• Spike

Tirana - Albania

Updated: Jun 18, 2020

An area of Europe I'd not seen very much of was the Balkans. So, I decided to fit in a trip whereby I visited the seven remaining countries of the Balkans I'd yet to see.

My first stop was Tirana in Albania, but disaster struck a couple of days before my trip. I came down with a nasty case if tonsillitis! Thankfully I was able to get antibiotics just in time! This certainly impacted the first half of my trip, limiting what I felt up to doing, especially when it came to the nightlife.

I didn't feel there was a great deal to see in Tirana, so hopefully I didn't miss too much, as quite a bit of my time here was spent sleeping.

But I think there is some real beauty in the surrounding area of Tirana. I didn't get to see Dajti Mountain National Park, but I'm sure the mountain and caves in the area would be stunning sights to see.

I'm very sad that I missed out on the nightlife, as this would have given me a chance to meet some locals so I could really get to know the culture.

For some reason Albania seems to be thought of as a dangerous country. When I told people at work that I was visiting Albania, most were shocked. They seemed to think Albania was full of arms dealers and drug kingpins, but this was far from what I saw there.

Tirana was a nice city, and it's on it's way up! There has been quite a lot of regeneration to the city in recent years, so I think in time it will become a more popular tourist destination.

Pyramid of Tirana

This interesting pyramid shaped building, was opened in 1988 as a museum dedicated to the life of Enver Hoxha, the former Communist leader of the country who had died 3 years previously.

After the collapse of Communism in 1991, the museum closed. It was used as a Nato base briefly during the Kosovo War, but since then it has remained empty. It's now in quite a run down state, with boarded up windows and graffiti.

It's worth visiting to see this infamous eyesore, but what's great about this structure is that you can climb it!

You'll have to find a good spot to start, and provided you have good footwear, you'll be able to walk up to the top. There are some nice views once you're at the summit, but the fun part is sliding back down. Many local children will take cardboard to the top and use it to sled down, but this is a little dangerous, I suggest just sliding on your bum.

Skanderbeg Square

The main square in Tirana, with a statue of Albania's national hero Skanderbeg on his horse. In 2017 the square was renovated, and even won an award in doing so. From googling old photos of the square, it's a huge improvement! I think the renovation has certainly helped encourage more tourism to the country, so maybe they'll also consider doing something with the Pyramid.

There are various buildings which surround the square, most of which are tourist attractions themselves, and it's fairly close to the other tourist spots in the city.

Et’hem Bey Mosque and Clock Tower

Although they are two different buildings, Et’hem Bey Mosque and the Clock Tower stand side by side as if one. Both built by a poet named Etëhem Bey Mollaj.

I think you have to be Muslim to enter the mosque, but the outside is well worth admiring, and can be seen from Skanderbeg Square. However you can enter the Clock Tower and climb the stairs to the top. Although it's recommended to book a ticket in advance for this.

Rruga Murat Toptani

A pedestrian street close to Skanderbeg Square, which serves as an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. It's lined with trees and cafes, and you'll also find a few souvenir shops along here.

I can't be certain, but I imagine this was also regenerated at the same time as Skanderbeg Square. It's a calm and beautiful part of the city to walk through.

National Museum of History

One of the largest buildings on Skanderbeg Square is the National Museum of History. There are items ranging from the prehistoric ages to the early middle ages.

The building itself was originally the city hall, but has been a museum since the early 1980s. I think what makes this building stand out is the large mural which I believe depicts various Albanian citizens throughout history.

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