Tirana is the capital of Albania but, paradoxically, it is always difficult for me to start a journey from its capital. This is because when I first discover a country I have so many expectations and often big cities are not the best place , especially if you are traveling with small children.
However, we started with the idea that seeing Albania without visiting Tirana meant skipping an important piece of this nation, although, on paper, it is certainly not the most fascinating city in the country. A belief on which Roberto, who had already been there in the Albanian capital, was adamant.
So our first family trip to Albania started right there . Below you will find our experience in Tirana and some tips to better enjoy the city, but before leaving we recommend that you buy a good travel guide of the Land of Eagles and, if you have an on the road in mind, a detailed map .
- Tirana is worth visiting
- The new Albania
- The future of Tirana
- Useful information for visiting Tirana
- What to see in Tirana
- Tirana with children
- The surroundings of Tirana
- Return to Tirana
1) Is Tirana worth seeing?
Let’s start with this question that many people ask (and ask us). Is it worth visiting Tirana if you have a few days available? The question is legitimate given that the capital of Albania certainly does not have the fame of other Albanian cities.
To be clear, Tirana certainly does not have the immediate beauty of nearby Berat which is a UNESCO heritage site or the small but famous Kruja homeland of Skanderberg which is not far away. Tirana does not even have the Durres seafront or the crystalline waters of Ksamil , just to mention two other Albanian cities not far away that are in my opinion absolutely worth seeing in Albania.
For this reason, the temptation to “run away” from the capital without stopping even a little to discover it or by dedicating just one day to Tirana is always strong. And it was strong for us too, especially since we were there the first time in the summer, in a city made hot by the heat and almost deserted at the weekend.
In the end, however, we held out, we still decided to visit Tirana and the city fulfilled me. So much so that we then returned again on another trip, finding it changed and for the better.
2) See Tirana to see the new Albania
But we were talking about Tirana, a city that in my opinion represents Albania and not only because it is its capital . The first thing you need to know about this city is that it is the most populous in the whole country, around 800,000 people live in the Tirana area, or more than a third of the entire Albanian population. And yet Tirana practically did not exist until the 1940s.
The city, founded during the Ottoman Empire, was enlarged during the fascist occupation, becoming, in the space of a few years, unrecognizable. Even following this development in the fascist era, visiting Tirana even on foot is very easy, since the wide avenues and square blocks make it almost impossible to get lost! The second thing to know is that Tirana was the protagonist of the riots of the 90s that led, in 1992, to the end of the communist regime and led to the freedom of Albania.
But seeing Tirana today is very different from doing it a few years ago. First of all because the city is the real protagonist of the new Albania, the one projected towards the future , which has led many European and Italian entrepreneurs to go and invest in Albania, opening new companies right here. This has led Tirana to be a hectic but also very modern city, with beautiful outdoor cafes and chic restaurants , full indeed very full, of universities and consequently of young people who come to Tirana to study and then stop to live and work.
But visiting Tirana is also a good way to start a trip to Albania, so as to understand its history , before living it day by day during the trip. The Ethnographic Museum of Tirana is the most important in the city while the Et’hem Bey Mosque – beautiful with its frescoes in Istanbul – immediately makes us understand the past of this nation but also its heterogeneity and tolerance, for which the mosques rise alongside to the Orthodox churches, without interruption.
3) The future of Albania in Tirana
In Tirana you can breathe the future , made up of smart guys, who have been able to study, very often abroad, who know at least a couple of foreign languages and have acquired a solid set of skills. These young people are the future of Albania and they know it, as do the multinationals that have begun to look at the Land of Eagles with increasing interest. But Tirana is also its past , with the Hoxha Pyramid, the Bell of Peace and the second-hand book markets, with the Clock Tower and the National Historical Museum.
Tirana is also a city from which to explore the surroundings , Berat, Durres and Kruja, can be reached with a day trip, for those who prefer to have only one base and not make a traveling trip. In short, Tirana for us was the beginning and the end of our first family trip to Albania because we left from its airport to go home and, despite the great heat of August, it is a city that has not left me. indifferent.
So if you have a holiday in Albania in mind, my advice is to visit Tirana too and dedicate a few days to it before continuing your tour and perhaps heading towards the sea. You will not regret it! 🙂
4) Useful information for visiting Tirana
Where to sleep in Tirana: why not a business hotel?
Tirana is a city that for some years now has seen the explosion of companies – Italian and not only – that have opened their branches here. For this you will find excellent business hotels at very attractive rates . Paradoxically, in fact, cheap hotels in Tirana are often the ones you wouldn’t normally consider! Try to check the prices of Tirana hotels directly on Booking, a portal that we have used a lot in Albania, always finding us very well!
