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Each stage of Tirana’s architecture has been marked by the history of this city, by each leader of the country, the influence of nations across the Adriatic and Ionian, and not least by the ambition of the architects who left their traces in post-World War II Tirana. Today, Tirana represents a uniquely fascinating social and historical destination. The traces of the past are concrete stops along this tour which contains tangible objects that keep one’s senses in tune with history. One such object, one of the architectural treasures from the last years of communism, is located along the main boulevard.
The Pyramid, the undisputed top attraction for every visitor, was designed by the most talented group of architects of the time to be the mausoleum of Albania’s former dictator, Enver Hoxha. Until 1991, its main function was as Hoxha’s memorial while, after 1991, it was converted into a cultural center. An aerial view of the Pyramid reveals not only the fact that its shape is not of a standard pyramid, but also the shape of a two-headed eagle, the Albanian symbol that is also embroidered on the national flag. In recent years, the building is due to be renovated and partly reconstructed with the objective of returning its architectural functions to the public’s service. The Pyramid is a permanent presence in every memory of the city of Tirana. You are always sure to find teens climbing up and down the sloping sides of this landmark! Read our detailed article here.
The area of the former Block is one of the most fascinating and dynamic quadrants of Tirana. The unexpected combination of the modern urban and the inherited architectures visually told, after the 90s, the city’s communist history and what followed thereafter. During Communism, the entire Block area was forbidden to ordinary citizens, who were supposedly too afraid to turn their heads and look at Hoxha’s villa from afar. Enver Hoxha’s Villa was built in the center of this quadrant on a large piece of land surrounded by a light iron fence. Hoxha lived in this villa until the last hours of his life, leaving behind the population’s permanent curiosity on what exactly happened inside the place where Albania’s most powerful man for more than four decades organized his life. Built after the 1960s, the older part of the building mimics 1930s architecture while the new part is a massive concrete block, covered with white stone tiles, making the villa look like both a residence and a fortified structure. The house has remained exactly as Hoxha’s family left it!
No more than 120 meters from Enver Hoxha’s villa toward the Boulevard “Zogu I”, on the right side of the street you will find a monument called the Post-Block Memorial, a testimony to human resistance during the dictatorship in Albania. It could not be otherwise as one of the co-authors of the memorial is Fatos Lubonja, a publicist who was put in the most infamous communist prison, that of Spaç. The installation is built in three connected parts: a fragment of the Berlin Wall, an original Communist bunker, which guarded the main entrance to the former Block, and several iron columns taken from the notorious Spaç mine, where many opponents of the communist regime were imprisoned. Read our detailed article here.
The “House of Leaves” represents Albania’s attempt at building a sincere relationship with its past. Initially intended for health services, during WWII, this enigmatic building was used by the Gestapo and afterword converted into the headquarters of Albania’s former State Security (Sigurimi i Shtetit) where the sophisticated tapping of the capital’s population took place. The proximity of the building to the Central Post Office was no coincidence as this facilitated the interception of the people’s correspondence. The building is easily accessible from any point in Tirana, located only a few meters from Skanderbeg Square, opposite the Orthodox Cathedral. Read our detailed article here.
Before the 90s, for the majority of Albanians, information represented a luxury. For the most part, it was entirely absent and, even when provided, it was carefully selected and manipulated to keep the population under control. This category of fiercely guarded governmental secrets included the construction of the anti-nuclear bunker, inaugurated in 1978 by Enver Hoxha with one specific aim in mind: the protection of communist officials from a potential attack by foreign armies, an attack which never happened. This 5-story underground palace, built in Tirana’s northeastern entrance, includes 106 rooms and a large conferential hall. A number of the rooms exhibit aspects of Hoxha’s life through photos while others display the original furnishing belonging to the period of dictatorship. Presently, Bunk’art 1 is one of the most interesting and emotionally-stirring destinations for tourists. Read our detailed article here.
