Welcome to Tirana, Albania!
The Balkans is one of the most interesting corners of Europe with a complicated and tumultuous past. Albania’s capital has slowly recovered to become one of the continent’s most fascinating off-the-beaten-path destinations. Avoid the mass tourist crowds, wander through Tirana as a worldwide local to feel its authentic eccentricity and see all of its vivid sights. This is our insider’s guide of all best hidden adventures and sights.
Don’t Miss The Piramida
After you’ve checked into one of the hotels in Tirana, you’ll be ready for your first adventure. Explore the remnants of the communist ideology through its architecture, while basking under the backdrop of the gorgeous natural landscape. A perfect personification of the city in one structure is arguably The Piramida. Commissioned during the 1980s to celebrate the despotic reign of the communist dictator Enver Hoxha, the derelict building has an eerie dystopian ambiance surrounding it. Now, it is a playground for street artists, and surprisingly draws a local crowd looking for a cozy place to relax and mingle. There are debates on whether to restore the building to transform it into a monument or tear it down to leave the city’s troublesome period behind.
Worldwide Local Tip: After a trip to the Piramida, quench your thirst and relax at the rustic Komiteti Kafe Muzeum. The cafe offers an eclectic selection of drinks from coffee to local grappa. The cozy cafe oozes a charming atmosphere with its unique decoration taking you back to the 1980s. Its peculiarity doesn’t stop at its design; watch the waitress serve you in a communist military uniform.
For the History Buff
While the National Museum is a great place to learn about Albania’s eventful history, you can take an alternative route and head to the Et’hem Bey Mosque, instead. Built during the early 19th-century, its lavish interior boasts ornate designs and frescoes. The mosque was closed during the communist regime banning but spared from destruction. It reopened in 1991, without permission from the government, and local worshippers flocked in by the thousands, with no police resistance signaling the start of the fall of communism in Albania.
Worldwide Local Tip: Take the cable car and head up to Mount Dajti. At this time, The Dajti Ekspres will cost you 800 Lek (7.33944 USD) for a return ticket, as the modern cable car transports you from Tirana’s suburbs to the dizzying heights of the mountainside. If you are feeling up to it, you can enjoy the weather in Tirana with an active hike to one of the many rocky trails, or choose to simply relax at one of its restaurants that serve delicious local dishes. For a meal with breathtaking views of the city below, head to Ballkoni I Dajtit restaurant.
Head Underground in Tirana
Pellumbas Cave was one of the hidden places where the locals could find refuge during the world wars. The passages inside the cave are full of stalagmites and stalactites while being the home of hundreds of bats. Located in the village of Pellumbas just on the outskirts of Tirana, the Pellumbas Cave is one of Albania’s many great archaeological wonders. There will be a local village guide asking for a minuscule fee, and his presence is worth the few Lek, offering to take you around the deepest and most interesting parts of the cave.
Worldwide Local Tip: If you are visiting during the summer, a 30-minute drive outside of the city will take you to the gorgeous coastal town of Durres. With golden sand beaches and a laid back vibe, it’s a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the capital. The town also holds great historical significance where you can see old Roman ruins, from an amphitheater to ancient baths.
Have a Fantastic Time in Tirana!
A capital city that was just a tiny village a hundred years ago, Tirana has come leaps and bounds to become the vibrant city that it is today. Never pass up a deal on flights to Tirana Airport--you don’t want to miss this complicated city, full of contrasts, from drab buildings in striking colors to a post-soviet society filled with the friendliest people, making it a unique city to visit. Worldwide locals can leave Tirana pleasantly surprised with its captivating, peculiar beauty.