valley of western Kosovo, equal distance between the cities of Prizren to the south and Peja to the north. It also has a historic link to the Gjakova Highlands, now across the border in northern Albania.
The townspeople pride themselves in their sense of town music practised, humour and sarcasm which distinguish it from the rest of Kosovo and enforce the local character. Gjakova has contributed several important leaders to the history of Kosovo, such as World War II partisan and post-war leader Fadil Hoxha and communist Yugoslav Presidency Chairman Mahmut Bakalli, as well as to the cultural scene.
Gjakova was badly hit by the Kosovo War of 1998–99, fought between Kosovo Liberation Army guerrillas demanding the independence of Kosovo and Serbian forces. Around 75% of town's population was driven out by the Serb Army during the war, and many of the city's homes and important monuments were burnt down or otherwise destroyed. After the war, much of town's ethnic Albanian inhabitants returned (who make up to 98% of the population). Many of the stores in the old-town area, locally known as Çarshia e Madhe, were rebuilt.
While in Gjakova, make sure you talk to the locals, especially the young ones, since they are more proficient in English. And you will hear a story about every corner of the city.
The town has sizable diasporas in Switzerland, Germany, and Belgium. Especially during the summer months, you might see many expensive foreign cars from these countries circling around town. The foreign family members return here for vacation as well as for marriages because this way the whole family can join the wedding. The Çarshia e Madhe has many shops specialized in wedding attire.
- 1 Tourist Information Office (at the entrance of the Grand Bazaar).
The inter-city bus station is at the entrance of the town when coming from Pristina, with easy access to the town.
If you are in Shkodra, you can have an adventurous route via Lake Koman. Get a furgon (minivan) at 06:00 from Shkodra to Koman. There you can catch the passenger or car ferry to Fierze, then get a furgon to Bajram Curri and another furgon to Gjakova, arriving around mid-day in Gjakova.
Pristina International Airport Adem Jashari (PRN IATA) is 65 km away from Gjakova. There you can get a taxi or walk to the roundabout in Fushë Kosovë on the outskirt of Pristina and wait there for the Gjakova bus passing by from Pristina.
From Pristina, Gjakova is 90 km away on a partly highway road. The road from Montenegro will take you first to Peja, Gjakova is another 36 km to the south. If you come from Albania, the easiest way is through the highway Durres - Kukes - Prizren, then taking the Gjakova exit with another 25 km on the Prizren-Gjakova regional road.
Since the city is not that big, the best way to get to see it is by walking.
Gjakova is the bike capital of Kosovo, and itself is quite suitable for biking.
Taxis are quite inexpensive: you can get around the city for €2-3 at most.
Some monuments in Gjakova had to be repaired or rebuilt after their destruction during the war. Enjoy the walk through the scenic old town. There, you should visit the guesthouse/restaurant Hani i Haraqisë which sits on a small street with shops specialized in woodwork. The church and the main Hadum Mosque have also been rebuilt and can be visited (opening times change).
The Grand Bazaar
- 1 The Grand Bazaar. It is one of the rarest of its kind. An architectural and cultural complex, with a length of 1 km, including a space of about 35,000 m2, it holds a large number of crafts-work shops. free.
- Some of the main handicrafts:
- Production of arms - Gunsmiths
- Tailors (“Terzinjtë")
- Curriers (“Tabakët)
- Woolen white hat (“Qeleshe”) craft
The Haraqia Inn
- 2 Haraçia's Inn. Being situated in the southern part of the Bazaar (15-20 minutes on foot), the Haraçia Inn is one of the oldest objects in Gjakova. It has a characteristic wooden construction style, with a beautiful balcony or "çardak". Having two floors and a wonderful yard, it has almost saved the original shape, while nowadays it is exploited as a museum-restaurant, where people can be served with traditional foods.
