Ermak Travel Guide

 

 

Tirana

Tirana

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transportation

Hotels, motels and where to sleep

Restaurant, taverns and where to eat

Cultural (and not so cultural) events

Interesting information and useful tips

 

Description of Tirana

Tirana (Tiranë, Tirana) is the capital of Albania and the largest city in the country. It was founded by the Ottoman Turks in 1614 by order of Suleiman Barggini. After gaining independence from the Turkish Empire, the capital was moved here. The turbulent and interesting history of the country left its mark on the architecture of the city. Muslim, Christian and Communist buildings form a common ensemble of the city.

Tirana was founded in 1614, but the region itself has been constantly inhabited since the Bronze Age. Like most of Albania, this area was inhabited by several Illyrian tribes. Later it was annexed by Rome and became an integral part of the Roman Empire after the Illyrian Wars. The heritage of that period is still evident and is represented by the Mosaic of Tirana, which has survived from that time. Further, in the 5th and 6th century, the Paleo Christian Basilica was built in the region. When the Roman Empire was divided into east and west, its successor, the Byzantine Empire took control and included the construction of Petröl Castle under Justinian I. Until the 20th century, the city did not matter when Lushnius Congress proclaimed it the capital of the country after the independence of the country in 1912 . It increased in size and population only in the 20th century.

Geographically, Tirana is located in the center of the country, surrounded by mountains and hills, with Dite in the east and a small gorge in the north-west, which overlooks the Adriatic Sea. Due to its location within the Tirana Plain and close proximity to the Adriatic Sea, the city is influenced by the Mediterranean seasonal climate. It is the 3rd wettest and eighth sunny city in Europe with 2544 hours of sun per year.

An important city, Tirana is considered the economic and cultural center of Albania, due to its significant location and importance in the areas of finance, commerce, media, entertainment, arts, international trade, education, services, research and health. All the largest companies in the country, the media and academic institutions have their headquarters in the city. Tirana is also the seat of the Albanian government, the residences for the work of the president and prime minister of Albania.

 

 

 

Destinations in Tirana

Tourist office
Tourist information office, Rruga Ded Gjo Luli (just north of Skanderbeg Square (behind the National Historic Museum)). open M-F 11:00-16:00 (as of 2013). The English-speaking staff are very helpful and can provide maps and directions to hostels/hotels etc. Also free copies of "Tirana in your Pocket" guide, which includes vital information about bus and furgon schedules.

 

National Historic Museum (Albanian: Muzeu Historik Kombëtar), Skanderbeg Square (northwest edge of the square), ☎ +355 4 2223446. Tu-Su 10:00-17:00. The main museum in Tirana, it is in the center of the city, easily recognizable because of a huge mosaic standing on top of its front facade. It contains many artifacts ranging from ancient times through Hoxha's regime. Repeated looting in the 1990s has robbed the museum of many artifacts, but it remains the best place in Albania to learn its history. The history between 1944 and 1991 is not yet covered but there is a harrowing exhibition about Albania's gruesome labor camp system during that time. There is enough information in English to follow the exhibition and there are guided tours in English from time to time. - Antichity pavilion, the exhibited objects start with the Late Palaeolithic and ends with objects pertaining to the first part of the Middle Ages (4th–7th centuries). Middle Ages Paviilon, the visitors have the chance to learn about the economic, social, political and cultural development of the Albanians, who have preserved their typical characteristics, also resistance against the ruling of Byzantines, French, Turks and Serbs. National Renaissance Pavilion, express a clear view of the economic, political and cultural development of Albania from the beginning of the 19th century. Pavilion of Independence, start with the activities of the National Government of Valona and the organization of the Albanian independent State. Iconographic Pavilion, in this section the visitors has the chance to know great masters of the Albanian iconography. Ethnographic Pavilion, in this pavilion are introduced the traditional garments of the various Albanian regions (19th and 20th centuries). Pavilion of the Anti-Fascist War, in this pavilion the vicissitudes of the War of Vlora (1920) are introduced followed by the events of 1920s and 1930s and of the fascist dictatorship of Benito Mussolini. 200 lek.
National Art Gallery (Galeria Kombetare e Arteve), Bulevardi Deshmoret e Kombit, ☎ +355 4 222 6033. W-Su 9:00-19:30. 13th century pieces, modern art, socialist art. 200 lek.
National Archaeological Museum of Albania (Muzeu Kombëtar Arkeologjik), Sheshi Nënë Tereza (Two block west from Qemal Stafa Stadium), ☎ +355 4 222 6541. This museum features ancient artifacts from Illyrian to Roman and Hellenic times featuring wonderful mosaics, Roman statues and illustrative maps.
Natural Sciences Museum of Albania (Muzeu i Shkencave Natyrore), Rruga e Kavajës. This museum features the fauna and geological composition of Albania.
Tirana Mosaic (Mozaiku i Tiranes), Blloku pallateve Partizani, Lagja nr. 9 - Rruga Sandër Prosi (1.3 km W). - The mosaic was discovered following excavations for an apartment complex. Various artifacts point to the presence of a village in the area thousands of years ago. This is the only archaeological site in Tirana!

