Shkoder City Guide: Where to Stay, Eat and Things to Do in Shkoder
Shkoder is a small city in the North of Albania. It’s usually a thoroughfare for hikers heading to other parts of the country but there are plenty of things to do in Shkoder that make it a worthy stopping point.
Shkoder is charming, cheap and will most likely be on your trail if you’re heading to the Albanian Alps or Komani Lake. It’s a great base for relaxing before or after hiking Theth to Valbona. There’s a lively café and bar scene, you can stock up at the supermarkets or fruit stands and there’s a range of good accommodation in Shkoder. But if you have the time it’s worth spending a day or two seeing the sights of this chilled little city.
Heading to Tirana too? Check out our Tirana City Guide
Accommodation in Shkoder
We can’t recommend enough the little campground we stayed at just outside the city - Camping Legjenda. It’s small and relaxed and run by an amazingly friendly family. Linda, a local English teacher, and her husband, an artist, have set up a little slice of heaven on the land behind their home and restaurant. There’s a luxury pool, hammock chill out area, clean, warm showers and a kitchen area. The restaurant is set in a leafy garden area and serves good, affordable food.
If you’re not lucky enough to be travelling by van (you should consider it!) They also have dorm and private rooms and have recently finished building the most adorable little cabins with a double beds. If you’re wanting an affordable and comfortable place to stay with amazing facilities you should check out Hostel Legjenda.
If you’re looking for something more central try these options:
For a comfortable hostel with dorm rooms - The Wanderers Hostel
An affordable hotel with excellent reviews - Petit Hotel Elita
If you want your own apartment with a kitchen - Sweet Living Apartment
Things to do in Shkoder
Rozafa Castle the biggest tourist attraction in Shkoder and I think it might be one of my favourites. It dates back to the 14th century and legend has it that it was built by three brothers. In order for the castle to stand one of the brother needed to sacrifice his wife to be buried within the walls. The youngest brother's wife (Rozafa) agreed but asked for her right side to be left exposed so she could care for her infant son. An image of her feeding her baby is carved into the wall of the castle. You can also see this story portrayed on the walls of the restaurant at Camping Legjenda.
It costs 200L (around €1.50) per person to enter the castle grounds, this is collected by an unofficial looking guy at the gate. But once inside you are left to your own devices. Old stone walls, staircases and archways are yours to explore and the overgrown grass and foliage around some of the ancient structures makes it feel like a recently discovered treasure.
It’s a 30 minute walk uphill from the city centre to the castle. Give yourself at least an hour to explore inside, longer if you’re a castle geek as there are info points in English. Sunset is the best time to visit when the views over the castle and city are bathed in a golden glow.
Visit the Museums
There are several museums in Shkoder which we decided against visiting due to the beautiful weather and our attachment to the pool at the campground! But if you’re the museuming type there are a couple of interesting sounding museums in Shkoder.
Marubi National Museum of Photography is located on the main street of town and holds some photos from Albanias first photographer. Some photography-enthusiast friends visited the museum and said it was interesting and worth going to but not as extensive as they’d hoped. It’s 700L or 200L for students.
The Site of Witness and Memory is housed in an old prison and displays information about Albania during the communist era. It sounds like a good museum but we were saving ourselves for BUNK’ART in Tirana.
The Shkoder Historical Museum has mixed reviews but might be worthwhile if you are interested in the Ottoman Period.
This huge lake crosses the border to Montenegro and in fact only one third of it is in Albania. While we were there it was very dry and not so nice for swimming but earlier in the season it’s usually a great place to hang out. On the Montenergrin side we hired kayaks which was a fun day trip. There is also a campground by the lake outside Shkoder which hire kayaks and stand-up paddle boards at very reasonable prices.
Wander Shkoder Town
Wandering round the town is one of the nicest things to do in Shkoder and the best way to get to know the city. The pedestrianised streets are home to a great range of cafes, restaurants and bars and in the evenings it’s the place to be!
There was even a beer festival on while we were there so keep an eye out for events throughout the summer months. The focal point of the town is the square where you can see all the religions come together. A mosque, catholic church and orthodox church all sit within a stone’s throw of each other. And look pretty impressive!
Restaurants in Shkoder
We ate at a couple of nice restaurants but if you wander the pedestrian streets you’re bound to find something to your taste and budget. The Italian influence on Albania means there is great pizza everywhere as well as lots of yummy traditional Albanian food. Sofra on the main street was affordable and delicious.
The restaurant at Camping Legjenda is popular with locals and has the most gorgeous garden setting. With the owner being Italian there is a range of delicious pizza options as well as Albanian food. Great service and very well priced.
For dessert we came across my idea of heaven. Il Piacere is a small café with a mouth-watering assortment of homemade desserts in large sizes! We loved the Albanian specialty Tre leche but also loved the soufflé and chocolate pudding (yes, we went more than once!)
Trips from Shkoder
Hiking Theth to Valbona
As I mentioned before, Shkoder is the perfect base for seeing parts of Northern Albania. From here we took a taxi to Theth to do the hike to Valbona which is really stunning and a fun adventure. The hike is an exhausting 7-8 hours but the views are definitely worth it. It was a highlight of our Balkan road trip. The hike is one way so you’ll need a couple of days to do the hike and return back to Shkoder.
As a return trip from the Theth to Valbona hike we took the ferry along the Komani Lake which had breath-taking views and is only accessible by boat. Doing this trip as a loop was the perfect use of our time and making sure we managed to see everything. But if hiking is not your thing you can also do the Komani Lake as a day trip. Tickets for the Komani Lake ferry can be purchased online here.
This was recommended to us by our campground host and was a great introduction to the Albanian coast. We were there in early September and there was noone else on the beach but we were told that even in high season it is much quieter than most places on the coast. The beaches in the south are certainly more picturesque but that also comes with a lot more tourists. If you're craving some sea and sand after a trip to the mountains this is only 30 minutes drive from Shkoder.
Realistically, the Montenegrin coast is within a day trip of Shkoder. About two hours drive away are the beautiful towns of Ulcinj, Bar and Budva. Even Kotor is within driving distance if you were tight on time and wanted to squeeze in a quick visit. Although we recommend spending more time in this area and have put together some advice on visiting the Bay of Kotor on a budget.
So if you're in the north of Albania there are plenty of things to do in Shkoder and the area around to keep you busy for a few days, or weeks!