Initially established in the early 17th century, Tirana has since been established as the capital of Albania. The Mediterranean city is located in the heart of the country and surrounded by towering mountains and hills, and is known to be one of Europe’s sunniest cities. While Tirana has a rough history, it has become a charming little city with a rapidly-growing population of over one million residences.
The hospitable capital features a diverse selection of entertainment, including museums, theatres, and thriving nightlife in Tirana. As a whole, Albania offers a unique experience with exciting and rewarding things to do in Tirana.
The best time to visit Tirana, Albania, is during the spring and autumn seasons when the climate is warmer, typically during the months of April to October. I suggest reserving three to five days to get a feel for the city and check out the best places to visit in Tirana.
This article highlights some of the most fascinating experiences, including important historical sites, museums, and exhilarating activities that take you to new heights, literally. From authentic Albanian hospitality to picturesque panoramas, here are the best things to do in Tirana.
Visit Skanderbeg Square
Skanderbeg Square in Tirana’s central plaza, measuring well over 40,000 meters and is home to the National Museum of History, among several other monumental buildings.
Skanderbeg is named after an iconic national hero who played a significant part in Albanian history. The square is strictly accessible to pedestrians only, meaning no vehicles are allowed on the pathways. Mainly to ensure guests’ safety and preserve the natural beauty of the gigantic mosaic tile flooring that echoes throughout the plaza.
There are benches available under the Skanderbeg monument for those who wish to take a small moment to escape the chaos and have a moment of peace. I stayed nearby and this is a spot I come in the evenings to just sit and people watch.
When the sun goes down, the square comes alive with locals and tourists socializing and engaging in many fun activities such as concerts and shows taking place in the center of Skanderbeg Square.
Pyramid of Tirana (Piramida)
The Piramida is a unique and sort of strange-looking building with an unforgettable history. The original purpose for the creation of the Piramida was to honor the late Enver Hoxha, a tyrannical ruler from 1944 to 1985.
There is a divide between residents who wish to restore the existing monument to embrace its history, while many prefer to have it torn down as it is a reminder of some of Tirana’s darkest years. Today, the Piramida is abandoned and has been decorated with colorful graffiti.
Even though the structure is deteriorating over time, it is an incredible sight to see its symbolism. The Piramida plays a significant role in the history of Albania, making it one of the most interesting historical places to visit in Tirana.
Update: The Pyramid is getting torn down and rebuilt into a more modern building in similar form. Awaiting Pyramid 2.0.
Take a ride up to Dajti Ekspres
To get to the top of Dajti Mountain, first take a ride on Dajti Ekspres, a short taxi ride outside of town. From there, a 20-minute gondola ride will get you to the top of the massive mountain for some of the country’s most stunning views of the beguiling city. If you build up an appetite from all the exploration, there is a restaurant with a delicious menu of Albanian cuisine and a rotating bar, or pack a lunch and enjoy a picnic with breathtaking views. Not to mention, there is a beautifully landscaped mini-golf course and hiking trails that reside on the grounds of the Dajti Ekspres complex.
There is a nice cafe on top which spins 360 degrees slowly. It is a great place to grab a snack and just chill as you enjoy the views from the mountain.
For the adrenaline lovers, check out the fun mountain climbing, biking, an adventure park, and paragliding for an experience that will surely get the heart racing with excitement. The taxi cost can vary up to 10 euros for a one-way trip.
Relax at Grand Park
Also known to locals as the “Lung of the City,” the Grand Park of Tirana spans over 700 acres of lush green landscape in the southern part of Albania’s capital. At the center of the lake is an artificial lake with a captivating view of part of the city. Visitors can fish at the lakeshore and swim during the summertime.
Grand Park is a great place to visit in Tirana for some fresh air and exercise. The park houses several memorable tombs of many Albanian heroes, including philosophers, writers, and popular politicians.
It is a nice place for a stroll during good weather days and watch what the locals do. The Grand Park is near the popular Blloku District.
Bask in the Blloku District
Blloku district is not just famous in Tirana, but it is also the most expensive area, making it one of the fanciest things to do in Tirana. Blloku district is located just south of the Grand Park.
During the times of communism, Blloku used to be home to exclusively the most wealthy and influential, including communist leader Enver Hoxha. The district features several beautiful cafes, restaurants, and hotels. Blloku also has a share of thriving nightlife in Tirana, with enticing bars to choose from.
Enjoy the City View at Sky Tower
There is a bar at the top of Sky Tower which gives you an impressive view of the city. This is a great spot to grab a drink before sunset. hang around and you can catch both the day and night view of the city.
