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The roads are awful, the buildings are dilapidated, there are donkeys and carts strewn around everywhere and Tirana, as a capital, appears to be falling apart. Albania has has a chequered past with their 20th century alignments first to the USSR, then later to Mao’s China, then their own communist party took over, and to cut a long story short people starved to death, left the country in their millions and it’s never fully recovered.

tirana albania

It was never a dream of mine to visit Albania but coming from Greece and heading to Montenegro and Croatia, it was in the way, so off I went – straight to it’s Capital, Tirana. I had recently been to Kosovo (Albania’s ‘little brother’) so I was expecting something pretty similar and, to be fair, I wasn’t wrong.

 

Tirana isn’t gonna win any awards for the Balkins most aesthetic city, that much I can guarantee but in a way it’s nice to be off the beaten track again, I feel like I’m really traveling again. The Greek islands were magical, and the Croation ones promise to be too but I was sharing them with 1 million Aussies and 1 million Russians so I’m not exactly break the mould, with Albania it’s different.  This place is devoid of tourists and it’s all the better experience for it.

 

With that little history lesson over, I thought I’d show you guys the ‘highlights’ of Tirana, although I think it’s fair to say that Tirana is most certainly a one-day city, you won’t wanna be here any longer than that! With that said, here are the top5 things to see in Tirana:

 

1)   Skanderbeg Square:

The centre of Tirana, and the country, Skanderberg square play host to the huge equestrian statue of Skanderberg (Albani’s national hero). The square isn’t that pretty actually, but it’s been the scene of the political movements for decades so that alone means it’s worth a visit.

Skanderbeg Square Tirana Albania

2)   Pyramid:

This is a surreal sight. A rundown, communist-looking concrete ‘pyramid’ on the main strecth of the city. It’s previously been a museum, a nightclub, a café and now it’s just existing, slowly decaying, covered in graffiti and the Government is lobbying for its destruction. Like I say, very surreal.

Pyramid Tirana Albania

3)   National History Museum:

I love to learn about the history of the country I’m visiting, and I’m particularly interested in the Balkan states. However, the museum lacks almost any English whatsoever, so while it holds some pretty awesome WWII weaponry and some poignant propaganda it’s pretty fair to say I didn’t learn anything here.

National Museum Tirana Albania

4)   Era Restaurant:

Im clutching at straws for a fourth sight to add, so I thought I do you guys a huge favour and tell you how to spend an hour or two of your time in the city – eat lunch (and/or) dinner at Era restaurant, it’s near the pyramid on Rr Ismail Qemali street and it’s tip top. 3 courses of delicious local or Italian food for around $10. Perfect.

Era Restaurant Tirana Albania

5) Mount Dajti:

For views of all of Tirana you can take the cable car to the summIt of Mount  Dajti ($5). With an altitude of 1600m, t’s a great way to escape the heat too

mount dajti albania 

Then Escape:

I could lie to you about the orthodox churches, the mother Theresa statue or the ‘art’ gallery but they’re all so mediocre that you’d be wasting your time!  Forget the hyperbole in your lonely planet or wikitravel, this is one place which doesn’t live up to the hype. Tirana is quite simply nothing special, hit up the top 3 sights, eat a feast at the restaurant and plot your escape, either north to Montenegro or south to their two UNESCO world heritage sites – Berat and Gjirokastra.

 

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23 thoughts on “Backpacking in Albania, Things to See in Tirana

  1. Hello stoners, If you are in Tirana, Albania searching for some quality time with good weed and other party stuffs in Albania… Hit up our local weed guy at ( green420days@gmail.com ) for help.

  2. Tirana has a great nightlife, the best coctail i ever had was definitely in Tirana. great post by the way 🙂

  3. Dude i dont think you have been in Tirana, you have probably been in a near village and people saw that you were stupid and told you this is Tirana.

  4. I am surprised that after all “The roads are awful, the buildings are dilapidated, there are donkeys and carts strewn around everywhere and Tirana, as a capital, appears to be falling apart.” I didn’t see one photo of a donkey or a dilapidated building. You are full of shit. In what part of Tirana did you go to you moron.

  5. I would take your review on Tirana seriuosly but NOT after reading your review on Skopje. I am born and raised in Skopje but there is NOTHING more to do in Skopje than in Tirana. Tirana is not London but is one of the most vibrant cities and has one of the best nightlifes in the region (way better then Skopje, because it’s bigger and is full of youth). Tirana has no amazing historic sites but Skopje even less. Skopje has a fortress, so does Tirana, Skopje has a hill with a big metal cross (absolutely boring), Tirana has the amazing Dajti hill. Almost all the things you mentioned about Skopje, from the fontain in the city centre to the statues and “old greek style” buildings were build in 2014 as part of Skopje 2014 master plan. They build a fake Arc de Triomph, a fake greek love temple, they even have fake red dubbledeck busses (like Lodon). Tirana is not stunnig but is at least unique and not a copycat. And you tell us that Skopje rocks and Tirana sucks? Oh, please lets just agree to disagree. Cheers!

