Ten Awesome Things to Experience in Tirana, Albania 🇦🇱

Would you like to visit a European capital sans tourists? How about staying at a boutique hotel for a truly remarkable price? Do you want to check out historical monuments with a real story behind them? What about riding a cable car to the middle of a mountain and hiking the rest of the way to the peak? Does eating eight courses of Michelin-star quality food for 25 Euro sound good to you? All this and more is possible in Tirana, Albania, so read our list of ten awesome things to do there and book your flight to Albania soon!

1. Stay in a chic boutique hotel for less than 40 euro

Because every tourist puts the likes of London, Paris, Budapest and Prague on their European destination list, boutique hotels can charge more or less whatever they like. Seems like Tirana is far more down to earth price wise than pretty much anywhere in Europe. In fact, we paid just 70 Euro for two nights in the pretty fabulous Hotel Villa Fernando - a real bargain. Highly rated on Booking.com, we were shocked at the high quality of furniture, decor and service - such a chic boutique hotel for a super budget price. Superbly situated near Friends coffeeshop (see below), we loved our stay here and cannot recommend it enough. However, if you want even more luxury, book a night or two at Hilton Garden Inn (51 Euro per night) or have the ultimate splurge by choosing the best hotel in the whole city: The Plaza (161 Euro per night).

2. Eat at Tirana's Most Romantic Restaurant: Amor

Alongside accommodation, the restaurant scene in Tirana is similarly competitive both in terms of price and quality. In addition to traditional Albanian food, you'll find an array of international restaurants serving burgers, pizzas, pasta and even sushi.

Probably the most romantic restaurant in town is Amor, which offers a blend of Italian, Mediterranean and European flavours. Tucked away a couple of kilometers from the center of Tirana, it's a good idea to take a taxi because it's both hard to find and a long walk! Once inside, we found the cosy atmosphere and superb service hard to fault. Miras and I decided to go for Amor's 25 Euro (2900 lek) tasting menu, consisting of soup, cold appetizers, risotto, pasta, main course and desert. Naturally, we chose a local red wine to wash it all down. Meanwhile, Raf plumped for a selection of meat, and ice cream for desert. For food that felt Michelin-star in quality, the final bill of less than 75 Euro felt like the bargain of the century. Don't forget to eat in Amor if you're ever in Tirana - it really is that good!

3. Ride the Dajti Ekspres Cable Car

Probably the best attraction in the whole city, the Dajti Ekspres Cable Car provides awesome views across Albania's capital, especially on clear, sunny days. For just 6 Euro round-trip, a gondola-style lift transports you across fertile farm land and small lakes for about a kilometre. Right at the end it rises up more than 800 metres to the middle of a dramatic mountain range. Once you get to the drop off point, you can drink at a revolving bar, eat in a log cabin style restaurant, ride a horse, go hiking or even spend the night at the Dajti Tower Belvedere Hotel.

4. Hike to Mount Dajti's Highest Peaks

While the views at the drop off point for the Dajti Ekspres Cable Car are undoubtedly beautiful, anyone with 6 Euros can get there. If you feel like seeing something more spectacular, head up one of the multiple trails to Mount Dajti for a hike to remember.

Wearing just flip flops, Miras, Raf and I felt pretty adventurous as we left the Dajti Ekspres' commercial hub behind and hiked towards one of Mount Dajti's summits. Although the trails were well established, it wasn't clear how far we had to hike and Raf asked to turn around a couple of times. The lack of any views from within the deep forest didn't help either. Showing real grit and determination, we kept pushing on until suddenly the landscape changed to include a few huge rocks and a few low lying clouds swept above us. Literally as high as the clouds, we had made it. The final turn of the trail provided a magical view point across an adjacent mountain range with Lake Bovilla far below.

Upon arrival at the summit, Miras changed into some tiny shorts and a white off the shoulder top, quickly earning her a Filipino nickname from Raf: 'seksi an hiker'. I climbed up the cliff edge opposite the viewpoint to get a bit of height and captured her staring in awe at the magnificent landscape below. Minutes later the clouds rolled in obscuring the horizon very swiftly, so we turned around and began our descent. While it had been a challenge without a guide (which is probably the best idea for hiking in this area), we felt super blessed by the timing and beauty of this trip. If you follow in our footsteps, definitely make sure it's a near cloudless day to ensure clear views.

