Quick Information About Albania:
Country Profile: Southeast European country which hugs the western part of the Balkan Peninsula. It is bordered by Montenegro, North Macedonia, Kosovo, and Greece. To the west is the Adriatic Sea.
Capital: Tirana / Tiranë
Currency: Albanian Lek (1 USD = 104.24 Lek)
Religion: Muslim by the majority (Albania was under Ottoman rule for 400 years, which had major influence in its religion).
Language: Shqip; the last of the mostly extinct Illyrian languages.
Weather: Typical Mediterranean climate: dry and warm during summertime and mild, wet winters. But there are climate variances in different localities due to differing altitude.
Getting around: Taxi is a great way of getting around the city, as well as city buses. But if you are only staying in Tirana for a day or two and aims to see most of its most important and historic sights, I suggest staying in a hotel by the Skanderbeg Square area. You will manage to see most of Tirana’s tourist attractions within a short walk from there.
Tourism Slogan: “Be ‘Taken’ by Albania” (no joke)
LEARN ALBANIA’S HISTORY AT TIRANA’S NATIONAL MUSEUM OF HISTORY
It’s hard to miss this building whilst strolling along Skanderbeg Square, as the front façade of the building is quite eye-catching. It features a colorful mosaic of arm-bearing men and women and is a beautiful sight on its own.
This museum is a must-see when visiting Tirana. They have an extensive display of medieval artifacts, Albanian national costumes, WWII memoirs among other things. It gives a thorough account of Albanian history from its ancient Illyrian origins to its Greek and Italian influences, which will leave you with better understanding of the country and its people as they are today.
Their most prized possession currently on display is a 4th century BCE mosaic called The Beauty of Durres. It is hailed as the most important ancient mosaic in Albania.
EXPLORE COMMUNIST ERA ALBANIA AT THE BUNKART2
Bunkart2 is an old bunker repurposed into a museum. Relics from Albania’s long communist history are now on display (with English and Albanian descriptions). It is a great way to get acquainted with the country’s dark communist past. The bunker was originally built as a barracks intended to tough out nuclear attacks. Tours here are self-guided, but there is an interactive app that you can download on your phone, which syncs with the WIFI inside the bunker.
A word of caution: some display/images are of graphic nature and can be a bit disturbing. It is easy to spot. Just look for a plain-looking concrete dome a short walk from Tirana’s City Center Square.
SHOP FOR SOUVINERS AT PAZARI I RI, TIRANA, ALBANIA
Pazari I Ri or the New Bazaar as the locals call it, is a lively marketplace set in a beautiful building in Tirana. This is not your typical greengrocer. This colorful marketplace is a lively one-stop-shop for most things you need. They have a good selection of in-season fruits, fish, meat and deli. There are lots coffee shops, souvenir stores and bars around. You can also find some traditional Albanian eateries. This is a great rendezvous place with all the nice little coffee shops around. It’s also quiet pleasant to take a stroll around the area at night.
If you yearn for seafood, this place is for you. Most of the restaurants in this area serve fresh seafood.
STROLL ACCROSS TANNERS’ BRIDGE
The Tanner’s bridge is a small piece of history amid modern-day Tirana. This pedestrian-only bridge was built during the Ottoman period. It is by no means grand, but it’s interesting to see an 18th century piece of architecture which survived to modernity, when most of Tirana’s historic buildings were destroyed during the Communist era.
BE INSPIRED BY ALBANIA’S NATIONAL HERO AT SKANDERBERG SQUARE
Skanderbeg Square features an effigy of Albanian patriotism in the heart of Tirana. The imposing structure mounted on a horse is that of the Albanian national hero Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeu, who united Albanians under his command to rebel against the Ottomans. You can take a pleasant walk across the square where you can see this statue front row and center. There are several coffee shops and restaurants surrounding the square should you get peckish.
On certain days of the week, vendors and farmers will set up stalls here and sell their goods. You can buy anything from traditional Albanian rugs to fresh fruits and vegetables.
LEARN ABOUT PAST COMMUNIST GOINGS-ON AT THE HOUSE OF LEAVES
Originally set up as an obstetric clinic by Dr. Jani Basho, the facility was taken over by Sigurimi after the fall of the Albanian monarchy and establishment of the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania.
The House of Leaves was Tirana’s “house of pain” during Albania’s oppressive communist reign. It was used as headquarters for spying, interrogation, and torturing subjects. Torture devices and surveillance monitoring devices are now on display.
TAKE A WALK IN THE CLOUDS
Reja “The Cloud” is an interesting piece of modern art and landmark in Tirana. The cloud-shaped metal framework was created by a Japanese artist and donated to Tirana. You can better make out its cloud form when viewed from a distance. The art is meant to depict technological connectivity to cloud networks.
SAMPLE AUTHENTIC ALBANIAN FOOD
Being close to the Mediterranean, Albanians enjoy most staples of the healthy Mediterranean diet. Olive oil is mainly used in cooking and food is abundantly garnished with herbs and cheeses.
Try Fërgesë Tirane, a traditional Albanian food which originated from the Albania’s capital Tirana. Its recipe calls for ground meat, sauteed vegetables (tomatoes, bell peppers, onions), cottage or feta cheese, basil, butter, flour, and olive oil. The mixture will be baked in a clay pot, then served with bread. There is also a meatless variation of this recipe which is mostly served as a side dish.
Try it at Oda’s; an authentic Albanian restaurant that serves traditional Albanian food and is highly recommended by the locals. Only a short walk from Pazari i Ri, it is located in a short indistinct alleyway. Look for it carefully as you might miss it. The meatless variation side dish at Era Blloku was really good as well.
WATCH THE SUNSET AT DAJTI MOUNTAIN
Dajti Mountain is near Tirana and is popular amongst locals for picnics, hiking and just to escape from the stresses of the city.
Take a taxi or a bus to the base of the mountain. There is a cable car that will take you to the summit. Grab a cup of coffee from the cafe as you watch the sunset, and have dinner at the restaurant located on the top to end the day.
Related article: 3 BEAUTIFUL DAY TRIPS FROM TIRANA
Where to Stay in Tirana
I really enjoyed my 2-day stay here. Hotel concierge was able to arrange a personal tour for me to Berat and Krujë for which I’m really grateful for, as my booked tour was canceled by the tour company due to lack of tourist.
- The service was topnotch.
- The rooms were luxurious with gorgeous city views.
- It’s in a really nice and safe area, centrally located, close to Tirana’s Business District and right by the American Embassy.
- It’s a hop, skip and jump to Skanderbeg Square and most important attractions in Tirana.
- There are some really nice coffee shops and restaurants close to the hotel.
- There is a city bus stop right by the hotel.
I stayed here for a few days whilst nursing my jetlag and I could not fault this hotel aside from it being a 15-20 min walk from the main attractions.
- Super attentive and welcoming staff.
- Newer hotel with nice city views from the room terrace.
- Spotless clean, free parking available, with a small rooftop pool and bar.
- Restaurant inside the hotel served some really good food.
- There are lots of bars and cafes around the hotel.
- Right next to a police station.
- It’s about a 15-20 min walk to the main attractions at Skanderbeg Square.
Looking for some travel inspiration? You might be interested in reading MOINHOS VELHOS RETREAT: AN OASIS OF CALM IN THE HEART OF THE ALGARVE
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