Bunk'Art (Enver Hoxha's Underground Bunker), Rruga Teki Selenica. W-M 09:00-18:00 during summer, 09:00-16:00 during winter. This is the underground bunker of Enver Hoxha featuring Cold War exhibits turned into an art gallery, with many corridors full of art works to admire. The most famous works of Albanian art are available here to witness and observe. 500 lek.
Bunk'art 2. This bunker was the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' and mixes a bit of art with an interesting exposition about the building of a paranoid Stalinist dictatorship through systematic spying, arrests and torture. A small app can be downloaded to enhance the experience with VR. 500 lek.

House of Leaves (The Museum of Secret Surveillance).
ZETA Center for Contemporary Art. M-F 11:00-18:00, Sa 11:00-14:00. a non-profit exhibition space founded in 2007. With its 150 m² area on the second floor of a mixed residential and commercial building at Abdyl Frashëri Street No.7 in the Blloku area of Tirana (zona Libri Universitar: between Santa Margherita Wine Shop and LC Waikiki Store), ZETA functions as an autonomous cultural venue for contemporary visual arts, including painting, sculpture, photography, video, installation, sound, and performance. Besides exhibitions, ZETA also hosts educational programs, workshops and discursive events, in cooperation with local and international partners. Over the last twelve years ZETA has significantly contributed to the vitality and dynamics of contemporary art scene in Tirana, most notably with regard to young Albanian artists. Free entrance.

Landmarks
Fortress of Justinian or simply Tirana Castle remains (Albanian: Kalaja e Justinianit, Kalaja e Tiranës), Shëtitorja Murat Toptani. This is a castle in Tirana. Its history dates back before 1300 and is a remnant from the Byzantine-era. The fortress is the place where the main east-west and north-south roads crossed, and formed the heart of Tirana. About all that's left of the fortress above ground is a 6-m-high Ottoman-era wall, covered in vines. The recently uncovered wall foundations were incorporated into the pedestrianised Murat Toptani Street, while a mosaic commemorating the 100th Anniversary of Albania's Independence was unveiled near the Albanian Parliament.

 

 

History of Tirana

The discovery of the Pellumbas Cave within the surrounding area of Tirana shows that ancient human culture were present in Albania that dates back the Paleolithic period. Nonetheless the oldest discovery within the urban area of Tirana was a Roman house, which has been later transformed into an aisleless church with a mosaic floor, dating to the 3rd century, with other remains found near a medieval temple at Shengjin Fountain in the eastern suburbs. A castle possibly called Tirkan, whose remnants are found along Murat Toptani Street, was built by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I and restored by Ahmed Pasha Toptani in the 18th century. The area had no special importance in Illyrian and classical times.

Tirana is mentioned in 1418, one year after Ottoman conquest of the area, from Venetian documents as "...the resident Pjeter, son of late Domenik from the village of Tirana...". Records from the first land registrations under the Ottomans in 1431–32 show that Tirana consisted of 60 inhabited areas, with nearly 2,028 houses and 7,300 inhabitants. In 1510, Marin Barleti, an Albanian Catholic priest and scholar, in the biography of the Albanian national hero Skanderbeg, Historia de vita et gestis Scanderbegi Epirotarum principis (The story of life and deeds of Skanderbeg, the prince of Epirotes), referred to this area as a small village, differing "Small Tirana" and "Big Tirana". It is later mentioned in 1572 as Borgo di Tirana.

According to Hahn, the settlement had already started to develop as a bazaar and included several mills, even before 1614, when Sulejman Bargjini, a local ruler, built the Old mosque, a small commercial centre, and a hammam (Turkish bath). This is enforced by oral sources, that two earlier mosques existed 300-400m from the Old Mosque, toward today's Ali Demi Street. Mosque of Reç and Mosque of Mujo were positioned on the left side of Lana river and were older than the Old Mosque. Later, the Et'hem Bey Mosque, built by Molla Bey of Petrela, was constructed. It employed the best artisans in the country and was completed in 1821 by Molla's son Etëhem, who was also Sulejman Bargjini's grandnephew. In 1800, the first newcomers arrived in the settlement, the so-called ortodoksit. They were Vlachs from villages near Korçë and Pogradec, who settled around modern day Park on the Artificial Lake. They started to be known as the llacifac and were the first Christians to arrive after the creation of the town. After Serb reprisals in the Debar region, thousands of locals fled to Tirana. In 1807, Tirana became the center of the Sub-Prefecture of Krujë-Tirana. After 1816, Tirana languished under the control of the Toptani family of Krujë. Later, Tirana became a sub-prefecture of the newly created Vilayet of Shkodër and Sanjak of Durrës.

