Tirana – The Surprising Joy of Albania’s Capital

Tirana – The Surprising Joy of Albania’s Capital
  • Post Category:Travel

On my trip around Europe last summer, Albania was the one country where I was weighing up if it was worth visiting, in the end I’m happy I decided to visit.

Before visiting, a few things I associated Albania with were a country littered with crime, lacking in any sort of infrastructure and a country many decades behind most of Europe.

I was however willing to take the plunge into the unknown.

I visited 3 cities in Albania: Shkoder, Tirana (the capital) and Sarande. This article will focus on Tirana.

How I got there?

Before Tirana, I spent a few days in Shkoder, North Albania, so I took the bus from Shkoder to Tirana.

It’s common knowledge amongst travellers/the surrounding countries that buses are sketchy in Albania, but I couldn’t resist the drama!

My experience, however, was better than expected. I was fortunate to get on a fairly new air-conditioned coach.

There is a severe lack of bus stops and bus stations, the only bus station I encountered was when I got to the capital, Tirana. But, ultimately, you get from A to B with relative ease, which is the main thing.

Albania’s Capital – Tirana

Tirana offers so much to do, whether you want to do general sightseeing, explore Albania’s historic past (I’m not overly keen on history, but this was really interesting!) or just eat – you are spoilt for choice!

Delicious Food

I was sceptical before arriving, but I was pleasantly surprised. Albanian food was up there with the best things on my trip – fresh, delicious and cheap!

The traditional food here are meat kebabs, meatballs and grilled vegetables. Below is just some of the delicious food I ate.

Albanian traditional salad with grilled aubergine and courgette
Lakror – Albanias answer to Pizza.
A tomato and onion flatbread. DELICIOUS!

Prices In Albania

The one thing that attracted me to Albania was the prices.

Hostel accommodation comes in at around £10 per night, while eating out is next to nothing compared to neighbouring countries of Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro.

You could get a generous sized meal for around £5, half the price of its neighbouring countries.

Free Walking Tour

There is a free walking tour which runs from the main Skanderberg Square which I would highly recommend. The tour takes you around all the must see parts of the capital, the tour guide is very good at explaining how everything relates back to its recent history.

You are shown around all the main areas and important buildings in the city, taken to the posh quarter of Tirana, called Blloku, where the higher class of Tirana socialise. On top of that there’s some strange things dotted about the city, which are all explained, in this extremely insightful city tour.

Bunk’Art

There are 2 Bunk’Art’s in Albania, but Bunk’Art 1 is the best and subsequently #1 on TripAdvisor for things to do in Tirana.

Built in the 1970’s, this bunker was created to protect the Communist regime during the Cold War and is well worth a visit.

Cable Car “Dajti Ekspress”

Located close to Bunk’Art 1, this is a must. There’s more to it than just a cable car!

Take a 15 min ride up Dajti Mountain, where you are dropped off at what is basically a small leisure complex with hotel, restaurant, rotating bar and children’s activity park. This is perfect for lone travellers, couples or families.

Rotating Bar

On my visit, I first went to the rotating bar to see what all the fuss was about!

The bar is located on the 7th floor of the hotel. I sat down and ordered a drink. I began to look around and on looking down below I could see the floor twisting very slowly beneath me.

The bar would do the full 360 degree spin at slow speed so you could experience both the mountain scenery and fantastic views of the Tirana skyline.

Restaurant Ballkoni Dajtit

Ever fancied eating delicious food, 1000m above sea level with fantastic views?

You can experience all of this at Restaurant Ballkoni Dajtit. The log cabin style restaurant offers fantastic views of Tirana and the food here was second-to-none! Not only was it fantastic, quality food, with amazing views, the meal cost me around £13, beer included!

The Tirana skyline from Restaurant Ballkoni Dajtit
Stuffed aubergine, topped with cheese

Next stop – Sarande!

After spending around 7 days in Tirana, it was now time to travel south to Sarande, to explore to beautiful beaches and the Blue Eye spring!

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