Why did I travel to Albania? This is a question I am frequently asked. And my answer…because it’s there! I’m interested in traveling everywhere, especially the places that aren’t frequented by tourists. I think Albania has a weird reputation and people tend to think it will be unsafe there but my experience was a very positive one! Sometimes you just need to go check it out for yourself to really see what it’s like, and that’s what I did. If you’ve ever been curious to visit Albania or maybe you want to know what it’s like without having to go, check out my experience through this Tirana Bucket List.
Tirana Bucket List
Climb the clock tower.
It’s the perfect way to get up and see over the city. There are no skyscrapers so this clock tower will get you up about as high as you can go, and it’s free to climb it too!
Do the walking tour.
I found the walking tour to be one of my favorite things to do in Tirana, it’s very informative. Albania isn’t very far removed from its history of communism and as they make strides towards their bright future, the stories and experiences of young adults are very telling of the country’s transition. The tour guide was great and I highly recommend joining them, the tours leave every morning at 10 from the front steps of the National Museum.
Spot the piece of the Berlin Wall.
As the Berlin Wall fell, it marked the end of communism in Germany and also here in Albania. So a piece of the wall was brought to Tirana and now stands in the park to serve as a reminder of their history.
Ring the peace bell.
This installation serves as a memorial to peace and is made from melted down bullets. Every time it rings it sends the message of peace out across the country, and anyone can walk up and ring it.
Befriend a street dog.
You know I’m a sucker for dogs but it’s not always safe to play with street dogs. Albania’s government has launched an initiative to spay/neuter, vaccinate, and treat all the street dogs. You can see which ones have had it because their ears are tagged. Now if only they would build a shelter to house them!
Walk down George W Bush Street.
Not that the street is very interesting but just because it’s so unexpectedly named. As you travel I’ve found that most countries like our democratic leaders more than our republican ones, so I was interested to see that Albania loves George W Bush. It’s because his administration gave support to Kosovo, and Albania considers Kosovo their territory and so they love him. There’s also a statue of him somewhere in Albania. He was the first US president to ever visit Albania, which was a great honor for them and they greeted him with the warmest welcome.
Climb Tirana Pyramid.
This eyesore of a building once housed a museum to the communist leader Hoxha, but then they destroyed it because public opinion turned against him. And now it stands an oddly-shaped pyramidal stone building that provides the local teens with endless entertainment as they climb up its slanted walls and then go sliding back down.
Explore the Bunk’Art Museum.
One of Hoxha’s infamous legacies was the thousands of bunkers that he built all around the country for an impending attack that never came, based on a threat that never was. It was all part of the scare tactic that he used to control the population. And he really did commission the construction of thousands of bunkers, one of which has been transformed into a (kinda creepy) museum. It’s a really powerful and comprehensive look at the country’s history. From the main square, take the bus headed towards Linzë and then follow the signs to walk to the museum.
Visit the Et’hem Bey Mosque.
This is the only mosque to have survived the communist demolitions. They had banned all religion and were tearing down religious buildings, but this had been deemed a cultural attraction so it was spared. It’s located at the main square and is open to non-muslims.
Day trip to Shkoder.
The soul of Albania is in Shkoder. Mother Theresa’s parents are from this town and so it is a very important religious places. Albanians are proud to claim the famous saint as their own, and you’ll find mention of her all around the country. In Shkoder there is also a popular lake to visit, of the same namesake.
Visit the Gallery of Art.
In this post-communist state, they’re working very hard to get caught up on the arts and culture that they were denied for so long. The Gallery of Art is a beautiful collection of work from some of the country’s best artists, including some outdoor sculptures around the building.
Walk along the pedonalia.
Like much of Europe, Albanians enjoy going for a walk at the end of the day with family or friends as a way to relax and socialize. The pedonalia is the pedestrian walkway where many people will go for their evening walk. There’s even a castle at one end of it, though it’s rather humble by castle standards.
Eat at Era.
If you want to try really good Albanian food, Era is the place to go (but they also have a lot of other great Mediterranean dishes influenced by their neighboring countries). They make local and homemade food accessible to city dwellers and tourists alike, in a comfortable and upscale environment. And upscale by Albanian terms is a bargain to me, since I got a three course meal and wine for 10 Euros!
Ride the Dajti cable car.
This is the way to really get up over the city and see the surrounding landscapes too. You can ride the cable car from just a block away from where the Bunk’Art museum is. It’s closed on Tuesdays though, I learned that the hard way!
And there you have it, my Tirana Bucket List. Hopefully this gives you a sense of what Tirana is like and will give you plenty to do when you visit. For me, overall I didn’t find Tirana to be the most aesthetically impressive place that I’ve traveled because it is a post-communist state and it’s filled with mostly ugly buildings. It also is lagging in the arts and culture scene so there’s not a ton to see and do there. But I did really enjoy visiting and I would definitely recommend going because it’s the experience of learning about Albania from within that made it so interesting. I learned about the country’s tortured history with communism, about how they voted themselves back into democracy and had the only peaceful transition out of communism that the Balkans has ever seen, and about how they’re dealing with their transition on a personal and statewide level. I could see around me what their history had done to their country and I heard the stories of people who had lived through it. I would have never been able to understand as much as I do about Albania if I hadn’t gone there to learn about it at the source. It’s a fascinating place and they’re eagerly making strides towards cleaning up their politicians, finances, and development so that they can be candidates for the European Union. I think that in the future Albania could be a really prosperous and attractive city!
Thanks for reading! If you have found the information on brittanyfromboston.com helpful and wanderlust-inspiring, please consider making your next Expedia & Amazon purchases through these links. It doesn’t cost any extra to you, but it keeps this content coming to you free of charge!