Is Tirana a nice city? Recommendations by a tour guide
Many time, I got the question: Is Tirana a nice city? So I decided to write a helpful blogpost about the nice places in Tirana, so that you can make up your own mind.
Is Tirana a nice city?
Tirana is a nice city because of these reasons:
1) Tirana’s lovely terraces on the Murat Toptani Street
2) Tirana has fascinating bunker museum
3) Tirana’s New Bazaar Food Market
4) Tirana city’s impressive Pyramid
5) Tirana’s breathtaking cable car journey
6) Tirana is a very colourful city
7) Tirana’s foody area in the Castle of Tirana
8) Tirana’s Grand Park & Lake
9) Day tour from Tirana to the Cape of Rodon
10) Tirana’s hip & trendy Blloku area
11) Tirana’s central Skanderbeg Square & Main Government Street
12) Tirana’s Italian shops & topfloor cafes in Toptani Shopping Center
13) Tirana’s socialist realism artwork
14) Tirana’s natural wonder Cyclops’ Eye
15) Day tour to Bovilla Lake from Tirana
16) Visit an authentic local village near Tirana
17) Go on a hiking adventure to the Black Cave
1. Tirana’s lovely terraces on the Murat Toptani Street
The Albanian people are massive coffee drinkers and they love nothing more than spending their afternoon on the terrace. As a result, Tirana has many lovely terraces!
As a foreign traveller, you will instantly feel more relaxed when you arrive in Tirana! Because everywhere you look, you will see terraces and gardens with people drinking a coffee.
Some of the loviest terraces in Tirana are in the Murat Toptani Street. The Murat Toptani Street is a pedestrian street in the center of Tirana. The street is covered with leafy trees and on each side of the boulevard there are many beautiful terraces.
2. Tirana has fascinating bunker museum
If you look at TripAdvisor, the number 1 attraction in Tirana is always the Bunk’Art Bunker Museum.
Bunk’Art 1 is a museum inside a massive communist bunker. The bunker was built by Albania’s former dictator Enver Hoxha. Enver Hoxha was paranoid and he strongly believed that Albania would be attacted by a foreign nation. As a result, he constructed 173.000 bunkers all over Albania.
The foreign attack that the dictator was predicting, never actually took place. In 1985, the dictator died and in 1992 the communism in Albania ended. But you can still find thousands of “unused” bunkers all over Albania.
One of the largest bunkers was built in Tirana in the slope of the mountain. Enver Hoxha constructed this bunker for himself and the political elite during a foreign attact.
Recently, the massive bunker has been converted into Bunk’Art 1.
You absolutely cannot miss Bunk’Art 1 on you visit to Tirana, because it is a very impressive and unforgetable experience. You will essentially walk through a very large concrete bunker, which was built inside the mountain.
Each room tells you a bit of Albania’s history. But rather than just reading the words, you actually experience Albania’s history!
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3. Tirana’s New Bazaar Food Market
The New Bazaar Food Market (in Albanian: Pazari i Ri) is one of the favorite spots of the locals in Tirana.
When you are walking through the city center of Tirana, it is easy to miss the New Bazaar Food Market. Because you must walk about 5-10 minutes in another direction to reach this spot. However, it is worth visiting!
New Bazaar Food Market is a market square, where the locals sell fruits, wine, raki, mountain honey, handicrafts, antiques and much more!
But what the locals really enjoy about this spot, are all the lovely terraces and restaurants surrounding the market.
The New Bazaar Food Market truly is a hotspot for foodies. So if you enjoy fresh produce and homecooked style restaurants, you will really love this place!
4. Tirana city’s impressive Pyramid
The pyramid of Tirana is one of the most famous landmarks of Tirana.
The pyramid is a massive concrete structure in the center of Tirana. This famous building is located on the main government street in the center of capital city.
The pyramid was designed by Pranvera Hoxha, who was the daughter of the former communist dictator Enver Hoxha. After the dictator died in 1985, Pranvera Hoxha constructed the pyramid as a museum to honor the formor dictator.
In 1992, when the communism ended in Albania, the pyramid stopped being a museum about the former dictator.
For a long period, the pyramid was used for a variety of purposes. The pyramid was a convention center, a night club, a NATO base during the Kosovo War, a broadcasting station, a parking spot for busses and a place to practice grafitti.
Although, there were plans to demolish the pyramid, the locals did not want to break down the pyramid.
Therefore, the pyramid of Tirana is now being refurbished into a IT center. The pyramid will teach young people about IT, robotics, programming and start-up culture.