How to reach Tirana from the airport
Tirana airport is well connected with the city even though we always landed in the middle of the night so we discarded the buses. If you decide not to rent a car, you can choose whether to reach Tirana by taxi or by private transfer . The latter can also be booked online from Italy and have very interesting costs.
How to get around Tirana by car: better a taxi?
Tirana is a fairly chaotic city, with few parking spaces, most of which are paid (some “officially” others unofficially, but we still paid “the ticket” …) so getting around it by car could be a bit stressful.
A good solution in this case are taxis that have fair prices and will allow you to visit Tirana without stress. There are many taxis, so you will not struggle to find a ride and the rides to the center cost about € 5.
How to get to Tirana: flights, ferries or cars?
We have always chosen to reach Tirana by plane. Keep in mind that in August flights can be expensive, you should look in advance or look for some offers on ad hoc sites that offer flights with the best prices.
Alternatively, consider taking a ferry to Durres and from there to Tirana. The two cities are very close and you could find excellent prices, as long as you move in advance to look for ferry tickets . Or the last solution is to arrive by car from Italy through the Balkans , it is long but we have met many tourists, and many families with children, who have done so.
How to visit the city of Tirana
The capital of Albania is a very lively city and here you will find many experiences, with tours to live and visit the surroundings as well. Here are some ideas:
- Guided tour of the city on foot : to learn about the history of the city and its main monuments;
- Tour from Tirana to Berat : Berat is a beautiful city and worth the visit, if you don’t have a car it is worth evaluating the tour;
- Tour from Tirana to Shkodra : Shkodra is also a fairly close city and can be visited on a day tour.
5) What to see in Tirana: monuments, museums and markets of Tirana
To visit Tirana you could start from Skanderbeg Square , where there is the statue of the Albanian patriot. Nearby are some of Tirana’s most important monuments and museums, such as the Clock Tower , the Et’hem Bey Mosque and the Historical Museum .
Worth seeing in Tirana are the Hoxha Pyramid with the Peace Bell, the Memorial of the Checkpoint and the Orthodox Cathedral. A visit, especially in the evening, also deserves the Bllok – the trendiest neighborhood in Tirana – while if you are planning a trip to Tirana in the summer plan to go to the Monte Dajti funicular and the lake.
If you like markets too – we love them and are always looking for them on the go! – go see Pazari i Ri and the Central Market . These are two very popular markets in Tirana, one mainly sells food and develops in the square and in the side streets and the other instead dedicated to clothing, objects and… so on and so forth!
The Central Market of Tirana has the particularity of being organized in the garages and houses of the neighborhood, so the setting is certainly particular. If you are looking for souvenirs, however, these are not the right places for you but on the other hand they are a good insight into the real life of the Albanian capital! 😉
6) See Tirana with small children: is the capital good for children?
One thing that struck me in visiting the Albanian capital with children are its parks . There are so many and it is lucky if you are traveling with children because you can stop and play or simply rest for a while.
The city is generally well accessible with strollers , there are no gradients and even the sidewalks are manageable, despite being a large city. If you decide to visit Tirana with small children you will have no problem finding food or what you need for the children , in the city there are brand new shopping centers and just enter Conad to find very Italian products (and Italian prices).
We have always found the city very quiet and safe even when traveling at night, even if in truth we have had this impression throughout Albania. If you are looking for more details on things to do in Tirana with children, follow the link to read the full post.
7) The surroundings of Tirana, what to see
Due to its position, the capital is well suited for exploring the north of Albania both with day trips and departures of a few days. Here is what to see near Tirana:
- Durres : very close to Tirana you could go there even just for an evening stroll along the seafront. Among other things, seeing the Durres seafront with children is one of the things to do if you are in Tirana with your family;
- Lake Scutari : from Tirana Shkodra is about an hour and a half by car and this is also a trip that we recommend;
- Kruja : from Croia to Tirana it takes less than an hour and the city of Skanderbeg cannot be missed on a trip to Albania;
- Berat : from Berat to Tirana it takes almost two hours but try to organize yourself to sleep at least one night in the city;
- Lezhe: from Tirana to Lezhe by car it will take you an hour, visit the Skanderbeg Mausoleum and then relax on the beach of San Giovanni di Medua.
- Capo Rodonit : from Tirana to Capo Rodonit it takes about 2 hours but the road is good and the promontory is truly spectacular.
8) Visit Tirana more than once
As mentioned above for us it is worth visiting Tirana and in fact we have returned more than once. During our last trip to Albania we noticed that the city has changed a lot, becoming even more beautiful and pleasant to visit on foot, with the Skanderbeg Square becoming completely pedestrian. All the more reason to go there!