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Tirana (Tiranë) is often looked at by travelers as a stop-over, many skipping a visit to Albania’s capital city all together. If you’re planning a road trip in Albania, locally known as Shqipërisë, then I would highly recommend spending at least 1-2 nights in Tirana to explore what the city has to offer.
This guide will dive into all of the best things to do in Tirana.
Before we dive in, here are some of the top-rated tours in and around Kotor:
Top-5 popular tours in Tirana, Albania
How to get to Tirana
The Tirana International Airport (Nënë Tereza Airport) is the main gateway to the city. The airport is conveniently located on 10.5 miles (17 km) from Tirana’s city center. You’ll find direct flights from a number of European cities, on both legacy and low-cost airline carriers. You can find many affordable flights, especially if you book ahead of time.
There are currently no direct flights from the US, so I recommend connecting through a nearby country such as Italy, Greece, Spain or the UK.
To find the cheapest flight options from your city, you can use the search form below:
If you are traveling to Tirana from a nearby European country, a great way to get there is by bus. We arrived into Albania by bus, traveling from Budva to Shkoder. From here you can take another 2 hour public bus to reach Tirana. This is by far the most affordable way to reach the city.
Similarly, if you are traveling to Tirana from within Albania, the city is well-connected with a public bus. The bus will get you where you need to go, but expect things to be unorganized and likely not on time.
One exception to this is the bus to airport, which runs every hour from the city center, and it a super easy way to get from the city to the airport.
If you are visiting nearby cities or countries, you can easily reach Tirana by bus. Here are a few travel times from nearby destinations:
- Dubrovnik, Croatia to Tirana: 8-9 hours
- Shkoder to Tirana: 1.5-2 hours
- Podgorica to Tirana: 3-4 hours
If you are planning a larger roadtrip, either within Albania or through nearby countries such as Montenegro or Croatia, then renting your own car is a great way to travel to Tirana.
Getting from Tirana airport to the city center
The easiest and most convenient way to get from Tirana International Airport to the city center is by taxi. You have the option of negotiating a rate before the ride, or using the meter. Since the traffic between the airport and the city can be quite bad, you’re probably safer agreeing to a flat rate. This is usually around 2500 lek for the ride.
If you’re traveling to Albania on a budget, the bus is an easy and cheap way to get between the Tirana airport and the city center. The bus departs from from the airport and the center once an hour on the hour. A single ticket costs 400 LEK for the ride. This can be paid in Albanian lek or euro.
Tickets do not need to be booked in advance, as the fare is paid onboard. However, I recommend arriving at least 20 minutes early to ensure a seat on your desired bus. From the city center, the bus picks up on the road behind the Opera House.
As I mentioned above, if you plan on doing a road trip through Albania (which I definitely recommend), then it is easiest to pick up your car at the airport. This way you can simply drive yourself to the city center, and then onward through the rest of the country.
Where to stay
Overall Tirana is not a huge city, and it is relatively walkable, so it doesn’t matter too much where in the city you stay. However, Blloku is the coolest neighborhood in my opinion. It is filled with tons of the best restaurants, cafes and bars, while still being just a short walk from all of the city’s main attractions.
Here are a few top-rated options:
Things to do
Skanderbeg Square serves as the central point of the city. You will quickly realize that all roads lead to Skanderbeg Square, so it is a great location to use to orient yourself. It is currently the largest pedestrian square in all of Europe.
In the main square, the mayor wanted representation for all. For this reason, every stone in the square is from a different village or city throughout the country.
You’ll find two other popular things to do in Tirana in the square: the National History Museum and the Et’hem Bey Mosque.
National History Museum
BunkArt 1 and 2
If you’re planning a visit to Tirana then you’ve probably heard of BunkArt. Maybe you even know that there are two: BunkArt 1 and BunkArt2. Despite the name, these museums have nothing to do with art. They were just a creative name to entice visitors. The ‘bunk’ part, however, comes from the 173,000 bunker still found throughout Tirana, Albania.
These museums dive into the history of communism in Albania, and are a great way to inform yourself on the country’s darker past.
If you’re short on time then BunkArt 2 is a great option because it is located right in the middle of the city, not far from the main square.
BunkArt 2, on the other hand, is located about 20 minutes outside of the city center. To reach the museum you will want to hop on the L11 bus all the way to the last stop. BunkArt 1 is bigger than BunkArt 2, so it is well worth the visit if time allows.
