The capital of Albania in Southeastern Europe is Tirana, a lively city filled with bright pastel buildings, vibrant street art, cosy cafes and captivating museums. This rapidly growing city is moving beyond its isolated past and beginning to thrive as one of the Balkan Peninsula’s most exciting cultural hubs. You’ll quickly notice that Tirana merges both traditional Middle Eastern and modern European influences to create an atmosphere that’s one of a kind.
Tirana, Albania is perfect if you’re on a budget yet still want to be able to expand your horizons and travel to somewhere new. The activities and attractions here, as well as the restaurants and cafes, are all super affordable, particularly compared to other European countries.
Now that you know a little about this up and coming city, you may be wondering, what exactly is there to do in Tirana as a traveller? Wonder no more! Here are 18 fun and fascinating things to do in Tirana, Albania.
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The kilometre-long Dajti Ekspres is the longest cable car in the Balkans, spanning 800 metres up the side of Mount Dajti. The journey takes about 15 minutes, so you can sit back and enjoy the memorable views across the city.
The cable car operates between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. during summer and until 7 p.m. during winter, running every day except Tuesday. Purchase a return ticket for 800 Albanian lek (ALL) or a one-way ticket for 500 ALL at the lower station.
At the Dajti Tower Hotel, the rotating bar and cafe on the 7th floor provides a 360-degree panorama of the entire area. There’s a restaurant on the edge of the mountain too if you’re after something more to eat.
Dajti National Park
Once you’ve reached Mount Dajti, there are plenty of fun and adventurous outdoor activities to take part in. If you prefer a cheaper alternative to the Dajti Ekspres cable car, you can take a local bus or hike your way up.
Dajti National Park is almost 300 square kilometres of diverse flora and fauna, with red foxes, wild boar and European wildcats found amongst the gorgeous wildflowers, oak trees and beech forests. There’s a trail connecting to nearby Mount Tujani, where you can hike to the 1,580-metre peak and admire the view of Lake Bovilla below.
Take a walk in the fresh air, ride horses, play minigolf, go rollerblading or ziplining at the Adventure Park, and even paraglide your way back to Tirana. You can also explore the Cave of Pëllumbas, an ancient 360-metre-long karst cave within the boundaries of the park. In the Paleolithic era, this cave was inhabited by the cave bear, a species that has been extinct for over 24,000 years.
Pyramid of Tirana
Easily one of the most unusual places to visit in Tirana is the Enver Hoxha Pyramid near the Lana River. Better known as the Pyramid of Tirana or Piramida in Albanian, the unique structure began as a short-lived museum dedicated to Albania’s long-time communist leader, Enver Hoxha. Built in 1888, it was allegedly the most expensive structure ever built in Albania.
Following the fall of communism two years later, the pyramid was primarily used by graffiti artists and skateboarders. While many locals hoped to see it demolished, it is now being turned into an IT centre for the city’s youth.
Et’hem Bey Mosque
An emblematic and historically significant attraction in Tirana is the Et’hem Bey Mosque. Although completed in around 1820, the mosque was closed in 1946 when Albania became a socialist state. In a significant move for religious freedom and an act of rebellion against communist authorities, over 10,000 people re-entered the mosque in 1991.
As you approach the mosque, you’ll notice the elegant towering minaret. All visitors must take their shoes off before entering, and women are required to borrow a headscarf to cover their hair. The beautiful frescoes painted on the walls depict natural images that are rarely seen in Islamic art, such as trees and waterfalls, and are worth taking a closer look at.
National Museum of History
The National History Museum in Tirana is the best place to get an introduction into Albania’s complex past. The museum is organised into different periods, so you can easily head straight to a time or topic that interests you the most. The eight pavilions cover the Middle Ages, Antiquity, Albanian Renaissance, Communist Persecution, Albanian Independence, the Anti-Fascist National Liberation War, Iconography, and Mother Teresa.
