Things to do in Albania
Since communism ended here in 1991, Albania is undergoing a gradual renovation to build a sustainable future for everyone.
There’s a thriving social, cultural and intellectual scene in the capital of Tirana. There’s even an International Film Festival that takes place in Tirana every November.
The country’s beautiful beaches rival those in the Mediterranean, and stunning mountains with some of the highest peaks in the Balkans. Tt’s a wonder there aren’t more tourists here.
The locals are very hospitable, and excited to welcome visitors to their country. My local guide Armada Molla highlighted, “Besa” means an oath. Albanians use this word often, and consider their given word, a promise”.
This country has many friendly people, and some of the best travel values in Europe. It’s time to visit Albania before everyone else does.
Here are some recommendations on things to do in Albania, and what to do in Tirana.
Where to Go in Albania?
Our time in Albania was too short, and we drove from Montenegro to Tirana, stopping at a few of these places along the way. Visitors need at least a week to explore all there is to see in this country.
Here’s a short list of recommendations from our local guide and driver of the best places to visit in Albania.
Lake Shkoder is a large lake in Albania that reaches to the border of Montenegro – heard there are great boat rides. Lake Koman is where many trekkers take the ferry to Valbone, then start their trek to the “Accursed Mountains.” Seen photos and the mountains and vistas are stunning.
Castles, Fortresses & Ruins:
There are about 20 castles in Albania, and Rozafa Castle might be the most popular where you have panoramic views of the valleys below. UNESCO Site Gjirokastra Fortress is further to the south, and so are Butrint’s ruins farther south of Albania, bordering Greece.
Kruja to see the local bazaar and fortress of Albania’s national hero Skanderberg. Berat is another UNESCO town is known for its windows, called the “city of a thousand windows”
Drymades and Himara beaches are two of the locals favorites, located along the Ionian Sea, the Southern coast in Tirana.
Tirana’s Best Sights to See
Main Architectural and Historic Sites in Albania
Most of Tirana’s significant buildings were built in the 1930’s, during the reign of King Zog and are located along the main Boulevard of Martyrs, the Champs Elysees of Tirana.
This is the large main square in Tirana with a statue of Skanderbeg, the Albanian national hero on his horse. The National History Museum, Opera Theatre, National Library and Bank all surround this square. Important! Watch for cars when you cross the street – it’s very chaotic, and most locals run across.
BLLOK “Block” Neighborhood:
The neighborhood streets around former Dictator Enver Hoxha’s residence, where former Albanian communist leaders used to live, is now considered the modern area in Tirana. Today, this neighborhood is lined with cafes and restaurants where locals meet.
Communism Remains Park:
In a park next to Hoxha’s former residence, are awful remains from the communist era – an enormous Bunker, piece of the Berlin Wall, and a structure from the Political Prison that was used for hangings. Tragic remains from the brutal communist era.
Mother Teresa’s Square (located across from the Presidential Palace)
This is where the Albanian President Bujar Nishani lives.
The 1820’s clock tower is located in the center of the city and is a symbol for Tirana. Climb to the top for views of the city.
Arts & Culture
- Archaeological Museum
- Opera House
- National Art Gallery where you can find 19th century paintings by Albanian artists, and fine examples of socialist realism art.
- Sali Shijaku House, a traditional house owned by famous painter of the 20th century.
- Central Market: This market is located at Pazari I Ri and a great place to stroll and try some local food. Local cheeses, mjeats, fruits, honey and homemade raki are sold here.
Churches & Mosques:
- Mosque of Haxhi Ethem Bey dating back to the 18th century, is considered one of the most beautiful mosques in Albania – a well-known cultural & religious site.
- St. Paul’s Cathedral is the main church for the Albanian Orthodox.
- Bektashi World Headquarters
Where to Stay & Dine
First of the best places to Stay in Albania
Sheraton Tirana Hotel The Sheraton Tirana is located in the center of town, close to the city’s embassies, businesses, and shopping areas. It’s the only 5-star hotel in Tirana, where guests can relax by the pool, work out at the fitness center, and enjoy drinks and food at the Lounge or Metropolitan Restaurant, and have a good night’s sleep in very comfortable beds.
- Piaza: One of the oldest restaurants in Tirana with authentic Albanian cuisine.
- Padam: Located in one of the most beautiful villa in Tirana, offering high-end fusion cuisines with a touch of French cuisine.
- Floga: A popular traditional Albanian restaurant with famous Albanian meat pies and the national drink – rakia.
- Restorant 21: Breaktaking views of Tirana’s skyline from the 21st floor of the ABA center, known as the most luxurious restaurant with modern Italian cuisine.
- Sofra e Ariut: If you want some of the best traditional Albanian cuisine, in a traditional setting with waiters in national costumes, this is your restaurant.
- Restorant Sarajet: One of the best known Albanian restaurants located in a renovated 19th century house.
- Exeter International: Need help planning & booking your trip? Contact Alex Datsev to customize your travels.
- Albanian Experience: There’s a local company in Tirana that organizes tours throughout Albania. Ask for Pero.
Tirana: Armada Molla
Good to Note: We visited Viator website to help us find the local guide for Albania.
- Montenegro to Tirana: Taxi Travel Montenegro Email: Radoslav Bozovic at taxi.mne@gmail. com
- Tirana to Skopje: Avis Email: Erivs Kurti at firstname.lastname@example.org
TRAVEL PRODUCTS & SERVICES
DK Travel: Excellent travel guides with helpful maps, inspiring images, and lots of great information to help you plan your travels.
TravelPro: High quality luggage, preferred by flight crews, frequent travelers, and the Global Adventuress Team.
TRAVEL INFORMATION & ADVISORIES
U.S. Passports & International Travel: The U.S. Department of State provides helpful information at this site including passport & visa requirements, embassy locations, and safety & security.