Modern
In 1889, the Albanian language started to be taught in Tirana's schools, while the patriotic club Bashkimi was founded in 1908. On 28 November 1912, the national flag was raised in agreement with President Ismail Qemali. During the Balkan Wars, the city was temporarily occupied by the Serbian army and it took part in uprising of the villages led by Haxhi Qamili. In August 1916, the first city map was compiled by the specialists of the Austro-Hungarian army. On 8 February 1920, the Congress of Lushnjë proclaimed Tirana as the temporary capital of Albania, which had gained independence in 1912. The city retained that status permanently on 31 December 1925. In 1923, the first regulatory city plan was compiled by Austrian architects. The centre of Tirana was the project of Florestano Di Fausto and Armando Brasini, well known architects of the Benito Mussolini period in Italy. Brasini laid the basis for the modern-day arrangement of the ministerial buildings in the city centre. The plan underwent revisions by Albanian architect Eshref Frashëri, Italian architect Castellani and Austrian architects Weiss and Kohler. Modern Albanian parliamentary building served as a club of officers. It was there that, in September 1928, Zog of Albania was crowned King Zog I, King of the Albanians. Tirana served as the venue for the signing, between Fascist Italy and Albania, of the Pact of Tirana.

 

In 1939, Tirana was captured by Fascist forces appointing a puppet government. In the meantime, Italian architect Gherardo Bosio was asked to elaborate on previous plans and introduce a new project in the area of present-day Mother Teresa Square. A failed assassination attempt was made on Victor Emmanuel III of Italy by a local resistance activist during a visit in Tirana. In November 1941, two emissaries of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (KPJ), Miladin Popović and Dušan Mugoša, managed to call a meeting of three Albanian communist groups and founded the Communist Party of Albania, of which Enver Hoxha would shortly emerge as the leader. The town soon became the center of the Albanian communists, who mobilized locals against Italian fascists and later Nazi Germans, while spreading ideological propaganda. On 17 November 1944, the town was liberated after a fierce battle between the Communists and German forces. The Nazis eventually withdrew and the communists seized power.

From 1944 to 1991, massive socialist-styled apartment complexes and factories began to be built, while Skanderbeg Square was redesigned with a number of buildings being demolished. For instance, Tirana's former Old Bazaar and the Orthodox Cathedral were razed to the ground for the erection of the Soviet-styled Palace of Culture. The northern portion of the main boulevard was renamed Stalin Boulevard and his statue was erected in the city square. Because private car ownership was banned, mass transportation consisted mainly of bicycles, trucks and buses. After Hoxha's death, a pyramidal museum was constructed in his memory by the government.

Prior to and after the proclamation of Albania's policy of self-imposed isolationism, a number of high-profile figures paid visits to the city, such as Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai and East German Foreign Minister Oskar Fischer. In 1985, Tirana served as the ceremonial venue of Enver Hoxha's funeral. A few years later, Mother Teresa became the first religious figure to visit the country following Albania's long declared anti-religious atheist stance. She paid respect to her mother and sister resting at a local cemetery. Starting at the campus and ending at Skanderbeg Square with the toppling of Enver Hoxha's statue, the city saw significant demonstrations by University of Tirana students, demanding political freedoms in the early 1990s.

 

 

 

 


 

Transportation

Get in
By plane
Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza (Rinas International Airport TIA IATA), Airport Rd Rinas (17 km from the centre of town. Rinas Express operates 06:00-18:00 an hourly bus from the airport to Skanderberg Square (behind the Opera) and vice versa. The bus costs 250 lek. A taxi to the centre costs 2,500 lek and takes 20–25 minutes. merrTAXI.com, 0800 55 55 (toll free) and Airport Taxi Express offer transportation to and from Rinas International Airport.). - Airport facilities include free wifi and an Adrion press shop. Beside the baggage carousel in arrivals there’s an ATM, a currency exchange office and the airport’s tourism information desk. - The following airlines offer service to/from Tirana: Adria Airways (Ljubljana), Austrian Tyrolean Airways (Vienna Airport), Belle Air (Ancona, Athens, Bari, Bologna, Cuneo, Florence, Forli, Genoa, Heraklion, Milan-Malpensa, Milan-Orio al Serio, Parma, Perugia, Pisa, Pristina, Rhodes, Rimini, Rome-Fiumicino, Trieste, Venice-Treviso, Verona, Zurich), British Airways (London-Gatwick), Lufthansa (Frankfurt Airport), Olympic Air (Athens, Thessaloniki), Turkish Airlines (Istanbul-Atatürk).

By train
Tirana Train Station. Since September 2013 temporarily closed. Tirana has no international train connections. As of September 2013, the Tirana Train Station was temporarily moved to Kashar while a new multi-modal station is constructed in Tirana. The Kashar station was renovated and opened in May 2015. Passengers arriving at Kashar should walk to the main road, cross the footbridge and wait for the bus Vorë-Tiranë. The trains are operated by HSH sh.a. (map here), (HSH Official Site) from the following cities: Durrës (100 lek, one hour, 8 daily), Shkodra (160 lek, 3.5 hours, twice daily), Elbasan (200 lek, 4 hours, 3 daily), Vlorë (210 lek, 5.5 hours, twice daily and only in the summer) and Pogradec (350 lek, 4 hours, twice daily - discontinued in 2012). Even though train services are poor, when compared to West Balkan standards, they may be more frequent, cheaper, and more scenic than taking the bus. Taking the train to Elbasan is not recommended: the four hour trip makes a large detour via Durrës (not very scenic) while Elbasan is only 35 km away from Tirana.

