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- 10 Best Things to Do in Tirana, Albania
For being isolated for such a long time behind the Iron Curtain until 1991, you would think that Tirana, the capital city of Albania, would be a dull and uninteresting place to visit but upon my arrival in the city center, I was bombarded with colorful architectures, lively boulevards, and a rich culture unlike any countries I have been before.
Most people will start their journey in Albania in Tirana before they head towards the Albanian Alps and the Riviera, but if you are thinking of skipping Tirana, you will miss out on a chance to learn about Albania's rich history that is largely unknown to outsiders.
From bunkers to the pyramid, Let's go explore Tirana and all the things you can do and see in this colorful city with our complete backpacking guide to Tirana, Albania. Let's first begin with things to do itinerary map for Tirana:Table of Contents
- Tirana Things To Do Itinerary Map
- When to Visit Tirana, Albania
- Where to Stay in Tirana, Albania
- How to Get to Tirana, Albania
- How to Get from Tirana Airport to the City Center
- How to Get Around Tirana, Albania
- How Many Days to Spend in Tirana, Albania
- How Much Money Do I Need for Tirana, Albania
- Is it Safe in Tirana, Albania?
- Internet in Tirana, Albania
- Travel Insurance
- Top 10 Things to Do in Tirana, Albania
- Visit the Skanderbeg Square
- Drop By the Et'hem Bej Mosque
- Go Up the Clock Tower in Skanderbeg Square
- Learn About Albania's Struggle During the Communist Regime at Bunk'Art 2
- Learn More About the History of Albania at the National History Museum
- Check Out the Pyramid of Tirana
- Admire the Beauty of Resurrection of Christ Orthodox Cathedral
- Eat Your Way Through Tirana's New Bazaar
- Go on a Day Trip to Kruje Castle
- Watch the Sunset on Top of Dajti Mountain
- Other Things to Do in Tirana
- What to Eat and Drink in Tirana, Albania
Tirana Things To Do Itinerary Map
When to Visit Tirana, Albania
The best time to visit Tirana is from April to October where the weather is not too cold to enjoy the beautiful outdoor of Tirana. The temperature during Spring and Autumn should hover around 17°C - 26°C during the day whereas the temperature can go up to 29°C in the midsummer months.
Within this period, you will also see more tourists in Tirana but do not sweat. Not many people know about how awesome Albania is as of yet, so the peak season is still very manageable and not at all overwhelming as in Western Europe.
Due to its location by the Ionian Sea, Winter is also a great time to visit if you are into festivities but out of Tirana, the other tourist cities are pretty quiet and inactive, so it might not be the best idea to visit during winter if you are planning to travel further in Albania.
Where to Stay in Tirana, Albania
Budget (Party Hostel) - Trip'n Hostel - 12 USD/Night (Dorm) - Be warned! This is a party hostel and if you are not into that kind of scene, the common area here can get quite intimidating at times. That said, this is one of the best places to meet people if you want to find someone to travel with through Albania. I met many people on my travels through Trip'n Hostel. Also, awesome breakfasts with 3 choices you can pick. I love their french toast!
Budget (Quiet Hostel) - Mosaic Home - 11 USD/Night (Dorm) - If you are looking for a quieter hostel, this one is recommended instead of the one above.
Mid-Range - Garden B&B - 30 USD / Night (Double Room with Private Bathroom)
How to Get to Tirana, Albania
There aren't many direct flights flying into Tirana but the city has quite a good connection from Turkey and some European cities that you can fly into.
From the US, you can fly into Tirana via Turkish Airline through Istanbul, KLM Airline through Amsterdam, or Alitalia Airline through Rome. This might not be the cheapest way to get to Europe from the US but it eliminates you having to transit more than once and changing airports by yourself.
If you don't mind that and just want the cheapest way possible, you can always find the cheapest flight from the US into any of the main European city hubs and rely on Low-Cost airlines like WizzAir or RyanAir to travel to Tirana, Albania.
From within Europe, there are several ways you can minimize cost and maximize your time by relying on low-cost airlines like WizzAir or RyanAir to get you to Tirana by traveling overland to a city where they offer low-cost flight to Tirana.
From Asia, the easiest way is to fly to Tirana through Istanbul via Turkish Airline. If you want to minimize cost, you can find a way to Turkey and then from there, you can fly with Pegasus Low-Cost Airline to Tirana. Keep in mind that you might have to change airports if you are switching from a regular carrier to a low-cost carrier in Istanbul.
