Tirana (in Albanian Tiranë) is the capital of the Republic of Albania and although it is certainly not the most beautiful among the Albanian cities, it is certainly worth a visit both for its past history and for its recent metamorphosis that the year brought to be a lively metropolis, the hub of the country’s economy.
The Albanian capital would deserve a few days but travelers often use it as a base for an itinerary in Albania since Tirana is the only Albanian airport (for now, until Kukes airport is opened). So if you only have one day in Tirana here are the tips to enjoy the city to the fullest.
- Itinerary in Tirana in one day
- To do in Tirana: nightlife and shopping
- Tour from Tirana to do
- Tirana history and information
What to see in Tirana in one day: itinerary
Although many tourists prefer other cities, the capital of Albania offers many attractions for those who want to spend at least one day in Tirana among its lively streets and museums. For further information we recommend a guide to Tirana while if you are thinking of an on the road this guide of Albania reports some itineraries between the north, south and east of the country as well as many tips.
To see in Tirana: Skanderbeg Square and surroundings
Start your visit from Skanderbeg Square , the real heart of the city. It is a large square recently renovated and made pedestrian, where the statue of the Albanian hero par excellence stands out. Here you will find some of the main attractions of Tirana but also trees, benches where you can rest and fountains that refresh passersby with their water games.
A short distance from the Skanderbeg statue are the Et’hem Bey Mosque and the Clock Tower . The Mosque is a beautiful example of Ottoman architecture, with intricate frescoes on the outer walls of the portico and inside the building depicting trees, streams and bridges. These are very rare motifs for Islamic architecture executed by Venetian artists. Near the mosque there is the Clock Tower (Kulla and Sahatit) built in 1822 which with its 35 meters high always characterizes the profile of the city. Both the mosque and the tower can be visited and from the top of the tower you can see the whole square from above.
Also on Skanderbeg Square is the National Historical Museum (Muzeu Historik Kombëtar) characterized by the large mosaic on its facade: the work represents the struggle of the Albanian people in defense of their freedom. During your trip to Albania you will understand what this struggle really means that has always characterized the history of the Land of Eagles and it is no coincidence that this mosaic is located in Tirana, a city that became the center of the Albanian resistance during the Second Albanian War . In the National Historical Museum there is an exhibition of images and relics that tell the Albanian history from prehistoric times to the contemporary.
Overlooking the Skanderbeg Square you will then see the Palazzi dei Ministeri whose architecture testifies to the Italian influence of the 1920s and 1930s, as well as the neoclassical buildings that house the National Theater, the Marionette Theater and the headquarters of the National Bank.
At this point, leave the square behind and continue towards the Ponte dei Conciatori “Ura e Tabakeve”, an ancient Ottoman bridge over the Lana river dating back to the 18th century, from here you can observe the famous colored houses of Tirana which are one of the peculiarities of the city. From here, continuing your walk on the pedestrian Murat Toptani street you will come across the remains of the Tirana Castle , also known as the Justinian Fortress, of which only the walls remain today.
During your tour of Tirana, do not miss the Cathedral of Saint Paul , one of the main places of worship in the city for Catholics, and the Orthodox Cathedral of Tirana. The latter, called the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ, with its circular shape and its majestic dome, is the third largest Orthodox church in Europe.
The history of Tirana: the Pyramid of Hoxha, the Memorial of the Checkpoint, the Bunk’Art and the Bell of Peace
Continue your walk along the Bulevardi Dëshmorët e Kombit: here you will find yourself in front of the Pyramid of Enver Hoxha which became one of the symbols of Albania during the riots of the 90s. It is a building designed by the dictator’s daughter who has suffered ups and downs after the end of the regime. Projects have been presented to transform the building into a technological center for young people but the Pyramid of Tirana is definitely worth a stop also to see the Bell of Peace which is nearby. The latter is a message of peace and hope: it was built to commemorate the riots of 1997 in which hundreds of people lost their lives with the shells that collected the children of the Catholic community of Zadrima.
To complete your dive into the recent Albanian past, don’t stop here: there are still two attractions in Tirana, a symbol of the country’s painful past but also of its rebirth: the Checkpoint – Communist Isolation Memorial (Postbllok Memorial i izolimit komunist) and the Bunk’Art . The first was inaugurated in 2013 and is a reminder of the isolationism in which the country fell due to the paranoia of the Dictator: located at the entrance to the former Communist Block, the installation consists of a bunker, a section of the concrete of the SPAC, the largest place of detention for political prisoners of the regime and a portion of the Berlin Wall, donated to Tirana by Germany.
The Bunk’Art of Tirana is instead a huge anti-atomic bunker located on the northern outskirts of Tirana. It was a real city spread over five floors, with over 100 rooms including some areas reserved for Hoxha and senior Party leaders. Bunk’Art hosts a historical and modern art exhibition, which is part of Albania’s path to Europe, in which art can play an important role. In November 2016, Bunk’Art 2 was inaugurated , located in the center of Tirana near Skanderbeg Square, which tells the secrets of the “ Sigurimi ”, the party police used by Hoxha to persecute the political opponents of the Regime.