Satisfy your sweet tooth at Cioccolatitaliani Blloku
Cioccolatitaliani Blloku is an Italian style cafe well known for their exquisite chocolate and desserts. The place is spacious with 2 storeys and . They do serve dishes for proper meals like pizza and pastas as well, but most visitors are there for the cakes, coffee and dessert options. If you are a sweet tooth, this is the place to go for an absolute treat.
Take a stroll down Tanners’ Bridge
One of Tirana’s smaller attractions, Tanners’ Bridge, is still very much one of the city’s historical places to visit in Tirana. Built during the 18th-century, this stone bridge was once the link between Tirana and Debar. It has served initially as a passage for local farmers to migrate livestock and transfer fresh produce.
There is nothing extremely impressive about the structure visually. However, it is in a convenient location to stop by. Cozy cafes surround the bridge, making it a perfect place to have a cup of coffee with a stellar view.
Visit the National Museum of History
The National Museum of History is located in Skanderbeg Square and is by far the most influential museum in Albania history, and still is to this day. The museum has a mosaic facade above the entrance which illustrates Albanian history from past to present. If you’re looking for a complete sense of Albanian history, this museum is the right place to be as it possesses well-preserved Albanian history.
Be prepared to spend at least 2-3 hours here. This important museum is huge with a large collection detailing various period of history. It shelters nearly 600 items from the late Paleolithic to the early-Middle Ages.
The museum is open to the public Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm. Do note that there are select “free admission dates” that fall on monumental international Albanian celebrated days in addition to the last Sunday of each month exclusively for Albanian residents.
Stop by the Et’hem Bej Mosque
The Et’hem Bej Mosque is one of Tirana’s oldest and most important mosques in the country and is located in Skanderbeg Square. First built in the 19th century, this mosque served as one of the starting points for the fall of Communism in Albania when over 10,000 people forced their way into the complex in protest of the leadership in 1991. The mosque features some of Islam’s most prominent art globally, while the exterior paints a serene image of forests and waterfalls. The mosque recently underwent a significant restoration that finished in April 2021.
Resurrection of Christ Orthodox Cathedral
While we are talking about religious establishments, the resurrection of Christ Orthodox Cathedral is another interesting building to marvel at. This is one of the largest Orthodox Church in the Balkans and features impressive and modern looking lighting at night. The team responsible for the design is actually a New York Based company.
Bunk’Art is a neat underground bunker that has become a combination of a history museum and an art gallery. There are two versions of this historic destination. Situated near the Dajti Mountain is Bunk’Art 1, which features a historical exhibition in an enormous five-level underground bunker, and it furnishes over 100 rooms, dining areas, offices, and more.
Bunk’Art 2 is near Skanderbeg Square and displays a full glimpse of Albanian history for the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Visitors uncover the secret political police that was enforced against Albanian residents during Enver Hoxha’s rule.
The bunkers are typically open daily from 9 am to 4 pm. The average entrance fee is approximately 4 euros. A trip to Bunk’Art is one of the most interesting things to do in Tirana.
View Albanian Architecture at Rruga Murat Toptani
The Rruga Murat Toptani is a street created solely for pedestrians, and it has become one of the relaxing places to visit in Tirana. The street provides a great deal of shade, charm, and many cafes, bars, and shops. This pedestrian street is located south of Skanderbeg Square and Bunk’Art 2 museum and is a perfect mesh of the old Tirana and the modern-day.
It has become an excellent destination for a pleasant stroll and occasional people-watching. At night, you can catch the crowd mixing and mingling as the street lights up in a vibrant spirit. With the summers reaching warm temperatures, it’s nice to escape the sun’s rays and relax in the shade under one of the tall trees that line the street.
Day Trips from Tirana
Being the Capital City of Albania, Tirana also serves as a good base to visit other cities and attractions in Albania. There are a few popular day trips that you can take.
The coastal city of Durres is where you can get a view of the Adriatic Sea. It is one of the oldest city in Albania. There are remaining old city walls which has viewpoints to catch a panoramic view of the city and ocean. This was not a particularly interesting city for me but it was nice to just check out another area in Albania.
Kruje is probably best known for the Old Bazaar and historic Castle of Kruja. Or that was why I visited anyway. The castle is quite well preserved and serves mainly as a museum today. It is also surrounded by nice nature views.
Berat is famous for that photo of “a thousand windows”. It is a town that represents the strong culture and tradition of Albania. Apart from the iconic photo shot, you can visit museums and the Berat castle. This can be a day trip or you can stay overnight.
You can certainly figure out public transportation to these places. Make sure you find the right bus stations to grab the correct bus or collectivo. Alternatively, there are also tours that brings you to these attractions and cities if you prefer the convenience.