Tirana is the capital city of Albania, as well as being the largest city in the country. Albania is ideally located in the very south of the Balkans, a small group of countries in the south-east of Europe.
It also has access to Italy by ferry, and just an hour’s boat ride from the popular holiday destination of Corfu.
Tirana has an interesting architectural history, thanks to the combination of ancient castle ruins and rapid development that happened during the 1930s. Before this point, Tirana was a small, inconsequential town, but thanks to its central location it was declared the country’s capital in 1920.
Rapid development followed under strong Italian influence, and Tirana as it’s known today was born. These contrasting influences gave way to the interesting buildings and block-pastel colours that are unique to Tirana and the rest of Albania.
On Tirana’s skyline you will also find more unique buildings such as the Tirana Rock skyscraper and the Et’hem Bej Mosque.
Architecture isn’t the only thing to see in Tirana, however! Tirana is home to many museums, from their Natural History Museum to BUNK’ART, a former Cold War bunker turned into a modern art museum.
This 48 hours in Tirana itinerary is perfect as a stand-alone weekend in Tirana, or as an addition to your trip through the Balkans.
It has the best time to visit Tirana, how to get around Tirana and where to stay in Tirana, alongside a carefully-planned itinerary of the best things and places to see in Tirana.
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The Best Time to Visit Tirana
Thanks to its southerly location within Europe, Tirana is a warm, sunny city, and it remains so late into the year. If you want to make the most of the long-days and soak up the sunshine, head over in July or August which is the height of Albania’s summer.
Of course, thanks to the gorgeous weather, this is also when you can expect to come across the most tourists.
The average high temperature during these months is 31 degrees celsius, so it may be too warm if you want to explore the city and follow this 48-hour itinerary.
For the best combination of sunshine and exploring, try the spring or autumn months in Tirana. Still warm but not too warm, these are also the months that festivals and cultural events tend to take place, because it is simply too hot during the height of the summer.
Although the summers are hot, the winters can be incredibly cold, so you probably want to avoid December to February.
During this time, you are likely to find that many tourist things to do such as activities and restaurants close early, or don’t open at all.
How To Get Around Tirana
For your 48 hour itinerary in Tirana, it is entirely possible to get around on foot. Despite being a capital, it is a small city, and although the country of Albania is generally very mountainous, Tirana is surprisingly flat.
Thanks to Tirana’s central square being open plan with wide roads extending from it, it is quite an easy city to navigate.
Driving is not generally recommended to tourists. Although car rental is available, the roads are not necessarily of international driving standards, and the local rules of the road may differ from those you’re used to.
Instead, many hotels and accommodations offer a van service, which act as taxis that you may share with other travellers. Uber is not available in Albania, but licensed taxi companies in Tirana include Tirana Airport Taxi, Merr Taxi and Speed Taxi.
You can also ask your hotel for information, and they can often even book a taxi for you.
There are some buses around Tirana, and they are cheap! The average bus fare in Tirana is 0.35 €. As often is the case, you get what you pay for and buses are often crowded or lacking air conditioning.
It is only possible to buy a pass for a month or longer; otherwise, you have to purchase individual tickets.
Where To Stay in Tirana
Skanderbeg Square is the main Plaza in Tirana, and the focus point of the city. Due to its vast size, it feels calm and quiet even at the busiest times of day.
Accommodation on or close to Skanderbeg Square ensures you are at the heart of the action. Blloku (or Ish-Blloku) is an up-and-coming neighbourhood, with up-market shops and bars and a proximity to Air Albania Stadium.
Pazari i Ri (The New Bazaar) is a more traditional area, if you want to get yourself involved with the locals.
Trip’n’Hostel – Located in the heart of Pazari i Ri, this hostel is one of the most popular and well-rated in Tirana. Converted from an old Italian-style villa, it spans three floors and has two gardens.
In the spring and summer, you can even make use of their solarium roof terrace. Just 300 metres from the city centre and starting at 11 € a bed, you really can’t go wrong.
Prime Hotel – This hotel is perfect if you’re looking for a prime location in Tirana. You can literally see Skanderbeg Square from its front door.
A modest three star hotel, you’ll notice the small touches that make it luxurious, like free toiletries, slippers, and streaming services available on your TV. Prices start from around 40 € per night.
Ginger Home Tirana – If you’re looking for affordable luxury, look no further. Stay in this four star hotel just moments from Tirana’s centre.
Their 60 € deluxe room includes a separate seating area, a bath in your bathroom, and a balcony with a city view. It is situated perfectly between Pazari i Ri and Skanderbeg Square, giving you easy access to everything you could need for your 48 hours in Tirana.
Things To Do in Tirana
Ride the Dajti Ekspres Cable Car
The Dajti Ekspres cable car is the longest cable car in the Balkans, and runs from a station on the outskirts of Tirana to close to the top of Dajti Mountain.
A range of activities await you at the top, including award winning restaurant Ballkoni Dajtit, a rotating bar, an adventure park, mini golf, and even a hotel! If you stay in the hotel, you can ride the cable car for free.
Otherwise, the Dajti Ekspres cable car costs €7, and takes around 15 minutes giving you breathtaking views across the whole city.
Explore Skanderbeg Square
Skanderbeg Square is a large open space in the centre of Tirana, surrounded by vast post-communist buildings.