 

By bus & van
In anticipation of the construction of the new Multi-modal Terminal near the Kamza Overpass at the entrance of Tirana, the Municipality of Tirana has opened several temporary bus terminals mainly along Dritan Hoxha St and Student City to regulate the chaos of public transport between towns in Tirana:

Temporary Bus Terminal for Southern Albania & Durres-bound lines, Sheshi Shqiponja, Rruga 29 Nentori (near Eagle Square at Ali Bakiu St.). All Southern Albania except Southeastern Albania-bound lines.
Temporary Bus Terminal for Southeastern Albania-bound lines, Qyteti Studenti, Rruga Arben Broci (Student City at the Tirana Parking public parking). All Southeastern Albania-bound lines including Elbasan, except Southern Albania and Durres-bound lines.
Temporary Bus Terminal for Northern Albania-bound lines (Terminali Autobuzave Zona Veriut), Rruga Dritan Hoxha (Across from Asllan Rusi Sports Center). Service to North Albania towns.
Temporary Bus Terminal for Kosovo and International-bound lines, Pallati i Sportit Asllan Rusi, Rruga Dritan Hoxha (behind the Asllan Rusi Sports Center at the Tirana Parking public parking space). Kosovo and International-bound lines including the Balkans, Italy, and Greece.
Rinas Express airport bus stop, ~Skanderbeg Square (behind the Palace of Culture (Opera) east of Skenderbeg Square), ☎ +355 69 2054002, +355 69 2098908. Depart every hour 06:00-18:00. tickets cost 250 lek and the trip takes ~45 minutes.
Buses can be used to reach Tirana from other cities in Albania and internationally. There is daily bus service from Turkey, Serbia, North Macedonia, Athens (Greece) and multiple services per day to Pristina (Kosovo) and other cities in Albania. Schedules change frequently so check the latest info in your place of departure.

From North Macedonia, buses come from Skopje, Ohrid and Struga. Departure time from Tirana: 15:00 and 17:00.

From Montenegro, take a bus or taxi to Ulcinj, then take a bus or taxi to Shkodra in Albania, crossing the border at Muriqan. Buses leave Shkodra frequently for Tirana.

Buses and furgons (minibuses) are generally the best method for travelling within Albania, but they are not in the best of shape. There are few bus companies; many are operated by individual drivers. Bus lines have schedules, but are often delayed until the coaches are full or at the whim of the driver.

Some international bus stations are far from the centre so it may be worth taking a taxi to the bus stop to save time and energy and avoid getting lost.

By taxi
To calculate and book your journey you can use the Taxi Trip Calculator by MerrTaxi Tirana, which is the biggest taxi company in Albania, operates 24/7 in the capital city and they always use meter. To call a taxi use the national toll-free phone number 0800 5555, or the international phone number +355 67400 6610.

Your hotel can also arrange a taxi to the border but it is usually more expensive. For example, a taxi from Tirana to the Macedonian border, a distance of 110 km (70 miles), will take 2½ hours and cost about 9000 lek with MerrTaxi Tirana. A metered Macedonian taxi from the border to Struga is €10 and to Ohrid about €16 (1000 denars) but you might get it for less if you haggle. The trip takes 15 minutes to Struga and 25 minutes to Ohrid (July 2018). Passport control will take about 30 min.

By boat
Tirana is not a port, so you can't get there directly by boat. There are, however, reasonable sea routes from Italy (from the ports in Bari, Trieste, and Ancona) to Durrës, the nearest port to Tirana from where you can take a bus or mini van to Tirana. You could also rent a car or take a taxi and be in Tirana in about 20 minutes.

 

 

Get around

By bus
Public transportation in Tirana consists of a number of intra-city bus lines. A single trip cost 40 lek (there are only single tickets available) (2016) and tickets are sold in the bus by a conductor. Buses marked 'Unaze' are for the ring road and travel in a loop around the city centre. There are also lines serving suburban shopping centers and Tirana Airport.

A useful web and Android application regarding Tirana's public transportation such as lines, directions, times and costs can be found at Tirana Bus Stations. An Android application is also available for download at GetJar.

 

By foot
The city centre is small enough to be explored through walking. Walking is a rewarding experience, but beware that there is no continuity in sidewalk width, construction material or condition. Sidewalks frequently end abruptly, have large holes or are very narrow. Pay attention while walking or you may end up spraining your ankle or falling in a hole. Street names are subject to change, so locals rarely know them. It is advised to learn a to navigate via landmarks instead of addresses or street names. You can orient yourself using the Lana River and "Dëshmorët e Kombit" street, which roughly bisects the central part of Tirana into four sections. At this intersection of the Lana River and Dëshmorët e Kombit is very recognizable "Pyramid" and "Taiwan Center".

