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  • Andy Honey

Exploring Tirana: A Travel Guide to the Capital of Albania

Updated: Apr 25


a building in tirana

Tirana, the vibrant and dynamic capital city of Albania, where the past, present, and future come together in a mixture of colours, flavours, and experiences.


From its rich history to its bustling contemporary culture, Tirana has something for everyone.


Let’s look at the many reasons why Tirana deserves a spot on your travel bucket list.


Table of Contents

  1. Architecture 1.2 Cuisine 1.3 Cafe Culture 1.4 Bunkart 1.5 Mount Dajti National Park 1.6 The Pyramid of Tirana 1.7 The Grand Park 1.8 Blloku District 1.9 Hospitality

  2. Best Time to Visit Tirana

  3. Festivals and Events

  4. Travelling to Tirana

  5. Getting Around Tirana

  6. Travel Tips

  7. Budget Accommodation

  8. Things to do in Tirana 8.1 City Tour 8.2 Cooking Class 8.3 City & Food Tour

  9. Disclaimer

Tirana Travel Guide


1. Colourful Architecture

Tirana’s architecture is a true reflection of the city’s spirit – vibrant, bold, and full of character. Strolling through the streets, you'll be captivated by the myriad of colours splashed across the buildings. From the historic Ottoman-style buildings to the quirky, brightly painted facades of the Blloku area, every corner is a feast for the eyes. Don't forget to snap some Instagram-worthy shots of the iconic Piramida, a reminder of the city’s communist past, which now stands as a symbol of creativity and innovation.


Tirana has witnessed a fascinating transformation, particularly in the Blloku area, which was once a restricted zone during the communist era. Now, this neighbourhood is the epicenter of Tirana's social life. It’s where you’ll find the hippest bars, restaurants, and boutiques, all set amidst a backdrop of beautiful buildings.


2. Delicious Cuisine

Prepare your taste buds for a culinary adventure like no other. Albanian cuisine is a delightful fusion of Mediterranean and Balkan influences, and Tirana is the perfect place to experience it.


Start your day with a traditional Albanian breakfast, petulla (fried dough) with honey or jam, and a strong Turkish-style coffee. For lunch, indulge in a savoury plate of qofte (grilled meatballs) or a hearty portion of tavë kosi (baked lamb with yogurt).


In the evening, head to the local restaurants and enjoy the lively atmosphere while savouring the freshest seafood and tastiest grilled meats. Be sure to try byrek, a savoury pastry filled with cheese, spinach, or meat. For a true taste of Tirana, visit the Pazari i Ri (New Bazaar), where you can sample an array of local delicacies, including fresh produce, cheeses, and pastries.


3. Lively Cafe Culture

In Tirana, coffee is not just a drink; it's a way of life. The city boasts a vibrant cafe culture, with cafes on practically every corner. Join the locals in one of the many trendy cafes and sip on a delicious macchiato or a refreshing glass of boza, a traditional fermented drink. Take your time, relax, and soak up the lively atmosphere while indulging in some people-watching – it’s the perfect way to experience the true essence of Tirana.


The Blloku area, in particular, is famous for its bustling cafe scene. Spend a leisurely afternoon hopping from one cafe to another, and experience the unique vibe of each place. Whether you prefer a cozy, bohemian-style cafe or a trendy, modern establishment, you’ll find it all in Tirana.



4. BunkArt – Where History Meets Art

For a fascinating glimpse into Albania’s history, a visit to BunkArt is an absolute must. This unique museum is housed in a sprawling underground bunker built during the communist era. Explore the winding corridors and rooms, which now showcase thought-provoking exhibitions on Albania’s violent past and its journey to democracy. BunkArt seamlessly blends history with contemporary art, making it an unmissable destination for culture enthusiasts.


BunkArt also hosts various cultural events, including film screenings, art exhibitions, and live performances, making it a hub for creative expression in Tirana. Don't miss the opportunity to immerse yourself in Albania's rich cultural heritage at this one-of-a-kind museum.