From within the Balkans, there are several regular international buses that connect neighboring countries like Montenegro, Kosovo, Greece (Corfu), and Macedonia to Tirana that you can take. The price varies depending on where you are coming from but more often then not, the bus will drop you off at Tirana regional bus station where you can then either walk or take a taxi to the city center.
How to Get from Tirana Airport to the City Center
From Tirana international airport, the cheapest way to get to the city center is by Rinas bus service leaving from Bay 1 bound for Skanderbeg Square, right in the city center of Tirana.
The bus operates from 7 AM - 12 AM and costs 300 LEK while the journey will take about 40 minutes. The bus leaves from Bay 1 in the airport's parking lot and you will be dropped off at Rinas Airport Bus Stop by the Shatervan Park. This is also where you will have to be if you want to get a bus back to the airport, so remember this bus stop.
How to Get Around Tirana, Albania
If you are staying in the city center, you can walk to almost every tourist attractions listed in this travel guide with a few of them requiring a bus.
For traveling further within the city, the public bus is the main way to get around the city. Unfortunately, Google Maps doesn't have bus line information of Tirana just yet, and so you will have to rely on your hostel/hotel guidance when it comes to going somewhere that is not on this article.
Fortunately, the buses are quite new, have a clear bus number sign, and most are color-coded correctly so it isn't as challenging once you know which one to take. Plus, it's only 40 LEK per trip.
Tips for traveling by public buses: Make sure you know which bus to take before getting on one and you can acquire this information via the friendly people at your hostel and hotel. For places to visit that I listed here, the transportation information will be available at the bottom of that destination section, so be sure to scroll all the way down.
Taxis are also not too expensive and are quite convenient but be sure to negotiate and agree upon a price before you get on. You can also rely on your hotel/hostel to call one up for you. Taxi is great if you are in a rush, say to catch a bus from the 2 bus stations in Tirana.
How Many Days to Spend in Tirana, Albania
Two full days (3 nights) will give you ample time to visit all the cool tourist attractions in and around the city. Here is a rough breakdown of your 2 days itinerary:
Day 1: Visit all the tourist attractions within the city such as Bunk'Art 2, National Museum, the Pyramid of Tirana, and other attractions around Skanderbeg Square.
Day 2: Travel to Kruje and spend half a day exploring the Kruje Castle before coming back to Tirana and go up with the cable car to the top of Dajti Mountain to watch the sunset over the city.
How Much Money Do I Need for Tirana, Albania
Based on the 2 days itinerary above, we can calculate the minimum amount of money you will be spending in Tirana for 2 days as follows:
Accommodation: 12 USD x 3 nights = 36 USD (4,026 LEK)
Food: The average cost per meal in Tirana should be 500 LEK. Since most hostels provide free breakfast, we can remove one meal from a day and times that by 2 which is equal to 1,000 LEK. For 2 days, you will spend around 2,000 LEK per person.
Transportation: For this itinerary, you will be spending 600 LEK for a roundtrip airport shuttle service, 300 LEK for a roundtrip bus to Kruje, 1000 LEK for a roundtrip cable car up Dajti, and 80 LEK for a roundtrip bus ride to Dajti Cable Car Station. Total, you will be paying 1,980 LEK for transportation.
Activities: For this itinerary, the cost for museums (Bunk'Art and National History Museum) is 500 LEK + 200 LEK = 700 LEK. For the Kruje Castle entry fee, you will have to pay 200 LEK, and another 200 LEK for the Clock Tower. In total, you will pay around 1,100 LEK for activities.
Total Budget for 2 days in Tirana: 10,106 LEK (90 USD).
Is it Safe in Tirana, Albania?
Despite what you might have heard from the media about Albania, Tirana and Albania are very safe. People are extremely friendly and the likeliness that you will be a victim of petty thefts is much lower here than in other Balkan countries or Western Europe.
You may have heard about Albanian mafias which may still exist today but they don't bother screwing up tourists as we provide zero value to them. In fact, they might even show you a great time by driving you around the country as some of the people I talked to who stumbled upon them reported.
Not once did I feel like I was in danger and threatened while traveling in Albania, so rest assured, you will have a great time in Albania.
Internet in Tirana, Albania
Working WIFI is available in most hostels and hotels all around the country so you will have no problem staying connected while traveling in Tirana. Cafes are also a great reliable place to find WIFI in case you need to stay connected while you are out and about.
A local sim card is also a great option if you want to stay connected all the time. It is also useful to have a local sim card if you are planning to travel around Albania for a while.