Learn about the local intellectuals that fought against the rise of fascism, view 70 Post-Byzantine icons by esteemed Balkan painters, and browse through culturally significant items like flags, photographs and weapons. The Pavilion of Antiquity holds almost 600 archaeological findings from the Old Stone Age to the early Dark Ages, including the Beauty of Durrës, a treasured Albanian mosaic from the fourth century BC.
English descriptions are available throughout (with the exception of the communist pavilion) so you can gain a great understanding of Albania’s history during your visit. The National Museum of History opens between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. from Tuesday to Saturday, as well as 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday. Entrance costs 200 ALL per person, you can also purchase a skip the line ticket as the lines can be long during high tourist periods.
The heart of the city is Skanderbeg Square in downtown Tirana. This 40,000-square-metre plaza was named after the Albanian national hero Gjergj Kastrioti, better known as Skanderbeg. In the 15th century, Skanderbeg prevented the Ottoman Empire from spreading further into Central Europe and allowed Albania to remain independent at the time.
The square was officially named and established in 1968, although a public space had existed here since 1917. Today, it’s a popular meeting place and a venue for cultural events and national celebrations. Within the centre is the Skanderbeg Monument, a bronze statue of Skanderbeg on horseback.
Bunk’Art is an extraordinary underground bunker that will teach you about life in Tirana, Albania during the 20th century. Initially constructed for politicians during the Hoxha regime in anticipation of a nuclear war, the shelter has been transformed into an exhibition space. Across 3,000 square metres and five underground stories are over 100 rooms featuring historic objects from the Cold War and contemporary art installations.
The main museum is near the lower station for the Dajti Ekspres cable car, although there’s a smaller installation near Skanderbeg Square as well. Bunk’Art is open between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. from Wednesday until Sunday and costs 500 ALL to enter.
Built less than a decade ago, the Orthodox Resurrection Cathedral is a somewhat avant-garde attraction in Tirana. Its unique appearance is unlike any traditional religious architecture you’ve seen, most notably its modern marble facade and staircase. The cathedral’s dome is 32 metres tall and the 16-bell tower reaches a height of 46 metres.
In the evenings, the blue facade is vibrantly illuminated. Entrance is free up until 11:30 p.m. daily, so it’s definitely best to visit this cathedral after dusk.
Seeking the perfect place to unwind at the end of a busy day of sightseeing? Head straight up to the Sky Panoramic Bar at the top of the Sky Tower Hotel. Watch a gorgeous sunset from the 16th floor as you sip a glass of wine or a cocktail, enjoy tasty snacks and listen to some great music. Grab a table next to the window then sit back and relax as the tower rotates and offers a 360-degree view across the entire city.
If you aren’t sure where to stay while in Tirana, the rooms and suites at the hotel are fabulous options. Even more, your journey home from the bar will be quick and convenient!
Clock Tower of Tirana
The Clock Tower of Tirana (Kulla e Sahatit) is a 35-metre-high Ottoman structure near Skanderbeg Square. It was built in 1822 by Haxhi Et’hem Bey Mollaj, who also completed the Et’hem Bey Mosque. The spiral staircase inside has 90 steps, which you can climb for a fee of 200 ALL. If you want to see the view from the tower, visit between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays or before 2 p.m. on Saturday.
Another way Tirana is evolving is through the emergence of street art. All around the city are vibrantly painted apartment blocks and buildings, making it the most colourful city in Eastern Europe. The local government promotes this type of graffiti, encouraging both local and international artists to make their mark.
The best murals are undoubtedly found in the trendy area of Blloku. Strolling down Bajram Curri Boulevard and Rruga Myslym Shyri, you’ll come across a bright, eclectic building or two in no time.
National Gallery of Arts
The National Gallery of Arts showcases stunning works of art from the 19th and 20th centuries. Open since 1946, the contemporary paintings on display will give you an insight into daily life in Albania. On the ground floor, more modern temporary exhibitions are held.
