Choose from 10 Fun Things to Do in Albania
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Built in the socialist-realist architectural style prevalent in the 1960s under Soviet occupation of Tirana, the National History Museum is almost as well known for the glittering mosaic that enlivens its concrete façade as for its collections. Representing the turbulent history of this troubled nation, the artwork is entitled ‘The Albanians’ and scans thousands of years of invasions from the Roman Empire to the partisans fighting Communism in the late 20th century; it was the joint work of five local artists and was completed in 1980. The museum itself opened in 1981 and is liberally stuffed with the country’s great archaeological legacy; the displays are laid out in chronologically themed rooms and highlights include Roman busts, glittering icons, a replica of the legendary sword of Albanian national hero Skanderbeg, and posters printed by the resistance movement during World War II. The displays culminate in the hard-hitting Pavilion of Communist Terror, which examines Albanian persecution and repression in the Soviet-led hard-labor camps before Communism fell in 1989.
Sheshi Skënderbej 1 (Skanderbeg Square 1). Open Tue–Sat 10am–5pm; Sun 10am–2pm. Admission 200 lek. Best accessed on foot.
Address: Sheshi Skënderbej 1 (Skanderbeg Square 1), Tirana 1000, Albania
Hours: Open Tue–Sat 10am–5pm; Sun 10am–2pm
Admission: 200 lek
From $ 28
Designed by the daughter and son-in-law of a former communist leader, the Pyramid of Tirana opened in October of 1988 and is one of the most distinctive structures in the capital city.
The pyramid, which once housed a museum, served as a NATO base for humanitarian relief workers and organizations during the Kosovo War, and since 2001, a portion of the pyramid has been utilized by Albania’s Top Channel as a broadcasting center. Rumors suggest the building may be leveled to make room for a new parliament, so travelers who want to see this famed landmark should definitely do so now.
Today, the pyramid serves as a gathering place for the city’s homeless and is covered in graffiti and street art. But its interior is sometimes open for traveling and temporary exhibits that are worth checking out whenever possible.
Address: Tirana, Albania
From $ 28
Albania’s greatest national hero is aristocratic military leader Gjergj Kastrioti – universally known as Skanderbeg, or Skënderbej in Albanian. He lived between 1405 and 1468 and managed to create a strong, independent country for 25 years before it was torn apart again by the might of invading Ottoman forces. Throughout the Ottoman occupation of Albania, Skanderbeg became a symbol of national pride and still today he is regarded as the father of the nation. Such is his place in Tirana life that the city’s gently chaotic central square is named after him and dominated by his mighty equestrian statue, which was erected in 1968 on the 500th centenary of his death. In stark contrast to the socialist-realist architecture that surrounds the square, Skanderbeg’s statue is remarkably Byzantine in style. The masterpiece of Albanian sculptor Odhise Paskali, it sits on a stone plinth and is 36 feet (11 meters) high, depicting the much-venerated military leader in full armor and on horseback; the Albanian flag flies alongside.
Sheshi Skënderbej (Skanderbeg Square). Open to all, no admission charges. Best accessed on foot.
Address: Sheshi Skënderbej (Skanderbeg Square), Tirana 1000, Albania
From $ 28
Travelers who want to escape the chaos, noise and energy of Albania’s larger cities will find peace and quiet in the picturesque hills of the Dajti Mountains, located a short drive from Tirana.
Fit and intrepid travelers can hike along scenic trails to the top of this 1,613-meter tall mountain. But those who prefer to take in nature in a more leisurely way can still access all this beautiful destination has to offer, thanks to a cable car that provides a fast track option straight to the top. Travelers can look out over epic views that include the Adriatic Sea, the Port of Durres and more.
Taxis to Dajti are available from Tirana for about 15 Euros. Be sure to arrange a pick up time with the driver for an easy return trip.
There is a restaurant that hangs off the mountain top that showcases some of the best views around, but be mindful that the views can come at a steep price.
Address: Tirana, Albania
From $ 28
Fit and intrepid travelers can hike along scenic trails to the top of Dajti Mountain, a 1,613-meter tall peak. But those who prefer to take in nature in a more leisurely way can still access all this beautiful destination has to offer, thanks to the Dajti Express Cable Car that provides a fast-track option straight to the top.
Travelers who opt for the 15-minute ride will gain access to epic views that include the Adriatic Sea, the Port of Durres and more. Visitors can wander through shaded forests and even picnic atop this popular peak.
Taxis to Dajti are available from Tirana for about 15 Euros. Be sure to arrange a pick up time with the driver for an easy return trip. Buses are also available from the clock tower in Tariana to Porcelain.
There's a restaurant that hangs off the mountaintop that showcases some of the best views around, but prices can be as steep as the mountain itself.
Address: Tirana, Albania
Admission: 6 Euro (800 Lek)
From $ 29
Albania’s Kruja Castle was the center of its struggle against the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century, led by national hero George Skanderberg. Today, the castle is home to the National Skanderberg Museum, remains of the Fatih Sultan Mehmed Mosque, an ethnographic museum, a Turkish bath and a reconstructed bazaar. It also offers scenic views of the surrounding area.