By bicycle
The ecovolis bicycle sharing program was launched in 2011. Bicycles can be rented from a number of locations at Rinia Park and along Deshmoret e Kombit Boulevard. A full day ride costs 100 lek. The system is not electronic in that you must interact with a salesperson. Bicycles should be returned to the station of origin. Ecovolis also offers bikes for longer 24/7 rents at the shop. For all other bike equipment or repair, Rruga Qemal Stafa is Tirana's unofficial "bike street" with lots of little, inexpensive bike shops.

There are combined bus and bike lanes on some main streets. However, cycling in the street can be quite dangerous as lanes are narrow or occupied by parked vehicles (but car drivers have become more careful during the last years). Bike only lanes however are located on Skanderbeg Square, Deshmoret e Kombit Boulevard and on sidewalks along Lana River and Kavaja Street. As of 2013, renting a bike is not possible on weekends.

By taxi
A ride across town should cost 400 lek during the day, 600 lek at night. Negotiate a price before entering. merrTAXI offers authorized taxi reservation: 0800 55 55 (toll free within Albania).

Speed Taxi: This taxi company is also a good taxi company which has taxi fare meters, so you are sure that they won't charge you a random price. Speed Taxi's number is: +355 4 2222555

Official taxis have a list with fare prices inside the vehicle. During the day flag-fall starts at 250 lek (as for MerrTaxi) and 300 lek during the night or holidays.

Most informal taxis or irregular ones do not use the taximeter. You can negotiate the price before entering the cab, or ask them to use the taximeter and save money.

By car
Parking is a major problem. Driving offers an unique experience in Tirana for those willing to brave it. Driving aggressively and seizing opportunities will help you get around at normal pace. Timid and passive drivers should avoid driving in Tirana as they will likely be frustrated.

The city still misses road signs with directions (for example how to get out of the city). In case you have troubles just ask people (don't show them a map because Albanians are not used to seeing maps and even policemen don't know how to handle a street map.) Also, keep in mind that the word "car" sounds identical to the Albanian word for "penis" so do not be surprised if you get stared at if you say it. "Auto" or the Albanian word, "makina" are suitable stand-ins.

Car rentals in Albania are available from multi-national firms such as Hertz, Avis and Europcar, and can be booked online. However, local companies often have cheaper rates, examples include Noshi Rent-a-Car and Albarent.

 

Hotels, motels and where to sleep

Budget
Budget options in Tirana are hindered by a government 1000 lek per-person tax levied on all the hotels.

Freddy's Hostel, Ground Floor, 75 Bardhok Biba St (200 m from the National History Museum), ☎ +355 4 2266077. Rooms are passable, usually with ensuite. No true dorm rooms. WiFi. €35 for a double.
Hostel-Albania, Rruga Kavajes 80, ☎ +355 69 674 8779.
Hotel Briker, Rruga e Barrikadave (close to the centre (5 min walking)), ☎ +355 4 2229543, e-mail: hotelbriker@hotmail.com. Clean, safe, nice private rooms with private bathroom and shower, well maintained, friendly, all of the staff spoke English, they take credit cards. Double/Twin: €40 [2011].
Star Hotel, Rruga e Dibrës, 73 (from Skanderbeg Square walk past the Tirana International Hotel, it'll take one minute), ☎ +355 42231950, +355 696415459, e-mail: starhotel2012@hotmail.com. Clean, safe, private rooms with private bathroom and shower, well maintained, friendly, staff speak English. Double/twin: €30 [2013].
Hotel Viktoria, Rruga e Elbasanit (2 km south), ☎ +355 69 5406986, e-mail: info@viktoriahoteltirana.com. Newly renovated (June 2011) and family-owned hotel, situated in a new residential area that offers quietness and fresh air. Sgl: €22; Dbl/Twin: €34; Tpl: €44; Quad: €54.
Tirana Backpackers Hostel, Rruga Elbasanit 85/Rruga e Bogdanëve (0.5 km W of Skanderberg Square). Small hostel, with just 25 beds, in a beautiful villa built in 1940. Dorms are spacious and well lighted, back garden. Bikes can be rented for city tours. Dorm bed: 1,770 lek.
Hotel Verzaci, Rinas (15 km North of Tirana). Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. The hotel is on a ten minute walk from the Tiranë airport terminal building, very convenient for early departures or late arrivals. While there are hotels even closer to the airport, this hotel provides very good value for its price. €25 (single).
Jolly Hotel, Square Avni Rustemi, ☎ +35542250630. A small hotel in central Tirana with a 24-hour front desk and friendly staff. Modest buffet breakfast is included in price. If arriving by plane, catch the Rinas Ekspress airport coach (250 lek) which terminates behind the Opera, 500 m from the hotel. €23 single.

Mid-range
Hotel Baron Tirana, Rruga Elbasanit (near Mother Albania Statue, Qemal Stafa Stadium, and University of Tirana), ☎ +355 4 2467649. Meeting facilities include conference rooms, a ballroom, and banquet facilities. single €35; double/twin: €50; triple: €55; Quad: €65.
Hotel City Tirana, Rruga Ismail Qemali, Nr8/1, ☎ +355 4 2247799, fax: +355 4 2247799, e-mail: info@hotelcitytirana.com. Family-owned hotel with exquisite service. single €34-€50; double €75.
Hotel Meg Klaus, Hotel Meg Klaus (in a courtyard, street off Rr.Mine Peza), ☎ +355 4 2239214, fax: +355 4 2259236. 11 rooms. TV, air-con and bathroom worked fine. No restaurant (and no breakfast included) but a hotel bar. Some staff had trouble speaking English. singles €30, doubles €40.

