This list consists of my favorite things to do in Tirana, Albania! I had never been to Albania before and couldn’t wait to explore its capital, Tirana. Prior to visiting I read up on the city, its history and things I could check out and I must say, the city took me by surprise. Tirana is incredibly colorful, everyone that I got to interact with was lovely and I’ve had some of the best fruits and vegetables while staying here. Tirana is home to almost 500,000 Albanians which means that about 25% of all Albanians are living in Tirana. The cities architecture is influenced by the former fascist and communist regime, and there is street art on every corner. It’s a marvelous city and so worth visiting!
1. Take the Dajti Ekspres Cable Car
Located just outside the city sits Dajti Mountain and the cable car takes you to its peak within 15 minutes. The mountain can be reached via local buses and tickets for the cable car are, as of February 2018, 800 LEK. For updated prices and additional information, you can visit Dajti Ekspres’s facebook page. I stumbled upon foXnoMad’s blog post and was so thrilled to go! Unfortunately, I completely missed that the cable car doesn’t run on Tuesdays and due to time constraints didn’t walk up the mountain. What a wonderful reason to come back to Tirana! 🙂
2. Explore Rinia Park
Rinia Park is a gigantic park in the heart of Tirana that was built in the communist area. The park features fountains, the independence monument and the famous “I love Tirana” sign.
3. Visit the Independence Monument
The monument can be found in Rinia Park and was erected in 2014, as a symbol of Albania’s century of independence. Its shape was chosen to symbolize the opening of Albania toward independence. While I didn’t get to see the monument in the evening, it is beautifully lit when it’s darker and worth checking out during the day and in the evening.
4. Check out the Postbllok Checkpoint Monument
The monument features a fragment of the Berlin wall that was a gift from the city of Berlin to the people of Albania, a bunker, and the concrete supports of Spac, a forced labor camp for prisoners. If you are interested in Albania’s history, then visiting this monument is a must.
5. Explore the Enver Hoxha Pyramid
The pyramid was built as a museum in honor of Enver Hoxha, the former Albanian communist leader who served as the head of Albania from 1944 to 1985. As the years went by national attitudes about communism and its leader began to change and the space was converted to a convention center, military staging area and later to a television station. The rapid change in ownership coupled with the declining popularity of communism led to the buildings decay and current condition. Today the pyramid is covered in graffiti, its windows are broken and the government is trying to demolish the site. If you are comfortable with heights you can walk up to the peak of the pyramid and enjoy breathtaking views!
6. Relax at the Great Park of Tirana
The Great Park of Tirana is a huge park with an artificial lake in the South of Tirana. The park includes a church, a playground, various monuments, small cafes, and restaurants. We ended up spending a couple of hours there and I greatly enjoyed walking through the park and taking it all in. If you are a lover of parks, make sure to stop by, it’s incredible!
7. Visit BUNK’ART 2
In November 2016 BUNK’ART 2 opened its doors as a museum which reconstructs the history of the Albanian Ministry of Internal Affairs and the horrors Enver Hoxha inflicted on Albanians. BUNK’ART 2 is located in the city center and BUNK’ART 1 is a little further out, near Dajti Mountain. BUNK’ART 1 and BUNK’ART 2 focus on different parts of Albania’s history – BUNK’ART 1 focuses on the daily life’s of Albanians during the communist regime and the army’s history.
8. Eat all the fruit & vegetables
Most fruit and vegetables that you see in small stores, supermarkets and at street vendors are locally grown. I picked up a carrot at the store and it was one of the tastiest carrots I’ve ever eaten. The apples actually smell and look like apples and the potatoes come with a whole bunch of healthy dirt. If you are a lover of fresh, locally grown fruit and vegetables then you’ll love Tirana.
9. Check out Tirana’s street art
There is street art all over the city, especially on electrical boxes. I’ve seen so many and they are painted in all the colors of the rainbow. I had so much fun capturing them!
10. Support vegan restaurants
Traditional Albanian cuisine is very heavy in meat, milk, and cheese and therefore not very vegan-friendly. Whenever I travel I always make it a point to support local cafes and restaurants who are 100% vegan or serve vegan options. In my experience, vegan vegetable soups are relatively easy to come by and if you fancy something a little different then Veggies is worth checking out. Veggies is a vegetarian restaurant and most dishes can be made vegan. CityArt is also worth mentioning, it’s a lovely bar and they offer an awesome veggie burger.
11. Marvel at Tirana’s architecture
Edi Rama, artist, politician and writer became mayor of Tirana in 2001 and decided to have old and gray buildings painted. The colorful houses lining the streets of Tirana made its citizens see their city with new eyes, encouraged spending time outside and resulted in less litter and lowered crime rates. Today the city has heaps of colorful buildings.
12. Visit Komiteti Kafe Muzeum
The day before our departure we met up with our Airbnb host for coffee and he proposed that we shall meet at Komiteti Kafe Muzeum. I was looking photos of it on TripAdvisor and must say that I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, it looked a little all over the place – oh boy was I wrong. This is one of the loveliest cafes I’ve ever been to. You know what exactly makes it special? It’s interior and decor. Most objects and furniture in the cafe are from the communist era. The cafe has a beautiful outside area and is, unlike lots of other places, non-smoking, which is fabulous!
13. Buy produce at Pazari i Ri Market
This market has been around since 1931, was demolished, reconstructed and has recently been renovated. For the longest time, the market remained the only big trade center of meat, fish, fruit, and vegetables in Tirana. At the market, you find local fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, cheese and specialty goods. Most vendors do not have prices on their products and I’d, therefore, advise to shop around to see what something should really go for. I was interested in buying figs, found a stall, asked for her prices got informed that it’d be 1.600 ALL per kilo. That seemed like a lot considering that figs grow in Albania. I shopped around and ended up getting some for 750 ALL per kilo.
14. Taste all the figs
Figs thrive in the country and are abundant in the summer months. The are several varieties and you can get fig jams, fig sweets, figs with walnuts and of course plain figs. Head to Pazari i Ri Market for the best selection and deals.
I absolutely love Tirana, it’s one of my favorite cities I ever visited. It’s right up there with Berlin, London, New York City, Budapest, and Kraków. If you are planning on going, go. I am already making plans in my head to go back – during the summer months sometime in the future – exploring its countryside with its beautiful mountains 🙂 Have you been to Tirana? If yes, what are your favorite places and things to do in the city? 🙂