5. Tirana’s breathtaking cable car journey
By far, the best place to visit in Tirana is the Dajti Express Cable Car.
From the city center, you must take a taxi ride or a bus ride for approximately 20 minutes to reach the lower station of the Dajti Express.
The cable car journey takes 15 minutes and the views are absolutely stunning. You will fly accross little farm houses, tree tops, mountain cliffs and dark blue lakes. In the air, it is completely quiet and you look down on the world from an increasingly higher height.
After the cable car journey, you arrive at the Mount Dajti balcony. The Mount Dajti Balcony offers a stunning view of the entire city of Tirana. Furthermore, in the distance you will see the Adriatic Sea, the Cape of Rodon & Durres beach.
Apart from the view, the Mount Dajti balcony offers a variety of entertainment and recreational activities. You can participate in buggy rides, target shooting, horse riding, roller blading, mini golf and other outdoor activities.
Moreover, there is an amazing restaurant at the top of the cliff, called Balkonni Restaurant. This restaurant was built in mountain cabin style and it has floor-to-ceiling windows for stunning views.
In short, the Dajti Express Cable Car is a fantastic day trip from Tirana. And if you like, you can combine your visit with the Bunk’Art 1 Bunker museum closeby.
6. Tirana is a very colourful city
Tirana is a very colourful and alive city.
Albania’s prime minister Edi Rama is actually an artist. Before he became prime minister, he was the mayor of Tirana.
When Edi Rama was the mayor of the city, Tirana had many grey and concrete buildings. So he went to the European Union and received funding to “paint Tirana”.
In the next few years, many of the communist concrete buildings were pained in bright yellow, flashing pink and any other bright colour. And the people of Tirana loved it!
As a side note, the European Union actually did not love the bright colour scheme. But as Edi Rama says: “We are not going to compromise on colour, because a compromise on colour is grey and we have plenty of grey buildings”.
When you walk through Tirana, you will see happy colours everywhere. There are murals and motifs on the apartments and houses of the city. It really makes you feel happy and it brings a very “Mediterraenen feel” to the city!
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7. Tirana’s foody area in the Castle of Tirana
A visit to Tirana is not complete without visiting a local restaurant and trying out some of the specialities.
Albanian food is very accessible. The Albanian cuisine basically is a combination of Greek food, Turkish food and Italian food. So it is a very Medditeraen variety with fresh salads, roasted meat, lovely fish and homemade desserts.
If you would like to try the Albanian food in Tirana, I recommend you visit the Tirana Castle food court.
Inside the old castle of Tirana, a new food court has been created with many great cafes and restaurants.
In this area, there is a great variety of amazing restaurants. One of the highlights is Ceren Restaurant by chef Ismet Shehu. Ismet Shehu is a famous chef in Albania. You choose the type of meat you would like to eat and they cook it with the seasonal vegetables. The quality of the food is amazing and the prices are very reasonable!
8. Tirana’s Grand Park & Lake
One of the most relaxing places in Tirana is the Grand Park with the artificial lake.
One of the best ways to explore Tirana’s city center is by foot. I recommend walking from Skanderbeg Square, through the main government street, with extra stops at Pazari i Ri, Tanners Bridge and the Murat Toptani Street.
And once you have explored the city center by foot, I recommend finishing your tour of the city in the Grand Park of Tirana.
Although the Grand Park of Tirana is right in the city center, it is a quiet and very relaxing place. The park has beautiful gardens, lovely playground and terraces with lake view.
Spend the late afternoon or evening simply sitting on the terrace and taking in the view of the lake.
I know that you want to visit many places during your holiday in Albania, but also make time to relax and be in the moment! And the Grand Park of Tirana is the perfect place for that!
9. Day tour from Tirana to the Cape of Rodon
If you are staying in Tirana, you can make great day trips in the area surrounding the capital city.
One of the most beautiful places to visit near Tirana is the Cape of Rodon.
The Cape of Rodon is a natural wonder. The Cape is a rocky peninsula, that points into the Adriatic Sea. It is basically a narrow strip of land, that points into the sea like a finger pointing at Italy.
The Cape of Rodon is absolutely stunning. It is a wild and untouched natural park. And it is a spot only the locals know about.
From Tirana, you must drive for approximately 2 hours to get to the Cape of Rodon. Then you will hike for about 45 minutes through nature to reach the Cape of Rodon. You can also visit the Rodoni Castle and the little church on site.
And on your way back, I recommend you make a stop at the Bay of Lalzi, which is a wild beach along the same road.
10. Tirana’s hip & trendy Blloku area
The Blloku area is the hip and trendy area of Tirana.
