Tirana is a beautiful and charming city, where the laid back small town feeling is intertwined with a lively night life. Tirana is a blend of old school Albania meets the newer modernised version. Unpaved streets full of expensive, modern European cars. Teenagers with smartphones rub shoulders with street vendors peddling all manners of items.
Tirana first appeared on the map during Ottoman rule early in the 17th century, however it has been an occupied region of Albania since antiquity. Tirana has been the capital city of Albania since 1919, seven years after Albania declared its independence from the crumbling Ottoman empire.
Albanians are very hospitable towards foreigners and Tirana itself is very approachable if you’re the adventurous type – crime is rare, if ever directed towards foreigners. The worst experience you may have is with erratic driving style of Albanians.
Trip ‘n’ Hostel is located in an area of Tirana that is full of character, 300 meters from the center of the city. The building is an old Italian style villa with two floors and a rooftop surrounded by green gardens. The house has a kitchen in the basement and free breakfast is included in your stay. There are heaters in the rooms as well as gas heating in the common spaces to keep the hostel warm in winter.
Albania’s first hostel, opened in 2005 in a beautiful 100-year-old Italian style villa. Located in the heart of the city between a church and a mosque. Plenty of common space to relax in and a huge back garden with a bunch of mandarin and orange trees. There are hammocks dotted around the gardens and musical instruments lying around inside that you can use at any time. They run regular BBQ nights with traditional Albanian food and offer fantastic day tours.
Sights and Highlights
A very good introduction into the history of Albania. All exhibits are explained in Albanian and English and the museum is very open and spacious. The displays are very well done, well spaced, high quality and varied. Management is very friendly and welcoming. This is the best Museum in Tirana.
Albania is not a country where you will be going on a lot of free walking tours as you travel around, the tourism industry isn’t that mature yet. But Tirana is the exception and there is a great walking tour available. The meeting point is in front of the National History Museum every day of the week at 10am.
A café, bookshop, pizzeria, art gallery and publishing house all in one, E7E is an artsy, laid-back space that hosts weekly cultural events, film screenings and live music. It’s a great place to meet locals of all ages and other travellers in search of more off-the-beaten-track venues. On top of its unique vibe, E7E has a small but charming interior garden; a perfect place to chill on hot summer days.
Ish-Blloku (“the Ex-Block”), commonly known as Blloku, is an entertainment and shopping destination in the Tirana city centre. It has many bars, clubs, pubs and restaurants. During the Communist period in Albania, Blloku was a restricted residential area for the members of the Albanian politburo; ordinary Albanians would not be allowed in. Accordingly after the fall of Communism the area opened up and became a very trendy area.
Raum is a great place to get cheap cocktails and shots, making it an ideal place to head to for some pre-drinks early in the night before heading out to a rowdier place a bit later. Raum feels very open and does not feel crowded like a lot of other bars can. This is probably because of the large glass windows that give the place an open and airy feel.
Really good atmosphere and several kinds of beer on tap. Checkpoint Charlie’s operates a stock market pricing mechanism for their drinks, similar to systems you might have seen elsewhere around the world. It’s a bit of gimmick, but good fun. It’s always busy until late in the night with good music, good food (pizza, sausages, chicken wings, pretzels, potatoes chips), and yummy cocktails.
No matter what your taste in music is, there’s always a point in life when you need to bang your head, a lot. And if you happen to be in Tirana, you must go spend some fun time at Tirana Rock Cafe. This place has live shows only on weekends and sometimes Thursdays. The entry is always free and drinks are very cheap compared to other clubs , especially beer.
The lovely people at Trip’n’Hostel have provided the following map. It is the map that they give to their customers on check-in. It has a lot of information! One of the most useful aspects of the map is that it shows the location that you will need to go to catch a Furgon to various areas of the country.
The center of the city is small enough that getting around by foot is quite viable. Speed Taxis are a popular local taxi company that have meters in their car. Always check that the meter is being used or negotiate a fixed price before accepting the taxi ride. A trip across town in a taxi should cost around 400 lek in the day and 600 lek at night.
Getting In and Out
Tirana, like the rest of Albania, does not have a bus station. However there are places that buses and furgons congregate to collect passengers for particular routes. The map on this page shows some of these locations, however I would speak with your hostel as well to make sure. If you are walking the streets, feel free to ask a local where to go by mentioning the word furgon and the destination. Tirana is well connected to the rest of the country and to surrounding countries.
It is also possible to head to Ohrid in Macedonia from Tirana. To get to or from Ohrid you will need to get to the town of Struga first where buses can then be found to Tirana or Ohrid depending on the direction. There are 3-4 buses per day including night buses between Tirana and Struga with the travel time varying from 3.5 hrs to 6.5.