Tirana offers many interesting sights and activities for its visitors. We stayed there for three days. Besides watching the EURO2016 in different fan zones, we walked around a lot through Albania’s growing capital.
It is pretty easy to orient yourself in the city. There is a canal, that splits the center into North and South. The Boulevard (Dëshmorët e Kombit) runs from the North to the Sheshi Nana Tereza (Mother Teresa Plaza) with the campus of the University of Tirana in the South. This divides the center into East and West.
The probably easiest and safest way to park in such a big city is secured parking. There are a few parking areas in the center and the guard knows to fit in many cars, also bigger ones. We paid 500 AL (around 4 €) a day and stayed there for three days.
The top 4
Here are our tips for your next visit to Tirana:
1. Free walking tour
A good start into sightseeing is the “Tirana Free Tour”, a guided walking tour through the city center. Every day, even on Sunday, the tour starts at 10 am at the stairs of the National Museum of History on Sheshi Skënderbej (plaza). Our guide speaks a perfect English and knows a lot about the sights and the Albanian history. With a good sense of humor, he talks about the Albanian culture and his experiences as adolescent during the Communist era. You also get some information about the (in some parts of the country still ongoing) tradition of blood feud.
Around Sheshi Skënderbej
During the walking tour, you come by all the important historic buildings in Tirana’s city center: Sheshi Skënderbej with the memorial of its national hero (*1405) , the old Clock tower next to the great Et’hem-Bey mosque. Mullah Bey, later his son, built the tower and the mosque in the early 19th century. You can walk up to the top of the Clock tower and have a view around Tirana. It is possible to enter the mosque, as well. Mind the service times and be properly dressed.
At this point of the tour, Tirana’s diversity is pretty obvious. There are really old monuments, many buildings from the Communist era – and step by step modern buildings are adding to the city’s face. These are mostly built by private investors from abroad.
The tour continues further North, passes the ruins of an old castle. You come by the old Tanners’ bridge, an Ottoman heritage and then cross the canal. Just have a quick look at the Catholic church and its monument for Mother Teresa on the left and keep on walking.
Remembering the Communist era
You are now in front of the Piramida (pyramid), a relic from Enver Hoxha, designed by his daughter in 1988 after his death. It was a museum for her father. Nowadays, it is empty and unused. If you brave (or some kind of crazy), you can walk up the steep walls to the tip.
Just next to the Piramida is the Peace Bell. It is made from gun shells spent during the unrest in the 1997 by school children. Try to ring it and bring peace to the world!
On the other side of the Boulevard, you find some art work relating to Communist era, a piece of the Berlin wall and some bunkers. This place is called Postblloku.
Now, you walk to the West into the area of Blloku. Here, the guide shows you the recent house of Enver Hoxha. Today, it is closed to the public and there are some rumors about the use of this villa. Albania is accounting to the past and will continue for the next decades.
On the way back to Sheshi Skënderbej, the tour stops for the last time in front of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania. It is an impressive huge building. We will see, who “wins” the battle, when the big mosque, still in construction, close by is finished.
The walk ends in the park in front of the National Museum of History.
We really enjoyed the 2.5 hours walking with lots of information about Albania, its history, culture and people. Guided by a nice and open minded guy.
See their facebook page: Tirana Free Tour
2. Restaurant Oda
Do you want to get real Albanian food? Then you should definitively try Oda. We had a nice evening there and enjoyed the dinner a lot. The small restaurant is quite hidden from the main road. You get the GPS coordinates in our Albanian map here. You can sit in a small outside area or inside, where you feel like in someones living room.
They offer different “salads” – these are, for example, warm served wild herbs. You get a lot of lamb and its liver, giblets and cheese. Order together with some perfectly spiced vegetables and/or rice. It is great to get three or four different plates and to share with your company.
3. Nightlife in Blloku
You find the most bars and clubs in the area of Blloku. This area is situated in the Southwest, walking distance from the Boulevard. It is a former neighborhood of communist party leaders’ mansions, including the villa of Enver Hoxha. During evening, one bar next to another offers expensive drinks and loud music. It is fun, to sit in the outside area, have a beer and watch the guys in their big Mercedes driving around and around and around.
Take the blue bus from the Clock tower in city center, direction to Porcelan. Then, in short walking distance, you enter the area of the incredible huge bunker through a tunnel. The building has five floors and all in all 176 rooms. Most of them are small ones with a bed and a table for soldiers. But three of them offer some kind of luxury with carpets and wooden wall surface – for the political and military elite. It also has a hall and a community area. The bunker was built in the 1970s by order of Enver Hoxha.
It is a museum since 2014 and guides through different episodes of Albanian history in around 40 rooms. The exhibition with many pictures and copies of letters and newsletter articles is combined with a few modern art installations. These are reflecting the feelings of living in a communist regime in a silent but impressive way.
The Bunk’Art is one spot, where Albania is accounting to its past. It is really worth a visit.
Continue reading our Albania travel guide!