Splurge
Hotel Airport Tirana, Rinas Tirana International Airport Mother Teresa (near the Rinas (Tirana) Airport), ☎ +355 48300190, fax: +355 4 48300191, e-mail: hotelairportirana@live.com. Grand hotel with every modern amenity. Sgl 8,850 lek; Dbl 11,800 lek.
Hotel Brilant Antik, Rr. Jeronim De Rada, No. 78 (Just across the Parliament), ☎ +355 4 2251166, e-mail: info@hotelbrilant.com. Excellent rooms and helpful staff. €70, breakfast included.
Hotel Grand, Rr. Ismail Qemali 11 (close to the centre). A small, 3-star standard hotel. single €120; double €160.
Hotel Mondial. Prestigious 4-star hotel. 28 rooms. Also a bar and a restaurant.
Hotel Theranda, Rr. Andon Zako Cajupi, Villa 6 & 7 (two minutes from the centre, Blloku District), ☎ +355 4 2273766, fax: +355 42 273689. Boutique hotel. single €70 to €100; double/twin: €90 to €130.
President Hotel. Small hotel in the Bllok area.
Rogner Hotel Europapark, Bulevardi Deshmoret e Kombit. Part of the Rogner chain of hotels, this modern hotel is located where the headquarters of the communist party were planned to be built before the fall. Very luxurious. Beautiful gardens and an outdoor swimming pool that is always freezing. The comfort has five stars. Security is unsurpassed. single €152 to €176 +tax; double/twin: €170 to €201 +tax.

Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Sheshi Italia (Near the stadium). One of Tirana's largest, and most modern hotels. single from €161; double from €216.
Tirana International Hotel (In Skanderberg Square). Centrally located, this hotel was built during communist times and has recently changed hands. There are plans for drastic changes in its appearance, and it still remains one of the major and best hotels in Albania. If you have the time have lunch on the covered balcony of their one restaurant, the food and service is excellent. Weekend: Single: €60, Double: €70; Weekday: Single: €112, Double: €124-€142.
Xheko Imperial Hotel Tirana, Rr. Deshmoret e 4 Shkurtit. 48 luxurious rooms, equipped with all the modern amenities. Restaurant with Albanian traditional cuisine.

 

Restaurant, taverns and where to eat

Food is generally inexepensive in town, even in the more upscale places. The Italian influence is everywhere and most places will offer pizza and/or pasta along more elaborate dishes. A good rule of thumb is that the priciest or fanciest places rarely are the best ones, particularly in the Blloku.

Traditional
Oda restaurant, Rr. Luigj Gurakuqi (Past Sheshi Avni Rustemi towards Skanderbeg Square), ☎ +355 4 2249541. noon-late. Situated inside a Tirana traditional house, this restaurant features delicious traditional cuisine. 500 lek.
Sofra e Ariut, Nd. 54 H.1 Njësia Bashkiake Nr. 1, Rruga e Elbasanit, (inside Tirana's Big Park), ☎ +355 4 2372904. Specializing in traditional Albanian cuisine, the interior is decorated with traditional ornaments.
Tek Zgara Tironës 2, Rruga e Kavajës (From Skanderberg square walk ten minutes west along Rruga e Kavajës. It will be on your right), ☎ +355 69 948 4792. 09:00-23:30 every day. Good traditional Albanian cuisine with massive servings. Mains 200-700 lek.

Budget
Small shops and roadside vendors throughout the city sell foods such as sufllaqe, doner, and gjiro for less than 200 lek. Also try the local specialty, byrek.

AFC fast food restaurant serves a lot of things and you can have a lunch or a dinner there.
Big Bite fast food restaurant, Rr. Abdyl Frashëri 16 (in Blloku). 24hrs. good taste of Albanian fast food.
Mr.Chicken fast food restaurant, Rr. Abdyl Frashëri (in Blloku). 09:00–24:00. good taste of Albanian fast food. Freshly cooked rotisserie chicken
Gjiro Kamara fast food restaurant, Rr. Abdyl Frashëri (in Blloku, next to Slovenian Embassy), ☎ +355 4 225 6513. Good taste of Albanian fast food.
Kolonat Fast Food, Sheshi Italia (in Bllok, near Nene Tereza Square, At National Archaeological Museum), ☎ +355 42382202. M-F 09:00-22:00, Sa 08:00-14:00 and 16:00-20:00. Albania's version of McDonald's. Specializes in burgers and pizza. Also on Blv. Bajram Curri, and on Rruges Elbasanit. 500 lek for sandwich, fries, and drink.
Marion Restaurant (Mensa Marion), Rruga Pjeter Budi, Tirana University student's campus (E 1 km), ☎ +355 66 2083399. 08:00-23:00. Budget self service restaurant in the Central Campus. Very popular among students. Under US$10 per meal.

