Not everyone is able to appreciate the raw charm of the Albanian capital at first glance. However, lovers of the Balkans are unanimous – this is a must-see place when traveling around the peninsula!

In the centre of the country, in a valley at the foot of Mount Dajti, lies Tirana, the capital of Albania. The city, relatively young, but strongly stigmatized by the communist period, successfully strives for its modern image, every year inviting artists from all over the world. The various cultures and religions that intertwine here, tasty Balkan cuisine and great hospitality of the Albanians make Tirana a more and more desirable place for tourists. Importantly, from a practical point of view, all the most interesting attractions are located in the very centre, so when booking a hotel in the city centre, you can get everywhere on foot.

Out of the frying pan into the fire – the history of the city

Although there was a settlement there already in the Roman times, the beginning of Tirana dates back to 1614, when
Suleiman Pasha Bargjini erected a mosque, a bathhouse and a market in the area of a small village of Teheran. At the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century, new settlers began to come there: Christian Vlachs and refugees from the Debar that was occupied by the Serbs. In 1920, due to its location, the city, with a population of several thousand, was chosen as the capital of the country and began to develop rapidly. Architects and urban planners from Austria and Italy had to be brought in to keep up with the growth rate of Tirana. However, in 1939 the capital was captured by the Italian army. The occupation lasted until 1944, when the communist resistance movement liberated the city. And so the Communist rule began. The country was headed by Enver Hoxha, who isolated the country for many years until the death of the dictator in 1985. The civil war of 1997 also contributed to the regression.

Reviving achitecture

The times of communism left a visible mark on the city’s appearance. Today, the current prime minister, Edi Rama, who ordered the renovation of the facades of public buildings in the centre and the cleaning up of green areas is an extremely important figure for Tirana. The investment in recent years has included the revitalization of the most important part of Tirana – the eclectic Skanderbeg Square, with an equestrian statue of a national hero that had been effectively resisting the Turks for years – along with some of the surrounding streets. You can see here, among others, an old Ottoman mosque, a modern Orthodox cathedral, a 19th-century clock tower, or the socialist realist buildings of the Historical Museum and the Palace of Culture (Opera). Particularly noteworthy is the aforementioned Mosque of Et’hem Bey, a mystical poet, that was erected at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries. This is one of Tirana’s oldest buildings. Its interior is beautifully decorated with stucco works and painted plant motifs. A completely different impression is made by the eye-catching facade of the National Historical Museum, on which there is a huge mosaic depicting ancient and modern Albanians.

Historical Museum of Tirana

Cloud, bell and pyramid

Leaving Skanderbeg Square behind, you will reach the National Art Gallery. In front of its building, you will see one of the most popular public works of art – the installation “Reja” (Reja means a cloud in Albanian), created by the famous Japanese artist Sou Fujimoto. The cloud is mainly made of metal rods and glass, has an area of about 541 square meters and a height of up to 7 meters. The author himself described it as a transparent, subtle, three-dimensional structure. The futuristic pavilion is considered a public social space that can be accessed via glass stairs.
Going further, you will come across another tourist attraction and one of the symbols of the city – a glass pyramid. It was built according to the design of Enver Hoxha’s daughter Pranvera. It was to serve as a muse um in honour of the dictator. After the fall of communism, it housed a conference centre, and now it is going to rack and ruin. Right next to the fountain, there is the Peace Bell, which was made in 1997-2000 using metal collected from thousands of bullets from the 1997 civil war.
Sky Tower

Museums in bunkers

There are several thousand bunkers throughout Albania. Various sources indicate the number of about 500-700 thousand bunkers. You can see them at every turn. In Tirana, two of them house museums dedicated to Enver Hoxha’s Stalinist Albania. The bunker belonging to the Ministry of the Interior holds the Bunk’Art 2 museum. The exhibition is devoted primarily to the activities of the police and secret services. In turn, Bunk’Art 1 is located in the largest fallout shelter in Albania, built in 1978, with five underground levels and 106 rooms. Its exhibition focuses on the history of Albania during the Second World War and the Hoxha dictatorship.
In 2017, a museum called House of Leaves, which presents exhibits commemorating communist surveillance, primarily advanced spy equipment and means of obtaining information about suspects, was opened. It is located in a building, which during the communist era was the centre of espionage under the code name of the House of Fallen Leaves, which comes from the surrounding trees that lose leaves for winter (which is a very rare phenomenon in the Albanian climate), covering the building, lawn… and all spy secrets.
Dajti National Park

Albanian street art

Tirana changes every day, becoming more and more co lourful. It owes its modern, colourful face to young artists who cover the grey walls with original paintings. Their projects are created as part of the Mural Art Festival. The first edition of the event took place in 2018, the second one a year later. Street art is also created outside the city centre, encouraging tourists to explore the entire city along the murals trail. The paintings can be admired, among others, on Myslym Shyri Street, Rruga e Durresit, Unaza, 21 Dhjetori, Sami Frasheri.

Good to know
Good to know

Sky Tower

Sky Tower is an 18-storey office building which houses a hotel and a restaurant, as well as a café on its top floor that revolves around its axis all day. You can see the whole panorama of Tirana from there while sitting at a table and drinking coffee in just over an hour.

Dajti National Park

Willing to take a break from the heat of the city, it is worth going to the mountainous Dajti National Park. Scan the code and check location of this place on a map.

Starożytna mozaika

Najstarszym zachowanym zabytkiem Tirany jest starożytna mozaika, stanowiąca część rzymskiego domu. Można ją zobaczyć na przedmieściach, przy ulicy Sandëer Prosi.


In Albania, you have to be very careful about road traffic- the dictator Hoxha forbade private cars, so Albanians are not very skilled drivers. However, public transport in Tirana works quite smoothly. Tickets can be purchased from ticket inspectors. At the stop at Skanderbeg Square, you can see blue articulated buses going to the Porcelan loop. The buses go straight to Bunk'Art 1. If you get off the next bus stop, you will get to the starting station of the cable car that will take you to the Dajti Mountain. However, when going outside the city, you first need to find out where the suburban buses depart from - some of the stops are unmarked and not at all obvious. Rail travel is by no means recommended - although Tirana has a train station, the condition of the rolling stock is, to put it mildly, very bad.