As well as being stunningly beautiful and a focal point for the city, it also contains several small parks. The edges of the square are lined with bars and restaurants, providing a relaxed and social atmosphere.
Places to Visit in Tirana
National History Museum
The National History Museum of Albania is situated in the centre of Tirana. It is easy to spot with a huge mosaic on its front, depicting several important moments in Albania’s history.
The piece was created by five Albanian artists, and later edited to remove some of the commonist connotations. Inside, the museum is divided into eight permanent exhibitions, each exploring a different piece of Albanian history.
It costs less than 5 € to enter the museum and it will take you hours to see everything, so make sure to set aside a few hours!
The Cave of Pellumbas
Pellumbas is a very small town outside of Tirana, but it is worth every effort to visit this marvel of nature.
Within the town itself there is a small shop dedicated to expeditions to the Cave of Pellumbas, where you can rent headlamps and hardhats for your trip into the cave, and buy maps and souvenirs.
Be sure to wear sturdy shoes on this trip, because the terrain can be uneven. If you’re unsure, you can also hire a guide to take you. The hike from the town to the caves is around 40 minutes each way, so come prepared for a lot of walking!
Bunk’Art is a five-story underground bunker, built in the 1970s for the Cold War, which originally had over 100 rooms. Entrance and exit tunnels were built in 2014, and in 2016 it was officially converted from a nuclear bunker into a 24-room history museum and contemporary art gallery.
It depicts Albania’s story through 45 years of communism, from the Italian fascist regime, through the Second World War and the German invasion, right up until their liberation in 1990.
The exhibitions come in a variety of mediums, including information boards, artwork and video projections.
Preza Castle (or Fushe Preze) is a short journey outside of Tirana, close to Tirana International Airport. You can drive in less than half an hour, and parking within the town is easy, but public transport is also available.
The castle’s interesting history includes Skanderbeg’s many impressive battles against the Ottoman empire, as well as the marriage of his sister.
The castle is surrounded by breathtaking views, including a 360 panorama and an incredible cityscape of the nearby capital.
Tours To Do in Tirana
Communist Walking Tour of Tirana
If you’re interested in Albania’s history (which you should be, it’s incredibly interesting!) one of these walking tours is a great way to get to know Tirana.
Taking you to Skanderbeg Square, the National History Museum and the Bunk’Art museum, through winding roads of old communist neighbourhoods and important monuments and memorials of this time.
Your guide will explore Tirana’s history with you as you visit each of these incredible buildings and museums, with your admission charges included in the tour price.
Hiking Day Tour of Pellumbas Cave and Erzeni Canyon
If you want to visit Pellumbas Cave, the most efficient way to squeeze it into a short itinerary is to make it part of a day tour.
Several different options are available, but to make the most of the incredible Albanian scenery, the best tours will also include Erzeni Canyon.
These tours are great because they’ll pick you up from your hotel, organise all of your transport and provide you with a professional guide. Entry fees are also included.
Cooking Class and Traditional Food Tasting
What better way to get to know a city than through its cuisine? With these tours, you not only get to taste the food, but learn how to make it, too!
The classes are very reasonably priced and include all of your ingredients for lunch, snacks, tea and coffee and even alcoholic beverages! These tours are especially great for travellers who enjoy meeting new people.
48 Hours in Tirana
Day 1 in Tirana
You’ll start your first day of your two days in Tirana bright and early, with a hotel pickup for your walking tour at 9am.
You’ll spend your morning exploring Skanderbeg Square, marvelling at the historical buildings and learning about Tirana’s history, both from your tour guide and your trip to the National History Museum and the Postbllok Checkpoint Monument.
Then you’ll head to the area of Blloku, the former haven for communist politicians that used to be left off the map! Here you’ll stop by a local restaurant for a late lunch and a glass of rakia. You’ll finish your tour at Bunk’Art 1, the former Cold War Bunker museum.
In the afternoon, you’ll head over to the east of Tirana to ride the Dajti Ekspres cable car up Dajti mountain. There are a mountain (pun not intended) of things to do when you reach the top, from cocktails, to mini-golf, to a full-on adventure park!
Head back to your accommodation in the evening for a good night’s rest before your action-packed day tomorrow.
Day 2 in Tirana
Today you’ll begin day 2 of your 48 hours in Tirana with another early start, but trust me, it’ll be worth it! Another hotel pickup will see you shipped off to the Caves of Pellumba for a day-long experience, exploring the ancient natural formation and hiking up to the Erzeni canyon.
This river is 108 km, and the water is crystal clear. If the weather is good, you can even get in and swim amongst the stunning waterfalls and rock formations.
You’ll have prepared a packed lunch before you go, which you’ll enjoy by the canyon with your fellow travellers.
When you get back into the city, you’ll just about have enough time for a coffee and a change of clothes before you head to your cookery class.
Here you’ll learn all about traditional Albanian cuisine and cook it with your fellow classmates before you sit down together for dinner.
Recommended tours in Tirana
- Rafting in Osumi Canyons Albania Adventure Tours Skrapar (ARG)
- Cooking Classes and Traditional food tasting in Tirana
- Tirana Communist Tour
- Paragliding Tandem Experience From Dajti Mountain
- Pub Crawl Tirana
- Dajti Mountain Hiking Tour
- Live Virtual Walking Tour of Tirana
- Hiking day tour of Pellumbas cave and Erzeni canyon from Tirana