Mid-range
Gloria, Rruga Qemal Stafa. Excellent food (Italian and Albanian) with good service.
King House restaurant, Rruga Deshmoret e 4 Shkurtit (at Bank of Albania), ☎ +355 4 2255559. Combination of excellent Albanian and Italian food. Always very popular with expats and locals.
Yamato restaurant, (Blloku). A more formal restaurant than other Blloku eateries, children-friendly Yamato has a big selection of Japanese foods prepared by a Filipino chef.

Splurge
Gurra e Perris, Mali Dajtit (Dajti Mountain) (after you get off the cable car, restaurant's micro-buses will take you directly to the restaurant), ☎ +355 68 2060720. Traditional restaurant in a marvelous place, with fantastic view of the city. Fresh meat, fresh trout (you can also catch it by yourself there). 1000 lek.
Bar Restaurant Patricia, Rruga Fortuzi (Going up the Durresi Street turn right at the Ministry of Education, - near the school Jeronim De Rada), ☎ +355 4 2228372. 09:00-24:00. A fancy and comfortable restaurant. Its specialty is the Italian food. 1000 lek.
Vila 12, Rr. Mustafa Matohiti in front of Birrila's building, ☎ +355 4 2250633. 11:00-23:00. A gourmet fish restaurant that has some very fishy combinations indeed. The chef likes to experiment; try the raw fish with radish, grapes and strawberries, or the potato-cake with cod and mozzarella. Thankfully there's also traditional grilled fish and lobster. The hot choc fondant cake is a worthy dessert.
Juvenilja Castelo, Sheshi Italia (close to hotel Sheraton, at the Big Park,), ☎ +355 68 2022802. 24/7. Mainly serves Italian and Albanian food. A 5-star restaurant. 1000 lek.

 

 

Drink

Raki is Albania's national alcohol; try Boza for something non-alcoholic, the most famous of which is Pacara Boza, ☎ +355 69 2481122. 1 bottle of 1.5 l ~ 100 lek.

Sky Tower Rotating Bar. (Rr. Ibrahim Rugova) This is a must! The rotation is a bit jerky and may leave you slightly seasick.
Blloku is the main nightlife spot in the city.

Grand Cafe, Blloku. Frequented by elites of the city for a good cup of coffee.
Lizard, Blloku. There is often live shows performed by bands from all over Albania, when prices for drinks drop a little. Lizard is known for the cocktails their experienced bartender prepares.
Shakesbeer Bar, Blloku. Good place offering beers.
Converse, Charls, Steel Wings (Bikers club), Unit, Mos Fli. Clubs in Blloku frequented by die hard rock and metal fans.

Brauhaus (Brauhaus Shallvare), Shallvare (Pallati Tuborg), ☎ +355689044286. 13:00-23:00. Brauhaus (Shallvare Brewpub), Rruga Reshit Çollaku 38, Tirana (Parku Rinia, Shallvare), ☎ +355 4 223 7955. 11-00. The first brew pub in Tirana, Albania, with beers (Blonde, Rose, Dark, Bock) brewed few meters away from the seating tables. Fermented in open view tanks and poured from tank, fresh into the mug, unfiltered and unpasteurized without added CO2 or any adjuncts. Live music €1 a beer. 1.

 

Cultural (and not so cultural) events

Festivals
Some of the most popular events are Summer Day celebrations in Mid-March, and Independence Day festivities on November 28. Recently, a number of prestigious festivals have become a tradition in the city's calendar of events:
Tirana International Film Festival (Tirana Film Fest). This annual film festival held at the end of November and beginning of December highlights the work of ethnic Albanian artists.

Tirana International Contemporary Art Biannual (Tirana Biennale), ☎ +355 69 2069011. This biannual art festival features the best of international contemporary art. It was last held in 2009 at the historic Hotel Dajti building.

Tirana Jazz Fest.

Rally Albania, Mother Teresa Square, ☎ +355 4 2231 586. The event features an international competition in the rough Albanian countryside roads.

 

Interesting information and useful tips

Buy
There are plenty of ATMs accepting Cirrus/Maestro and Visa around the city (and there is one at the airport).

Bookshop
Adrion International Bookshop, Palace of Culture, Skanderbeg Square (Center), ☎ +355 4 223 5242. 08:30-21:30. Magazines and newspapers from around the world. English books available.

Shoes
Unique, Rruga Ibrahim Rugova, Blloku. This shoe shop has fancy shoes such as Dsquared, Fendi, and Moschino.

Souvenir
Kiosques, Rr. Barrikadave and Rr. Durresit (North of Sulejman Pasha Square and across from the Tourist Info Center). Souvenirs.

 

Food & market
Central Market (Pazari i ri), Sheshi Avni Rustemi. daily early morning. Fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as traditional cooking utensils.
Natyral & Organik, Rr. Vaso Pasha 3 Tiranë, ☎ +355 69 209 9047. M-F 09:00-21:00, Sa Su 09:00-14:00, 17:30-21:00. The shop works directly with producers and sell local organic olive oil, raki, wine, honey, and dried herbs.