A visit to the Tirana Clock Tower, or Kulla e Sahatit, is one of the best things to do in the city. If you head up the clock tower you’ll have an amazing view of city. Located just off the main square, tickets to enter the clock tower cost 200 Lek (around $2). Once you enter you will need to climb about 90 steps to reach the top.
Take a free walking tour
By far my favorite thing that we did in Tirana was our free walking tour, or more accurately tip-based walking tour. This is one of my favorite things to do in any new city. It is a great way to orient yourself, learn about the main attractions, and dive a bit into the city’s culture and history. I usually use GuruWalks, but in Tirana we booked through Tirana free tour. Our tour guide, Klint, was absolutely amazing. We learned so much about Albania’s history, way more than I would have learned walking around on my own for two hours.
Although the first protest against communism was in 1992, Albania didn’t experience real democracy until the year 2000, making Tirana’s history rich and fascinating.
Admire the Opera House and National Theater
Standing in Skanderbeg Square you’ll be able to admire the beautiful Opera House and National Theater. You can head to their official website to check out upcoming events at the theater.
Take a stroll down the walking street
Another one of the best things to do in Tirana is to take a walk down the pedestrian walking street. But first, take a look at the very beginning of the street. You may notice a treble clef and some musical notes along the path. However, if you know anything about music you’ll quickly realize that the clef is upside down, and the notes themselves to actually play anything. But hey, at least it looks cool!
Visit the Cloud – an abstract art installation
The Cloud is an abstract Japanese art installation in downtown Tirana by Sou Fujimoto. The Cloud has served as modern art space for cultural events in Tirana since it arrived in 2016. It was previously in London for 3 years. The space is rented out for free, encouraging inspiring artists and performers to showcase their work.
Check out the abstract architecture across Tirana
One thing you’ll quickly notice in Tirana is all of the newer, abstract architecture. Abstract architecture is used in Tirana as a means to remove and erase all communist buildings. One of my favorite buildings (pictured below) was build to represent a map of Albania. The areas that stick off the building more represent the mountains, while the areas that stick out less are the seas.
Best restaurants and bars in Tirana
Albania food is so good. It reminds of Italian cooking, filled with rich sauces, amazing cheeses, and fresh vegetables. Tirana has so many incredible bars and restaurants. You’ll find restaurants scattered throughout the city, but many of the best bars are located in Blloku, a trendy Tirana neighborhood.
Here are some of my favorite places to eat and drink in Tirana:
- Taverna e Kasapbeut – if you’re looking for a true Albanian experience, this is it. There is no menu, you simply show up and food is cooked for you. This is an amazing way to try home-cooked Albanian cuisine. Prices are a bit higher for Albania, around 25 euro per person for the meal and a drink, but totally worth it.
- WineSpot.al – a cozy wine bar with excellent wines! We were so pleasantly surprised when we stopped by for a drink before dinner. We each ordered one glass of wine (priced at $4 per glass), and received a delicious complimentary charcuterie board.
- Oda Garden – Oda Garden is not to be mistaken with the other, more popular, Oda restaurant. This cozy garden restaurant serves traditional Albanian food in a beautiful environment. You’ll find all of the staples, plus an extensive wine list. They even have Uka Farm wine by the bottle (which I highly recommend trying if you haven’t had a chance to visit the vineyard 20 minutes outside of the city)
- Mrizi I Zanave Tirane – we finally had a chance to dine here on our final night in Albania and it did not disappoint. While the menu is relatively standard for any Albanian restaurant, they also offer a few unique dishes. In particular I loved their signature salad and the pickled spicy peppers, served in a delicious oil.
- Nouvelle Vague Tirana – if you’re looking for an after dinner drink or to kick off an evening out, then I highly recommend checking out Nouvelle Vague. They offer all of your classic cocktails, but with an Albania twist. I went for their rendition of a Negroni, which was delicious. Cocktails cost around $8.
- Restaurant Piceri Era “Blloku” – Albanian food can get a bit repetitive after a few weeks in my opinion. However, the spicy stuffed peppers at Restaurant Piceri Era “Blloku” continues to stand out for me. They are also known for their pizzas. While we didn’t order one ourselves, they looked delicious!
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