Rêveuse City Guide: Top 5 Places In Tirana, Albania

Rêveuse City Guide: Top 5 Places In Tirana, Albania

On arrival at Tirana airport, I was pleasantly surprised by the modern and spacious architecture of the terminal and the ease of car rental after security checks. Through research into creating a travel itinerary, I felt there was less information online than other surrounding countries like Croatia. Being my first time travelling to Albania, I was excited to see for myself the beauty it had to offer as well as share my experience for first time visitors like myself. 

Albania as a whole is not as highly known for its speciality products and memorabilia such as pasta is to Italy and red buses is to London, but their hospitality, fresh Balkan traditional dishes and breathtaking views will be something we will all be catching onto if not now, in a few years to come. I for one, will definitely be returning back to explore more Albania.


5 PLACES TO EXPLORE IN TIRANA

SKANDERBEG SQUARE. Skanderbeg Square is one of the first sites you should see when visiting Tirana. The main square plaza named after the national Albanian hero, Gergj Kastrioti Skenderbeu, has his statue erected directly opposite the National Museum of History where you'll find a mural made of mosaic tiles, titled The Albanians, depicting ancient to modern figures in Albanian history.

CLOUD INSTALLATION, SOU FUJIMOTO. Located outside the National Art Gallery in Tirana, is the home of the cloud installation by Japanese designer, Sou Fujimoto. Originally exhibited at the Serpentine Pavilion in London 2013, the structure now resides in Tirana as a permanent outdoor art piece. The National Art Gallery is another must see site if you enjoy culture and art, however on this occasion, the gallery was closed so make sure to double check the opening times before you visit.

DATJI MOUNTAIN. From the centre of Tirana, you can see the beautiful snowy peaks of Dajti Mountain standing proud in the backdrop of the city. To visit the mountain, we took our rented car,  using our sat-nav and a few signs which navigated us to the car park and entrance of the cable car. We took a 15 minute ride to get to the top where we felt the chill of the snowy wind on our skin. The price for admission is roughly 6 EUR return for adults. As you exit the cable car, it leads straight to a hotel where you can enjoy a hot beverage and a walk in its public garden area and see the view of the city down below.

BAR PANORAMA. Take the elevator up to get to Bar Panorama to take in the 360 views of Tirana. This revolving bar is the perfect spot to see the cityscape and relax from the bustling city below. It's free to enter the bar and you can enjoy a beverage whilst looking at the encircling Dajti Mountain. We recommend to go during sunrise or sunset where you can see the fiery sunset slowly fade into a muted aubergine tone, the perfect end to a day full of sightseeing.

BOVILLA LAKE. Although admittedly one of the least accessible places to get to on this list, the rewards you will see at the end of your travels will remind you of why it was worth it to travel all the way here. We adventured through the bumpy roads by car that gradually got higher and higher in a little over an hour from the centre. The aqua coloured lake that snaked through the surrounding rolling forests and mountainous terrain offers a serene view where you can see the snowy peaks just beyond the treetops. 


OTHER MENTIONS

PAZARI I RI. The new bazaar which was reconstructed in 2016 is now the home of a fresh produce market with many restaurants, cafes and bakeries surrounding it.

GREAT MOSQUE OF TIRANA. Tirana is home to citizens where people with different faiths live peacefully together. One of the most stunning architecture designs I have ever witnessed was the Great Mosque of Tirana which looks like a fairytale castle in the centre of the city. It will be one of the largest mosques in the Balkans when it is completed.

PLACES TO EAT

CASTLE OF TIRANA, JUSTINIAN FORTRESS. The old castle of Tirana has been newly converted into a food and market bazaar. The facade of the castle highlights the history in Tirana and once you enter the gates, you are transported back to real time with the vivacious crowds, modern stalls and smell of coffee wafting through the premise.

NOOR COFFEE. Unashamedly, I visited this cafe a good three or so times to get in my fix of caffeine. The climbing plants along the bookshelves filled with charming antiques and the dimly lit golden glow gives the perfect ambience setting for a chilled morning. Aside from the rich Albanian Coffee they also serve grilled sandwiches and other hot, light dishes which can be enjoyed from their rooftop dining area.


TIPS ON TRAVELLING IN TIRANA
  • Although some of these places are accessible by bus, it can be much easier to get there with a rented car or even with a tour group. Even on some of the tourist sites surrounding the outskirts of Albania, the infrastructure is still under development so bear that in mind when renting a car.
  • Accommodation in Tirana is relatively low in cost compared with other surrounding major cities. We stayed near Skanderbeg Square which ended up being a great location, within walking distance to most of the major tourist sites.
  • Albania is one of the countries in Europe that doesn't have McDonalds but there are plenty of other traditional and delicious cheap eats such as tave kosi, a baked dish filled with lamb and rice, byrek, a pastry filled with cheese and spinach and hallva, a sweet dessert filled with chopped walnuts, perfect with a coffee.
  • Experience Tirana during Dita e Veres (14th of March), one of their major festivals in Albania celebrating the changing of the seasons from spring to winter. During this time, everyone enjoys time outside with the family, filled with food and fun games.


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