This article is based on one of Albania’s best journalists, Blendi Fevziu‘s talk show “Opinion“. This article will show you some of the best places to visit in Tirana all year round. Some of these places might be known to you, but we have more to provide in this article.
Tirana being the capital of Albania offers a lot of places to get an insight of the Albanian history and culture.
What are the best places to visit in Tirana?
The Clock Tower
The clock tower always makes it to the list of best places to visit in Tirana. This is apparently the most obvious and interesting building in the city, but also one of the most important as it is the emblem of the Municipality of Tirana. In the old days, the clock tower was the tallest building in Tirana, until the international hotel was build and was 1 floor higher than the clock tower. It was built by Et’hem Bey, 20 years after the Et’hem Bey Mosque.
Meanwhile, the tower bell was added years later and was ordered in Trieste, Italy. During that time, Trieste was one of the most important ports in Italy, as it was the one closer to the Austro-Hungarian empire, and was used as a trading point.
The old tower of the Clock Tower was reconstructed in 1928, but the bell remains untouched and original. The Stone that the tower is built is the same as the one at the castle of Tirana. However, there was another restoration of the Clock Tower 10 years ago, and this makes a total reconstruction of the tower since 1928.
The Clock-Tower was the only clock in Tirana and the whole city measured time through the bell rings, close to it was placed a watchmaker.
This tower is 34 meters high, which is around 13-14 floors.
The Castle of Tirana
Another one of the best places to visit in Tirana is the castle. Build in the XIX century when Tirana was decided to be the center of Albania. The castle was where the feudal who ruled the county lived. In the beginning, the castle belonged to the Bargjini family, and later on, it was passed to the Toptani family, where it got the name from.
The entrance of the castle dates back to the XIX century. Nowadays it is a place of fancy cafes, shops, and restaurants that have tried not to lose the original identity of the castle.
The Tanners Bridge
Ura e Tabakeve, located in the Jan D’Arc Boulevard, is the place where you will find the oldest tree in Tirana, a 400-year-old Oak Tree. Where the bridge is nowadays there are buildings that surround it, but once upon a time, there used to be an oak forest. Under where the bridge is today, once was found the stream of river Lana. The Italians in the late 1930’s changed the direction of the stream and made Lana into what it looks like today. The Tanner’s Bridge was named the Bridge of Saint George back in the day.
This bridge was founded by feudal families and had handles so the caravans could pass and go at the old bazaar. This was the only place that linked Tirana to other counties and is around 10 meters high.
The New Bazaar
The new bazaar of Tirana has a mix of Turkish and Italian-influenced architecture and a mix of the 20’s and 30’s architecture. The new bazaar is also the oldest bazaar in Tirana, the area where it’s settled is where once Square Esat Pasha was found, later on, this square was named by the Italians after the man who killed Pasha, Avni Rustemi.
In the early ’30s, the new bazaar faced a reconstruction by king Ahmet Zogu and it was turned into a food market. The main role of the place was to buy and sell local products, and each merchant had to pay a small fee to the state to be able to sell at the market.
Nowadays part of it remains unchanged and serves as a food market that sells local products and the other part serves as a place where events and concerts are held, and restaurants and souvenir shops are placed.
In the old bazaar area, you can find one of the oldest villas in the area, the fish house which has remained untouched and is a kind of museum but also a restaurant, the fish that is served comes from different parts of Albania.
Book a food tour in Tirana
The Petrela House
At the royal street (Rruga e Barrikadave) you will find a distinctive baby pink house that belongs to the famous Albanian neuro-surgeon Dr.Mentor Petrela. This is a real traditional Albanian house that was built in the 20s and 30s when Tirana was declared the capital of Albania. In 1946 when the communist party ruled the country, every private property was handed to the state and belonged to the state, so the Petrela family was forced to leave the house, and the house was rented out. The Petrela family took it back in 1994 with the fall of communism.
That is when Dr. Mentor Petrela decided to make his 500 square meters and 3 floor home into a museum by keeping everything untouched so the house wouldn’t lose its sense of identity.
What are the religious best places to visit in Tirana?
The Et’Hem Bey Mosque
The Et’Hem Bey mosque is one of the best places to visit in Tirana and one of the easiest to spot, located at the Scanderbeg Square, the closest building to the Municipality of Tirana, this mosque dates back to the XVII-XVIII century.
