How To Spend A Weekend In Tirana, Albania
Written By Francesca Masotti From Letters from the Balkans
There is still one metropolis in Europe that offers cultural treasures free from the tourist hordes: Tirana.
Albania’s capital city is overlooked by visitors. It’s understandable if you compare it to other Eastern Europe’s towns and to the Albanian coast too. Nevertheless, Tirana is worth stopping by – it’s a lively, colorful and fascinating place.
If you are planning to visit Tirana, you might be interested in knowing how to spend two days in the Albanian capital city.
Two days are enough to explore the town and get a taste of the old Albanian capital, Kruja, too.
Weekend In Tirana: Day One
Start from Sheshi Skenderbej, Skanderbeg Square, the primary orientation point of Tirana, and take your time to gaze at the Mosque, Skanderbeg statue, and Clock Tower. Climb it for impressive views over the big square.
Then, take a tour in the Muzei Historik Kombëtar, National Historical Museum, the largest museum in Albania.
The excellent collection takes you chronologically from ancient times to the post-communist era. After the visit, stroll along the Pedonalja, the largest pedestrian street in Tirana and then go head into Kalaja e Tiranës, the new cultural, artistic and gastronomic pole in the capital.
For a quick lunch, go to Luga e Argjendtë, where the chef Dhurata Thanasi prepares tasty food with the best seasonal products.
Spend the afternoon exploring Tirana’s city center and the historic buildings in the town. Make sure to visit Pazari i Ri, the new food-market in town, Ura e Tabakeve (Tanners Bridge), a fascinating example of Ottoman architecture, Pyramid, the former mausoleum dedicated to the communist dictator Enver Hoxha, and BunkArt 2, the museum dedicated to the victims of Communism.
Finish off your first day in Tirana with a tasty dinner at Padam, a chic restaurant located behind the Pyramid, where the chef Fundim Gjepali prepares excellent dishes made with the freshest ingredients.
Then, go to Komiteti-Kafe Muzeum, one of the coolest bars in Tirana. This rummy café-museum is the perfect place to taste one of 25 varieties of craft raki, the local fruit-based liquor.
Start your second day in Albania with a visit to Kruja, a historical town just 30 km from Tirana (take the bus that connects the two cities from Zogu I Zi in Tirana; tickets roundtrip 6€). Kruja is famous to be the home of the Albanian national hero George Kastriota Skanderbeg, who fought against the Ottomans to save Albania and the West from their domination.
Stroll through the old bazaar, admire the artisans who produce traditional clothes and textiles, and then visit the Skanderbeg Museum dedicated to the warrior.
For a quick lunch in Tirana, go to Restaurant Panorama that offers not just great dishes, but also a spectacular view over the town and castle.
Grab the bus and go back to Tirana. If you are not tired, don’t miss the chance to visit the Bunk’Art a contemporary art museum located in a vast underground bunker built in the outskirts of Tirana to accommodate Hoxha and the elite in the event of the attack.
The museum sometimes hosts exhibitions that combine the modern history of Albania with pieces of contemporary art. Besides the museums, vibrant nightlife and restaurants, Tirana has another popular attraction –its Grand Park. This place is perfect to relax and enjoy magnificent views of the artificial lake and town.
Mullixhiu is the perfect place for your last dinner in town: here you’ll eat great traditional Northern Albanian food prepared by chef Bledar Kola, who worked at Noma, Copenaghen.
For after-dinner drinks, Blloku, the most famous area in Tirana, is the right place to go. During the Communist era, Blloku was reserved for the elite, but now it is a vibrant neighborhood with murals, trendy bars, cafés, and restaurants.
Comment below and let us know what else you’d add to this 48 hours in Tirana guide