- 3 Hadum Mosque (Xhamia e Hadumit). daytime. Hadum Mosque (Xhamia e Hadumit) is one of the very first monuments which marks the history of the town of Gjakova. Built during 1594-95, it represents a cultural, educational and religious center of this area. After sustaining damage during the 1999 Kosovo War, it was reconstructed and is now open not only for religious and educational purposes, but also for touristic and cultural visits. 10 minutes on foot away from the centre of the city, on the road of the Old Bazaar of Gjakova (also known as the Grand Bazaar of Gjakova) (Albanian: Çarshia e Vjetër e Gjakovës or Çarshia e Madhe e Gjakovës). free.
- 4 Saint Paul and Saint Peter Church. Saint Paul and Saint Peter Church (Albanian: Kisha e Shën Palit dhe Shën Pjetrit) is one of the tallest monuments in Gjakova, which can be seen from different points of the town, and can be reached 25-30 minutes on foot (Just in front of the Saint Anton (Shna Ndou) Church). free.
- 5 The Grand Autocephalous Balcanic Tekke. One of the oldest monuments built in Gjakova, showing a unique style of building 10 minutes on foot away from the centre. free.
- 6 The Bektashi Tekke. Well-known not only in Gjakova, but more widely in Kosovo. What characterizes the Bektashi are their unique Islamic ideology, indicating the diversity of beliefs in Kosovo and the prevalence of religious tolerance. Babai, the spiritual leader of the tekke, always takes pleasure in showing the tekke and talk about its history. free.
- 7 The Tabak Bridge. The Tabak Bridge built in 1771, lies over River Erenik, and used to be a bounding bridge between Gjakova and Shkodra. It has an attractive scenery.
- 8 The Terezi Bridge. An 18th-century bridge with a length of 190 m and eleven arches. Located in the southeastern part of Gjakova, on the road to Prizren, can be reached easily by car, bus, or taxi in about 15-20 minutes.
Another 5 km along the road, you will find White Drin Canyon—worth a visit.
The houses below are characterized by interesting and unique architecture, of mainly traditional and oriental style.
- 9 The house of Rexhep Haxhi Ismaili. The house of Rexhep Haxhi Ismaili is now used also as the museum of Gjakova. 10 minutes on foot from the centre, it is just to the right side of the main road, in front of the Gjakova municipal government building.
- 10 The tower house (kulla) of Abdullah Pashë Dreni. 3-5 minutes on foot from the centre, at the entrance of the Grand Bazaar of Gjakova. It serves as the Tourist Information Center.
- 11 Shkugëza Park. The Shkugëza Park (Albanian: Parku i Shkugëzes; or just Shkugëza) is located 3 km from the city. It has a large area of planted pine trees, with bike trails, walking trails and daily-stay corners. Four restaurants are in the area. It can be reached in 10 minutes by car, 20 minutes by bicycle or 45 minutes on foot.
- 12 Çabrati Hill. The Çabrati Hill (Albanian: Kodra e Çabratit; or just Çabrati) is also known as the city's hill. With several restaurants and night clubs, you can enjoy the beautiful view of the city at any time of the day, especially at night. A 30-minute walk from the city is rewarded with an impressive vista at the top. With exception to small cars and bicycles, other vehicles are not recommended due to the steepness of the hill.
- 13 Radoniqi Lake. Close to the Gjakova Airport, 7 km away. Taking a cab to the lake should not cost more than €15. As it's the area's source of drinking water, swimming is prohibited.
Gjakova is surrounded by beautiful hikable mountain trails lush with greenery and water.
- 1 City tour, Hadum Aga, n. n. (next to Sylejman Hadum Aga Mosque at the Grand Bazaar), ☏ , , firstname.lastname@example.org. By arrangement. The tour includes all the major cultural monuments starting from Avdullah Pashë Dreni Kulla followed by the Shejh Emini Tekke. The visit continues to the Grand Bazaar, to the grain market, the handicrafts: quilt workers, saddlers, tobacco pipe makers, a visit to the 16th century Mosque of Hadum Aga then a traditional house for a tea break. The tour continues with a visit to a group of craftsman who create handmade wooden boxes. Also included is an opportunity to visit the Bektashi Tekke and the stories of the "Babai" (Spiritual leader of the Tekke). The visit is followed by a visit to the 16th-century Hani i Haraçise and the Ethnographic Museum, an old traditional house with many interesting wooden carved pieces. Price by arrangement.