In Blloku, you will find all the fancy restaurants, amazing terraces, luxury shops and other luxury items.
In the communist time, Blloku used to be called “the Block”. It used to be the area where the communist dictator had his home. And in the surrounding area, the political elite used to have their houses.
In that time, the Block was sealed-off by security guards, because the general public was not allowed to enter the area.
Interestingly, the entire block area was a blank spot on all the maps of Tirana at the time, as if the area did not exist.
Then after, the communist regime fell in 1992, the block area continued the have the reputation of “exclusivity”. Today, Blloku is the most expensive area in Tirana to live in.
As a tourist, you can dress up for the evening and go out for a fancy night in Blloku. Start your evening with a fancy dinner and continue by visiting one of the nightclubs in the night.
If clubbing is not for you, you may simply walk through the area during the day and have a peek at the former house of Enver Hoxha. The house of the former dictator continues to stand in the Blloku area and it is completely untouched since the death of his wife.
11. Tirana’s central Skanderbeg Square & Main Government Street
The best way to explore Tirana’s city center is by foot.
After you have checked into your hotel in Tirana and you did freshen up, take 2-3 hours to explore the city center of Tirana.
Start your walking tour on the centeral Skanderbeg Square. Skanderbeg Square is surrounded by the landmarks of the capital city.
The most impressive building is the massive National History Museum. This is a classic museum with archaeological finds from the Roman & Greek empires, paintings from the Albanian master Onufri, a display of traditional clothes and a gallery about the cruelties of the communist regime.
Other highlights on Skanderbeg Square are the Et’hem Bey Mosque and the Clock Tower. Especially, the Et’hem Bey Mosque which has beautiful paintings of threes, bridges and flowers.
Other buildings surrounding the square are the National Theathre of Opera & Ballet, the Palace of Culture and the National Bank of Albania.
Skanderbeg Square also connects to the Road of the National Heroes, which is the main government boulevard.
Along the Road of the National Heroes, you can see the ministries of Albania. The Albanian Ministries are painted in very colorful designs, so they are lovely to look at.
Highlights along the main government street are the Pyramid of Tirana, the National Gallery with the art installation the Cloud, the Prime Ministers Office and the Presidential Office.
Insider tip! Make a stop in the Murat Toptani Street for a coffee along the way. And finish your tour in the Grand Park of Tirana, which is at the end of the Government boulevard.
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12. Tirana’s Italian shops & topfloor cafes in Toptani Shopping Center
If you would like to go shopping for clothes or shoes, then I recommend you visit the Toptani Shopping Center.
The Toptani Shopping Center is located right in the center of Tirana. Inside the shopping mall, you will see many brands that you may not be familiar with. Because the shopping mall offers a lot of Italian fashion brands.
Throughout history, Albania has always been close with Italy. And until this day, Italian companies invest a lot in Albania.
Even if you are not looking to shop, I still recommend entering the Toptani Shopping Mall. Because there are amazing cafes on the top floor, with stunning views of the city center. Simply enter the shopping mall and take an elevator straight to the top floor.
Although there are other popular shopping malls in Tirana, like QTU, Casa Italia and TEGG. The other shopping malls are located outside the city center, so you must take a 20-30 minute taxi ride. Toptani is the only shopping center conveniently located in the city center.
13. Tirana’s socialist realism artwork
If you are an art enthusiast, you will really enjoy the socialist realism artwork in Tirana.
Socialist realism is artwork that glorifies the communist dictator and his regime. It is essential censured artwork. During the communist regime, artists needed to get their artwork “approved”. Because all the art needed to glorify the communist ideology.
The most impressive piece of socialist realism artwork is the mosaic called “The Albanians”. This is a massive mosaic above the entrance of the National History Museum.
The mosaic was completed in 1980, in the middle of the communist regime. It essentially shows the Albanians throughout history. It starts with the Roman and Greek empires, that Albania was a part of.
Then you see the Ottoman Turks, who ruled Albania for 500 years. And Skanderbeg, who was the Albanian military commander, who succesfully defended the Albanians against the Ottoman invasion for 25 years.
There is also Ismail Qemali, who is holding the independence decaration from 1912. And even the Italians and Germans are represented, who invaded Albania during the Second World War.
But most importantly, in the middle of the mosaic you will see the 3 x Albanian workers, who march for the communism. They of course, are holding weapons to defend their country and a red flag for the nationalism!
If you are truly fascinated by socialist realism, I highly recommend visiting the National Arts Gallery in the center of Tirana. In the gallery, you can see the “communist-approved” artwork. With titles like the Working Girls, the Oil Drill Man and We Are at the Forefront of Everything (even though Albania was very poor).
