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Top 11 Places To Visit In Tirana

Tirana, Albania

Visiting Albania’s capital you’ll delve into the past and present of a country that has seen intense turmoil since it was founded in the 1600s. Tirana has disintegrating soviet-era buildings, brand new projects, and proud historic monuments side-by-side, while the wonderful upland scenery that bounds the city to the east calls for exploration.

Here are the Top 11 Places to Visit in Tirana, which are worth visiting on a Tirana trip:

1. Piramida

It might seem strange to start with a derelict building, but the Piramida is unique. It’s an unforgettable and culturally-significant building from 1987, completed not long before the fall of communism. It was intended as a museum to honor the country’s despotic dictator Enver Hoxha who ruled from 1944-85, but naturally, these plans were torn up after 1990. Some want to see it restored as a monument to that period, while others want it torn down. In the meantime, it remains unused, except by graffiti artists and skaters.

2. Skanderbeg Square

Skanderbeg Square – or Sheshi Skënderbej in Albanian – is the heart and soul of the city. As a central meeting point for culture, and tourism, and as a venue for festivals and concerts, Skanderbeg has it all. It even has a monument to Skanderbeg, a national hero who, centuries ago, defended Albania and resisted Ottoman rule.

The Square itself has little holes all throughout the tiles. In the summertime – when the temperature is almost 40 degrees C – water shoots out of these holes. It covers the Square in a light layer of reflective water and helps to cool the Square.

3. Natural History Museum

The National History Museum is the largest museum in Albania. If you want to understand the history of Albania from way back in medieval times until today, this would be the place to go. The building itself was actually built during the Communist regime so it stands as a good example of Communist architecture.

4. Dajti Ekspres "Cable Car"

This is another one of those things that we didn’t do and we highly regret. If you want to get out of the city for the day, you can head up to Dajti Mountain to check out the amazing views. At the top, there is a restaurant, hotel, adventure park, trails for hiking, and more. The price is 1000 Lek for a return journey.

5. National Gallery of Arts

Although the collection of art is quite small, its importance cannot be understated. The Gallery was officially opened in the 1950s but today, you’ll also find examples of “Socialist Realist” art. This means that you can see pieces produced during the Communist Era that is, arguably, very ridden with propaganda that paints the regime in a positive light.

6. Rruga Murat Toptani

This pedestrian street is actually quite short but quite nice to explore. Located in the middle of the city, it’s lined with cafes and small shops and stalls. The coolest part? The road is made to look like the musical lines on sheet music that you would play with an instrument! At night, the street is lined with colorful lights that make it look really pretty. We even saw a kids’ festival with different vendors and performers on the street one time we were walking through. Pretty cool!

7. Dajti Mountain National Park

In Europe it’s unusual to find a national park right on the doorstep of a capital city, so don’t pass up the chance to venture out further into the mountain range that forms Tirana’s eastern boundary. If you want to really get out and experience the natural scenery here, take the trail that connects Mount Dajti with Mount Tujani, which rises to 1,580 meters. This peak is the highest in the park and can be scaled on foot if you’re a regular hiker. The view from the top is what the effort is for, not least because it includes the vast water reservoir, Lake Bovilla. Surrounding this lake are sheer cliffs that also provide some excellent climbing walls.

8. Et’hem Bey Mosque

This place of worship was completed in the early 19th century and is one of the city’s top landmarks. At the fall of communism, it was the site of one of the most remarkable events in Tirana’s recent history, when on the 10th of January 1991 10,000 people gathered to practice their religion, against the decree of the authorities who had banned Islam for almost half a century. In the end, there was no police interference and the event marked a turn for religious freedom in Albania. The outer walls of this mosque are unusual as they depict idyllic scenery such as forests and waterfalls, which aren’t normally permitted in Islamic art.

9. Grand Park

Just south of the prestigious Blloku district is Tirana’s Grand Park, which is the city center’s top spot for fresh air and a bit of exercise. It covers 230 hectares and encloses a large artificial lake. Famously the Presidential Palace can be found here, which was originally designated as a residence for King Zog I but was completed just a few years before communism. There are also tombs of several Albanian national heroes in the park, among them politicians, writers, and philosophers. Throughout the year you can find people fishing on the lakeshore, which indicates the improving water quality, while outdoor swimming is available in summer.

10. Preza Castle

Northwest of the city is this 15th-century fortress that stands high over the village of the same name. It was built and belonged to the feudal Thopia family whose estates covered the area between the Shkumbin and Mat Rivers. In its day the structure would have been an outpost built to defend the area against bandits. The pentagonal-shaped castle’s value now lies in its intact walls and towers, including a clock tower that was installed in the 1800s. From the battlements, you’ll get far-reaching panoramas over the plain, out to the city of Tirana and the mountain range behind it.

11. New Bazaar at Avni Rustemi Square

This giant open market area was recently (2017) reopened after extensive renovation. It used to be the old market (Bazaar) but the city’s extensive efforts to rejuvenate certain places made this market a hub for locals and tourists. It’s a walk that is less than 10 minutes from Skanderbeg Square to the east. You’ll find (almost) everything here – from fresh fruit and produce to locally made goods such as bags, fabrics, art, and more. The city did an amazing job keeping the unique architectural styles/influences in the market area.

Besides this, there is much more to explore in Tirana!!!

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