5. Mount Dajti National Park

Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and immerse yourself in the breathtaking natural beauty of Mount Dajti National Park. Just a short cable car ride away from the city centre, Mount Dajti offers panoramic views of Tirana and the surrounding countryside. Spend the day hiking through lush forests, breathing in the fresh mountain air, and enjoying a picnic with a view.


For the adrenaline junkies, there are also opportunities for paragliding and mountain biking. Mount Dajti National Park is the perfect getaway for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike. After a day of exploration, relax and enjoy a delicious meal at one of the park’s restaurants, which offer traditional Albanian cuisine with a stunning view.


a street scene in tirana

6. The Pyramid of Tirana

Once an emblem of the communist regime, the Pyramid of Tirana is now a fascinating and somewhat controversial landmark. Originally built as a museum to honour the legacy of Enver Hoxha, it has since been repurposed into a hub for alternative and contemporary art. Its unique design and intriguing history make it a must-see attraction in Tirana.


Climb to the top for a panoramic view of the city, or join in the fun during one of the many events and exhibitions held here throughout the year. The Pyramid of Tirana is a symbol of the city’s resilience and its ability to transform the remnants of its past into something new and exciting.


7. The Grand Park (Parku i Madh)

Need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city? Head to the Grand Park, Tirana’s green oasis and the perfect place to unwind. Take a leisurely stroll around the lake, rent a paddleboat, or simply relax on the grass and enjoy a picnic. The park is also home to several cafes and restaurants, making it the ideal spot for a leisurely lunch or an afternoon coffee.


Don’t miss the chance to visit the beautiful botanical gardens, home to a stunning array of plant species from around the world. The Grand Park is a favourite spot for both locals and tourists alike, offering a tranquil escape from the city without having to venture too far.


8. Explore the Blloku District

Once off-limits to the public and reserved for the political elite, the Blloku district has undergone a remarkable transformation in recent years. Today, it is the beating heart of Tirana’s nightlife and entertainment scene, with a good mix of bars, clubs, and restaurants to choose from. Whether you’re in the mood for a quiet drink or a night of dancing, you’ll find it all here.


During the day, explore the trendy boutiques, art galleries, and cafes that line the streets – you never know what hidden gems you might discover. The Blloku district is a testament to Tirana’s vibrant and ever-evolving culture, where history and modernity intertwine to create a truly unique experience.


9. Warm Hospitality

Last but certainly not least, the warm and welcoming hospitality of the Albanian people is reason enough to visit Tirana. From the moment you arrive, you’ll be greeted with open arms and treated like family. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself engaged in lively conversations with the locals – Albanians are known for their friendliness and hospitality.


Embrace the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture, make new friends, and create memories that will last a lifetime. The hospitality of the Albanian people is the heart and soul of Tirana, and it’s what makes visiting this city such a truly unforgettable experience.


a man riding a bicycle in tirana

When to Visit Tirana


Spring (March to May):

- Spring is one of the best times to visit Tirana. The weather is mild, and nature is in full bloom. Temperatures range from 10°C to 22°C (50°F to 72°F).

- The city is less crowded during this time, making it easier to explore the attractions at your own pace.

- You can enjoy outdoor activities like hiking in Mount Dajti National Park or exploring the Grand Park without the heat of the summer.


Summer (June to August):

- Summer is the peak tourist season in Tirana. The weather is hot and sunny, with temperatures ranging from 18°C to 32°C (64°F to 90°F).

- This is the perfect time to enjoy outdoor activities, such as swimming, sunbathing, and exploring the city's parks and outdoor cafes.

- Don’t miss out on the Summer Day celebrations on March 14th, when the city comes alive with music, dance, and fireworks.


Autumn (September to November):

- Autumn is another excellent time to visit Tirana. The weather is still warm, but not as hot as in the summer. Temperatures range from 13°C to 25°C (55°F to 77°F).

- You can witness the stunning fall foliage in Mount Dajti National Park and enjoy pleasant weather for outdoor activities.

