Tirana is often overlooked by the few tourists who visit Albania as just a means to get in and out of the country. I discovered there is so much more to this city and in fact completely and utterly fell in love with this place.
If you visit Tirana, make sure you spend more than one day. I spent 4 days and felt I could have stayed so much longer. No matter how long you stay, these are the things to do in Tirana:
An old bunker that has been transformed into a museum complete with Albania’s history. I am not a history buff and to be honest museum’s just aren’t my thing, BUT I loved Bunk’Art. The information was engaging and the bunker was just fascinating. If you do only one thing in Tirana, or Albania for that matter, it should be a visit to Bunk’Art.
Bunk’Art is located on the outskirts of Tirana quite close to the Dajti Express. It can be easily reached by taxi in about 10 minutes from the city centre and is inexpensive (cost 750 LEK). Be aware as the museum is quite new, not all taxi drivers are familiar with it as we discovered. Be sure to check the address before you leave. It cost 500 LEK to enter and was worth every penny.
The Dajti Express is a must do when visiting Tirana. It is a cable car which transports you to high above Tirana and provides scenic views of the countryside and over Tirana. The cable car ride is surprisingly long and the journey takes approx 15 mins.
The Dajti Express can easily be combined with a trip to Bunk’Art. The hop on point is a short 5- 10 min walk from Bunk’Art. After you have enjoyed the scenic trip, there are plenty of unregulated taxi’s available to get back into Tirana. This trip cost 800 LEK (without an bargaining on price).
Read more about why you should visit Albania
For a brief introduction to Tirana and Albania be sure to do the free walking tour in Tirana. The tour focused on the very city centre and was very informative in gaining a basic understanding of the country’s past.
The tour starts from the National History Museum every day at 10am and runs for around 2 – 2.5 hours. The tour is free but it is generally accepted that you will tip the guide.
Climb the Clock Tower
The clock tower is one of the oldest buildings in the city. It was initially built as a bell tower in 1822 and has undergone many changes during its lifetime. In 1928 the clock was added before being destroyed and rebuilt after World War II.
The clock tower is located behind the Et’hem Bey Mosque near Skanderbeg Square. To see the city centre from above this is the place to go. The clock tower opens at 9am Monday to Friday and is free to visit.
Wander through El Blloku
This is the most popular area of Tirana and is filled with restaurants, cafes, bars, nightclubs and boutique stores. If you are looking for a delicious meal, this is the place to visit. I loved ERA restaurant for cheap quality meals and Oda for authentic Albanian food. If you want to see the city from above there is a rotating restaurant located on the top floor of the Sky Tower open from 7am to midnight everyday.
People watch at the Grand Park/ Artificial Lake
The Grand Park of Tirana is located at the southern end of the city of Tirana. The park is huge (230 hectares) and includes an artificial lake, Presidential Palace and many memorials.
A walk through Grand Park was another of my favourite things in Tirana. There is nothing I love more when visiting a new place then seeing local people go about there daily activities. This is definitely the place where you can do this. From teenagers playing basketball, joggers, kids playing on the play equipment to families riding their bikes there is something for everyone here. There are also a number of cafes where you can grab a drink and people watch.
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Climb the Enver Hoxha Pyramid
The pyramid is a unique looking pyramid building in the centre of Tirana. It was built to honor the dictator Enver Hoxha after his death. Over the years little to nothing has been done to maintain the building. These days the Pyramid is an area for young people to gather and have fun climbing and sliding down the walls of the Pyramid. Despite the decay, it is a very interesting landmark to see in an unusual city.
Tirana is a fascinating place to visit and certainly more than just an entry and exit point to this amazing country. Be sure to spend at least a few days in this amazing city.