- 2 Radoniqi Lake (close to the airport, 7 km away; taking a cab to there wouldn't cost more than €15). Radoniqi Lake is the drinking water source of the town, therefore swimming is prohibited! free.
- 3 Guided hikes by Mountaineering Society Pashtriku (SHBA Pashtriku), Sylejman Hadum Aga nr. 101, Gjakova (Grand Bazaar), ☏ , email@example.com. hours by arrangement. Mountaineering club in the area going on regular hikes every Sunday. Dedicated guided hikes can also be provided by arrangement. €2-7 on Sundays open to all, call or email for dedicated tours.
- GuideKS (Kosovo Tourist Guides Association), firstname.lastname@example.org, ☏ , email@example.com. umbrella organization of tourist guides in Kosovo. They will put you in touch with a local guide suitable for your activity.
- City tour guide Kushtrim Dula, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. hours by arrangement. An MBA graduate in Austria, multilingual and well accustomed to global cultures with long experience in tourism industry, business management and consulting, both in Austria and Kosovo.
- City tour guide Shqipe Mula, ☏ , email@example.com. hours by arrangement.
- City tour guide Fisnik Arllati, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. hours by arrangement.
- City tour guide Rudina Lila, ☏ , email@example.com. hours by arrangement.
Metal handicrafts, utensils and engravings can be bought at various places around town, including at the Grand Bazaar. Plis, the white traditional Albanian hat, can also be bought starting at €5.
Cuisine in Gjakova is not very diverse, but offers the traditional Kosovo cuisine in a modest setting and at reasonable prices.
- 1 Hani i Haraçisë, Qamil Bakalli st. (off Ismail Qemali st), ☏ , . 08-23. Han means roadhouse, a role it served for some 200 years, but this object has been turned into a restaurant for the last 50 years. Traditional qebaba (Balkan kebabs) is recommended. Next door Hani i Vjetër which is part of the complex has an even better atmosphere although the food is not as good. If visiting in the morning, ask for paqë (beef soup) here. €5-10.
- 2 Çarshia e Jupave, Ismail Qemaili st. Nr. 9, Gjakovë (at the northern entrance of Grand Bazaar), ☏ , , , fax: , info@Çarshiaejupave.com. Traditional oven-cooked dishes here are the best in town and meat dishes are of high quality. Accompany your meal with strong local brandy called rakija. €7-15.
- 3 Jaki Grill, Gjon Nikollë Kazazi, Gjakovë 50000 (near the Catholic Church, in the outskirts towards Albanian border), ☏ . M-Sa 09:00-23:00. BBQ with premium pork meats also served which is rare in Kosovo. Next to Pizzeria Mario Napolitano.
- 4 Oxygen, Martin Camaj st. (take the uphill to the end of the paved road at Çabrati Hill), ☏ . Eat in relaxed family-friendly atmosphere with a great view of the city. Standard meat-based plates are served here. €5-10.
- 5 Restaurant Promaja, Ujz, Gjakova 50500 (near White Drin river, on the national road to Prizren), ☏ . Agrotourism restaurant with farm grown foods.
- 6 Mario Napolitano, Rr. Gjon Nikollë Kazazi (outside town in the direction of Albania, by the two Catholic churches, next to Jaki Grill), ☏ . 16:00-23:00. Exquisite pizzeria in the Neapolitan tradition. Pasta also served. Pork items with quality meats and cheeses also offered. Reservation is recommended. €12 for a full course.
Çarshia e Vjetër pedestrian area has numerous cafes and is the main place where young people gather.