5. Explore Albania's History at the National Museum

Get a valuable insight into Albania's complicated past with a trip to Tirana's National museum. Covering ancient times up to the 21st century, the museum contains some amazing collections of archaelogical treasure including a large number of statues, mosaics and columns from Greek and Roman times. The most cherished exhibit is the Beauty of Durres from the 4th century BC; the most revered ancient mosaic in the country. Well worth the 200 lek entry price, it's easy to find in the northwest corner of Skanderbeg Square.

6. Visit Tirana's Unique Pyramid: Piramida

While a derelict building isn't usually a prime attraction, the Piramida is special to the people of Tirana. Completed just before the fall of communism, it was originally intended as a museum to honour Albania's despotic dictator Enver Hoxha. These plans were abandoned after 1990, and now the city is split over what to do with it: either restore it as a monument to a previous era or tear it down. These days it's unused, except by graffiti artists and skateboarders. Sadly, I'll always remember it as the place where I dropped my GoPro; the SD contained a stack of memories worth far more than the aging camera, so it was a shame to lose it here. However, at least Raf enjoyed climbing up the concrete structure, and we got a few nice family captures too.

7. Climb the Clock Tower

Built by Ottoman architects in 1822, Tirana's Clock Tower is one of the city's most photographed landmarks. Even if you're in the city for just a few hours, it's well worth climbing the tower's narrow spiral staircase to take in the gorgeous vistas across Skanderbeg Square and beyond. Remember to pay the 200 lek fee at the small information centre near the tower's entrance, or someone will approach you when you come back down.

8. Soak up the History at Skanderbeg Square

Named after the Albanian national hero Gjergj Kastrioti Skenderbeu, Skanderbeg Square is the main plaza in the centre of Tirana. Alongside the monument of Skanderbeg himself, the square is skirted by many of Tirana's prime monuments including the Clock Tower, the Opera House, the National Library, Et-hem Bey Mosque and the National History Museum. It's a great spot to just soak up the atmosphere of Tirana and enjoy all the surrounding attractions if time permits.

9. Grab a Coffee at "Friends" Coffee shop 

If you're a fan of the classic American sitcom "Friends", don't miss the chance for a cup of coffee at the Friends Bar Coffee Shop. Situated about 2 kilometres north east of Skanderbeg Square, it features a large outdoor seating area with funky music and mountain views. Alternatively, on cold winter days, you'll feel more at home in the warmly decorated ground floor coffee shop. The friendly staff, distant mountain views, superb coffee and cakes easily made it our favourite cafe in the whole of Tirana - Raf was so happy here that he got up and danced while waiting for his icy chocolate drink!

10. Go Underground at Bunk'Art

Situated near the Dajti Express, it makes sense to visit both attractions in the same day. Fabulously converted from a massive Cold War bunker into a contemporary history and art museum, Bunk'Art consists of over 3000 square metres of underground space. You can get a real sense of history checking out the rooms designed for the communist elite and the various displays detailing Albania's modern history from 1939 to present day. It costs 800 lek to enter Bunk'Art without a guide.

Follow in our footsteps

– To get to Albania in the first place, start with skyscanner to find the cheapest international flight options. You can fly direct from almost all European capitals.

– Alternatively, combine Albania with other countries in the Balkans. Check Turkish Airlines for some particularly attractive open jaw options flying into Istanbul, onto Tirana and out of Macedonia or Kosovo, allowing overland travel around the region.

– Check booking.com and Airbnb for accommodation options in Tirana and elsewhere in Albania. It makes sense to book ahead using booking.com (using free cancellation option if plans change) to ensure you get the right place for the right price.

– Unless it's a weekend, you don't need to book your table in advance for Amor Restaurant. If you want to contact them outside Albania, send them a message to their Instagram or Facebook account and they'll respond. Once you're in Albania give them a call on +355 4 224 1573

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