Tirana is an exciting city located in the historically rich Albania, on the cusp
of being the next hot destination to visit in Europe, some might argue that it already
is! Tirana's history combined with rapid modernization makes it attractive to backpackers
and those wishing to experience a destination ‘off-the-beaten track'. With a wide
range of accommodation in Tirana, no matter what you prefer, you'll be sure to find
the best Tirana Hotels here!
Tirana is a modern and vibrant city with a youthful student population, a chaotic
day life and a happening nightlife!
Though this is the largest city in Albania, it is small enough to be explored on
foot. As you walk down the grand central boulevards of Tirana, enjoy the relics
of the city's Ottoman, Italian and communist history that can be seen in the architecture
of its buildings. Select our Tirana Hotels in and around these famous monuments.
From beautiful minarets that are a legacy of its Ottoman past, to socialist graffiti
from its communist era and its impressive modern day developmental work, Tirana
gives you a heady mix of the past and the present. Stay in one of our many Tirana
Hotels when taking your holidays in Albania! Book Tirana Hotels today for special
deals and cheap Tirana Hotels! We also offer an excellent selection of Tirana International
Hotels for business travel to Tirana.
The daytime Mercedes Benz traffic is chaotic, and you have to carefully negotiate
the perennially dug up roads and potholes as you wander around Tirana. The impressive
tower blocks, all in their orange, red, pink, and purple splendour, and the historical
sites guarded by soldiers all add to make Tirana a fascinating and heady mix that
is colourful, confusing, and enchanting. Be sure to book Tirana Hotels in the City
Centre! We offer a range of Tirana hotels and Tirana hostels in Tirana!
What to see: Tirana City Walk »
Tirana’s most significant buildings are concentrated along one thoroughfare: the
Boulevard of the Martyrs (Bulevardi Dëshmorët e Kombit). The walk described below,
from Skanderbeg Square to the Polytechnic University, will take you past Tirana’s
highlights in a flash. Starting underneath the mosaic of the National Museum on
Skanderbeg Square, pass Et’hem Bey Mosque towards the elegant government buildings
at the end of the square, housing ministries and the town hall. These were built
in the 1930s, during the rule of King Zog.
The grand boulevard leading south from here was the brainchild of the Italian Fascists,
who held parades here during World War II. It later became the venue for the locals’
xhiro (evening stroll). In fact, it used to be closed off to traffic in evenings
- what bliss that would be now. Cross the next street (Rruga Myslym Shyri) and on
your left is the Fine Arts Gallery, then, hidden behind trees, Hotel Dajti. On your
right is Rinia Park, which was until a few years ago buried beneath illegally built
bars and pizzerias. The municipality reclaimed the area, and with popular support
bulldozed the buildings in order to restore the park.
Walk across the next wide streets (Bulevardi Zhan D’Ark; Bulevardi Bajram Curri)
and perhaps without noticing you’ve crossed the Lana River, whose green banks were
also crammed with illegal buildings until order was restored. Here you arrive at
the ‘pyramid’. On your right, next to the ugliest new business centre in townis
a small park with the busts of the three Frashëri brothers. Just past the next crossing
on your left is the Prime Minister’s Residence, which was once the Communist Party
headquarters. During official demonstrations and parades, Party leaders stood on
the balcony here and waved to the masses below. On the right is the former Party
Beyond Rruga Ismail Qemali you’ll pass the Hotel Rogner Europapark, and a little
further the Palace of Congresses, a boldly modernist building of mirrored glass
and dynamic horizontal lines. Maybe it’s the latter that gives the building a weird
resemblance to a sports stadium. Originally built for Party congresses, the Palace
now hosts concerts, festivals and fairs. On your right, fenced off and concealed
behind pine trees, is the President’s Palace. This building served as the Soviet
embassy until 1961, when all diplomatic relations were broken off, and for a while
thereafter it housed parliament. The disproportionately large, empty square at the
end of the boulevard is Sheshi Nënë Tereza (Mother Teresa Square), named for the
nun who was arguably the most famous Albanian of the 20th century. To the left is
the Archaeological Museum; on the right, the Art Academy. At the very end of the
boulevard stands the Polytechnic University, originally erected by the Italian Fascists.
Its imposing stone façade certainly seems better fitted for reviewing goose-stepping
soldiers from than for studying in. Going further down the paths on either side
of the university whisks you out of urban Tirana and into the Grand Park.
Albania's Traditional Dress »
Albania's rich and varied cultural heritage is perhaps best demonstrated by the
incredible range of traditional clothing. For many centuries, the Albanians' clothing
allowed strangers to learn all kinds of things about them at a single glance; region
of origin, marital status, the family's wealth and standing, ethnicity, age, and
more. During religious, social and other special occasions, clothing was a kind
of passport, and within Albania there are about 300 different traditional costumes,
each linked to a specific area or even village.
Clothes were made by specialised craftsmen and women with cotton, wool and imported
silk, and decorated with colours, embroidered symbols, themes like the Albanian
eagle, natural scenes and patterns, incorporating gold and silver thread and small
river pearls. Curiously, embroidering was a craft that was only done by men. Styles
and fashions changed over the years as new materials and trends emerged, but the
distinct regional variety remained. The artisans were so famed that Albania became
a centre of production for the wider region, and positioned along the old trade
routes between west and east, local craftsmen had access to all manner of quality
As the use of traditional clothing waned in the 20th century, the cultural and also
the real value of these items was forgotten, and many costumes and related objects
were lost due to carelessness and decay. Apart from the state museums, there are
only ten serious collectors of traditional wear in Albania, but it's thanks to them
that people have been made aware of the importance of preserving old traditional
wear. A recent law prohibiting the export of items older than 50 years from Albania
has ironically increased the illegal and unprofessional export of antiques and traditional
clothing, leading to identity mix-ups with some Albanian traditional clothing being
exhibited abroad as being from other countries in the region.