- The Tirana International Film Festival (TIFF) takes place in November, attracting filmmakers and cinema enthusiasts from around the world.


Winter (December to February):

- Winter in Tirana is mild, with temperatures ranging from 2°C to 12°C (36°F to 54°F). While it rarely snows in the city, the nearby mountains offer skiing opportunities.

- December is festive, with Christmas markets and decorations adding a cheerful atmosphere to the city.

- The Orthodox Christmas on January 7th is also celebrated in Tirana, with various events and festivities.

- If you're a fan of cultural events, you can enjoy the Tirana Winter Festival, which features music, dance, and theatre performances.


green fields and mountains

Festivals and Events:


- Summer Day (Dita e Verës): March 14th

Get ready to experience the heartbeat of Tirana at its most vibrant - the Summer Day Festival. Celebrated annually on March 14th, the Summer Day Festival, known as "Dita e Verës" in Albanian, is one of the most exciting and anticipated events in the Albanian capital. This day marks the coming of summer, a season that brings life, energy, and a whirlwind of festivities to the streets of Tirana.


The Summer Day Festival is a celebration of life, love, and the rich cultural heritage of Albania. Music, dance, colourful processions, and parades wind their way through the streets. As the sun sets, the sky comes alive with a spectacular fireworks display, while locals and visitors enjoy traditional Albanian cuisine, creating a magical experience not to be missed.


- Tirana International Film Festival (TIFF): November

The Tirana International Film Festival (TIFF) is a celebration of global cinema held annually in the vibrant capital of Albania. Established in 2003, TIFF has become one of the most prestigious film festivals in the Balkans, attracting filmmakers and cinema enthusiasts from around the world. Held in November, this week-long event showcases a diverse selection of feature films, documentaries, and short films, providing a platform for both established and emerging filmmakers to share their work.


TIFF offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the world of cinema while exploring the rich culture and history of Tirana. From thought-provoking documentaries to gripping narratives, the festival offers something for every film lover. Attendees can also participate in workshops, panel discussions, and networking events, making it an enriching experience for both professionals and film enthusiasts alike.


- Orthodox Christmas: January 7th

Orthodox Christmas in Tirana, celebrated on January 7th, is a vibrant and joyous occasion, bringing the city to life with festive cheer and traditional rituals. While Christmas on December 25th is celebrated widely, Orthodox Christmas holds a special place in the hearts of many Albanians. The city is filled with colourful decorations, and the atmosphere is filled with the spirit of the season.


Tirana's Orthodox Christmas is a time for families to come together, attend church services, and enjoy traditional Albanian dishes. It's an opportunity to experience the rich cultural heritage of Albania while basking in the warmth of the holiday spirit. Join in the celebrations, and immerse yourself in the magic of Orthodox Christmas in Tirana.


- Tirana Winter Festival: December to February

The Tirana Winter Festival, held from December to February, is a celebration of culture, music, and joy in the heart of Albania's capital. This festive event lights up the city with a dazzling array of activities, including music performances, dance shows, and theatre productions.


From exploring the beautifully decorated streets to savouring traditional Albanian cuisine, the Tirana Winter Festival offers an unforgettable experience for locals and visitors alike. Don't miss out on this opportunity to immerse yourself in the warmth and magic of the season.


- Tirana Beer Festival: May

The Tirana Beer Festival is a highlight of the city's social calendar, attracting beer enthusiasts from all over Albania and beyond. Held annually in May, this festival celebrates the best of Albanian and international craft beers.


With live music, delicious food, and a vibrant atmosphere, the Tirana Beer Festival offers an unforgettable experience for beer lovers and festival-goers alike. Don't miss your chance to raise a glass and join in the fun at the Tirana Beer Festival.


- Albanian Wine Festival: June

The Albanian Wine Festival, held in June, is a celebration of the country's rich winemaking heritage. This annual event in Tirana offers a delightful opportunity to sample a wide variety of local wines, accompanied by traditional Albanian cuisine and live music.