The bunker located behind the Ministry of Internal Affairs is a similar structure albeit smaller in size. Photos of the period’s documents show the relationship between the dictatorship and its guiding ideological principles. Bunk’art 2 reconstructs the history of the Albanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs during 1912-1991 and reveals the secrets of the former State Security, the secret police that persecuted the opponents of Enver Hoxha’s regime. The bunker has 24 rooms and a special apartment for the Interior Minister. This well-calculated maze, all built in concrete, was meant to protect in case of possible chemical attacks, which also never happened. Read our detailed article here.
The so-called prefabricated residential buildings are dispersed around the entire capital. Homes to a majority of the Albanian population during communism, these buildings are a symbol of the mostly unattractive communist-era architecture. While they are strikingly similar to other Eastern European communist-era constructions, they still retain a recognizable Albanian style. Many of these facades were painted in bright colors and varying patterns at different periods in time, transforming something grey and mass-produced into something bright and unique and giving the city a much-needed makeover.
The eastern entrance to the capital is marked by one of the most significant objects of national memory: The Cemetery of the Fallen Heroes of War and the “Mother Albania” Monument. Built on a hilltop, this monumental complex holds the remains of 900 partisans and is visible to any traveler entering or exiting Tirana. The iconic monument made of concrete and 12 meters in height, portrays Albania as a woman holding a laurel wreath and a star on each hand. On the 3 meter high pedestal, the words “Everlasting glory to the martyrs of the nation” are carved. This cemetery once held the body of former dictator Enver Hoxha, later moved to one of the city’s public cemeteries after the fall of the regime in 1992.
Located on the Adriatic coast and only a 30-minute drive away from the capital of Tirana, the beach of Durrës is the longest and most populated one in Albania. Modern architectural structures, like the Sphinx, the vibrant promenade and delicious seafood restaurants are a serious part of this city’s charm. Durrës is also home to [...]
A city rich in history and spectacular landscapes, in addition to being one of the gastronomic centers of the entire country, Lezha packs a full day of valuable and delicious amusement. After you have enjoyed your morning coffee in one of the many cafés in town, head to Lezha Castle, from where you will get [...]
The City of 1001 Windows is a national cultural and heritage center that reserves beautiful strolls along cobbled alleys in its famous Mangalem, Gorica and Castle neighborhoods and much more. One of the most historic and oldest cities in Albania, Berat will fill your entire day with beautiful landscapes in addition to its rich culture [...]
The last coastal city along the famous Southern Riviera is one of the most ideal places to spend your day In reality, the legendary coastal city of Saranda would ideally require more time to be fully experienced. However, if you only have 24 hours to spend here, we can suggest the absolute must-sees of this [...]
Tirana has been Albania’s administrative center for almost a century but this city’s history goes even further back in time. While the toponym Tirana was first mentioned in the 15th century as “Plenium Tyrenae” (“Field of Tirana”), the city became an established settlement almost two centuries later, in 1614, with the establishment of a mosque [...]
The vibrant coastal city of Vlora is a requisite stop for every tourist visiting Albania during the summer. Vlora marks the boundary between two seas – the Adriatic and the Ionian – which, in turn, are simultaneously shared between three countries: Albania, Greece, Italy. Boasting an enviably long and beautiful coastline, the ideal exploration of [...]
Pogradec is the quintessential nostalgic city! This particular sensation arises as you cruise down the national road and an image of utter calm and timeless beauty unfolds before you. The smooth, creamy blue surface of Lake Ohrid, punctuated by lively swans and seagulls! This is the lake of a certain delicious fish called koran, found [...]
This southernmost city in Albania is quite the multifaceted place! An ideal destination for your holidays, year-round. A location full of virgin beaches and delicious seafood. Sharing a border with Greece, Saranda is also a gateway to this other significant cultural destination. Last but not least, entry fees in the most wonderful parks and destinations [...]
Most refer to Dibra’s northeastern highlands as Albania’s roof. This region’s highly diverse nature is due to the high peaks and low valleys found along Dibra’s rugged landscape. As one of the largest geographical areas of the entire country, Dibra boasts more than 50 spectacular natural monuments. Countless caves hidden among beautiful mountains, small lakes, [...]