12 Absolute Best Things To Do In Tirana, Albania 

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Wondering what do to in Tirana?

Mural of the Albanian flag on a wall in Tirana
Mural of the Albanian flag

One of Europe’s lesser known cities, Tirana might not have made it onto your travel radar just yet. And that might be because it’s only been open to tourists for the past 30 years or so. But I think that it’s fair to say that the Albanian capital is a trendy and up-and-coming destination for a European city break. Personally, I thought that Tirana was an absolute delight – the city was a wonderful collision of rugged history and modern funkiness, and the mountains that surrounded added an additional layer of charm. Plus, I found the city to be a cheap place for a short break. So here’s my take on the best things to do in Tirana, Albania

1. Skanderbeg Square

Skanderbeg State taking pride of place in Skanderbeg Square and backed by blue sky in Tirana, Albania
Skanderbeg State on Skanderbeg Square

Skanderbeg Square is the beating heart of Tirana. It’s where you will find many of Tirana’s attractions, including the famous Skanderbeg Statue, the ‘I Love Tirana’ sign, the National Historical Museum (which has the most amazing mosaic on the building’s facade), the Clock Tower and Et’hem Bey Mosque. Skanderbeg Square itself is a large plaza spanning around 40,000 square metres. Skanderbeg Square is named after the Albanian national hero, George Kastrioti Skanderbeg and is a good place to start your Tirana city break sightseeing – you’ll be able to get your bearings and will be within walking distance of most of the things to do in Tirana on this list. 

Tip: The currency of Albania is the Albanian Lek. When we visited, it wasn’t a currency that you could get outside of Albania, so we took British Pounds and found an exchange bureau on our first morning. 

2. Namazgah Mosque

The sun shining over Namazgah Mosque  in Tirana, Albania
Namazgah Mosque

If my hotel hadn’t been across the road from Namazgah Mosque, then I would probably have never stumbled across it, and I’m so glad that I did. Namazgah Mosque was only completed in 2019, making it a relatively new addition to Tirana’s skyline. I thought that the sheer size of the mosque was spectacular – it really took me aback. Namazgah Mosque is one of the largest in the Balkans and can accommodate up to 5,000 worshippers. Quite unhelpfully, I’m not sure whether you can actually venture inside the Namazgah Mosque, but a peek at the outside is a worthwhile contender on your ‘what do do in Tirana’ list. 

3. Tirana Castle 

The pedestrianised shopping area of Tirana Castle in Tirana, Albania
Tirana Castle

When I was planning my visit to Tirana, I quickly came to learn that Tirana Castle (also known as Fortress of Justinian) isn’t the fairytale castle that you might imagine. In fact, there’s actually no castle in sight and only the old fort walls remain. But don’t let that deter you – Tirana Castle has been transformed into a pedestrianised space full of small shops, restaurants and bars. It’s a quirky and charming area that makes for a lovely place to hit pause for a few hours (with a cold drink in hand). 

4. Tirana Clock Tower 

Tirana Clock Tower turned out to be one of my favourite things to do in Tirana. Located on Skanderbeg Square, you can climb the 90 stairs to the top for panoramic views across Tirana. Although not as tall as some towers I’ve climbed (like the Bell Tower of St Nikola Church in Perast, Montenegro), the climb was still steep and narrow. And once we reached the top, there wasn’t much room at all – the balcony which circles the perimeter of the tower has enough space for single file humans and requires a bit of side-stepping at times. But if you are able, it’s a worthwhile scramble – we were rewarded with vistas of Skanderbeg Square, Tirana city and the surrounding mountains

5. Et’hem Bey Mosque

Et'hem Bey Mosque at night time in Tirana, Albania
Et’hem Bey Mosque

The quaint Et’hem Bey Mosque is marked on many Tirana city guides as one of the top things to see. Located next to Tirana Clock Tower on Skanderbeg Square, Et’hem Bey Mosque was founded at the end of the 18th Century but was closed under Communist rule . In 1991 it reopened without permission from the authorities when 10,000 people attended for prayers and the police didn’t intervene, therefore re-birthing religious freedom in Albania. If you want to go inside Et’hem Bey Mosque, you can’t visit during prayer times.

