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If you only have a couple of days to fully enjoy the vibrant city of Tirana, we can help you organize them so that you can get the absolute best possible experience! Our guide includes some touristic destinations that cannot be missed. However, keeping in mind that most visitors would like to know the other, more local and more intimate side of the city, we direct you to some of those best spots, as well.
If you are feeling particularly jet-lagged, know that there are countless cafes in the city that will be happy to bring you back to life. In the famously relaxed Albanian pace! These cafes populate every corner of the city so you will have no trouble finding one on your own. But, here are a few that we highly recommend as, along with their great coffee and food, they offer a unique atmosphere!
The word “Komiteti” (in English, “committee”) playfully refers to the government during the communist period in Albania. This is why the entire place is furnished and decorated in Communist-era furniture, objects and paraphernalia. Located behind the main boulevard, this intimate café has a cozy backyard garden that is perfect for having your morning coffee under the shade. For the map, click here. For our dedicated article click here.
Albania is second only to Italy in the quality of their espresso and you can find great espressos in all coffee shops around the city. Located at the financial heart of Bllok (i.e. the former residence of the Communist government-turned-hottest-hangout-spot in the city, Cioccolati Italiani is one of the most popular cafes and ice cream parlors in town. Here, espresso is served in countless delicious ways. Try the affogato, creamy espresso poured over fresh scoops of vanilla ice cream.
This is the most appropriate moment to devote to some of the country’s art and culture. We suggest that you visit an area of town that is a very nice short walk away from Bllok.
Located at the main boulevard, you will easily find the National Gallery of Arts which houses the most comprehensive collection of the country’s art throughout the years. The most fascinating paintings are undoubtedly those in the Socialist Realist style, which mostly depict the glorification of the new socialist man. Make sure to stop at the painting entitled “Morning Stars Epic” (Epika e Yjeve të Mëngjesit) by Edison Gjergo. This was a very audacious painting for the time, due to its colors, style and theme, which hinted at a new day for Albania, beyond Communism. It was because of this that the work was not exhibited during the communist period.
Sitting in the front courtyard of the gallery, you will see a modern installation which has made a trip around the world’s capitals before coming to Tirana. A beautiful space in which to take photos or to wander around inside and admire its design. Don’t forget to check their calendar of events as well by clicking reja.al. For our dedicated article click here.
You can take a right as you leave the gallery and find yourself in the promenade of the capital, called Pedonale. This is a central place for the city as you can take a peaceful walk under the shade of the trees with no cars around. The National Theater is located here, as well as a beautiful park where you can have a refreshing drink among the greenery, one of the main cinemas of the city, shops and cafes, and the 300-year-old ruins of the Tirana Castle.
If you want to find the most comprehensive list of the capital’s best restaurants, read our extended article here. But, if you would like to continue with this particular tour, we can suggest two wonderful nearby lunch options.
A 10-minute walk from the promenade will take you to Oda, an authentic restaurant with traditional Albanian food and atmosphere at very reasonable prices.
If you are looking for fine cuisine along the promenade, we suggest Millennium, one of the best restaurants in town. The prices are slightly steeper here but the food and experience is worth it!
If you decided on Oda, then you will find yourself in the middle of the newly renovated and transformed New Bazaar (Pazari i Ri) neighborhood. This is a miniature city within the city, with a buzzing atmosphere combining a fresh farmer’s market, bars, cafes, restaurants and shops that offer local delicacies, souvenirs and a great variety of other activities.
This may be the right time to visit the main square of Tirana! Similar to the New Bazaar, Skanderbeg Square has been transformed during the last year, retaining the old while incorporating a new, modern atmosphere. Some of the oldest buildings and monuments are located here, such as the Clock Tower (Sahati) or the Et’hem Bey Mosque, as well as some easily recognizable ones from the Communist period, such as the National Opera and Ballet Theater and the National Museum of History. A car-free zone, this square is a pleasure to walk around in and browse all these different places.
As you leave the square, head toward Sky Tower, located in the Bllok area. The top floor of the high rise building hosts a revolving lounge-bar which offers 360o panoramas of the entire city. Tirana in a nutshell!
If you would like to visit Tirana’s own Central Park, head a little bit further towards the Grand Park and Artificial Lake, located about a 10-minute walk from the main boulevard. Here you will find another kind of relaxing atmosphere, a nice haven away from the noise of the city, which still remains within walking distance. In the evenings, this park is packed and full of life!
Tirana has perhaps the most bars, cafes, and restaurants per person than any other capital in Europe. As such, finding a nice place to enjoy dinner will be easy. Here, we would suggest sticking around the Bllok area as, at night, it really comes alive with tons of people and energy!
If you are looking for a nice restaurant with an extensive variety of traditional foods, Era Restaurant is the way to go. For more fine dining and a relaxing, intimate atmosphere you may choose to go to Il Gusto, located between Bllok and the main boulevard, behind the Twin Towers.
