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15 best sites of Tirana, Albania

Have you ever considered visiting Albania?

By Anna Purpurpurpur

Tirana is not high on the travel list for many tourists, and I must admit that I didn’t expect much from my visit either.

However, I can certainly say that Tirana exceeded my expectations. It’s actually a charming developing city with numerous cafes and restaurants and some interesting tourist spots.

Tirana definitely has a very unique vibe, just look at the streets there.

See my selection os spot to see Tirana below!

1. Pyramid of Tirana 

I visualised that Pyramid would be an abandoned location, but it looks fantastic after a restoration! It was built in 1987 as a museum to Enver Hoxha, the communist dictator of Albania, for a few dozen years, from the mid-20th century till his death in 1985. commissioned by his daughter Pranvera Hoxha.

After the fall of communism in 1991, it was repurposed and briefly used as a public venue, followed by NATO. In the following years, it fell into a desperate state and lay in ruins – even a demolition was discussed! Now, it’s a Youth IT Center, a splendid modern spot that opened in 2023 in the heart of a park surrounded by other geometrically shaped buildings. 

2. House of Leaves

The House of Leaves, or the Museum of Secret Surveillance, was opened in 2017 in the same building that served as the headquarters of Sigurimi (The Directorate of State Security, or the local secret police) during the communist period. 

The museum, through its gallery of exhibits, showcases the Albanian communist regime’s connection with other countries such as the USSR, Yugoslavia, and China and how the government surveilled, censored, and oppressed people. It’s located opposite the Resurrection of Christ Orthodox Church. Photography inside the museum is limited.

3. Villa of Enver Hoxha

Suppose you’re interested in Tirana’s communist past. In that case, you can also visit the villa occupied by Enver Hox, who lived here until his death in 1985.

Although it’s closed to the public, you can notice that it’s actually a pretty humble dwelling, especially compared to the palaces other communist leaders used to build for themselves. 

4. Bunk’Art2

Here you can find another important site in Albania: the Bunk’Art2 museum. As you know, Albania is famous for its uncountable number of bunkers (presumably there are over  750,000 of them!) built in the 60s-80s, and this museum is located in one of them. 

The bunker was transformed into a museum about the work of the Albanian Ministry of Internal Affairs from 1912 to 1991 (including the Sigurimi, the secret police), the propaganda they created and the victims of the regime, and yes, you walk exactly the same tours underground as the communists in the past!

As you might imagine, the BunkArt1 museum also exists (in another location). It covers the history of the people living under the regime and the communist army.

5. Skanderbeg Square

Skanderbeg Square is the main square of Tirana, with the Et’hem Bey Mosque, The National Historical Museum, and the Opera all framing it from different sides.

It was named after Gjergj Kastrioti, also known as Skanderbeg, a national hero and military commander who fought against Ottomans in the 15th century – you can also spot his equestrian monument right on the square.

You might also like to ride on the ferry wheel, standing right in the middle of the square or the merry-go-round to the side! 

6. Clock Tower of Tirana

The Clock Tower of Tirana was built in 1822 by Et’hem by Moll, who is also responsible for the city’s most important mosque nearby. At the moment, a large construction site occupies all the space around it. 

7. Et’hem Bey Mosque

The Et’hem Bey Mosque is located right in the heart of Tirana, making it part of the city’s historical centre – pretty much nothing is left of that. It’s one of the city’s most important sites, and its construction was finished around 1819-1821.

Luckily, it was spared by the atheist imperative of communism and wasn’t destroyed along with other religious buildings. In 1991, it started operating again. Make sure you pop inside of it, too, because it’s beautifully decorated with nature-inspired elements and was frequently compared to Süleymaniye mosque in Istanbul.

8. Namazgah Mosque

Tirana is alsa home to Namazgah Mosque, or the Great Mosque of Tirana. As far as I understand, it’s still under construction and is financed by Turkiye; once completed, it would be one of the largest mosques of the Balkans. You have a nice opportunity to compare both mosques almost side by side: they are located about 7 minutes away from each other!

9. Resurrection Cathedral

One of the most important religious sites of Albania (which is primarily Muslim—see the mosques above) is the Resurrection Cathedral or Katedralja Ngjallja e Krishtit. It’s one of the largest Orthodox churches in the Balkans!

The church was opened in 2012, and its dome stands over 32 metres high (while the bell tower is 46 metres tall). Apart from the cathedral and the bell tower, this complex includes many buildings, including a library, three chapels, a museum,  a bell tower, the residence of the Holy Synod, and a few more.

10. Tirana Castle 

Tirana Castle is an archaeological site turned into a buzzing area filled with cafes and restaurants. The remains here date to the Early Byzantine Period, around the 4th-6th century, and are usually attributed to Emperor Justinian’s rule.

Some remains built on top of the old castle date to the 18th and 19th centuries and the period of war between Ahmet Pasha Bargjini and the Toptani noble family. Later, the castle was destroyed by Ottomans.

The restored part of it is now accessible to tourists. The area inside the castle is super modern and clearly tourist-oriented, with the Toptani shopping centre nearby. You can find many souvenir shops and restaurants around this area, and it feels like one of the most busy touristic part of the city!

We absolutely loved Albanian cuisine at Ceren Ismet Shehu restaurant and Balkan cuisine at Gzona restaurant within the premises of the Tirana castle shopping lane: both were amazing!

11. New Bazaar

Another spot you might want to visit is the district of New Bazaar, or Pazari i Ri, not far from Skanderbeg Square.

Here, you can buy all sorts of souvenirs, fresh fish, groceries, and fruits—all local produce—right in the same spot where a bazaar stood in the past. The only difference is that it was just redeveloped a few years ago. The historical Kokonozi Mosque is also located here.

12. Independence monument

Come to see the Independence Monument to learn more about Albania’s history! It was erected in 2012 in Rinia Park to mark 100 years of Albania’s independence, which was declared by Ismail Qemali in Vlorë in 1912.

13. Mother Teresa square 

You can spot the references to Mother Teresa everywhere in Tirana. She is probably one of the most famous people in recent Albanian history. She’s a famous Catholic nun, missionary, and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, although we probably all agree that she’s a controversial figure. There are quite a few statues dedicated to her in Tirana, and the second-largest square in the city is named after her.

14. Palace of Congresses

The Palace of Congresses is a building near the main Boulevard of Tirana and Mother Teresa Square. It was built in 1986, during the communist regime, to host the venues of the local Labour Party, and it is still used as a site for different social events and festivals. 

15. Komiteti-Kafe Muzeum

Komiteti-Kafe Muzeum is an unusual cafe in central Tiranthat serving drinks, snacks, and desserts.

Their cafe occupies quite a large space decorated with hundreds of authentic vintage items showcasing Albanian heritage and cultural insights. Although I’d recommend visiting this spot, I must note that during our visit, they hardly had anything we tried to order, from iced teas to desserts. 

Where to stay in Tirana

We stayed at Marriott Tirana, a modern hotel located a short walk from all the city’s main spots.

The hotel’s interior was pretty stylish, but the main feature was possibly the view: just check out the scenery our room overlooked!

You might also like my other blogs:

Hope you liked my new blog!
Yours,
Anna xxx

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