14. Tirana’s natural wonder Cyclops’ Eye
The Cyclops’ Eye is a stunning natural pool close to Tirana. It is one of the hidden gems of Albania! Only the locals know about this off-the-beaten-path destination.
Essentially, the Cyclops’ Eye (in Albanian Syri i Ciklopit) is a natural pool in the middle nature. The heart-shaped pool is filled with emerald coloured water. The natural pool is 20 meters wide and 120 meters deep. It is surrounded by wild nature and rock formations. And this natural wonder is a very picturesque location!
The Cyclops’ Eye is hidden in the hills near Tirana. Upon arrival in the little Krrabe village, you must hike for 1 hour to reach the Cyclops’ Eye.
Visiting the Cyclops’ Eye is perfect, if you enjoy going on an adventure. You will walk through a beautiful natural landscape. And at the end of the trail, you will be rewarded with a stunning view. Moreover, in the summer months, you can swim in the Cyclops’ Eye, so be sure to bring some swim gear!
15. Day tour to Bovilla Lake from Tirana
Bovilla Lake is a stunning natural spot near Tirana. The lake of Bovilla is located to the North-East of Tirana and set in between two mountain ranges.
This beautiful water reservoir is surrounded by wild and untouched nature. It is one of the hidden gems of Albania and a spot only the locals know about.
Lake Bovilla is about 45-60 minutes drive from Tirana, depending on traffic. Upon arrival, you will hike for approximately 50 minutes to the Mount Gamti Balcony. It is a moderate hike, so you do not have to be an experienced hiker.
Once you reach the Mount Gamti Balcony, you will have a spectacular view of Lake Bovilla. The entire lake is surrounded by wild beauty and undisturbed greenery. You have stunning views of the peaks and hills surrounding the Lake.
The Mount Gamti Balcony is a great spot for a picnic lunch, so be sure to bring some food along on your trip. You can also explore the cave for stunning views.
16. Visit an authentic local village near Tirana
Preza is one of the most beautiful villages near Tirana. If you are staying in Tirana city and you would like to visit an authentic Albanian village, then you should absolutely go to the Preze village.
When you enter the Preza village, you will drive up a narrow turning and twisting road. The road passes by beautiful stone houses with flower gardens and local restaurants.
At the top of the road, you can visit the hilltop Preza Castle. Although the castle itself is mostly in ruins, it has the most amazing view.
When you arriva at the Castle of Preza, you have a breathtaking view towards the mountains, the valley, Tirana city and Kruje city. You can climb up the staircase to the Castle of Preze, from where you can see a beautiful natural mountain lake in the hills.
One of the best spots in the castle is the tower, which is located on top of the little cafe. You can sit down in the tower, order a coffee and take in the panoramic view.
The Castle of Preza was originally built in the 14th century by the local Thopias family. However, it was in the 15th century that the castle became famous in Albania. Because the castle was used by Albania’s national hero Skanderbeg in his resistance against the Ottoman invasion.
Inside the castle, you can consume some drinks from the cafe inside the castle walls. There is also a lovely stone restaurant on site, which serves Albanian specialities.
17. Go on a hiking adventure to the Black Cave
The Black Cave, also known as the Pellumbas Cave, is in the Pellumbas village close to Tirana. If you would like to explore the nature surrounding Tirana, then a trip to the Black Cave is a great place to go!
Once you arrive in the Pellumbas village, you will hike for about 45 minutes along a trail that leads to the Black Cave. The hiking trail that leads to the Black Cave passes through stunning nature. And as you hike up the mountain trail, you will have beautiful views of the valley and the Canyon of the Erzen river.
At the end of the trail, you will see the Black Cave. The inside of the cave is filled with stalactites and stalagmites. Historians have concluded that the Black Cave used to be one of the earliest prehistoric settlements in the area.
The hiking trip to the Black Cave is an adventure, as the trail turns and twists through the forest. To go on the trip, you do not have to be an experienced hiker, as the trail was recently repaired and it includes steps and handrails. But you must have an average fitness level.
The Black Cave is off-the-beaten-path, therefore, if you are looking to see the real and authentic Albania, it is a great place to visit.
I am an Albania Tour Guide, who organizes 1-day, 2-day or multiple day private tours in Albania. I arrange your transportation and I am your English speaking guide. So that, you get to experience the most beautiful places in Albania!
Kind regards, Manon
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I am a Tour Guide in Albania
I am an Albania Tour Guide, who organizes 1-day, 2-day or multiple day private tours in Albania.
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