The Skanderberg Museum contains artifacts dating back to the 15th century, with exhibits arranged to honor Skanderberg and his military feats. Items on display include paintings, armor, maps and stone and wood engravings. The highlight of the collection is a replica of Skanderberg’s famous helmet topped with a goat head. The ethnographic museum is considered one of the best organized museums in Albania. Set in a traditional Ottoman era house, it contains objects up to 500 years old. Visitors can walk through a handful of the 15 rooms, including the living room, children’s room and kitchen. Exhibits include olive oil processing tools, pottery and both Catholic and Muslim clothing.
The town of Kruja is just north of Albania’s capital, Tirana. Buses run frequently between the two cities, with the trip taking about one hour. The bus leaves Tirana from a market behind the train station and can be a bit difficult to find. Kruja itself is quite small and easy to navigate on foot. For a more in-depth look at Kruja, consider joining a full or half day tour from Tirana.
Address: Rruga Kala, Kruja, Albania
Hours: May to September, 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday. October to April, 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday.
From $ 45
Named after a national hero of Albania, Skanderberg Square is the main plaza in the capital city of Tirana. All roads in Tirana seem to lead into the square, which has been the subject of various reconstruction plans since 2010. Many of the original buildings on the square were destroyed during communist times, but a few older structures do remain, like the early 19th century Eth’em Bey Mosque and Clock Tower. In 1968, a statue of Joseph Stalin was replaced by the Skanderberg Monument, honoring a nobleman who once resisted the Ottoman invasion. The equestrian monument stands 11 meters tall and depicts Skanderberg on horseback in full armor, with an Albanian flag flying alongside.
Around the square today, you will find the National History Museum, the Tirana International Hotel, the National Library of Albania, City Hall and the Palace of Culture, which is home to the National Theater of Opera and Ballet. Don’t miss a climb up the Clock Tower, which offers superb views around Tirana.
Skanderberg Square serves as a meeting point for many walking tours of Tirana. If your hotel is not within walking distance, get there by taking a bus along Rruga e Kavajes or Rruga e Dibris.
Address: Skanderberg Square, Tirana, Albania
From $ 28
This popular natural attraction located just outside of Tirana is the ideal destination for outdoor adventurers in search of an easy day trip from Albania’s capital city.
The stunning and enormous cave offers up incredible interiors and impressive rock formations. Giant stalagmites and stalactites cover the cave and visitors can hear their voices echo off the towering walls. The cave measures some 360-meters deep and at one time was thought to be endless due to its size. Researchers say the cave was once home to a rare species of cave bears and later, during periods of war, was used as a safe haven for villagers.
The Cave of Pellumbas is known by locals as the Black Cave. Travelers must venture 27 kilometers southeast of Tirana to access this popular attraction. Travelers can access the cave on an hour-long hike from the village of Pellumbas.
Address: Pellumbas, Albania
From $ 80
Located on Tirana's central Skanderbeg Square, the Clock Tower is one of the Albanian capital's great landmarks and was built in 1822 by Haxhi Et`hem Bey, who also designed the mosque next door. Just over a century later, the height of the clock tower was increased to 115 feet (35 meters) high and today it competes with the slender minaret of the neighboring Et`hem Bey Mosque; by night they are both beautifully illuminated, throwing flickering shadows across the square. The tower is almost Venetian in appearance, with a simple stone tower topped with clocks on all four sides and a pyramid-shaped cupola. Views from the wrought-iron balcony that rings the tower just below the clocks "“ a climb of 90 stone steps "“ look down over the great equestrian statue of military hero Skanderbeg, the National Historical Museum, the center of the city and beyond to the Dajti mountain range. A small museum adjacent to the tower holds exhibitions on Albanian life and culture.
Sheshi SkÃƒÂ«nderbej (Skanderbeg Square). Open Mon"“Fri 8am"“3pm. Admission 100 lek to museum and tower. Best accessed on foot.
Address: Sheshi SkÃƒÂ«nderbej (Skanderbeg Square), Tirana 1000, Albania
Hours: Open Mon"“Fri 8pm"“3pm
Admission: 100 lek
From $ 28
This historic religious structure is one of the oldest in the nation and somehow managed to escape destruction when an atheist movement took hold in Albania during the 1960s. The structure and those who worship there have a long history of surviving turmoil, as the mosque was forced to shut its doors when communists ruled the country.
In 1992, Et’hem Bey Mosque once again opened as a place of worship against the wishes of those who were in charge. Today, it’s one of the largest and most prominent gathering places for Muslims in Albania. The mosque is known for its colorful frescoes and finely detailed interiors, making it a worthwhile stop for travelers interested in history, religion and architecture.
The Mosque is located in the center of Tirana in Skanderbeg Square. Travelers must take off their shoes to enter the building.
Address: Skanderbeg Square, Tirana, Albania
From $ 28