Albania has huge costume collections, the National Museum alone has 30,000 artefacts,
but only a small amount is exhibited. Places to view costumes, apart from Tirana's
National Museum and Spahiu Collection, include the Ethnographic Museums of Shkodra,
Berat and Gjirokastra and the Tradita G&T guesthouse in Shkodra, though unfortunately
the museum displays are often dull, with little in the way of explanations. Thankfully,
costumes are attracting more and more local and international interest, and both
private and state collections are increasingly accessible.
Tirana Main Sights »
Central Market (Pazari i ri)
Small fruit and vegetable stalls can be found across the city, but the daily pazari
i ri ('new market') truly captures the spirit of the country in a messy explosion
of colour, people, fresh produce and trash. Apart from fruit, vegetables, fish and
meat, the stalls display a dozen varieties of olives, cheeses, wines and raki throughout
small squares and snaking alleyways. Animal rights activists won't like the sight
of bunches of live chickens slung over bicycle handlebars, but at least these chicks
didn't grow up in our Guantanamo poultry farms. Early morning is the best time of
day to witness Balkan-style trading and haggling.
Martyrs' Cemetery (Varrezat e Dëshmorëve)
This cemetery holds the remains of 900 partisans who fought for Tirana in WWII.
The 12m-high dynamic white statue of Mother Albania, inaugurated in 1972, watches
over the graves in a windswept gown. Enver Hoxha used to be buried at her feet until
he fell from grace in 1991. From the heights of the cemetery, Tirana and Mt. Dajti
are spread out panoramically before you. A short drive on the bus to Sauk. Open
08:00 - 17:00.
Pyramid (International Culture Centre)
The pyramid, as it's popularly known, opened in 1988 as a museum dedicated to the
Albanian dictator-cum-pharaoh Enver Hoxha. Designed by Hoxha's daughter Pranvera,
the building was reportedly the most expensive ever erected in Albania. After the
regime collapsed, the place became a conference center and disco (called The Mummy,
of course). Currently it's being renovated to house a theatre. In front of the building,
the Peace Bell installation was made in 1999 as a memorial to peace by the children
of Shkodra. The bell's metal comes from thousands of bullet cartridges, fired off
during the lawless 1990s.
Skanderbeg Square (Sheshi Skënderbej)
Tirana's main square, Sheshi Skënderbej, is that vast expanse of asphalt where you‘ve
got to dodge both Mercedes and plastic kiddie cars. The square was large even before
World War II, but the Communists made it absolutely massive (and in the process,
cleared away an old bazaar). Started in 1958, the pompous Palace of Culture was
built with Soviet assistance. But when Albanian-Soviet relations deteriorated, the
chief Soviet engineer on the project gathered up all the blueprints and left the
country. Chinese experts had to be called in to finish the job. Today this building
contains the Opera and the National Library. The mosaic on the facade of the National
History Museum represents the flow of Albanian history. The Puppet Theater has a
surprising past: before World War II, it housed King Zog‘s puppet parliament. Other
sights here include the imposing red-brick National Bank, the Et‘hem Bey Mosque
and Skanderbeg's statue. Recent plans envision a complete makeover of Tirana's city
centre over the next years, with a green and pedestrianised main square, 80m-high
buildings accentuating the core of the city, new shops, offices, apartments and
a cinema multiplex. Starting with the empty spot to the west of the National History
Museum, it looks like Tirana's main square will finally be hip.
Albania: Communist sights »
Just over 15 years ago, all Albania was a living Stalinist themepark. Since then,
most of the ‘attractions’ have disappeared, but a few relics are still left over
(including the entrance fee you pay at the border to get into this amusement park).
During the communist era, the bllok (block) area, was off-limits to the public and
cordoned off by armed guards. This was the residential area of Party leaders. The
collection of villas here, impressive enough by Western standards, absolutely dazzled
the average Albanian once this area was opened to the public. The threestory, modular
home on the corner of Rr. Dëshmorët e 4 Shkurtit and Rr. Ismail Qemali was dictator
Enver Hoxha’s villa, which is now a government residence. After Hoxha’s death, the
Enver Hoxha Memorial (the pyramid) was built in his honour. And a massive gilded
statue of Hoxha was erected on Skanderbeg Square - you can still see the raised
pedestal. It was dramatically toppled by demonstrators in 1991, and Hoxha’s longstanding
cult of personality was over. After the regime collapsed, not even Hoxha’s remains
could evade the judgement of history. Originally buried with honours in the Martyrs’
Cemetery, Hoxha was dug up in 1992 and unceremoniously filed away in Kombinati Cemetery
in west Tirana. A statue of Lenin once stood on Blv. Dëshmorët e Kombit, in front
of the Fine Arts Gallery. Across the street stood a bust of Joseph Stalin - probably
the last place in Europe where he was thus honoured. Uncle Joe’s head was carted
away before the fall of the regime at the end of 1990, but this symbolical de-Stalinisation
came too late to save the leaders.
Behind the Ministry of the Interior on Blv. Dëshmorët e Kombit stood the headquarters
of the Sigurimi (state security police). The feared Sigurimi ran labor camps for
political prisoners and maintained a network of informers (known as ‘80 lek men,’
for the monthly 80 lek bonus they supposedly got for snitching on their countrymen).
The Fine Arts Gallery has some Socialist Realist statues and paintings that are
worth a look, and you can find some of Tirana’s last Commie statues huddled in a
group behind the building. The best place to get more information about Albania’s
totalitarian years is the National History Museum which has a large hall dedicated
to the period.