Outside the town, in the Shkugëza Forest, several cafes are located. Locals walk to the area and drink their espressos or machiatos. Standard food is also available.
- 1 Damë (at the Palace of Culture, in the central park), ☏ . food and drinks in a modern setting.
- 2 D.E.L. House Bar, Marin Barleti st. (near the Cultural Centre, in the centre of the city). It's a nice place to have a great party, especially during the weekends. €0.70 and up.
- 3 Cacoo Bar, Ismail Qemajli st., #26 (from the central post office go downhill, you'll see it on the right side before crossing the bridge), ☏ . 08:00-24:00. Have a coffee here every day in the centre of the city near the Post Office. €0.70 and up.
- 4 Hapësira Bashkëpunuese (at Çarshia e Madhe (Grand Bazaar)), ☏ . Hapësira Bashkëpunuese is a combination of a bar café, a library and of a place for various performances (start-up events, alternative lectures, art exhibitions). €0.70 and up.
- Shpija e vjetër Lounge Bar, Mit'hat Frashëri st., ☏ . During the weekdays you can have a snack or coffee, but during the weekend you can have a nice party here. Open from 08:00-24:00. €0.70 and up.
- Retrospektiv, Ismail Qemajli st, nr. 58 (the Grand Bazaar). It's known for being the only rock café in the town and for being open till the last guest leaves. €0.70 and up.
- 5 Index Bar (at the end of the paved road to the uphill road to Çabrati hill). Located on top of the city, the Çabrati hill, from where during the day, while having a coffee, you can enjoy a beautiful view of the whole city, and throughout the night (especially on the weekends) there you can also have a great party. €0.70 and up.
- 6 HD Club, Gjon Buzuku st. (if you are in the centre of the city, you can go there on foot easily, only by following the main Mother Theresa st., which may take you 20 minutes of walking, or you can get a cab and pay €2). Frequented by the youth of all over Kosovo, it is known as one of the best nightclubs in the country. €0.70 and up.
- 7 N'Pub, Mother Theresa st. (Small Bazaar), ☏ . It is an indoor nightclub which is open only during the winter season. You can find there some great parties with live music and cheap beers. €0.70 and up.
Several choices are available for sleeping. The costs of sleeping ranges from €20-50 per night.
- 1 Hotel Çarshia e Jupave, Ismail Qemaili st. Nr. 9, Gjakovë (at the northern entrance of Grand Bazaar), ☏ , , , fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. Çarshia e Jupave Hotel combines the traditions of the old city with modern Kosovo luxuries by offering a comfortable place to rest, dine, shop and do business. Çarshia e Jupave Hotel is based on a Jupa family tradition from thee 1950s. Services: 24-hour reception desk, room rervice, wake-up service, electronic key-system, WiFi Internet access, non-smoking rooms, heating and air conditioning in your room, lockable safe, laundry and dry cleaning services, fax and copy services, smoke detectors, secure luggage storage, elevator, security, camera system, secure underground private parking, taxi reservation service, credit cards are accepted. €30-100.
- 2 Hotel Pashtriku, Nëna Terezë st, Gjakovë (in the centre of the city), ☏ , email@example.com. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. Hotel Pashtriku is the biggest hotel in the city. Services: free Wi-Fi, free parking, bar, restaurant, 24-hour front desk, lift, room service, conference room, fitness centre, exchange service, laundry service, indoor pool. €30-90.
- 3 Hotel La Villa, Shkugez, Gjakovë, ☏ . Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. 2 km away from the city center. Built in 2013 in the surroundings of Shkugëz forest, suitable for relaxing although weekend summer nights can be loud due to wedding parties. Services: Wi-Fi Internet access, restaurant, pool, bar, parking. €30-60.
- 4 Hotel Jakova, Migjeni st. (Blloku i Ri), Gjakovë (taking a taxi is recommended), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. Built in 1999 in the new part of town 5 min away from the city center by car.Services: Wi-Fi Internet access, restaurant, parking, bar. €20-40.
