Quick Facts About Tirana
Population: Around 1.5 million
Currency: Albanian Lek. Around 133L to €1
Language: Albanian. In Tirana most people spoke at least basic English and many of the older generation spoke German.
Connections: Tirana is well connected by bus to Kosovo, Montenegro and Macedonia. You can also fly there from most major airports.
Accommodation in Tirana
We had a really comfortable stay at Central Tirana Apartment. It was very well located, clean and affordable. The hosts were incredibly friendly and helpful and the room had everything we needed to relax after a busy day seeing the sights in Tirana.
We found couchsurfing quite difficult across all the Balkans but if you apply further in advance you might have some luck!
There are also some good hostels in Tirana and it costs around €6-10 for a bed in a dorm.
Things to do in Tirana
Visit the old Soviet Pyramid
This was originally built to house a museum dedicated to Enver Hohxa but after the fall of communism it was abandoned. The building sits in the middle of Tirana and has been used as several other things such as television studios but now it just sits. It's a funky building but nobody really knows what to do with it. So for now it makes a weird tourist attraction and great slide! Climbing to the top is doable in decent shoes or bare feet. It's pretty steep though!
Learn about Albania's History at Bunk'Art
Another slightly weird but also awesome thing to do in Tirana is head out to an abandoned bunker and learn about Albania's history. It costs 500L (around €4.50) to enter but this was actually a museum I don't regret paying for. Some of the rooms are set up with relics from the time of Hoxha including his office and bedroom. There are also a range of exhibitions spanning the last 100ish years in Albania. There's some random art display's dotted around too.
The bunker is (obviously) underground and has long dark corridors with small rooms coming off. It's spooky and a bit chilly. I didn't love it down there but found it really interesting. Think twice about going if you're claustrophobic or with young kids.
Take the cable car up mount Dajti
This is right next to BUNK'ART so it makes sense to do both of these in the same day. The Dajti Express Cable Car takes around 15 minutes and has some amazing views of the city. At the top there is a hotel and a restaurant. This is meant to be a good area to hike for the day and enjoy the views. We decided to eat and enjoy the views!
We had a decent meal at the restaurant. It was a little more expensive than places in the city but still Balkan budget prices. A meal for two with drinks cost us €20. We were there quite early to enjoy the sunset views. The Dajti express costs 600L return per person and the last one goes at around 9pm but double check this on their site as it changes depending on the season.
Take a Free walking TOur
A walking tour is a great way to get to know a city and nothings beats free when you're travelling on a budget! The Tirana tour is really interesting as much of the history is really recent and there are plenty of intriguing places to stop around the city. It's also great to have a local to ask all your burning questions to like, 'Why are there bunkers everywhere?!'
See the views from the Sky tower
This is one of my favourite novelty attractions of all time. At the top of the sky tower (take the lift to the restaurant and walk up the stairs) is a bar with awesome views of the city. And.....it rotates! How cool is that?! Sit there with a beer or a coffee and see a whole 360° view of Tirana from above without getting out of your seat.
A full rotation takes about an hour and a beer will set you back €2.50.
Spot the electric box street art and colourful buildings
This is a great project which involves every electrical box in the city being painted with some kind of cartoon or famous person. There are literally hundreds so make sure to look out for them as you walk around the city. I spent my whole day trying to spot as many as I could.
There are also lots of colourful buildings in Tirana. This was started by the mayor who was also an artist in an attempt to jazz up the old soviet buildings. Walking along the banks of the river you'll be sure to spot a few!
marvel at Skanderbeg Square
This is the central plaza of Tirana and you'll no doubt pass through here at some point during your stay. It is home to the National Historical Museum, the Opera, the Et'hem Bey Mosque and the Skanderbeg monument dedicated to the Albanian nobleman who resisted the Ottomans.
Places to Eat in Tirana
There are plenty of great cafes and restaurants in Tirana so you want have trouble finding a place to eat. The Blloku area is the best place to wander and find a nice place to eat or have a drink at a hip bar.
For something special you can't miss Mullixhiu. This traditional Albanian restaurant offers amazing food in a gorgeous, cosy restaurant in the park. Everything is freshly prepared from local, organic produce and tastes delicious! They even bake their own bread onsite. I thoroughly recommend the degustation menu which involves 8 courses for just €15! We even got some bonus courses as the chef was trying out some new recipes. It was a really fun, delicious and great value meal.
If you're heading up Mt Dajti Ballkoni Dajtit Restaurant is worth a visit just for its amazing views! It also serves good, traditional Albanian food. Try the baked meat and cheese dishes which are like a casserole, warm and filling.
For a sweet treat head to Cioccolat Italiani Cafe which makes amazing chocolate products. All kinds speciality coffees, gelato, waffles and crepes all with rich, Italian chocolate. It's a chocolate lovers (me!) paradise.
Public Transport in Tirana
The city centre of Tirana is very easy to cover by walking but for some sights you'll need to get a bit further out. Taxis are very affordable but being budget travellers we checked out the public transport options.
The public buses in Tirana seemed to work fine. It was just 40L per ticket and the network covered everywhere we needed to go.
Tirana has recently introduced a public bike hire system similar to city bikes in London or other large cities. There are various stations located around the city. Every station is manned by a staff member and all you need is some form of ID. It costs 60L per hour and you must return your bike to the same station you rented it from (to collect your ID).
We don't recommend driving in Tirana if you can help it. We made sure to find accommodation with free parking and drove straight there. We didn't move the van again until it was time to leave. There's a lot of traffic and Albanian drivers are known to be a little crazy. It's much easier and safer just to walk!
Day Trips from Tirana
Tirana is well located for day trips if you're stretched for time or don't want to move around too much. Although Albania has so much to offer you should really consider seeing more of the country! If you need more inspiration check out all the awesome things to do in Albania.
Durres is a small city just 30 minutes drive from Tirana. There are a couple of sights to see in the city such as the Roman amphitheatre but the beaches are the real draw card. There is a waterfront walkway in the city but south of Durres is a long stretch of sandy beach perfect for a break from the city.
We didn't make it here due to the route we took along the coast. But the 'city of windows' is a popular day trip from Tirana. The old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and can easily be wandered around in a day.
This is possible as a day trip but it'd be a long one. I'd suggest at least staying overnight in Ohrid. It's about a 2-3 hour drive between the two cities and sometimes the border crossing can take a while. But Ohrid is beautiful and the old town is a lovely place to spend a day wandering and visiting some of the hundreds of churches!
So whether you're spending a day or a week in this city you now know all the awesome things to do in Tirana. Hopefully you've left some time to explore other parts of this amazing country too. But if not, you'll just have to come back again!
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