Tirana, the capital of Albania is a lively destination for those looking to learn about history, looking to party, or using the capital as a one-day stop before jetting off to the Albanian Coast or the Albanian Alps. I spent four days exploring the city and have to say that one day in Tirana is enough to get a good feel for what the city is about before moving on to see the rest of the country.
Speaking of seeing the rest of the country, if you plan to travel around Albania, don’t miss these posts:
How to Spend One Day in Tirana, Albania
Arriving in Tirana
While many people arrive by bus from neighboring countries like North Macedonia, Montenegro, or Kosovo, Tirana is where the main international airport is for those who are flying into Albania.
If you’re arriving by air, it’s fairly easy to catch a ride to the city center. Outside you’ll find taxis queued up, ready to drive you. The set fare for a ride from the airport to the city center is 2,500 LEK or $25/€20. Before you depart the airport you will want to get cash out – most taxis do not accept credit cards. However, I believe that taxis will accept LEK or Euro from the airport.
A cheaper option than taking a taxi from the airport is to schedule a ride with Green Taxi Tirana. At this time the price to get from the airport to the city center is 1200 Lek. You can schedule a ride by downloading WhatsApp and texting +355 69 800 2000. Make sure to ask for the price ahead of time!
The cheapest option is to take the LU-NA shpk bus for 300 LEK or €3 – you will need cash. The bus will pick you up outside of the airport (follow the signs) and will drop you off at the National History Museum in the heart of Tirana. The bus runs every hour from 8 am until midnight. Alternatively, if you’re taking the bus from Tirana to the airport (same pick-up and drop-off points), the bus runs every hour from 7 am to 11 pm.
How to Spend the Morning in Tirana
If you get to Tirana early enough, and by this I mean earlier than 10 am when I would recommend taking the free walking tour, head for a coffee at Noor Coffee & Fine Food (located near where the walking tour begins). Noor is a quaint little cafe, perfect for people watching but still feels hidden away from the street.
Once you’ve had your coffee pick me up, I highly recommend starting your day in Tirana by heading out on the free walking tour of the city hosted by Tirana Free Tour. You’ll see most of the highlights of the city including Skanderbeg Square, Toptani Street, Et’hem Bey Mosque, the Clock Tower, and more. While there aren’t too many sites to see in Tirana, the guide does a pretty good job at explaining Albania’s history and painting a picture of how awful communism was in the country. The basic free tour runs twice a day – from November-April at 10 am and 2 pm; and from April-November at 10 am and 6 pm. The tour will last about 2 hours and while it’s free, it is recommended to leave a tip.
Read more about why I recommend participating in free walking tours: Free Walking Tours in Europe
How to Spend the Afternoon in Tirana
After the free walking tour ends, head for lunch at La Gioia – a seafood restaurant in the alleyway behind the old castle. The food at La Gioia was incredible and comes highly recommended. If instead, you’re looking to taste traditional Albanian food, which is also cheaper than La Gioia, I would say your best bet would be to eat at Oda. Oda is a traditional Albanian restaurant tucked away in an alleyway with affordable cuisine.
After lunch tour the museum Bunk’Art 2. Bunk’Art 2 is a unique museum that goes into detail about what life was like when Enver Hoxha ruled Albania. It’s located down in a bunker, of which over 170,000 were built in Albania out of pure paranoia of a nuclear attack. The cost to enter is 500 LEK ($5) and I would say you can spend as little as 30-minutes in the museum, up to two hours depending on how much you’re reading the plaques on the walls.
If you have the time, before sunsets, take the cable car up to Mount Dajti for views of Tirana from above. For more information on taking the cable car, check out this website. And please note, the cable car is closed on Tuesdays. (Bunk’Art 1 is located at the base of Mount Dajti. I didn’t go, but if you liked Bunk’Art 2 perhaps you’d enjoy Bunk’Art 1 too).
How to Spend the Night in Tirana
Tirana is a FUN city and nightlife can get pretty crazy. There are so many fun bars to go to and things to do at night that it’s really what your personal preference is. Before you hit the town, head to dinner at Mullixhiu. Mullixhiu is owned by Chef Kola who trained at NOMA, and his restaurant has been named one of the top 50 restaurants in the world. The menu is a great fusion of traditional Albanian cuisine, along with Italian influence and the service is impeccable. The great thing about Mullixhiu is that Chef Kola believes in affordable food, so everything on the menu is reasonably priced. You can also request a tasting menu (6 dishes for 2,500 LEK or 8 dishes for 3,000 LEK) to try a little taste of the menu highlights. You’ll need to make a reservation here ahead of time.
If you’re looking to go out in Tirana, I would suggest making your way to the Blloku neighborhood. Blloku has rows of fun, open-air bars lined up one after the other. If you want something a little bit more tame, head to the bar at Tribe (also an incredible choice for dinner) or the cocktail bar n’Mes. I don’t, however, recommend eating dinner at n’Mes as their food is just mediocre.
Trip Additions/What to Skip
If you have more time to spend in Albania, there are a few more things to note. There’s a unique and incredible food truck called Sita, located near Skanderbeg Square, owned by the famous chef of Mullixhiu, Chef Kola. While the concept is an “experiment”, it seems that they have plans to expand a bit. As for now, you can walk up to the food truck and request “beef” or “chicken” and the chef makes the meat with whatever ingredients he has on hand. You can take the food to go or sit and eat.
If you’re looking to spend more time outdoors then head to Albania’s artificial lake and stroll through the Grand Park of Tirana while you’re there. This is where Mullixhiu is located.
One thing that I would avoid doing in Tirana is visiting the National History Museum. There were very few plaques that were translated into English, thus it’s hard to understand what you’re looking at.
As you see, Tirana can be seen in one day and I do highly recommend stopping before moving on elsewhere in the country. It’s a destination that hasn’t piqued much interest – yet, but I’m sure that that will change with time. I hope you enjoy your one day in Tirana!