  6. Hi,

    I don’t know were you took the references of what places to see in Tirana, but i can guarantee you that the review is very mediocre. There are a lot of things to do in Tirana, You have mentioned 3 points of interest which lays on an walking distance of 2km in total. The city itself is 41.8 km2 (16.1 sq mi) and for sure are are a lot of other things to visit in Tirana. You haven’t mention the “full of life” Bllok area, the Tirana Park, the newly opened Atomic Proof Bunker museum BunkArt, the Opera, The Mother Teresa Square, The Peza village where you can find a piece of WWII history as well and enjoy Bio food, and so many many other things. You may say that I’m just lobbing for the city where i have been born. No. Its true that Tirana has a lot of problems and deficiencies, But its true that there are also a lot of interesting things to see. And I’m not talking for the rest of Albania where its the same situation. A lot of problems and deficiencies, but also a lot to see and to explore different experiences. I think that Albania is a good choose for those who are bored from going to a series of museums in a line like the sheeps, bored from the american style fast food, and from the swooning Gothic style buildings. You will find different things in Albania. So please read a little more for a country before doing some reviews.

    Bye

  7. Hello, I am from Tirana, I am born and raised here. Sincerely, Albania has nothing less that it’s neighbors! The capital is not so historical because it was founded years later after the long story of Albania. If you want to see old cities you should have gone to Shkodra, Korca, Gjirokastra, Berat… If you wanted to relax seaside you should have chosen Vlora or Saranda and if you wanted just some green relax with a river or lake near you, you should have chosen Pogradec or Permet (heard Tropoja is amazing as well!) Tirana is all about nightlife and young people having fun, it also has the best universities, this makes young people want to come here. I think your review is unrealistic and i hope you read some other people review so you can know what you have missed here! Hope you enjoy your around the world trip!

    1. Thank you so much for this comment 🙂 I’m doing a small research on what to see around Tirana and Albania in general cause hopefully I’ll be back there next week or so, so I’m taking notes of everything you said and googlin it 🙂

      Cheers from Croatia

  8. Hi there,

    Thanks for your article ,I found it very educating and useful.

    It’s nice to read an article like that with a high quality of information and true honest review.

    Thanks again for your information.:)

    Best,
    Irfan

  9. I’ve been seeking ways to get to Albania for years. But so far I had to give my plans up. The closest I got there was Meteora, Greece and southern Italy – there simply weren’t any adequate flights.
    I hope more flights will start operating and we’ll be able to visit this rather unknown, but interesting beautiful country.

  10. Haha! Your post is so dead on! Poor Albania! Coastal ALbania is supposed to be beautiful, but after my experience in Tirana, I am done with Albania. It doesn’t help that we went from Ohrid to TIrana…Albania was already fighting a losing battle!

  11. Tirana is really a very beautiful city to visit. I was there at last month with my family. We enjoyed a lot. There are many more things to see there like Et`hem Bey Mosque, National Gallery of Figurative Arts of Albania, Skanderbeg Square, Archeological Museum, Skenderbeg Castle, Skanderbeg Statue, Catholic Church of St. Marie, Tomb of Kaplan Pasha, Museum of Natural Sciences. We visited almost all tourist places in Albania. We also done the camping there and it was my most memorable trip of my life. 🙂 I want to go there again.It was my best adventure trip ever. 🙂

  12. I have to say I disagree too. I really liked Tirana…and I was there for a week! There definitely isn’t a ton to see but I ended up liking it more than I thought and can’t wait to go back to Albania to see some of the other cool places these guys mentioned above. Totally feel you when you said you really felt like you were traveling again while you were there – Albania is an adventure for sure 🙂

    1. For a Mountaineer, Albania is heaven! All depends what you wanna see/do/experience in other countries. This spring/summer of 2014 I am going on a bicycle tour throughout Albania, well to be fair I am going through Croatian coastline first, then through Montenegro and Albania, then Greece (Solun) up towards the Skopje, capital of Macedonia, then prishtina, back towards the north Montenegro and through Bosnia back to Croatia! Can’t wait 😀 C-ya all there somewhere! Dr.NiRo

  13. Dear Johnny. Thank you for sharing this review with us, although it is obvious that you didn’t do your studies very well before deciding to visiting Albania. You call lonely planet’s or wikitravel’s reviews a hyperbole, while their review is not about Tirana but other places that you didn’t visit. You missed Butrit UNESCO World Heritage Site, Rozafa Fortress, Amphitheatre of Durres, Ionian Coast with amazing beautiful beaches, Temple ruins in Apollonia etc etc. Tirana became the capital of Albania in 1920, so there is nothing interesting to see there. I would suggest you reading more about “things to do” and “where to go” of the country you visit, before giving the great advice of “Escape”.

      1. Freestyle it out of the only comfortably developed western european city in the country. Girokastra and Berat are beautiful places. Walk north or south of Vlora or Saranda to find untouched beaches. If you like history, there are millennia old castles near almost any town. Go to a town or city that isn’t a summertime retreat for Italians, pop your head into a cafe, and you’re almost certain to be graciously welcomed in and offered a glass of raki. Sure, there are ugly, crumbling buildings and people trying to con you out of all the lek in your wallet. Just walk the opposite direction and don’t be a chump. You will find interesting things not in any guidebook. I have yet to go anywhere else in Europe where people still sacrifice animals on stone altars.

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