These two Tirana attractions allow you to learn more about Albanian history, a difficult and tormented history that for a very long time remained secret.
The parks of Tirana
Also along the Bulevardi Dëshmorët e Kombit there is the Youth Park (Parku Rinia in Albanian) a park very popular with the inhabitants of Tirana at the center of which stands a futuristic building built at the time of the alliance between Albania and China and which now houses bars and restaurants. Continuing along the avenue you will arrive at Piazza Nene Teresa named after Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the missionary of Albanian origins. This is another symbol of the renewal of the city: designed in 1940 as Casa del Fascio today it is known thanks to the visit of Pope Francis who, from which he reaffirmed the importance of a model of peaceful life and coexistence between different religious beliefs, coexistence in which Albania has been a teacher for generations.
From here, on hot summer days, you can spend a few relaxing hours in the large park of Tirana. The Parku i Madh is a green park that develops on the shores of the artificial lake Liqenit: the park is located in a university area so here you will see many young people studying outdoors but also families on a trip, elderly people playing chess, dominoes or to the hugely popular backgammon and training athletes. The park is also a perfect place to end a day in Tirana with children as, right next to the entrance, you will find a beautiful, new and well-kept playground.
To do in Tirana: shopping, Bllok and nightlife
In Tirana there are public institutions and universities and the city is the center of the political and economic life of the country. In fact, many foreign companies are based here – many also Italian – which have found fertile ground for their activities also thanks to the young Albanians who, after moving to the city to study, after completing their studies remain there to work. It is no coincidence that one of the experiences to do in the city is to go to the lively Bllok district where the Movida of Tirana is concentrated, among pubs, restaurants and discos crowded with young people.
There are two things in the city: the cafes and bars where you can watch a football match . Coffee, excellent and usually served with a glass of water, is an institution in Tirana but be prepared to have long conversations between fans if you find yourself in one of its bars during any Italian league match. Italian football is in fact very popular in the city and here you will have no problem finding people who speak perfectly Italian.
Finally , shopping in Tirana among modern shopping centers and crowded bazaars deserves a separate chapter . The shopping area in Tirana extends from rruga Myslim Shyri , a pleasant tree-lined avenue with elegant shops and clubs, towards the Bllok but in the city you will also find many shopping centers and markets.
In the brand new modern and luxurious shopping centers of Tirana , you will find almost all the best known brands, including Italian ones. The most famous in the city are: Toptani Center, Ring center, Raiffaisen, ETC Galeria, Kristal Center. Outside the city you will find the City Park, along the highway to Durres, and the Tirana East Gate towards Elbasan.
Another experience to do in Tirana for shopping lovers are the markets: go and see Pazari i Ri and the Central Market. These are two very popular markets in Tirana: the first, Pazari i Ri, mainly sells food and develops in the square and in the side streets while the second, Tregu Çam, is the Central Market and is dedicated to clothing and objects . The latter market has the particularity of being organized in the garages and houses of the neighborhood, so the setting is very particular.
Visit Albania: Tour from Tirana
Tirana is often the beginning of an inland itinerary in Albania as all international flights arrive at Tirana airport. You can then move and visit the rest of the country or even keep your base in the city and take day or two excursions for example to Shkoder , Kruja , Berat and Durres .
If you have not rented a car in Albania to move from Tirana Airport to the city you can use the Shuttle Direct transfer service that allows the transport of passengers and suitcases directly from the airport to Tirana city .
To visit the surroundings of Tirana, however, it is better to have a car because public transport does not work very well (it is often difficult to find bus information and the railway network is not developed). Alternatively, it is possible to book organized tours, such as those leading to Kruja , Apollonia , Shkodra or Berat .
Where is Tirana in Albania and history
Located in the center of Albania, about 35 km east of Durres and the coast Tirana is located in a valley surrounded by high mountains. This means that you just need to drive a few kilometers out of the city to find yourself in a completely different green area from Tirana: to the east of the city is Mount Dajt, to the south there are the hills of Kërrabë and Sauk, to the west the Vaqarr and Yzberisht hills. and Kamzë to the north. Around the city there are also several lakes and a national nature reserve (The Parku i Madh). This is especially useful if you are in Tirana in the summer, when the temperatures get really hot and you need a little cool.
The first settlement of Tirana dates back to the Roman period , the city was then destroyed by the Turks and re-founded but it is after it became the capital of the state, in the 1920s, that the importance of Tirana began to grow. Occupied by foreign troops during the Second World War, the Communist government of Enver Hoxha settled here in 1944 and from that moment on, much of the development of the city is linked to the influence of the Soviet Union, as evidenced today by the of many of the buildings.