The capital of Albania, Tirana, traces its history back to a mosque, a bakery and a hammam, founded by the Ottoman ruler Suleiman Pasha at the very beginning of the 17th century. Over the 400 years that have passed since that momentous moment, it has managed to acquire buildings of pompous Turkish, elegant Italian and heavy Soviet architecture, to expand thoroughly and turn into a completely modern city that can offer tourists not only a lot of historical sights, but also boring nightlife, good restaurants and other cultural and hedonistic leisure. See Citypopulationreview for weather in Tirana, Albania.
By the way, even the depressing buildings of local regional committees and district committees are consistently repainted in cheerful colors: red-orange stripes here, pink-purple circles here.
How to get to Tirana
It is impossible to get from Russia to the Albanian capital without a transfer, but flights from Moscow Domodedovo, Sheremetyevo or Vnukovo airports with connections in Istanbul, Belgrade, Rome, Milan and other cities are very frequent. For the price, it is more profitable to use the services of Pegasus Airlines, Air Serbia, Turkish Airlines, Alitalia and Aeroflot. The whole journey with a stop will take about 6 hours. From St. Petersburg get “Turkish Airlines” or “Lufthansa” with a change of aircraft in Istanbul, Frankfurt am Main, Vienna or Munich.
Often tourists come to Tirana from neighboring Montenegro. In this case, it is convenient to arrive on international buses that go from the border town of Ulcinj to Albanian Shkoder, and then get to Tirana by local bus or taxi. The journey will take 3-4 hours.
From airport to city
Tirana International Airport Mother Teresa (Tirana International Airport Nene Tereza) is located 17 km northwest of the city. You can cover this distance by shuttle bus or taxi. The Tirana Rinas Express bus leaves every hour from 6:00 to 18:00 from the airport building and arrives at Skanderbeg Square in the city center. Travel time is about half an hour. A taxi ride will cost about 3000 ALL, on the road – a little less. The prices on the page are for December 2021.
The historic center of Tirana is compact and easy to explore on foot. To cover longer distances, you can use the services of municipal buses or taxis. There are several city routes, the most popular among tourists is Unaze, which describes a circle around the city center.
If you decide to take a taxi, it is better to negotiate the price before boarding. Within Tirana, taxi drivers charge 530 ALL during the day and from 700 ALL at night.
You can also ride bicycles, they are rented at the points of the Ecovolis city program. The city has 6 rental stations for 30-60 bikes, each has detailed tourist information about nearby attractions. In order to use transport, you must first register on the site. There are no mountains in Tirana, so it is very convenient to move around it, besides, there are many bike paths along the central part.
There are a lot of hotels in Tirana and many of them are located in the central part of the city. It is better to stay there, because if the “heart” of the capital has been put in order in recent years, then the outskirts remain unkempt and rather dull. In addition, almost all interesting places are located in the center.
In the city you can find accommodation for every taste: from cheap hostels and apartments to villas and 5 * hotels. The cost of living is very pleasant: a double room in the “five” will cost 14,000 ALL, and only 1,800 ALL will be asked for a bed in a hostel. But four-star hotels are considered the most popular, accommodation in them costs about 6000 ALL per day, and the conditions are usually very good.
Many hotels offer breakfast and parking, almost everywhere there is free Wi-Fi, but the signal can be weak.
Rent a Car
In order to explore the capital of Albania, a car is not needed: Tirana is small, all the sights are close to each other. The car will be useful for those who plan to visit other cities of the country.
True, you need to be prepared for the poor condition of the roads and a very peculiar attitude to the rules of the road: they are violated by drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians.
Both international (Hertz, Avis, Sixt, Europcar) and local rental services operate in the capital. It makes sense to rent a car right at the airport in order to immediately get to the hotel on your own. There are many free parking lots in the city, but there are also paid ones, as well as guarded ones. There are usually no problems with parking, as the number of cars is not as high as in other European countries, but for those who plan to travel by car, it is better to book accommodation with its own parking.
Tirana cannot be called the capital of shopping, however, there are many shops and boutiques where you can buy quality branded items at a lower price than in other European cities. There are garment factories in Albania that create clothes for neighboring Italy, some of the clothes are also sold in Tirana. In addition, customs rules allow many goods to be imported into the country without duty and sold.
