15 Best Things to Do in Tirana
Tiranas is the capital of Albania. It is a great city to start a tour of Albania or the Balkans with. You’ll find great food, huge historical sites and diverse landscape. Albania can be elusive to travelers. As an up and coming nation who is rising from the ashes of the post-Communist Era, there isn’t much out here on the internet. However, as I researched and after visiting, I realized this country offers mountain ranges, some of the best beaches in the world, thriving cities, and best of all - it’s unspoiled by mass tourism.
Whether you are planning a solo trip to Albania or taking a family vacation to Albania, you must go now. Albania has spent the past twenty years building and growing their infrastructure. Along with roads, the country has grown it’s tourism numbers. However, if you are headed to Albania, you’re in luck. You won’t be fighting tourist crowds…..yet. Tirana was our first stop of our 26 day Europe trip. We 5 days in Tirana with my 2 kids and 2 parents and I have put together the top 15 places to visit in Tirana.
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Here are the top 15 best things to do in Tirana!
1) Skanderbeg Square: Skanderbeg Square is the main square of Tirana. It is gigantic; measuring in at over 40,000 square meters. Here you will find the National Museum of History, the massive Skanderbeg Monument, the National Opera, National Library, and the Ministry of Economy only to name a few. As a pedestrian only square, you will be able to walk around at your leisure and enjoy the massive mosaic over the National Museum of History or sit on a bench under the Skanderbeg Monument.
2) Pay a visit to Et'hem Bey Mosque: Conveniently located at the far corner of Skanderbeg Square, this Mosque is one of the most important Mosques in all of Albania. It was built in the 19th century, but closed during the communist rule. However, it was made famous when over 10,000 people attended a service in 1991 without permission from the authorities and the police did not interfere. Inside the Mosque you will find some of the rarest Islamic art in the world.
3) Visit the Tirana sign: As many cities in in Europe, Tirana also has a giant lettered sign celebrating the city. The I Love Tirana sign is located on the edge of Rinia Park. The designs on the sign change occasionally, so you may see it decorated for Christmas or covered in flowers in the Spring. The park surrounding the sign is lovely, so grab a coffee and take some photos!
4) Take a day trip over to Durres, Albania: From Tirana, Durres is a short 30 to 40-minute taxi ride. Durres, Albania is a lively waterfront town with many restaurants and shops and home to the bright blue water of the Adriatic Sea. There are so many fun things to do in Durres, so schedule a full day to really get the full effect. Be sure to stop at the Venetian Tower where you will be able to have drinks at the top of a castle tower. It cost us about 3500 lek or about $32 dollars to get from Tirana to Durres by taxi. It cost us 3000 for the return. Anything more than that, I would barter or find another driver.
5) Ride the Dajti Ekespres: The Dajti Ekspres is a short taxi ride outside of town. There you can take the 20-minute gondola ride to the top of Dajti Mountain. Everyone must experience the views of Tirana from the top of Dajti. They are incredible. At the top you will find a delicious restaurant with unbelievable views, 2 large play grounds, a mini-golf course, and several hiking trails. I also suggest riding the elevator inside of the Belvedere hotel to the top viewing platform for an even higher look. You can buy your gondola tickets in advance online or in person at the ticket counter.
6) Visit the Friend’s Bar & Coffee Shop: That’s right! Tirana has a Friend’s Café! You can go in an enjoy a coffee while enjoying the memorabilia from the 1990’s hit show. While the inside is not an exact replica of the Café in the show, you will enjoy the homage to Friend’s TV series. One of the local Albananians told us this was one of the best cafes in Tirana!
7) Eat and Shop in the Blokku District: The Blokku district has been extremely popular since the fall of the Communism in Tirana. This is the area where the Communist Elite lived, so it looks and feel much different than the rest of the city. Today you will find delicious restaurants and plenty of shopping. While you will pay more in the Blokku District than other parts of the city, it’s definitely worth the visit. Be sure not to miss the Library Bar and Sophie Caffé.
