If I want to be really honest – as always – Tirana is not my favourite city in Albania. Compared to the other cities and villages I have just visited in the country, Tirana is crowded, and a bit noisy.
Please do not be disgusted, because here comes the but!
So BUT Tirana offers so many things to do and see for the people who visit this unique place.
Full of history and it is a city which never shuts down, so you can visit it all year around. And the food is just as amazing as pretty much everywhere in Albania, or even more. And a huge add on is that Tirana is a perfect hub! While it is pretty challenging in every other Albanian city to get to somewhere, Tirana has an amazing bus network to pretty much every Albanian city and village and also has some international buses.
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How to get there
Tirana has the biggest airport in Albania so the easiest, fastest – and sometimes the cheapest – way to get there is by plane. Check Kiwi.com for the cheapest prices.
However, the capital has bus and train connections to several countries such as Kosovo or Montenegro as well. Flixbus doesn’t operate in Albania – and in most of the countries in the Balkan – so check Rome2Rio or GoEuro for your options.
Where to stay in Tirana
I stayed at Vertigo Hostel. It was alright and cheap. I can recommend it, although the owners should improve their service a bit. Really just a bit. Like more equipment but fewer ants in the kitchen and a proper cleaning process at least once a week. The thing is that Vertigo Hostel is run by two twenty-something men, so the things above – let’s say – are understandable. But to be fair – and not to mention only the deficiencies – the beds are comfy and there are many places in and around the hostel to chill out, the staff is kind and it’s in the centre near the Skanderbeg Square.
What to do and see in Tirana
Seriously! Tirana is a great city for walking around with so many attractions, sights and also there are some amazing and surprising streets, such as these:
Join a free walking tour
A free walking tour is an amazing option especially if you are travelling solo. You have the opportunity to meet so many people and make some new friends as well, who you can hang out with from then on.
There are plenty of places around Tirana where you can do people watching, for example, Skanderberg Square, this lovely lake, the Liqeni Artificial i Tiranës or just pick a café or bar. This thing is not only fun to do but a great opportunity to have a clue about the locals’ lifestyle.
The huge square is in the middle of Tirana. You can’t miss it because every road takes you there – well, more or less, but you really can’t miss it -. It is the home of most of the major events. Can you see Albania’s national hero as he is sitting on his horse? You are in the right place. You can also visit the Et’hem Bey Mosque, the National History Museum and climb the Clock Tower on the square.
Sky tower rotating bar and restaurant
The Sky tower bar and restaurant is the highest point of the Sky Hotel Tirana. The rotating place will ensure you to enjoy the 360˙view of the city in 20 minutes. Although this place is one of the main attractions in Tirana, surprisingly the prices are fair enough and they won’t charge you for enjoying the panorama. You can catch the best view at night but to be honest, it is pretty impressive at any time.
Bunkart 1. and 2.
Once if you are in Tirana, do not miss these amazing places. These bunkers combine a history museum and an art gallery. It is both shocking and impressive to walk through seeing the evidence of the manmade terrors of war and inhumane massacre. Bunkart 1 is located on the eastern edge of Tirana, which is a 20-minute bus ride from the centre. Bunkart 2 is in the centre and can be approached from Skanderbeg Square by a five-minute walk.
Pyramid of Tirana
The once impressive former museum and exhibition centre, the Enver Hoxha Pyramid now seems like an abandoned place which has experienced dilapidation and vandalism. Some of the local businesses still use this place as their offices but the government wants the communist-era pyramid to become a tech hub.
Enjoying Tirana’s impressive landscape from the top of the Mount Dajti is a unique experience, what is more, the Dajti Ekspress is the longest cable car in the Balkans. Although the café located on the top accepts credit cards, it is extremely important to make sure that you have enough cash with you because you won’t have any chance to get some. You need around 1000 Lek which is enough for the transport from the city to there and back and the Cable car’s fee as well.
Transportation in and around Tirana
Although Tirana is a great for walking and almost every site is in a walking distance, you have other options as well. If you prefer driving a car, be prepared for the Balkan style drivers and massive traffic. In my opinion, it is better to choose another option.
The bus network in Tirana is extremely cheap (40 Lek/ticket) and so well-organized. Not the cleanest though but they can take you everywhere you need to go.
The public bike hire system is so much fun and inexpensive (60 Lek/hour). The working method of the system is similar to others in big cities, so the only thing you need is an ID, that will wait for you at the station where you have hired the bike.
Storytime – Good people are still out there
As everywhere else – pretty much – I was lucky enough to meet some amazing people here as well.
Victor is an old-school Texan rocker with a Harley Davidson, who used to be an English teacher at the uni back home but a couple of years ago he had an inspiring thought and since then, he is travelling around the world.
We all have a story but his story is simply amazing because he is constantly working for a better and safer world.
He was the program director of the Teen Shelter, which is committed to providing young people with a safe and supportive background, in which they can make constructive decisions about their future.
But my favourite story of his is the following one:
Have you ever heard about BACA? Bikers Against Child Abuse is a motorcycle group with a wonderful purpose, developed and managed by Victor.
This organization helps children who have been raped or molested. And they do it in a unique way. Try to imagine a huge gang wearing leather clothes, a pistol on the side and driving Harley Davidsons – this is the BACA itself.
All of the kids supported by them have a phone with only one number in it. They can call this number anytime when they feel insecure or unsafe and let the BACA now where they are. What happens next is more than amazing. Some members of the group appear around the kids, ready to help them. Sometimes it is totally enough if the kids can hear the noise of the Harleys and they can keep calm. With these actions, the kids can speak confidentially about the issues that happened to them. Even if they have to talk about these horrible things in court.
So this radical approach is to be with the children during the court case and defend them against the predator is Bikers Against Child Abuse.
Now, Guys to be honest: how awesome is that?!
Currently, he is in Egypt and we have had an interesting conversation just recently when he had become more aware of the slave traffic trade in the region with young girls and backpackers going missing.
We just started to work on a project with the purpose of raising awareness in people about these kinds of problems and how to travel safely.
And Victor helped me a lot as well during the few days we spent together. Although without his Harley Davidson and pistol, he let me talk about the things that happened to me. About things that I thought I had already overcome. But when I started to speak about all of the sh*ts, I had to realize, I have so many more tasks to do in order to be able to cope with these things.
Since then I’ve been working on this every day. I don’t push them behind anymore, but allow myself to speak about them and – which is more important – I face them and live them through.
I honestly wish everyone to have a Victor in their lives!