For the local sim card, if you are staying for more than 2 weeks in Albania, I would recommend getting the Vodafone Z package, a one-month validity sim card with 5.5 GB of regular data, 10 GB for social network usage, 400 minutes and SMS which cost 1500 LEK + 100 LEK for a new sim card.
If you are traveling in Albania for 2 weeks, I would recommend you get the 14-days validity Vodafone Tourist sim that gives you 10 GB of data and 500 mins of calls for 1300 LEK.
For more information about Albania local sim card: Albania Prepaid Data Sim Card.
If you are looking for travel insurance to go along with your trip to Albania, I would recommend WorldNomads.com, which is what I use to look for travel insurance that fits my kind of adventure.
Top 10 Things to Do in Tirana, Albania
Visit the Skanderbeg Square
If Tirana is a human body, Skanderbeg Square is probably the central nervous system. This is where all the roads in Tirana lead to. Skanderbeg Square is a large space surrounded by several tourist attractions making it one of the best places to start your journey in Tirana.
During the day, it might be a bit empty but once the sunset, the square comes alive with a ton of locals hanging out, socializing among each other, and participating in whatever event that is currently taking place in the Square.
If you are there in the summer, you will probably find yourself in the middle of one of the many outdoor events that are always happening around Skanderbeg Square. I was there on 15th July 2019 and the square was holding the largest concert in the country.
There was a ton of locals out and about, many very interesting local bands that remind me of Albanian Beyonce or Pitbull, while the event ended in crazy fireworks.
To check for an event schedule happening in Tirana, you can visit the official Tirana event Schedule.
Drop By the Et'hem Bej Mosque
From the outside, it may not seem like Albania is a Muslim-majority country but it is and one of the oldest and most prominent mosques in Tirana is Et'hem Bej Mosque, an Ottoman-era mosque located right in the middle of Skanderbeg Square.
The Et'hem Bej Mosque was built in the 19th Century but it was closed down during the communist-regime. Despite it being closed, in 1991, over 10,000 people showed up and entered the premise, marking the beginning of the unraveling of Communism in Albania.
The outside may not look like much but the stunning depiction of waterfalls and plants on the frescos in the prayer hall, which is quite rare to see in a mosque, is quite a sight to behold.
Go Up the Clock Tower in Skanderbeg Square
Higher is always better. If you are looking for a place to go up so that you can see Skanderbeg Square and the surrounding buildings from above, the Clock Tower of Tirana is the place to be.
For 200 LEK, you can climb up to the top of the tower and you will be able to see the square clearly from all directions. You can see all the colorful buildings around the Square as well as the mountain range that surrounded Tirana.
Another great place to go up is the Sky Hotel Tirana a 4-star hotel where you can go up to their 360° Sky Bar and get a nice vantage point of the city given you eat at the restaurant.
Learn About Albania's Struggle During the Communist Regime at Bunk'Art 2
In order to understand a country and where the people are coming from, we first have to learn about its dark past and how the country has come to be, and there is no better place to learn than the Bunk'Art 2, a nuclear bunker turned museum highlighting the cruel communist regime that clouded Albania for 45 years.
The Bunk'Art 2 museum is located just south of the Clock Tower. You won't miss it as the entrance looks like a semi-dome concrete communist-era nuclear bunker popped out from the ground right in the middle of the city.
The museum will take you through the history of the rise and fall of communism in Albania. Its 24 rooms are divided into topics from how Sigurimi (the secret service) bugged a room or a regular object like a bloom for surveillance to the countless stories of political persecutions.
Apparently, the nuclear bunker itself was built in secret in the 1980s by the communist regime to prepare for a foreign invasion and you can still see many rooms that retain its original purposes like the apartment reserved for the Minister of Internal Affairs and even the decontamination room.
The entry fee is 500 LEK per person, but given the quality of the content, it was definitely worth it especially if you want to learn more about Albania. The name Enver Hoxha will come up a lot the further south you travel in Albania and there is no better place to learn about him than at Bunk'Art 2 museum.
Learn More About the History of Albania at the National History Museum
Another great museum that I would recommend you visit is the National History Museum, located right in the middle of Skanderbeg Square. The museum exterior is decorated with a colorful soviet-propaganda-style mural that is hard to miss.
This museum goes even beyond the communist era all the way to when the Albanian spirit and identity was born. The collection in the museum will take you from ancient Illyria to the post-communist era with each room and items labeled in English and aligned in chronological order.
