Tirana, the capital of Albania is not (yet) on the top of most people’s travel lists, and most the Balkans is not either (which is great for current visitors who want to avoid crowded touristy spots).
This capital city was my first stop on my 10 day trip through Albania, North Macedonia and Kosovo. It was also the first time I solo travelled since visiting Kyiv, Ukraine in October 2019, so I was super excited to be travelling in hostels at long last!
Tirana is the European Youth Capital 2022, and the capital does have a youthful and young feel to it. It has a population of 500,000 and could be one of the fastest growing city in Europe. However Tirana has not forgotten its roots and provides a mix of modernity and tradition.
Things to Do In Tirana
Dajti Ekpres Cable Car
Located a quick bus journey out of the city, the top of the cable car leads to stunning views over the city. The cable car was a good 15 minute journey, going over farm land and a few houses, reaching a height of 800m. Once you reach the top you can get a good view of the city. It is a great place to watch the sunset over the city. A hotel, mini golf, hiking routes and other activities are available from the top too.
The website has clear instructions on how to reach the station, and to get back to the city you will just have to catch the bus from the same stop you got off at. (The bus conductor clearly saw I was a tourist and told me when to got off). The staff were super friendly and helpful.
There are many bunkers found within the city, as well as throughout the country. Two have been transformed into museums – called Bunk’Art 1 and Bunk’Art 2. They are both full of information on the recent history of the country.
I have recommended a Free Walking Tour before, and once again will recommend attending the walking tour in Tirana, it is a great way to get your bearings of a city. The walking tour lasted just over 2 hours and guide provided us entertaining and factual information of the history of Albania and showed us some of the main attractions within the city. He also provided a first hand experience of living in Communist Albania, which lasted to as recently as 1991!
We saw sites such as Tanners Bridge, Pyramid of Tirana and The Cloud art installation.
This large square is the centre of the city, which is seen as the centre of the city. This was were the walking tour started from. The Skanderbeg Monument is located here, dedicated to Skanderbeg – an Albanian who is seen as a national hero after rebelling against the Ottoman Empire.
The Opera House and National History Museum are located off the square as well as the Et’hem Bej Mosque and Resurrection of Christ Orthodox Cathedral. Both places of worship are free to enter and beautifully decorated inside.
Food and Drink
The coffee and café culture in Tirana is great – perfect for relaxing, socialising or remote working. They were busy throughout the day and had a good atmosphere.
- Oda – traditional food (cash only)
- CaMulliri Vjeter – busy cafe with great coffee and snacks
- Qofte Tradita Met Kodra
- Restorant Tymi
As fab as the Tirana daytime café culture is, they have equally as good nightlife. The city has a range of bars and clubs – with great ones found in the Bloku area of the city. Hemingway Bar and Radio Bar, were some of my favourites.
There are a range of smaller green spaces close to Skanderbeg Square, with one including bunkers and a piece of the Berlin Wall. The large Grand Park of Tirana is located further to the south of the city.
Travelling to / from & around Tirana
I got an £8 from Luton to Tirana via WizzAir, but there is a growing list of airlines providing a route to Tirana. From the airport to the city centre, there is a shuttle bus, but also taxis are available. I also got a sim card from the airport, from the Vodaphone store, which I was able to use in North Macedonia and Kosovo too.
The city is super walkable, as well as cyclist friendly – due to the cycle lanes provided. I felt super safe walking in Tirana, the drivers are a bit scarier than what I am used to, but they do stop and will give you way!
From Tirana, there are many bus connections to other parts of the country as well as international – such as North Macedonia, Greece and Montenegro. The international bus station is located close to the city centre and I would recommend buying your ticket a day beforehand, just to ensure you get a place on the bus to your destination.
My Thoughts of Tirana
I really liked Tirana. It was a super chill city with such a great atmosphere. I travelled at the end of March when days were getting longer and had blue sky during my visit, which made the trip that bit special. A few locals and travellers did tell me to visit other parts of the country including Berat and the coastal area, which I hope to visit one day!