For shopping, you should go to the City Park complex, located at Autostrada Tr – Dr, Km 12. It features more than 100 stores of more or less well-known brands. The Casa Italia shopping center (Tirane – Durres, Km 0, Mbikalimi i Kamzes) specializes in Italian clothing. And in COIN (Rruga Papa Gjon Pali II 12) you can buy branded bags, belts, watches and cosmetics.
Seasonal sales are held from February 25 to February 28 in all stores in the country. Imported goods at this time are sold at a discount of up to 70%, and local – up to 85%.
Souvenirs in Tirana are mainly devoted to local state symbols and history. For example, ashtrays in the form of bunkers, which have been built over the years throughout the country, are very popular, as well as various products with a flag and coat of arms. Of great interest are copper plates, original glass Christmas decorations and carpets.
Cuisine and restaurants in Tirana
Tirana is full of eateries, cafes and expensive restaurants. You can have a bite to eat in a burechka or kebab shop right on the go, paying ALL 250, or you can go to one of the fashionable establishments in the Block district, where dinner with a glass of wine costs ALL 2500 per person. The most famous and luxurious is the restaurant at the top of Blloku Sky Tower, where tables slowly rotate around the tower, allowing guests to survey the surroundings.
Albanian cuisine is a mixture of Turkish, Greek and Slavic culinary traditions. In Tirana, be sure to try the stewed veal “chomlek”, cabbage rolls with tomatoes and lemons “sarma”, similar to the dolma familiar to many, as well as the local sausage “sujuk”. The main specialty of the capital’s cuisine is the Tirana stew “guvech”, it is prepared from vegetables, potatoes and beef.
Meat dishes are very popular, which are served with pilaf rice, vegetables and herbs, but fish is less common, it is usually eaten on the coast of Albania.
Desserts include dried shaf fruit, honey pies, wheat or rice puddings. Locals love fruits and nuts and actively use them in cooking, as well as eat them fresh. It is worth trying the soft drink “boza”, which is made from flour, sugar and water.
Entertainment and attractions of Tirana
Most of the sights of Tirana are concentrated in the central part of the city, which has been actively restored and put in order in recent years.
Travelers will certainly find themselves on the main square of Skendeberg, built by Italian architects. In the center stands a monument to the national hero of Albania, Skendeberg, and government offices and historical sites are located around. It is home to the Hadji Ethem Bay Mosque, which is considered a symbol of the rebirth of the country’s religious freedom. Nearby is the clock tower of Saat-Kula (Kulla e Sahatit), it is illuminated in the evenings, and during the day you can climb it to admire the city.
The National Historical Museum also deserves attention, introducing guests to the history and art of Albania (off. site in English).
On Mother Teresa Square (Sheshi Nene Tereza) there is a monument to this most revered native of Albania in the world.
Many tourists pay attention to the gloomy, half-abandoned building “Pyramid” (Piramid of Tirana, at the intersection of Rruga Papa Gjon Pali II and Bulevardi Bajram Curri), which has become a sad monument to the history of Albania. This is the former museum of the dictator Enver Hoxha, which housed a conference center and held party meetings, during the Kosovo war there was a NATO base, and now the city authorities plan to demolish the building, but for now it rises and becomes a field for graffiti art. A reminder of the dictator were the bunkers scattered not only across the territory of Tirana, but throughout the country. By order of the ruler, the inhabitants erected more than seven hundred thousand of these bunkers, which now stand and are slowly collapsing.
To get a general impression of the city, you can take the funicular up Mount Daiti, located 26 km from the capital and enjoy the views.
The capital of Albania is located in the intermountain valley at a small distance from the sea coast (about 40 km), this explains the peculiarities of its climate, which has features of the Mediterranean and subtropical. Summer in Tirana is hot and dry, with almost no rainfall. But the rest of the time it rains often. Winters are wet and mild, frosts are extremely rare, and snow can fall.
As a rule, there is a big difference between day and night temperatures, so it’s worth taking a warm jacket with you in the evening, although at the height of summer it can be unbearably stuffy during the day. The best time to travel is late spring and early autumn.