- 5 Hotel Metropol, Nëna Terezë st., Gjakovë (In the direction of Peja, near the Firefighting Station), ☏ , , . Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. Services: restaurant (with a diverse cuisine), conference room, banquet hall, reception 24/7, Wi-Fi Internet, underground parking. €20-35.
- 6 Hostel F, Hasan Dashi st. no. 31 (continue south from Hadum Mosque, make first right, then first left into the alley), ☏ , email@example.com. Hostel-F is a family-run hostel which offers accommodation with 24-hr front-desk, homemade breakfast, free street parking and laundry service. €10-15.
- 7 Kulla Dula Guesthouse, Ganimete Terbeshi, 38, ☏ . A traditional stone house built at the end of the 18th century with very warm ambiance. Has been used as a school and to house refugees.
- 8 Guesthouse 1897, Mithat Frasheri 86 (650 m from the northern entrance of Grand Bazaar), ☏ . Check-in: 24/7, check-out: 10:00–11:00. Guesthouse 1897 is a hostel that offers beds in dorm rooms as well as private rooms. You will experience a comfort stay in a traditional city house renovated in 2019. It is 650 m from the northern entrance of the Grand Bazaar under the foot of Cabrati hill. Guesthouse 1897 offers a spacious rooms and common areas and the opportunity to travel back in time with its mini museum that is exhibited there. Services: 24-hr check-in, free Wi-Fi, continental breakfast, traditional food, room service, free parking, laundry services, exhibition space and museum space. €10-15.
- 9 Kulla Isuf Mazrekaj, Village Dranoc. Very authentic kulla in the historical stone village of Dranoc. Bed and breakfast with traditional dishes.
Wireless Internet is widely available in cafés and restaurants throughout the city, although it's a good idea to ask if one is available before you sit down. Free public Wi-Fi is also available around the city through PTK (username: ptk, password: telekomi) and Fibrelink hotspots (no login). Internet cafés are also available at a cost of €0.60/hour with drinks served.
Several private phone calling shops with long-distance calling are available. You may also use the state telco company PTK main Gjakova branch downtown or several of its kiosks around the city to buy calling credit and use phone cabins.
Mobile telephony providers Vala and Ipko provide 3G and 4G internet telephony.
- The Junik area is home to tradional stone houses called kullas. Inquire at the Tourism Office about guided tours
- White Drin Canyon – An interesting canyon 5 km beyond Terezi Bridge.
- Deçan – 20 km northwest of Gjakova you'll find one of Kosovo's four UNESCO World Heritage Sites; the Visoki Decani monastery.
- Rahovec – Kosovo's prominent wine-making region. Inquire at the Tourism Office about guided tours of the area.
- Mirusha Waterfalls — About 20 km from Gjakova on the road to Kline/Pristina road. Beautiful water fall cascades and exciting hike at its end.
- Valbona National Park, Albania – It is just across the border in the mountains of northern Albania, and is one of the most prominent natural beauties of northern Albania and quite visited by tourists.
- Pristina (buses to €4 paid on the bus, leaving from the bus station; 90 min, 89 km away.). Capital city of Kosovo. Good connections from here to Skopje, Sarajevo and Belgrade.
- Prizren (buses to €2.50 paid on the bus, leaving from the bus station 36 km, 45 min away.). Ottoman-era city with Albanian, Serbian and Byzantine heritage.
- Shkodra (There are minibuses on the exit of Gjakova to Bajram Curri which drop you at Lake Fierza ferry stop. Ferries from Fierza leave at 06:00 ending up at Lake Koman where other minibuses wait for passengers to Shkodra.). The ferry trip on the lake/River Drin canyon is breathtaking. Shkodra is the cultural center of northern Albania and Albanian Catholics.
- Tirana (buses to €15 paid on the bus, leaving from the bus station; 4 hr away). Tirana is the capital of Albania.