Yet, the art museum is best known for its Cloud Pavilion. This huge modern installation at the front of the building is made of white metal rods that merge into a cloud-like blob from afar. Known locally as Reja, the art piece has become a popular location for movie screenings, festivals, workshops and, of course, an endless amount of photos.
The gallery is open between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. from Tuesday to Sunday, while Reja can be visited for free between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. daily.
Grand Park of Tirana
The Grand Park of Tirana is the best place to go to immerse yourself in nature while staying in the heart of the city. Walk south of Blloku and you’ll find yourself amongst the 289-hectare open space with an enormous artificial lake in the centre. Popular with both locals and tourists, the park contains the Presidential Palace, the tombs of the Frashëri brothers and other notable Albanian figures, an open-air theatre, swimming pools and the city’s zoo.
Also within the park is the Botanical Gardens of Tirana, containing over 2,000 species of plants. As a part of the University of Tirana, the gardens are also used for research purposes.
A cool little attraction to quickly stop and take a look at is the Friendship Monument opposite the National Library of Albania. This monument of red, green, black and white discs was installed to commemorate the country’s friendship with Kuwait. The modern attraction is definitely unusual for the area and is a wonderful spot to sit underneath and gather your bearings.
Kaplan Pasha Tomb
Another attraction that only requires a few minutes of your time is the Kaplan Pasha Tomb. In fact, it’s less than 100 metres from the Friendship Monument. Built in 1820, the octagonal stone structure stood next to Tirana’s first mosque, the Sulejman Pasha Mosque, which was destroyed in the Second World War. The tomb is listed and protected as a Cultural Monument of Albania.
The National Museum of Archaeology
Located by Mother Teresa Square, the National Museum of Archaeology was the first museum founded in Albania after World War II. Over 2,000 items are presented here, showcasing some of the most significant archaeological findings from throughout the country.
The museum exhibitions are organised by historic periods. Palaeolithic, Neolithic and Mesolithic ceramics are shown in the first two halls; jewellery and figurines from Antiquity are in the third and fourth halls; and tombstones, sculptures and mosaics from the Middle Ages are found in the fifth and final hall.
Open daily from 9 until 4, it’s definitely worth a visit to learn about the fascinating ancient history in this part of the world. Dedicate a few hours or more if you can. Entrance will set you back only 200 ALL.
Komiteti – Kafe Muzeum
Taking your time to enjoy a hot cup of coffee is a way of life in Albania. Walking down the main boulevards, you’ll immediately notice the number of cafes packed with locals socialising and enjoying their day. Komiteti on Rruga Fatmir Haxhiu is without a doubt the best cafe to visit as a tourist, as it doubles as a mini museum. Cosy and welcoming, the interiors are lined with Communist-era furniture and decor pieces, from paintings to old-fashioned radios.
Open from 8 a.m. until midnight and located right by the Pyramid of Tirana, you can stop by whenever suits you. If you find yourself here a little later in the day, Komiteti also offers the largest selection of raki in the city.
Museum of Secret Surveillance
The city’s newest historical attraction is the Museum of Secret Surveillance. Open since May 2017, it is dedicated to the individuals who were unjustly spied on and wrongfully prosecuted during the Communist era. Located inside a two-storey villa known as the House of Leaves, the extensive collection includes cameras, recording devices, taped interviews, propaganda films and more. Each artefact gives an insight into the oppression faced by citizens during this time.
Almost every exhibit include English descriptions, and the staff are available to provide further information if necessary. The museum is open daily from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. and costs 700 ALL to enter.
Recommended tours in Tirana
- Berat Full Day Trip from Tirana
- Tirana and Kruja Full Day Tour
- Shkoder Day Trip from Tirana
- Tirana Walking Tour
- Cooking Classes and Traditional food tasting in Tirana
- City & Food Tour of Tirana in One Day
- Exclusive Pottery making experience in Tirana
- Communist History Tour Tirana & Street Food
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