6. The New Bazaar (Pazari i Ri)

The New Bazaar (Pazari i Ri) in Tirana, Albania, selling a range of souvenirs such as purses, bookmarks, caps, and bracelets.
The New Bazaar (Pazari i Ri)

The New Bazaar, known locally as Pazari i Ri, was one of my favourite areas of Tirana. Here, you will find a funky and colourful market where you can buy all types of things including food, trinkets and souvenirs (it’s probably one of the best places in Tirana to pick these up), and small restaurants and bars lining the edge of the bazaar (perfect for people watching) We rocked up at Pazari i Ri around noon, and opted to find a sunny spot to enjoy a cold drink whilst watching life around the bazaar pass by. 

7. Eat Albanian food

Sampling Albanian food is an obvious thing to do when you visit Tirana. I didn’t quite know what to expect – I anticipated that it might be a touch similar to Bosnia. We stopped for lunch at Oda Garden which is a traditional Albanian restaurant located a stone’s throw from the New Bazaar, and we loved it so much that we went back for dinner the next evening (which unexpectedly featured a local band). The highlights were the peppers stuffed with rice, stuffed aubergine, grilled vegetables, and Fërgesë (a traditional dish made with cottage cheese). The food felt very fresh and healthy. We also ate at Qofte N’sy, to try something more meaty. 

8. Indulge in sweet treats

Caramel and pistachio profiterole desserts from Luara Bakery and Patisserie in Tirana, Albania
Profiterole desserts

Luara Bakery & Patisserie was an accidental find on the way back to our hotel from Pazari i Ri. If you fancy a sweet treat, this is a good contender. They sell a range of baked goods, but the highlight for us was their little profiterole desserts. We tried the caramel and pistachio versions, both of which were delightful (especially when eaten in the comfort of your bed at the hotel room!). 

9. Pyramid of Tirana

The Pyramid of Tirana is one of the most unusual things to do in Tirana and is probably one of the most striking buildings that you will see on your city break. The Pyramid of Tirana was originally built to house a 21-metre tall museum dedicated to the communist dictator Enver Hoxha. The Pyramid has seen many uses over the years, including a radio station and nightclub. You can climb the many (many, many) stairs on the outside of the structure for views across Tirana, and it seems to be a bit of a local gathering point. The quirky Komiteti Kafe Museum is a stone’s throw from the Pyramid of Tirana – the perfect place to chill after the steep ascent. 

10. Tirana Park

Tirana Park is hands down one of the best things to do in Tirana. Tirana Park is a massive expanse of green space located around a huge artificial lake, with views to surrounding mountains. If you’re craving a nature-fix after some city sightseeing, then Tirana Park is within easy reach of the centre. We accidentally stumbled across the City Train and subsequently enjoyed a joyful ride around the lake, and we also stopped at a little bar on the shoreline for a drink.

11. Dajti Ekspres 

Dajti Ekspres cable car in Tirana, Albania
Dajti Ekspres

The highlight of any trip to Tirana is probably the Dajti Ekspres (although if you hate heights and/or cable cars, this is one to skip – I dislike both but I will always push myself when there’s a first class view involved). Located on the outskirts of Tirana and a short bus ride away from the centre, the Dajti Ekspres is the longest cable way in the Balkans and offers the most incredible views over Tirana and beyond (right out to the coast on a clear day). The cherry on top is Ballkoni Dattit – a glass fronted restaurant over 1,000 metres above sea level which gives you the opportunity to lap up those stunning views over lunch (note: the pizza was good). 

The view over Tirana and beyond from the top of the Dajti Ekspres cable car in Albania
The view from the top of the Dajti Ekspres

Tip: To get to the Dajti Ekspres, take the blue bus to Porcelan which departs from near the Clock Tower. The journey takes approx. 20-30 minutes and from the last bus stop, the cable car is a short uphill walk away. If you’re unsure on the bus, just ask the conductor. 

12. Explore Blloku 

A colourful bar painted with bookends in the Blloku area of Tirana, Albania
A colourful bar in Blloku

Blloku is a trendy neighbourhood in Tirana. It was once the home of the communist dictator Enver Hoxha, and the area was reserved for the party elite. But today, it’s abundant with colourful restaurants, bars and nightclubs. Wandering the streets, your mind might go wild with thoughts of what life was like in the area in the not so distant past – arguably, the history that permeates these streets makes it one of the best things to do in Tirana!

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