8) Visit Square 21: Square 21 is the nerve center of Tirana’s local shopping and food. While I never found anything specifically outlining this area online, the locals seemed to know what we were talking about. Head to the intersection of Kavaja St and Rruga Muhamet Gjollesha. There you can either head down Kavaja towards Skanderbeg Square to find many amazing restaurants or head toward Zogu I Zi Square where you will find more restaurants and shops. This area of town is much more local than Blokku, so you won’t find a ton of English speaking population.
9) Visit the Pyramid of Tirana: The building is derelict today, but you can still walk up to it. You will see the graffiti’d walls and broken windows of a building left abandon after the fall of communism. The pyramid was originally built in to honor the communist leader of Albania, Enver Hixha. His daughter designed the building. While it’s a stark reminder of the pre-1991 times in Albania, it’s definitely worth stopping to look at.
10) Play in the Grand Park of Tirana: The Grand Park of Tirana or, “Lung of the City” as locals call it, is a massive 298 hectares (737 acre) public park on the southern part of the city. The park is home to an artificial lake, the Presidential Palace and the Saint Procopius Church. You will also find a 14-hectare Botanical Garden and the Tirana Zoo within the park.
11) Walk on Tanner’s Bridge: Tanner’s Bridge was built in 18th century and was once part of the Saint George Road. With Café’s all around the bridge, this is a perfect stop for a photo and cup of coffee.
12) Take a Day Trip to Berat: Berat is a 2,413 years-old city and the pride of Albania. It is a melting pot of Albanian history, tradition and culture. Berat is a UNESCO World Heritage Site called “The City of a Thousand Windows.” It’s only 120km from Tirana, so it’s an easy day trip. There are several ways to get to Berat, but we highly recommend DayTrip.
Read our blog on Why Day Trip is the Best Transfer Company in Europe.
13) Bunk’Art 1 & 2: Visitors to Tirana can’t miss visiting Bunk’Art as it’s an unabashed historical exhibition of Albania’s 45 years under Communist Rule. Bunk’Art 1 is located on the edge of Tirana near the Dajti Mountain. Bunk’Art 1 is a historical exhibition located in a gigantic 5-floor underground bunker. The bunker is home to over 100 rooms, a full assembly area, dining areas, offices and storage. The exhibit puts on display Tirana’s history during the time of Enver Hoxhani and Albania’s 45-year communist reign. Hoxhani’s paranoia led to tens of thousands of bunkers being places all over the country; from the beach to the mountains. Yu can’t visit Albania without encountering them. Bunk’Art 2 is located just off of Skanderbeg Square. This exhibit shows the full history of the Albanian Ministry of Internal Affairs that was in place from 1912 to 1991. You will learn about the secret “Sigurimi” or political police that were used as a weapon against Albanian people during Enver Hoxhani’s rule.
14) National Museum of History: The National Museum of History is the corner stone of Skanderbeg Square. It is also the most important historical museum in the entire country. The museum is recognized by the giant mosaic above the entrance which depicts Albanian history from ancient to modern day. The internal displays take guests on a journey from antiquity to the middle ages and all the way through Communism to modern day Albania. This museum is host to 18,000 square meters of exhibitions, so allow at least two hours to tour the museum.
15) Mosaic of Tirana: The Tirana Mosaic is a very quick but historically significant stop as it is the only archeological site in all of Tirana. The site is home to mosaic floors that date back to the 3rd century as well as a collection of carved stones that depict religious motifs. The site is open 24/7 and is free to visitors. As a pro-tip, type Mozaik Café into your GPS to be able to find the location.
Tirana has so much to offer. You will not be bored or hungry exploring this bustling city. Bring some good walking shoes and get ready for an experience you won’t soon forget as you explore Tirana!
Tell me, what are your favorite things to do in Tirana?
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