Is Tirana Worth Visiting?
After everyone told us not to go to Tirana, the capital city of Albania, because “it’s boring” and “there’s nothing to do”, we decided we needed to see for ourselves whether Tirana is worth visiting. Put simply: it DEFINITELY is!
Despite having such a dark history, Tirana is one of the most vibrant cities we’ve ever visited, with brightly coloured buildings, musicians lining the streets, and joyful locals everywhere you go. There are stunning parks, unique architecture, fascinating museums, and incredible cuisine.
Trust us when we say, don’t just fly into Tirana and leave the same day, you need to spend some time exploring this incredible city!
Is Tirana Worth Visiting? Quick Guide
If you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to read the whole post, Tirana is most definitely worth visiting! Here’s the top five reasons why:
- The architecture is stunning and incredibly unique.
- The locals are super welcoming and friendly.
- The food is delicious (make sure you visit Oda restaurant!)
- There are plenty of green spaces to relax in.
- The city has a fascinating history and plenty of museums to explore.
12 Reasons To Visit Tirana
If you’re still unsure whether Tirana is worth visiting, we’ve listed the 12 best reasons why you should visit, from our firsthand experience.
1. Learn About Albania’s History
Albania is a country with a complicated, yet fascinating history that we would highly recommend you delve into a little in order to fully understand the country and everything it’s been through.
From the civil unrest in the ’90s and the communist dictatorship of Enver Hoxha, to it’s role in the Second World War, and even further back to the country’s Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman influences, there is so much to discover that will really make you think.
Tirana has so many amazing museums to explore that will open your eyes to a new way of thinking. We’re not really museum people ourselves and yet were captivated by the museums in Tirana.
Three museums you cannot miss are:
2. The Architecture Is Stunning
The architecture in Tirana was one of our favourite things and something that really captivated us during our stay in the city. One of the most striking features is the explosion of color adorning the buildings, transforming the cityscape into a lively canvas.
The vibrantly painted buildings in shades of red, pink, yellow, and green are not just aesthetic choices but hold a deeper significance. This colourful revolution emerged as a deliberate effort to break away from the city’s somber past during the communist era. The president at the time was an artist and believed that painting the buildings in silly colours would bring a smile to people’s faces at the absurdity of it, and it really does make you smile.
Symbolism weaves through the architecture of Tirana, with the Tirana Tower showing a map of Albania, with the windows tinted blue at the bottom of the map to represent the beaches in the south, and trees growing above the windows at the top of the map to represent the mountains in the north.
It’s worth visiting Tirana just to wander round the streets of Tirana, encapsulated in a blend between the old and new, and smile at how unique this city is.
3. Tirana Is A Relatively Cheap Place
Compared to other European capital cities, Albania is relatively cheap for travellers to explore, so it’s definitely worth visiting Tirana if you’re after a budget city break. With accommodation starting at just £20 per night, and a meal out setting you back less than £10, it’s very easy to explore on a budget.
Plus, the city is very walkable so you won’t need to splurge on taxis and transport like you do in other European capitals. Even if you do catch the bus, it will likely only set you back 40-80p per journey. You can’t really argue with that!
4. The Food Is Delicious
We can’t talk about why Tirana is worth visiting and not mention the food. Albanian cuisine is absolutely delicious, with plenty of options for both meat eaters and vegetarians (trust us, we fit into both categories).
Tirana has so many delicious and vibrant restaurants that you simply have to check out, and is particularly known for its zgaras, or grills, offering various barbecued meats in a relaxed atmosphere.
Here’s our top recommendations for dishes to try:
- Stuffed aubergine
- Stuffed pepper
- Fried rice balls
- Dollma (stuffed grapevine leaves)
5. Dajti National Park Is The Perfect Trip
Tucked away just a short bus ride from Tirana city centre, you’ll find the Dajti Ekspres, a cable-car ride claiming the title of the longest cableway in the Balkans.
The Dajti Ekspres will whisk you high up onto Dajti Mountain, towering over Tirana, with the peaceful journey taking around 15 minutes to complete. It was honestly the most peaceful cablecar journey we’ve ever been on. It was quiet, with stunning views all around, and the sound of the crickets and cicadas chirping in the farmland below.
Once you reach the top, we’d highly recommend taking a short hike to Maja e Tujanit for insane views over the mountains. However, if you’d rather a slightly less strenuous day, there’s plenty of other things you can do at the top of Dajti Ekspres, including an adventure park, crazy golf, and the Dajti Tower viewing terrace.
This is honestly the best way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a few hours. We promise you’ll come back smiling.
6. The Locals Are Welcoming
We’ve never experienced hospitality like we have in Tirana. Unlike in many other places we’ve visited in Europe, the locals in Tirana welcome you in with open arms, making you feel at home and like they genuinely appreciate you being there. They really do just want you to have the best time and to share their beautiful country with you.