With picturesque vineyards as a backdrop, the festival showcases the diversity and quality of Albanian wines. Whether you're a wine connoisseur or just enjoy a glass now and then, the Albanian Wine Festival promises an unforgettable experience.


a street market in tirana

Getting to Tirana


Airport

Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza (TIA):

- Tirana International Airport, also known as Nënë Tereza Airport, is the main gateway to the city. It is located about 17 km (10.5 miles) northwest of Tirana.

- The airport serves as a hub for both domestic and international flights, with connections to major cities in Europe and beyond.

- Airlines such as Turkish Airlines, Alitalia, Lufthansa, British Airways, and Austrian Airlines operate regular flights to and from Tirana.

- Once you arrive at the airport, you can reach the city centre by taxi, airport shuttle, or rental car.

- Taxis are readily available outside the airport, and the journey to the city centre takes approximately 20-30 minutes, depending on traffic.



Bus Service

- Tirana is accessible by bus from various cities in Albania, as well as from neighbouring countries.

- The main bus station in Tirana is the "Tirana International Bus Station." From here, you can find buses to different cities in Albania and international destinations.

- Several bus companies operate routes to and from Tirana, including FlixBus, EuroLines, and local Albanian bus companies.

- The bus journey from other Albanian cities, such as Shkodër, Durrës, and Vlorë, usually takes between 1 to 3 hours, depending on the distance.

- International bus routes connect Tirana to cities in neighbouring countries such as North Macedonia, Montenegro, Kosovo, and Greece.


Driving

- Tirana is accessible by car, with well-maintained roads connecting it to other cities in Albania and neighbouring countries.

- If you're driving from the north, take the SH1 highway from Shkodër. From the south, take the SH4 highway from Vlorë or the SH7 highway from Greece.

- If you're driving from the east, take the SH3 highway from North Macedonia, or from the west, take the SH2 highway from Montenegro.

- Parking is available throughout the city, including street parking and paid car parks.



Ferry

- While there are no direct ferries to Tirana, you can take a ferry to nearby port cities, such as Durrës or Vlorë, and then travel to Tirana by bus or car.

- Durrës is the closest major port city to Tirana, located approximately 33 km (20.5 miles) away. The journey from Durrës to Tirana takes around 30 to 45 minutes by bus or car.


Getting Around Tirana

- Once you've arrived in Tirana, getting around the city is relatively easy. The city has a well-developed public transport system, including buses and minibuses, which cover most areas of the city. There are also plenty of taxis available, and mobile ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Bolt are also operational in Tirana.

- Walking is a great way to explore the city centre and its attractions, as many of them are within walking distance of each other.

- Renting a bicycle is another popular option, with several rental shops located throughout the city.


people walking in the main square in tirana

Travel Tips


1. Currency:

- The official currency in Albania is the Albanian Lek (ALL). While some places accept Euros, it's best to have some Lek on hand, especially for smaller purchases.

- Currency exchange offices are widely available, and ATMs are also common in Tirana.


2. Language:

- The official language of Albania is Albanian. While English is increasingly spoken, especially in tourist areas and by younger generations, it's helpful to learn a few basic Albanian phrases. This effort is often appreciated by the locals.



3. Accommodation:

- Tirana offers a wide range of accommodation options, from luxury hotels to budget-friendly hostels and guesthouses.

- The Blloku area is a popular choice for accommodation, with its central location and vibrant atmosphere.


4. Safety:

- Tirana is generally a safe city for tourists, with low crime rates. However, it's always essential to take standard precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.

- Avoid displaying large amounts of cash or valuable items in public, and be cautious in crowded areas to prevent pickpocketing.


5. Dress Code:

- Albania is a predominantly Muslim country, although it is very tolerant. In Tirana, there are no strict dress codes, and tourists are free to wear casual attire. However, it is advisable to dress modestly when visiting religious sites out of respect for local customs.


6. Electricity:

- The standard voltage in Tirana is 230V, and the frequency is 50Hz. The plug type used is the European standard Type C and Type F sockets.


