Tirana was only founded in 1614 by the Turkish general, Barkinzade Süleyman Paşa. For a young city, it has racked up a lot of interesting history. Today it is a very vibrant and city to visit. Here are my top 18 things to do in Tirana Albania.
1 The Pyramid of Tirana
Ok if you are going to visit here you need to do a small bit of homework otherwise you will think it is just an abandoned building. It actually is a kind of an abandoned building. In 1985 when the long-ruling communist dictator Enver Hoxha died it was decided to build a museum in his honour. It was compleated and opened in 1988. A year later in world communism collapsed and in 1991 the party in Albania collapsed. The Pyramid was closed in 1991 and is mostly unused today. It was used by NATO in 1991 during the Kosovo war. Most people want it to remain and be used for something more positive. What is the question people cannot seem to agree on. Well worth a visit.
2 Bunkart 1
The extremely paranoid Enver Hoxha feared invasion from both the East and the West. That is what happens when you have an argument with both sides. He ordered a program of bunkerisation to begin. Up to his death, over 175,000 bunkers were built. One for every 11 people. They still scatter the Albanian countryside. In the streets. On beaches and even in playgrounds. The biggest is on the outskirts of Tirana Albania. Opened in 1978 is was to be used in event of an atomic attack by selected members of the government and Military. Over 100 rooms are here and a large conference room. It is said, Hoxha only visited here twice. It is a must see when you are in Tirana Albania. It can be reached by local Tirana buses starting from the centre.
3 Have a coffee on Rruga Murat Toptani, Tirana
There is something special and uncomplicated about having a coffee or a freshly squeezed juice on this street in central Tirana. You could think you are in Paris or Barcelona until you check your bill and know this is Tirana at its best.
4 The National Museum of History
If you like history then you need to give this place some time. The museum is quite large and goes through all the most important periods of Albanian history. There is a minimal charge for entry. This area of Europe has seen its share of history as it is at the crossroads from East to West.
5 Have a beer. Have lots of beers. I did.
Try Albanian beer. It is really nice and about 20% off the price back home. The more you drink the more money you will save.
6 Check out the communist statues in cold storage in Tirana
It is a sign of how the giants of communism have fallen in most Albanians opinion. These days away from the main square Lenin, Stalin and Hoxha have to make due with the backyard of the National Art Gallery in Tirana. Who would have thought that in the early 1980s?
7 Bunkart2 Triana Albania
Ok if you are going to do Bunkart1 and 2 I would suggest Bunkart2 first. It is a lot smaller then Bunkart1 but well worth a visit. A former nuclear bunker it today houses a museum. The exhibition shows how the police during the communist era persecuted and controlled the Albanian population. It is located in the city centre.
8 Skanderbeg Square Tirana Albania
This is really the centre of Tirana. It now has been completely pedestrianised. It has become a place the local people come to relax and sit in the evening sunshine. A big change from 1991 when people overthrew communism by protesting in this square. On weekend evenings there is usually something happening here and many people are playing music.
9 Rruga Studenti Tirana
Students get a bad rap in most places and sometimes it is deserved. There is one thing that students are good at. Finding good bars and restaurants and cheap prices. Check out the Studenti area for something a bit different when you are in Tirana.
10 Mount Dajti Express cable car
Located just outside Tirana is the Balkans longest cable car. If you are going here it might be a good idea to make a day of it and get to visit Bunkart1 also. They are very near each other.
11 Markata E Peshkut Tirana Albania
Located just a few streets back from the centre of Tirana this area is becoming a very trendy place to eat and drink. You will be lucky to find a seat in a bar or a restaurant on a Saturday night. There are some great choices and amazing value.
12 Mother Teresa Tirana
Mother Teresa was born in Skopje Macedonia but she was of Albanian descent. Albania is keen to reclaim one of the most important Albanians ever. There is a square called Mother Teresa in the city.
13 Ener Hoxha house in Blloku neighbourhood Tirana
Ok, this is maybe worth seeing if you are passing by but it just shows the hypocrisy of totalitarian regimes. The communist dictator wanted the purest hardest form of socialism for his people. He thought the leaders that came after Stalin to be too soft. But of course that only applied to the regular people. The Blloku neighbourhood Tirana was where the top members of the Albanian communist party lived. There was a wall separating it from the rest of the city. In here it was possible to get western clothes and goods. Today it is a very popular place to socialise and party.
14 The House of Leaves Tirana Albania
One of the newer museums in Tirana. The former HQ of National Intelligence Service. The exhibition shows how they spied on every aspect of Albanian life. A bit similar to Bunkart1 and if I had to choose between them I would go to Bunkart1. If you have the time as I did go to both.
15 The Clock Tower Tirana
Built-in 1822 it is a stubborn building. It has been damaged a few times during wars but the city keeps rebuilding it. Just 90 steps to the top you can for a small fee see a nice view of the city centre.
16 The Grand Park of Tirana
If you are looking to get away from the street life in Tirana you can enjoy the Grand Park of Tirana. It is only a mere 15-minute walk from the centre. The park has an artificial lake. There are many places to grab a coffee, beer or something to eat here. One of the most relaxing places in Tirana city. This is a very popular area for local people to gather in the evening as the sun goes down.
17 Get the bus to Durres Albania
Durres is just 35km away from Tirana. It is a very cheap bus ride away and takes 45 minutes on the motorway. It is not only a seaside resort but an interesting city. It also has a Roman amphitheatre that once held 20,000 people. Seaside and history. A great combanation.
18 The Et’hem Bey Mosque Tirana
Usually, I am not a big fan of seeing Mosques, Churches or Buddhist temples unless they are very old. I think once you have seen one they are much the same. I am giving this a mention for outlasting Communism. In the 1960s Albania declared itself as the world’s firsts atheist state and most places of religion were destroyed or closed down.
Buses in Tirana
Local buses are very cheap. Just behind the clock tower is located one of the main areas to get a bus from the city to the suburbs. The buses are usually full and standing room only.
There is no one central bus station. If you are going to the South or, North Albania you need to go to the appropriate station. Also, international destinations have their own station. You can get local buses to the stations.
Tourist Infomation Center Tirana
There is a tourist information office behind the national history museum. Across the street.
I loved Tirana and I think it is a city full of surprises. If you like communism history you will love Tirana. It has a great bar, cafe and restaurant scene. It is well worth a short or long visit.
In my 15 days in Tirana, I did not come across any scams. One night a few kids were asking for money on one street but that was it. It was really nothing. In most places, you will get a receipt even if it is just a coffee. No matter where you are in the world it always best to be careful just in case. I found Tirana to be one of the safest and friendliest cities I have ever visited but as always be a smart traveller.