Visiting Tirana: Your Local Guide to Albania's Capital City

Tirana’s drab Communist buildings now pop with color.

Tirana’s drab Communist buildings now pop with color.

Before Rachel Berryman and a few other expats joined together to expand their yoga practices, yoga was practically unheard of in Albania. Now Rachel owns Tirana Yoga, one of the most successful yoga studios in the country. But she didn’t move to Albania to become a business owner; she first came with the Peace Corps.


On the Postcard Academy podcast, Rachel and I talk about the kind of work Rachel was doing and why she fell in love with Albania and its people. We also talk about the legacy of Albania’s Communist past, and, course, about her favorite places to eat and the experiences you must have in Tirana, Albania. Plus, you’ll learn about day trips to the best nearby beaches and more. 

Subscribe to the Postcard Academy for free to hear her story and all her best recommendations for Tirana. Here are the highlights.


 
Coffee at Noki. Tirana has one of the best cafe culture’s in Europe.

Coffee at Noki. Tirana has one of the best cafe culture’s in Europe.

Must-do experiences in Tirana

  • Tirana Free Walking Tour. You’ll learn so much about Albania’s history with an enthusiastic guide who will share personal stories. I thought Russia had forced communism on the Albanians, but it turns out this was self-imposed. If anyone tried to escape the country, several degrees of your family (not just your parents, but also cousins, etc) could be jailed, denied an education, or some other punishment.

  • Destil Hostel. A workshop space and hostel, they often bring in bands and DJs and host small concerts as well as workshops on various topics.

  • Find a cafe — you will have your pick — and watch the world go by. Tirana’s a proper city, but they take time to enjoy life.


 
Dictator Enver Hoxha’s house now sits empty in Tirana.

Dictator Enver Hoxha’s house now sits empty in Tirana.

The House of Leaves  . This museum highlights the covert surveillance that took place under the Communist regime. It’s one of the first places that openly recognized the tumultuous time the country suffered under the government.

The House of Leaves. This museum highlights the covert surveillance that took place under the Communist regime. It’s one of the first places that openly recognized the tumultuous time the country suffered under the government.

Skanderbeg Square, the center of town. Military men gather for a commemoration of some kind in front of the  National Museum of History .

Skanderbeg Square, the center of town. Military men gather for a commemoration of some kind in front of the National Museum of History.

Best Tirana day trips

If you like beaches, don’t head to well-known Durrës. Instead, go north to find some great small beaches. One of Rachel’s favorites is called West End. A little further north, there are also some more mostly unpopulated beaches around the Cape of Rodon.

Kruja is a small town about 40 minutes outside of Tirana where you’ll find handicrafts and local artisanal pieces. This is a great place to find Turkish-influenced woven rugs.

 
An example home from the Communist era, which you can see if you take a bus to  BUNK’Art 1  in Tirana. While this room is cool, the rest of the museum isn’t as great at giving you the feeling of that era. Stick to BUNK’Art 2, which is in town, if you’re short on time.

An example home from the Communist era, which you can see if you take a bus to BUNK’Art 1 in Tirana. While this room is cool, the rest of the museum isn’t as great at giving you the feeling of that era. Stick to BUNK’Art 2, which is in town, if you’re short on time.

Pazari i Ri . The New Bazaar, a market right in the center of the city in Tirana where you’ll find fresh vegetables and produce.

Pazari i Ri. The New Bazaar, a market right in the center of the city in Tirana where you’ll find fresh vegetables and produce.

Best places to eat in Tirana

  • Bakery

    • Someg. A Turkish-style bakery that makes different types of bread and pastries like baklava.

  • Morning

    • Radio Bar. Both a cocktail bar and a cafe. This is Rachel’s go-to place for espressos and macchiatos.

    • Komiteti - Kafe Muzeum. You’ll find Turkish coffee and different types of raki, which is a very potent alcoholic drink made from grapes or plums. Rachel says that under communist rule raki was outlawed so the locals made their own versions. You’ll be able to find up to 20 types of raki here.

  • Lunch

    • A la Sante. Rachel recommends this restaurant for both lunch and dinner.

    • ERA. The menu includes traditional Albanian food alongside vegetarian options. Rachel says this restaurant is more geared towards expats and tourists.

  • Dinner

    • TëDuKtu. This is Rachel’s recommendation for a vegetarian dinner. It’s also a good place to go to enjoy drinks.

 
Grilled vegetables at ERA. This restaurant has a mix of Italian and Albanian food. Italy has had a big influence on Albania, which is just a ferry ride away. At one point under the Mussolini government, Italy occupied Albania.

Grilled vegetables at ERA. This restaurant has a mix of Italian and Albanian food. Italy has had a big influence on Albania, which is just a ferry ride away. At one point under the Mussolini government, Italy occupied Albania.

Best nightlife in Tirana

  • Rooftop XVI. You’ll find this rooftop bar at the top of Sky Tower, one of the taller buildings in Albania, on the 16th floor.

  • The ABA Business Center. Also known as the Coin Building, this is a multi-use high rise building with a shopping center and a gym. There’s a high-end restaurant, ABA 21, on the very top floor, and on the fifth floor is a bar Rachel recommends called ABA Fifth.
    Insider Tip: Rachel says from the 5th floor you’ll have a good view of the Skanderbeg Square, Mother Teresa Square, and the entire boulevard.

  • Blloku. A place that Rachel says you’ll find most Albanians heading to in the evenings to enjoy the culture. There are a number of trendy bars there like Nuvel Vag, Radio Bar and Duff Sports Bar.

The Pyramid of Tirana, originally built as a museum to honor the dictator Enver Hoxha.

The Pyramid of Tirana, originally built as a museum to honor the dictator Enver Hoxha.


IMG_3385.JPG

If you found this article useful, please share it, and subscribe to the Postcard Academy podcast. Each week, expats and adventurers share their insider travel tips on the best food, nightlife, and cultural experiences in the most interesting places around the globe. I’m your host, Sarah Mikutel, an American who's spent the last 8 years living in, and traveling around, Europe.