We had locals stopping to chat, smiling at us in the streets, waving at us, offering help with nothing expected in return. It was so refreshing. I still remember the time we were taking photos outside of a government building and a security guard came up to us. My heart was racing as I thought maybe we were about to get in trouble for taking photos, but nope, he just wanted to chat. He gave us loads of suggestions about where to visit, and we had the loveliest conversation.
The locals alone make Tirana a must-visit destination in our opinion.
7. It’s A Central Hub For Day Trips To Other Towns
Tirana is the most centrally-located city in Albania which makes it the perfect place to explore other areas from. As the country is relatively small, you can explore a large amount just with day trips.
Best Day Trips From Tirana:
- Saranda, Ksamil and the Blue Eye – Visit the stunning Albanian Riviera in a day, stopping at the unique natural phenomenon of the Blue Eye on the way.
- Gjirokastra and the Blue Eye – Explore the stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site of Gjirokastra, with time to explore the incredible castle.
- Berat – A unique old town with stunning Ottoman architecture and the ruins of a castle overlooking the town, Berat has also been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status.
- Theth – For something a bit different, head to the far north of Albania to experience the stunning Accursed Mountains.
8. Experience Authentic Albanian Culture
As Tirana is still a relatively undiscovered destination, the city retains its authentic Albanian charm. The city’s lively energy is infectious, reflected in the colourful buildings, bustling markets, and the smell of traditional cuisine lingering in the air.
Tirana’s authenticity can be attributed to its relatively low tourist volume. This lack of tourist influx has preserved the city’s genuine character, allowing visitors to experience the true Tirana, untouched by the influence of mass tourism.
The locals remain friendly and welcoming, the city’s offerings are not tailored solely for tourists, and traditional Albanian cuisine and culture thrive.
Tirana’s affordability and abundance of cultural experiences are some of the best reasons to visit. The Old Town, Skanderbeg Square, and the Blloku district stand as examples of Tirana’s authenticity, unspoiled by the trappings of mass tourism.
9. There’s Plenty Of Green Spaces
One thing we love to find in cities is tranquil green spaces to relax away from the noise and busyness of the city centre. Tirana does just that with the Grand Park, a sprawling oasis in the heart of the city. Offering a serene escape with its tree-lined paths, tranquil lake, and open meadows, it’s the perfect place to unwind.
Wander around the lake, stop for a drink in a peaceful café, and admire the mountains towering in the distance.
Additionally, the Rinia Park, situated nearer the city center, provides a cozy respite with its well-maintained lawns and charming fountains. You definitely have to visit in the evening, when the fountains light up in beautiful colours, and the locals come together to socialise.
10. Step Back In Time At Tirana Pyramid
Whilst wandering around the city centre, it’s hard to miss the Tirana Pyramid. Honestly, it’s a pretty ugly building, I’ll say that now. However, it holds immense historical significance.
Following the death of the dictator, Enver Hoxha, every adult in Albania had to go to the Tirana Pyramid and cry. Yes, they were forced to cry at the death of their dictator, otherwise risking unspeakable things happening to their family.
Years later, the Tirana Pyramid, whilst still standing, was left pretty derelict. No one really knew what to do with it. Now, it’s being transformed into a colourful cultural hub, with stairs ascending to the pinnacle with incredible views over the city.
It really is a testament to how resilient Albania is and how incredibly they’re bouncing back following the communist regime.
11. The New Bazaar Is A Vibrant District
We stumbled upon the New Bazaar completely by accident but honestly, we’re so glad we did. This has to be the most vibrant neighbourhood in the whole of the city, with families gathering to chat and children playing games in the street. It’s so wholesome to see.
In the centre of the district is a huge covered market selling everything from fresh fruit and veg, to honey, flowers, rugs, and souvenirs. The stall owners are so friendly and all want to stop for a chat.
The buildings in the New Bazaar are painted in bright colours and tribal patterns, while restaurants line the square, draped in fairy lights, creating a welcoming atmosphere.
12. Party The Night Away In Blloku District
Tirana really comes alive after dark, known as one of the best places for nightlife within the whole of the Balkans, with the epicenter of its nightlife pulsating in the Blloku district.
This area, once off-limits during the communist era, has transformed into Tirana’s trendiest neighborhood, teeming with clubs, cafes, and bars that cater to both locals and tourists.
As the sun sets, Blloku becomes a kaleidoscope of energy and excitement. To kick off the night, head to Hemingway Bar, an iconic jazz bar exuding character and laidback vibes.
For those feeling a little more nostalgic, Radio Bar is a hotspot with vintage decor and live bands creating a lively and dynamic ambiance.