7. Wi-Fi and Internet Access:

- Most hotels, cafes, and restaurants in Tirana offer free Wi-Fi. However, it's always a good idea to have a local SIM card with data to stay connected while exploring the city.



8. Shopping:

- Tirana offers a variety of shopping experiences, from traditional markets to modern shopping malls. The Pazari i Ri (New Bazaar) is an excellent place to buy fresh produce, local delicacies, and souvenirs.


9. Tourist Information Centre:

- The Tourist Information Centre in Tirana, located in Skanderbeg Square, can provide maps, brochures, and assistance with travel inquiries.


two men enjoying a drink outside a cafe in tirana

My Recommendations for Budget Accommodation in Tirana


Hotel Green - Hit the slopes and relax with Hotel Green's amenities, which include a bar/lounge and complimentary high-speed (wired) Internet access.


Hotel New York Kamez - Along with a bar/lounge, this smoke-free hotel has a snack bar/deli and a coffee shop/cafe. Free WiFi in public areas, free self parking and a free manager's reception are also provided. Additionally, coffee/tea in a common area, 24-hour room service and dry cleaning are on-site.


Hotel Pandora Residence - Along with a bar/lounge, this smoke-free hotel has a steam room and a rooftop terrace. Free WiFi in public areas and free self parking are also provided. Other amenities include 24-hour room service, dry cleaning and laundry facilities.


Hotel Kruja - This hotel features a restaurant, a bar/lounge and a fridge in a common area. Free WiFi in public areas and free self parking are also provided. Additionally, dry cleaning, laundry facilities and a 24-hour front desk are on-site.


Park Hotel - Along with a bar/lounge, this smoke-free aparthotel has a snack bar/deli and a steam room. Free WiFi in public areas and free self parking are also provided. Other amenities include a business centre, concierge services and dry cleaning. Each apartment features thoughtful touches, such as an espresso maker and slippers, along with a washing machine and a TV with satellite channels. Added amenities include free WiFi, room service and premium bedding. Change of towels is available on request.


Hotel

Rating

Parking

Price per Night (from)

4 Star

Parking Included

£26

3.5 Star

Parking Included

£31

3 Star

Parking Included

£39

3.5 Star

Parking Included

£41

3 Star

Parking Included

£43

Things to do in Tirana



Experience the lively pulse of Tirana like never before with our "Authentic Tirana" tour. Your adventure begins at Skanderbeg Square, the bustling heart of the city, where you'll meet your knowledgeable guide. From there, you'll delve into Albania's rich history at the National History Museum, marvelling at artifacts that tell the story of this vibrant nation.


Next, immerse yourself in the spiritual beauty of the Et'hem Bey Mosque, adorned with exquisite frescoes that capture centuries of tradition. Ascend the Clock Tower for panoramic views of Tirana's skyline, a perfect opportunity for stunning photos and cherished memories.


As you traverse George W. Bush Street, symbolic of Albania's global connections, you'll soak in the eclectic blend of cultures that define modern Tirana. The tour continues with a visit to the Saint Paul Catholic Cathedral, where you'll admire the graceful architecture and serene ambiance.


No journey through Tirana would be complete without acknowledging its complex past, embodied by the iconic Piramida. Learn about its history and significance as you explore this fascinating structure.


Finally, conclude your city tour in the vibrant Blloku district, once exclusive to communist elites and now a thriving hub of culture and nightlife. Here, you'll have the chance to immerse yourself in Tirana's modern vibe.


But the adventure doesn't end there! Our tour offers immersive culinary experiences that tantalise your taste buds and deepen your connection to Albanian culture. You'll visit a traditional bakery near Skanderbeg Square to learn the art of making byrek, a savoury pastry cherished by locals for generations.


a savoury pastry popular in tirana

Then, journey to a nearby local bar for a tasting session of authentic Albanian raki, a traditional fruit brandy renowned for its smoothness and flavour. Paired with freshly baked byrek, this experience offers a true taste of Albanian hospitality.


