Here’s a list of the 15 best things to do in Tirana, Albania, along with famous landmarks, museums, and other points of interest.
Tirana is the capital of the Republic of Albania, situated in the center of the country. It is one of the sunniest European capitals with over 2500 hours of sunshine annually. The city is rich in history and was founded already in 1614, although the area has been inhabited for much longer.
Tirana is a lively city with a charming albeit chaotic atmosphere which is exciting to experience. The city has a mix of western, central, and eastern influences, making it an interesting destination.
In this article, I’m sharing some of the best places to visit in Tirana as well as attractions and activities that shouldn’t be missed.
Skanderbeg Square and statue
Skanderbeg Square is home to one of the most important monuments in Albania, the statue of Skanderbeg, a national hero of Albania’s resistance against the Ottoman Empire.
The 40,000 m² square is the heart of the city and surrounded by many important buildings such as the Palace of Culture, the National Opera, and the Et’hem Bey Mosque. Skanderbeg Square is used for many of the main celebrations and cultural events of Tirana.
The Clock Tower of Tirana
Originally built in 1822, the Clock Tower of Tirana is one of the most important historical landmarks of the city. The spiral stairs consist of 90 steps and lead up to the top of the 35 meters tall tower. The Clock Tower was built in the Islamic style by the Ottoman Turks.
Et’hem Bej Mosque
The Et`hem Bej Mosque, a Cultural Monument of Albania, is the perhaps most important religious building in of Albania. It was closed during the communist rule of the country but reopened in 1991.
What makes the mosque unique are the frescoes decorating the outside walls of the building. Unlike other mosques, they depict trees, waterfalls, and bridges. The mosque is built in an Ottoman style and its construction finished between 1819 and 1821.
Dajti Ekspress is a cable car that is considered one of the most popular tourist attractions in Tirana. The cable car leads up to the Dajiti Mountain (1.613 m) and is one of the longest and most impressive cable cars of the Balkans.
The restaurant Ballkoni i Dajtit is a great place to enjoy Albanian food and wine and enjoy an unmatched view over the capital Tirana. The Dajiti Mountain belongs to a national park and is also perfectly suited for people interested in hiking and mountain biking.
Bunk’Art 1 and 2
The bunker museums 1 and 2 are some of the most unique attractions of Tirana. These bunkers were constructed during the rule of Enver Hoxha and served the purpose of defending Albania against foreign invasions.
Enver Hoxha made a bunker with over 100 rooms, which today acts as an art gallery today (Bunk’Art 1). The bunker of the ministry of the interior is called Bunk’Art 2 and focuses on the history of the ministry and the Sigurimi, a special political branch of the Albanian police.
National History Museum
The National Museum of History is situated in an impressive Socialist-style building that reminds its visitors of the recent past of the country. Inaugurated in 1981, the museum offers 18,000 square meters of historical exhibitions.
The museum focuses on all aspects of Albanian history, including the Antique, Middle Ages, and the 20th century. A pavilion dedicated to Mother Theresa can be visited, one of the most famous Albanians of all time.
The exhibitions are displaying Albania’s role in the Second World War and the Communist terror, which are not just interesting for history-lovers but provide an understanding of modern-day Albania.
Pyramid of Tirana
The so-called Pyramid of Tirana is a remarkable structure that shouldn’t be missed when visiting the Albanian capital. The pyramid was built to house the Enver Hoxha Museum and opened in 1988.
Interestingly, the structure was designed by Hoxha’s daughter and was supposed to honor the legacy of her father. What makes the building even more interesting is that is also served as a NATO base during the Kosovo War and was used as a movie set for several movies and TV-series.
Resurrection Of Christ Orthodox Cathedral
The perhaps most significant Christian building of the city is the Resurrection Cathedral. Unlike most churches in Europe, the Resurrection of Christ Orthodox Cathedral is very young and was opened as recently as in June 2012.
Despite its young age the cathedral is a very impressive sight and features a bell tower, cultural center, library, and two chapters. The height of the dome is 32.2 m. The amphitheater of the cathedral is used to host lectures and musical events.
The New Bazaar
The name of this neighborhood stems from the market and the many grocery stores that are located here. Most of the produce that is sold here is locally grown, the fruits and vegetables are very fresh and delicious.
Visitors should try out the Albanian wine and Raki that is sold here. The many colorful buildings, restaurants, and bakeries are inviting stops while exploring the neighborhood.
The New Bazaar is located in one of the oldest areas of the city. Don’t miss the Kokonozi Mosque built by the Ottomans.
House of Leaves
The “Shtëpia me Gjethe“ is dedicated to the dark times of totalitarian rule in Albania during the 20th century. The building, initially a hospital, was turned into the Gestapo Headquarters in 1943 and was later used by the Sigurimi, the secret police of Socialist Albania.
The exhibition portrays many of the crimes committed here and gives an interesting glimpse into the total surveillance of the population by the Sigurimi.
Particularly interesting are the exhibits of surveillance tools and technology that were used during the Socialist rule. The purpose of the museum is to remember the crimes of the past and educate about the dangers of totalitarian rule.
The Park on the Artificial Lake
The Grand Park of Tirana, also called Park on the Artificial Lake, is the best place to escape the busy streets of the capital. The park features a large artificial lake and other landmarks such as the Saint Procopius Church and the Presidential Palace.
Many residents use the park for workouts or simply to sit on a bench and relax. This area is also home to botanical gardens where you can find an interesting collection of the local plant life.
Mosaic of Tirana
One of the most remarkable sights of the city is the Tirana Mosaic. The mosaic was declared a cultural monument in 1973 and is believed to be part of a Roman house from the 3rd century.
The property offers visitors a wealth of information about the antique history of the town. The Tirana Mosaic is located west of the Skanderbeg Square and can be reached in around 15 minutes on foot.
National Archaeological Museum
The National Archaeological Museum was the first museum that was founded after the Second World War in 1948. Visitors find the museum east of the Mother Teresa Square.
This museum is focused on the archaeological discoveries from the territory of modern-day Albania. The exhibits range from the prehistoric times to the modern period.
The array of objects that is on display is very diverse and includes jewelry, clay pots, and Roman statues. The museum also organizes archaeological field trips and houses a large library.
Day trip to Kruje
Kruje is a picturesque town in the mountains of northern Albania. The town looks back on a long history and was likely founded in the 6th or 7th century. The mountain slopes on which Kruje is built are one of the main contributors to the attractiveness of the city.
Don’t miss Kruje’s medieval castle, it’s the town’s most popular attraction and offers stunning views on its surroundings. The small shops in the bazaars are also recommended for anyone interested in buying traditional goods like handicrafts or textiles.
Day trip to Dürres
Dürres is the largest Albanian city on the Adriatic coast and acts, due to its big harbor, as a significant industrial hub. Dürres is only 30 kilometers away from Tirana and can easily be reached by one of the frequent buses that connect the cities.
In the last decades, a lot of new beach hotels have been built here which has made Dürres as one of the most popular beach destinations in Albania.
The beaches of Dürres and its surroundings offer all the typical amenities like restaurants, shops, bars, and nightclubs. In the historical center of Dürres, some remains of the past are still visible, such as parts of the now sunken city wall.
More reading from Albania
- 25 Amazing places to visit in Albania
- Albanian phrases and words
- Currency in Albania
- Reasons to visit Albania
Want more recommendations on things to do in Tirana, Albania? Leave a comment below!