If you love to party, you won’t be disappointed in Tirana, where the Blloku district well deserves the reputation as the beating heart of Tirana’s after-hours scene.
13. Embrace The Café Culture
One thing you may not know about Tirana is it has a huge café culture, so if you’re a coffee lover like I am, Tirana is worth visiting a hundred times over.
We were told once by a tour guide that Albania had taken coffee from the Italians and made it better, and he may just be right.
With so many different cafés to choose from, all offering something different, it’s a great excuse to café-hop and spend all day relaxing, people-watching amongst the locals.
Plus, the lack of tourism in Tirana means there are no major chain coffee shops, such as Starbucks and Costa, so you can immerse yourself fully in the local culture, enjoying a slow morning while sipping your favourite brew.
Albania’s unique answer to Starbucks is Mulliri i Vjeter, a small chain offering cosy vibes, good coffee, delicious food, and chilled outdoor spaces.
For something a little more unique, we would highly recommend Komiteti, a café in the day, transforming into a bar in the evening as so many places in Albania do. What really makes this place stand out is the fact every object has been reclaimed from the communist era, creating a unique vibe that you have to check out for yourself. Plus, they had over 7 pages of drink options, including the first non-dairy milk we’d found in the whole of Albania.
Where To Stay In Tirana
For first-timers, we’d highly recommend staying in the Tregu Cam district right in the city centre. This is the best location for discovering the vibrant city and immersing yourself in the Albanian culture.
Where To Stay:
- Night Inn Tirana – A set of stunning apartments in the centre of the city, decorated to a high standard and with everything you could possibly need for a luxurious stay.
- Vila 90 Boutique Hotel – With modern, stylish rooms, a helpful owner, and just 5 minutes walk from the city centre, this boutique hotel will not leave you disappointed.
- Capital Suites Center – Set just 600m from Skanderbeg Square, Capital Suites Center offers a luxurious stay with modern, chic rooms and welcoming staff. The rooms are spacious, with many offering a large balcony to enjoy the atmosphere of the city.
How Long Do You Need In Tirana?
As you can see, Tirana is worth visiting and spending some time exploring. We’d recommend spending 3-5 days in Tirana to fully immerse yourself in the culture, visit some of the city’s fascinating museums, and head up to Mount Dajti.
We would recommend everyone spends at least 1 night in Tirana, no matter how pushed they are for time, to experience the unique, authentic vibe of this city.
Is Tirana Easy To Get Around?
Tirana is so easy to get around and is easily navigated by foot. Driving in Tirana can be a little hectic so we would recommend avoiding driving in the city if at all possible.
If you want to visit some places near the edge of the city, such as the Dajti Ekspres, buses are cheap and regular, whilst taxis are everywhere.
Please note, Uber does not exist in Albania, so you’ll have to catch a taxi the old fashioned way!
What Is The Best Time To Visit Tirana?
Spring and Autumn (shoulder season) is the best time to visit Tirana. The days are long and warm, and there are fewer tourists around. Summer in Tirana is lovely, though the days can become very hot and uncomfortable due to it’s location in southern Europe.
Is Tirana Safe?
Whilst we can only talk from personal experience, we felt perfectly safe in Tirana, even when carrying expensive camera equipment with us. The people are so friendly and welcoming, we did not feel unsafe once.
It is always best practice to exercise caution like you would in any city, such as keeping personal items close and not walking around by yourself after dark, though we found Tirana to be just as safe as any other big city.
We would always recommend checking local travel advisories before you depart.
Do They Speak English In Tirana?
This is a tricky question to answer because honestly, not that many people do speak English in Albania as a whole. During the communist regime, which only ended 30 years ago, English was not taught in schools and hence most people over the age of 30 will not know English.
That being said, we found that almost every cafe, restaurant, bar, and museum, there was at least one person who spoke English.
We would say don’t let the language barrier put you off visiting. Learn a few basic phrases and have google translate downloaded ready incase you need it – the locals are quite used to communicating this way and we did it several times in Albania.
Wrap Up: Is Tirana Worth Visiting?
Tirana is a city that defies expectations, a place where ancient traditions blend seamlessly with modern influences. It’s a city that captivates the senses, its vibrant colors, tantalizing flavors, and infectious energy leaving an indelible mark on every traveler who ventures into its embrace. So, embrace the spirit of Albania, a land where history whispers from every corner, and let Tirana unveil its charm, leaving you with memories that will linger long after your departure.
Travelling soon? Check out these resources!
Car Hire – We booked our car hire through Discover Cars
Accommodation – We always use Booking.com to search for the best accommodations
Tours – We recommend searching both Viator and Get Your Guide
Flights – Find the cheapest and best flights using Skyscanner
E-Sim – Airalo will be your best friend
Travel Insurance – Safety first, always! We use and recommend SafetyWing