To combine your dining experience with an after-dinner lounge atmosphere, there are many places that offer both delicious food and great cocktails. One of the best is Salt, with a beautiful terrace where you can have your after-dinner drinks, and the second +39, a new and trendy restaurant-lounge.
For a tour of the trendiest bars in the area, you can make stops at any (or all!) of the following: Radio – Bar, Tribeca, Dada, Nouvelle Vague, Pepper Concept Bar. If you especially enjoy large, open-air verandas, Dada offers the best one from May to September. However, all the above-mentioned places have inside and outside seating. Just in case, here is a nice list of the best places in town.
If after bar-hopping, you would like some fresh air and winding down time, you may head to Mother Teresa Square – the very beginning of the main boulevard– and walk around or sit on the famous steps to bring the day and night to a beautiful finish.
Since you have spent the entire first day immersed in the vibrant life of the capital, for the second day we suggest a swift morning escape via cable-car to the natural beauty and fresh mountain air of Dajti, the iconic mountain surrounding the city. The two bus lines that take you to the cable car station of the Dajti National Park are “Qendër – Porcelan” and “Kombinat – Kinostudio.” Both will take you to the stop from where you can take the cable car up the mountain. Up there, you will find a few local restaurants that serve delicious food!
Click here for the official Dajti Express website where you will find more information.
Keep in mind that if you would rather skip the bus and take a taxi, they are easy to find around the city and offer very reasonable fares.
Upon your return from the cable car, make a quick stop at Bunk’Art 1, one of the newest and most fascinating museums in the city. Originally an anti-nuclear bunker, today this object houses a museum dedicated to the communist period in Albania, depicting the isolation and paranoia that characterized it in its underground tunnel.
We suggest one of the following three wonderful options for the 2nd day’s lunch!
Mullixhiu is a restaurant of international fame with one of the most renowned chefs in the country. Yet, this is not an expensive place. On the contrary, here you will find some rare modern takes on tasty traditional Albanian plates at very reasonable prices. Their menu and prices are all published here.
Tëduktu. Its name means “I want you here” and you may just want to go there! A unique spot where fresh, healthy and balanced concoctions are served daily under jazz music and a relaxed, contemporary atmosphere. For a look at their tasty dishes visit their Instagram.
Vila Era and Vila Artigiano. Both restaurants, housed within remodeled traditional villas, serve contemporary traditional food at reasonable prices. They are located along the same street behind the main boulevard, so you can take a look at them before making your final choice.
This moment may be a good chance to return to Skanderbeg Square, where you can visit the National Museum of History. The building was constructed during Communism, as you may be able to tell from the gigantic Socialist Realist mosaic decorating its frontal façade, and, in addition to historical exhibits, the museum houses some of the national, ancient masterpieces of art and sculpture, namely the Dea of Butrint, the Epitaph of Gllavenicë, and the Beauty of Durrës.
Take a walk on the main Boulevard, a smaller version of the Champs Élysée, and stop at the Pyramid. Actually, the Pyramid will make you stop whether you planned to or not. The building is one of the capital’s most recognized landmarks. It was built during the communist era to honor the former dictator, Enver Hoxha. A bit further is the Postbllok Memorial which serves as a reminder of the past dictatorship and cautions against the repetition of history. A bunker, a symbol of the Albanian dictatorship and paranoia, several concrete pillars obtained from the Spaç Prison (the most notorious camp of communist Albania), and a fragment taken from the Berlin Wall stand together at the entrance of the area which once served as the residence of the communist leaders during the dictatorship.
If you spent the first evening in the area of the former Bllok, we suggest that you dedicate the second one to visiting the street better known as Sali’s street (the former Albanian Prime Minister, Sali Berisha, resides there). Hundreds of young people populate the area, especially during the evening, as the narrow but lively, tree-lined alley includes many pubs that serve fresh local and international beer, delicious Italian restaurants, and even a few fast-food joints. Muma is the newest, trendy bar of the area but you can choose any located along the beautiful street.
The most unique villa of Tirana, with a wonderful art gallery: Sali Shijaku Villa.
For a tasty breakfast, you can always visit Bufe, located in the Shallvare area along the Lana River, for a great selection of traditional appetizers, made with locally-grown food.
Tirana Ekspres: the Alternative Art Space in Tirana, located near the New Bazaar.
Bar Iliria, in the former Bllok area, is the most non-conformist bar in the entire city. This historic bar was the first one to open in 1991, in an area that would later become the most popular.
Padam, located behind the boulevard, is for those in search of the most refined dining and lounge atmosphere. It veranda is one of the most beautiful in the city and the food famous around the country.
The Castle of Petrela is located on a hill that is a relatively close drive from Tirana. In addition to offering a wonderful view, the castle complex includes a bar-restaurant where you can dine, relax, and breathe in the fresh air from the courtyard.
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