You will also learn about the great Albanian hero, Skanderbeg, an Albanian nobleman and military commander who led a rebellion against the Ottoman Empire and how he became the founding father of Albania.
The museum entry is 200 LEK per person. The museum opens every day from 9 AM - 7 PM and you can expect to spend around 2 hours if you want to read and understand Albanian history thoroughly.
Check Out the Pyramid of Tirana
The Pyramid of Tirana is a remnant structure from the communist-era where it was initially built as a museum to display the legacy of Enver Hoxha, a long-time communist leader of Albania.
After the fall of communism, the place was closed down, turned into many other things until it was abandoned into a condition it is in today. The structure itself is weirdly beautiful with a pyramid-shape exterior built in the style of Brutalism with grey concrete. It is a unique sight to see if you are want to get a glimpse of their brutalism past.
Admire the Beauty of Resurrection of Christ Orthodox Cathedral
Even though Albania is a Muslim country, they are quite open to accepting beliefs other than their own and this is shown in the grand structure of the The Resurrection of Christ Orthodox Cathedral in Tirana.
The Resurrection of Christ Orthodox Cathedral was open in 2012 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the revival of the Albanian Orthodox Church. The structure is designed in a modern, almost futuristic style with clean curves and eggshell-colored exterior.
The cathedral is also the third-largest Orthodox cathedrals in the Balkans. With its modern take that maintains the usual Orthodox architectural design but with a unique touch that doesn't conform to any traditional religious architecture, the cathedral stands out as one of the most impressive structures in Tirana that you should definitely check out.
Eat Your Way Through Tirana's New Bazaar
The New Bazaar is a newly renovated market that offers fresh fruits, organic vegetables, as well as souvenirs, local wine, and raki. Around the bazaar, you will find several bars and restaurants for you to eat and drink your night away.
Right on this spot, it used to be a very old bazaar during the Ottoman time that forms parts of the Old Town before it was renovated and extended to connect the bazaar with Skanderbeg Square in 2017.
Oda and Sofra Beratase restaurants, located by the Avni Rustemi Square, are one of the best places to go if you are looking to eat some local cuisine. For more information about these 2 restaurants, check out our What to Eat and Drink section.
Go on a Day Trip to Kruje Castle
Kruje is a town north of Tirana that used to be the capital of the first autonomous Albanian state and then becomes the seat of power of the Albanian hero, Skanderbeg during the Ottoman reign.
The city is located photogenically on the side of the Kruje mountain and at the top of it all, sits the mighty Kruje Castle, where Skanderbeg was able to repel 3 Ottoman sieges before he died.
The castle is fun to wander around with a few detours you can take to check out the local village. Within the castle, you will find a museum dedicated to Skanderbeg where you can learn more about his conquest.
To get into the castle, you will have to pay 200 LEK entry fee and you will have access to the castle balcony where you can go up to the top of the castle and capture the view of Kruje and its surrounding landscape in one panoramic sweep.
Below from the castle, you will find several restaurants and souvenir shops on both sides of the streets so you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the view before you head back to Tirana.
Getting from Tirana to Kruje: To get to Kruje, you will have to first get to the Northward Bus Station either by walking or a taxi and from there you can get a bus directly to Kruje for 150 LEK. To make it to Kruje and back in one day with time to spare, I would recommend you get on either the 9 AM or 10 AM bus and get back on a 3 PM bus.
The journey takes around an hour and you will be dropped off at the center of Kruje, only a few minutes walk to the Kruje Castle. Make sure you remember this location since you will have to come back here and get the bus back to Kruje.
Be there 30 minutes before as the bus might be full if you turn up right on time and you will have to wait another hour for a bus back. Also, you might find a bunch of taxi drivers gathered around the corner before the bus stop. If they tell you that there is no bus at 3 PM, simply ignore them and walk a little further and you will find a bus waiting for you.
Watch the Sunset on Top of Dajti Mountain
One of the best places to watch the sunset in Tirana is atop the Dajti Mountain, 1,613 m tall mountain, one of the most popular retreats for locals to escape the bustling loudness of the city and be with nature.
Dajti mountain and its national park are connected to Tirana via a 15-minutes long cable car ride that takes you straight from the northeastern part of Tirana into the heart of nature and on top of Dajti mountain.
The cable car will cost you 1,000 LEK roundtrip, which is a little pricey but for what you get, I think it is totally worth it as the ride is long and it will take you above some of the nicest mountains and forests you can see in Tirana.