Finally, cap off your journey with a visit to a dessert shop in the Blloku district, where you'll indulge in sweet delights like baklava or qumeshtor (milk pie), savoring every bite as you reflect on the day's adventures.




Start your cooking class with introductions to the brother-sister team that run the tour. Get to know the hosts and learn about their recipes passed down through the generations.


Discover how to make Tave Kosi, the most iconic Albanian Dish, known as the “Independence Dish” since it was the favorite dish of Ismail Qemali, Albanian first Prime Minister.


Discover some of the rules followed in Albanian cooking, and where the rules came from. Enjoy the good company as you cook and sip local wine or raki that your host will provide.


four wine glasses for wine tasting

You will also learn how to cook Lakror from scratch, the Albanian version of Byrek. The hosts do their best to buy all bio-organic local ingredients, from their garden herbs and vegetables to homemade wine and Raki.


After you've finished cooking, take some time to enjoy the dishes you've prepared, savouring the flavours and effort that went into each dish. Then, try some local desserts and homemade appetizers.




This food tour will introduce you to local Tirana and Traditional Albanian cuisine. Tirana is an urban metropolis, full of contrasts in which can easily be noticed the scars from the past and the present. Above all, it is the crossway of different periods of Albanian Modern History.


It is a city where the fine delicate art of the beginning of the 20th century is mixed with the cold rectangular shapes of the communism period. In addition, the modern new buildings are blooming. Furthermore, in this food and city tour, we will discover some of the most interesting parts of the city. Everything combined with a lot of local flavours, interesting stories, and friendly locals.


First Stop: Trying "Pace" an Albanian Traditional Soup After the pick up the first destination of the tour will be one of very few least typical breakfast restaurants, or “Mengjezore”. It is where we will have the chance to taste “Pace” a traditional thick, spicy soup made of cow head or bone marrow. Located at the “Bicycle Market”, a very typical local neighborhood this Restaurant, since 2004 has kept alive the tradition of “Breakfast Restaurant” and Pace.


Second Stop: Trying Traditional Turkish Coffee Passing from the Old Part of the city and getting nearer to the city centre we will spot the Communist Influence on the buildings and Architecture. It is time for some coffee and we will stop by a local coffee shop. It will be hard to choose as they provide more than 25 different types of coffee from all over the world. Of course, if you would like to sound local go with the small espresso or Turkish Coffee.


a selection of colourful bowls

Third Stop: Visit at Castle of Tirana and Olive Oil Tasting Walking through the “Pedonale” the pedestrian Artistic Boulevard we will visit the Castle of Tirana. Situated in the center of Tirana it has been an administrative point in different ruling systems. Recently renovated, it is one of the most interesting attractions with unique shops and bars. A unique center for olive oil and products.


Fourth Stop: Visit at "Blloku", Main Boulevard The tour continues on the Main Boulevard of Tirana “Deshmoret e Kombit”. You will learn more about its Architecture, Style, and History. It is where Piramida and the most famous buildings of Tirana are situated. Walking along the former communist part of the city, Blloku. It used to be the residential area of the Former Communist dictator, Enver Hoxha. Quick Stop for a very local specialty of Mase Drink mixed with Ice Cream.


Fifth Stop at a Traditional Albanian Food - Grill Stop Visit a Local Restaurant where we would have the chance to try a full local Grill meal. Albanians and their Traditional Cuisine are famous for having plenty of meat on their menu and being vegetarian here is a hard job 🙂 It will be a full meal where you would be able to try Fergesa, a Tirana’s specialty, Meatballs, Suxhuk (Kosovo’s sausages), and more, all combined with local drinks.




Tirana is a city that offers a little something for everyone. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, a nature lover, or a nightlife enthusiast, you’re sure to find something to love in Albania’s vibrant capital.


So why wait? Start planning your Tirana adventure today and get ready to experience the magic of this hidden gem in the heart of the Balkans.


I hope you found this Tirana travel guide useful, leave a comment as I would love to hear your feedback.

 

Disclaimer: This blog post contains affiliate links including Amazon products where I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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