Malls
Citypark Albania, Tirana-Durrës highway, km 8 (Just beyond the airport turn-off), ☎ +355 4 2376424. A large shopping centre has some 180 shops, a Mercator hypermarket, food court, skating rink
Coin department store (Rr. Papa Gjon Pali II) (ABA Business Center).
Galeria Mall, Blv. Bajram Curri (European Trade Centre, behind the Pyramid), ☎ +355 4 2254100. Daily 09:00-20:00. More than 50 shops, bars and cafés
Kristal Shopping Center, Rr. Frang Bardhi, ☎ +355 4 4801028, e-mail: info@kristalcenter.com. 09:00-21:00. Has a Conad supermarket and a cinema complex
QTU shopping centre (Qendra Tregtare Univers), Tirana-Durrës highway, km 6 (6.8 km North-West of Tirana), ☎ +355 4 380100. Has a supermarket, electronics store. (+355 4 2380103)
QTU City mall, Rruga Abdyl Frashëri. Daily 09:00-22:00.
Sheraton Plaza, Sheshi Italia (At the Sheraton hotel). The mall has a café, a food court, a good little supermarket and several upmarket shops.
Tirana East Gate (TEG), Autostrada Tiranë – Elbasan, km 0, ☎ +355 4 2395000.
Toptani Shopping Center, Rr. Abdi Toptani, ☎ + 355 4 4 4540999, e-mail: info@toptani.com.al. Splashy new shopping mall right in the city center.

 

 

Connect

It is a good idea to buy a local Vodafone or ALBtelecom prepaid sim card for staying connected to the Internet. Prices start at around 600 lek for a calling plan. For slightly over 1,000 lek you can get a calling plan with 5GB or more data traffic. Additional data is 500 lek per 4Gb, with occasional bonuses. You must provide a passport to purchase a prepaid SIM. There is a Vodafone shop at the Nënë Tereze Airport right after the customs.

Main Post Office & Telephone Centre, Sheshi Cameria. M-F 08:00-20:00.

Internet cafes
Centre Internet, RR Brigada e VIII (Look for the yellow sign down the laneway). 24 hours. 100 lek per hour. edit
Internet Point, RR Deshmoret e 4 Shkurtit, 7. 24 hours. 100 lek per hour.

Stay safe
Gun violence has been an issue in the nightclub district of Blloku. Extortion (and other types of crime that relate to slavery) is common in prostitution areas of Tirana. Unemployment is high for young adults in all areas of Albania, and there are large networks of available people on the street to identify, track, and harass tourists across the city. Drug-related crime and drug traffic also occur, though they are not as visible in the city as in some remote rural and resort areas

You should take some precautions when walking around the city. The main advice is to simply watch your step. Although many parts of the city are maintained, there remain holes and worn-down street parts. Cars also seem to drive more recklessly than in most European cities, and assume a right-of-way, so care is needed in crossing the street. Not even a green light is always a guarantee of safety! Try to see when the locals cross the street and cross with them.

 

Stay healthy

Hospitals
ABC Family Health Centre. M-F 08:00-16:00. English-speaking doctors. Run by baptists. Consultation: US$20.
Klinika IRMA, Rruga Dora D'Istria, Pall Triss, Kati 3 (large physician-owned multi-specialty clinic in the city centre, near Bllok), ☎ +355 4 2243000. M-Sa 09:00-18:00. English, French and Italian-speaking doctors. Consultation: US$20.

 

Embassies

Czech Republic Czech Republic, Rruga Skenderbeg No. 10, ☎ +355 4 2234 004, fax: +355 4 2232 159.
Egypt Egypt, 1 St. Iskandar Bek, ☎ +355 4 223-3022, fax: +355 4 2232295, e-mail: egyemb@albaniaonline.net. 09:00-16:00.
Greece Greece, Rruga Frederik Shiroka, No 3, ☎ +355 4 2274669, +355 4 2274668, +355 4 2274670, fax: +355 4 2234290, e-mail: gremb.tir@mfa.gr
Iran Iran, Rr. Mustafa Matohiti no. 20, ☎ +355 4 2255038, fax: +355 4 2230409.
Italy Italy, Papa Gjon Pali II, n.2, ☎ +355 4 2275900, fax: +355 4 2250921.
North Macedonia North Macedonia, Rr. Kavajes nr. 116, ☎ +355 4 223 0909, fax: +355 4 223 2514, e-mail: tirana@mfa.gov.mk
Poland Poland, Rruga e Bogdaneve, ☎ +355 4 2234190, fax: +(355) 4 2233364.
Russia Russia, 2, Donika Kastrioti Str., ☎ +355 4 225-60-40, fax: +355 4 225-60-46.
United Kingdom United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Rruga Skenderbeg 12, ☎ +355 4 223 4973, fax: +355 4 224 7697.
United States United States of America, Rruga e Elbasanit No. 103, ☎ +355 4 2247 285, fax: +355 4 2232 222.