Up at the top, you will find an overpriced restaurant that comes with a sweeping 180° view of Tirana and the surrounding landscape. The food is pretty good but it costs around 1000 LEK per person, which almost doubled the price you get in Tirana.
Even if you don't eat there, there is a platform near the entrance of the restaurant with the best viewpoint on that mountain so be sure to walk around a bit before deciding whether you want to pay for a view.
Depending on the season, the opening and closing time are 9 AM to 9 PM in the summer and 9 AM to 7 PM in winter. For the best time of the day, I would recommend you go up Dajti mountain 2 - 3 hours before sunset, so that there is still enough light for you to enjoy the view and take nice photos.
Getting from Tirana City Center to Dajti Ekspres Cable Car Station: To get to the top of Dajti Mountain, you will have to get a cable car from the Dajti Ekspres Cable Car Station located 20 minutes bus ride northeast from the city center.
To get from the city center to the Dajti cable car station, you can get an L11 bus colored blue and with a sign that said Qender (Center) – Porcelan. The bus leaves from a bus stop located by the Clock Tower near Skanderbeg Square not too far from the airport bus stop.
The bus journey will take around 15 - 20 minutes and cost 40 LEK one way. Once you are on the bus, make sure that you get off at the intersection between Sotir Caci and Shefqet Kuka roads and walk up the hill for about 15 minutes and you will arrive at Dajti Ekspres Cable Car Station.
To get back, you can simply go to the bus stop on the opposite side of the road where you were dropped off and take any bus with a sign that said Qender (Center) and take it straight back to the city center. Easy peasy!
For more information on how to get to Dajti Ekspres, visit: Dajti Ekspres official website.
Other Things to Do in Tirana
Walk Across the 17th Century Old Tanners' Bridge
Tanners' Bridge is an 18th Century Ottoman-era stone bridge that was used to move in livestock and produce into the city. The bridge crossed over Lanë river but when the river stream was diverted, the bridge was abandon and fall into disrepair. Fortunately, it was restored in the 90s and it is one of the many authentic Ottoman remnants that you can find scattered all over in the city.
Buy English Books Written By Albanian Authors About Albania
The Libraria Adrion Bookstore is a bookstore located in Skanderbeg Square and shared the same building with The National Library of Albania. They have a ton of books written by Albanian authors and translated into English about all parts of Albania from the historical point of view to the political landscape of the country. If you are interested in learning more about Albania, I would suggest you grab one of these books before you journey deeper into the country.
Visit the House of Leaves Museum
If the Bunk'Art 2 got you intrigued to learn more about the dark past of Albania during the communist era, the House of Leaves Museum is a great place to dive deep into how the state controls the people of Albania, what equipment they used, and what kind of techniques they used to bug people.
To add another level to this immersive experience, the House of Leaves was named after the fact that they purposely hide the building from the public with a dense layer of trees and leaves, a technique used in warfare, in order to high whatever activities the people occupying it was up to.
Those people are Gestapo, a Nazi secret service that occupied the house during the WW2 occupation followed by Sigurimi, the infamous Albanian secret service. The entry fee is 700 LEK per person and prepares to spend at least an hour to explore all its interconnected rooms.
What to Eat and Drink in Tirana, Albania
Try Local Homemade Cuisine at Oda Restaurant
Oda Restaurant is a popular local restaurant located not too far from the New Bazaar. They serve homemade local cuisine and it used to be popular among locals. Now, many tourists fight for seats in order to get to try their lamb dish. The food costs around 450 - 1500 LEK and if you want to get seats, be sure to be there early or expect to wait in line for 30 minutes or more.
Eat the Traditional Mix Dish at Sofra Beratase Restaurant
If you do not want to wait, I would also suggest you go to Sofra Beratase Restaurant next door instead. They also serve many of the same local cuisines and you won't have to wait for your seats.
Their food cost from 400 - 1500 LEK and if you are looking for a traditional dish for 2, I would recommend the MIX dish so that you will be able to try all the traditional food in small portions in one go. It's 1300 LEK and it was totally worth it.
Take a Break with a Cup of Coffee at Mulliri I Vjeter Cafe
For a nice cafe with WIFI to take a break in between your exploration, I would recommend Mulliri I Vjeter Cafe. They serve delicious Ice Coffee and many pastries to bring your sugar level up to speed before you go out there and explore again.
And there you have it, a complete backpacking guide on things to do, what to see, and everything you need to know to prepare you for your trip to Tirana, Albania. Are you planning to travel to Albania soon? If you have any questions about Albania, do not hesitate to let me know in the comments below.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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