Don’t let Tirana disappoint you

Okay, lets get one thing right. Tirana is not the most exciting place in the balkans or have a lot to offer travellers who eventually pass through this capital city. But its not the worst place either as some other people have said.

Arriving by bus from Podgorica, it appears that both cities probably had a lot in common, meaning being small, but I found Tirana to be much bigger. My first view of Tirana was at least more pleasant than I expected so it did raise my hopes for good. Not bad eh?

First view of Tirana, Albania
First view of Tirana, Albania

My hostel was close to this square and not knowing much about the taxi prices, walked about 15 minutes to get to All Stars Hostel. Having had my hopes up, I started exploring this city with a positive attitude. Here’s some interesting and fun things you can do while in Tirana.

Things to do in Tirana

Pyramid

Interestingly, every visitor to Tirana eventually gets to this, a giant (or not so giant) communist building in the heart of town. It is now falling apart used by teens and adventurers climbing its walls and is filled with graffiti. But, don’t let that stop you from admiring this futuristic building from the past. It looked amazing at dusk.

Skanderbeg square

This is a gigantic square in the middle of new town area. They are still working on adding the finishing touches to it when I was there but the whole square is surrounded by interesting places: Et’hem Bej mosque, National museum, Opera house, a hotel.

There’s live music and an open bar from the late evenings which lighten up the whole square and makes it much more pleasant and more hipster.

Why not try some local beer over live music…

Skandenbeg square at night
Skandenbeg square at night
Fountain at memorial park
Fountain at memorial park

National museum

Located right on the the square, housed in a very big complex is the national museum of Albania. Before going in I doubt that it will have enough objects to spark a lot of interest, but boy I was wrong. It is massive inside and have a lot of archeological findings.

There were two exhibitions on: Anniversary of Mother Theresa and Beginning of Albania. There are several wings covering different aspects and will easily take about 1-1.5 hours to cover. So, if you are not in a hurry to finish off covering the main spots, spend some quality cultural time here.

Hey, admission is only 200 Leke which is absolutely amazing value for money!

No photography is allowed.

Et’hem Bej mosque

Being one of the major attractions in the city, you cant help avoid sighting this historically important mosque. Numerous sources say you can enter as a non muslim but I haven’t tried so I cant vouch on that. It is absolutely nice from the outside and at sunset. Even if you don’t want to go in, why not admire its beauty.

Skanderbeg Square, Tirana
Skanderbeg Square, Tirana

Dajti mountains and cable car

I absolutely love mountains and hiking. And cable cars too! Cable car up to the ‘almost’ top of Dajti mountain is one of the best things you can do in Tirana and I swear by it.

Viator

Getting to mount Dajti is easy. Read more about public transport to Dajti cable car here. View from the top of the mountain is awesome and I recommend you do it early afternoon to avoid the sun getting in your way of taking nice photos. There’s a revolving bar and a restaurant at the top to savour your views.

Tirana sign

No matter where you are, you always come across a I LOVE CITY sign and Tirana is no different. City is redefining itself and is great news for its future and the travellers. If you do it in Amsterdam, why not here right?

I Love Tirana sign
I Love Tirana sign

Casino? Say waaat?

Yep, there is a small casino right in the heart of the capital. Don’t expect Vegas out of it, but if you’ve got some time to kill, its worth a visit. If not going in, why not enjoy a cup of tea, an espresso or even a cocktail in the restaurant.

Tirana casino
Tirana casino

Try local food

There is no better way to get the people and their culture than through enjoying local food. Well, I maybe biased cos I am also a foodie so I always try the local cuisine. There seems to be a lot of options out there.

Stuffed peppers are among my favorite dishes around this region and I have had it numerous times, always with different fillings. There were cheese fillings and rice fillings and both were great, although I do love the the cheese filled stuff. Its so delicious!

Stuffed peppers
Stuffed peppers

How about some stuffed eggplant? Equally yummy and a very hearty dish.

Stuffed eggplant
Stuffed eggplant

Byrek and pizza are famous here so do try them too! I’ve been having byrek for breakfast for a while now.

Enjoy a classy dinner

Tirana appears to have opened up a lot and bars, cafes and restaurants seem to be everywhere and very popular. You should take a stroll through rruga ibrahim rugova and you’ll see what I mean. Vibe here is second to none and is always packed with people enjoying a good night out.

For recommendations around where I ate, see below.

Day trip to Berat

There’s so much to see in Albania, but as I was short of time I decided to head to Berat, an important historical city 3 hours away from the capital.

Where to find great local food

If you google ‘albanian restaurants tirana‘ there’s plenty of places that come up. I tried the following places and can recommend them.

Piceri Era retaurant – A local friend of mine took me here and I am glad I went there. Food was excellent and was cheap too. I’d happy to go there and recommend their stuffed peppers. Yum!

Juvenija – After having such a wonderful meal the previous day, I wanted to do the same and went here. Equally, food was great and loved their stuffed pepper variety as well, which was more creamier.

Going to Tirana? Find your ideal place to stay.

Please leave a comment below to share your thoughts and experience 🙂

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