Mullah Bey started to build this mosque in 1793 and it was finished in 1823 by Et’Hem Bey. This is the original mosque and wasn’t touched by communism, however, it was closed down as it was a religious building. The walls of the mosque are covered in floral patterns and landscapes that belong to different places in Turkey.
The Mosque 2 years ago underwent a huge renovation that lasted for 2 years as it was difficult to do everything in detail and not to ruin its originality.
The Bektashi World’s Headquarters
This probably is one of the best places to visit in Tirana and one of the most unique. A place where Bektashi followers pray. This place was declared World’s Headquarters in 1930. In the entrance you can see one of the most famous Albanian authors, Naim Frasheri, who believed and wrote about the Bektashi Religion all his life.
However, this place couldn’t escape the communism. It was taken by the state and turned into an asylum for elderly people, only to be changed into its original identity with the fall of communism.
The Bektashi World’s Head Quarters consists of a 3 main parts.
A place of prayer that is one of the most important places inside this center. A museum where there are a lot of artifacts that show the religion and how it evolved and the traditions. And conference room that was built in 2004.
This place is run with donations from followers and its properties. The highest dome is 41 meters, which makes it the highest dome in Albania.
The Orthodox Church
The Resurrection Cathedral is an Albanian Orthodox church situated in the center of Tirana, Albania. It is considered among the largest Orthodox churches in the Balkan Peninsula. The cathedral complex comprises the cathedral itself, the chapel of the Nativity, bell tower, the residence of the Holy Synod, cultural center, a library, two other chapels, and a small museum. The cathedral’s dome reaches 32.2 meters above ground, with the bell tower reaching 46 meters.
The Catholic Church
The Sacred Heart of Christ church is built between 1938-1941 and it was projected by Giovanni Santi as a gift from Italy to the Albanian Catholic followers.
During the communist years, this church fell also into the hands of the state and was closed to be a theater by the architect Max Velo. Max Velo, turned this church into a theater in a way that it wouldn’t lose its original identity.
In 1991 this church was opened by Mother Teresa herself, who asked the state for the key and insisted on the opening o all religious places from Muslim, Catholic, Christian, and Bektashi.
Which place describes communism best in Tirana?
The House of Leaves
The house of leaves is one of the best places to visit in Tirana if you want to learn about the communism.
Built in 1931 by Dr. Gynecologist Jani Basho as a house and a private clinic where the Elite people of Tirana would go, this is the place where Queen Geraldine gave birth to Prince Leka Zogu, son of Ahmet Zogu, the King of Albania.
In 1944 this clinic fell into the hands of the communist state and was opened as a state security office which was more like an open ear for the government. A spying house. It was used to spy on the life of Albanian people in very intimate details. The government controlled everyone and nobody had the freedom we have today. People were punished for the reason of not trusting the government or saying something bad about the situation in the country.
It was named house of leaves as it was covered in leaves to not be visible to the passerby’s. Every letter entering or leaving the country was opened and checked in a professional way that nobody could notice before reaching the final destination.
The museum is divided into 9 rooms and each one has a different purpose and theme. The spying house was used as such until 2003.
In 2014 the Ministry decided to take the matter into its hands and make a museum out of it. In this place you will find such sophisticated spying methods that you will be amazed that they existed in that time.
Book a communist tour here
Are the museums the best places to visit in Tirana?
Certainly, they are, Albania is rich in history, culture and archaeological findings.
The National History Museum of Tirana
The museum is one of the most interesting and one of the best places in Tirana to learn about the country’s history. The national history museum has artifacts that date before Christ such as the Head of Apollon.
The Head of Apollon dates to the 4th century B.C it was found in Butrint by Ugolini (Italian Archaeologist). He took it to Italy with him, where the head of the statue stayed until 1928 when Italy returned it back to Albania.
Another important artifact in the museum is the Beauty of Durres, which is a mosaic build in the 2nd century A.D and was found in 1916.
The 3rd important artifact is the Epitaph of Christ which is sewn by Gjergj Arianiti in1373. This 1 of the 3 best Epitaphs in the world dedicated to Christ. It was found in a 600 hundred-year-old home in Berat and stolen in 1994 only to be found by the police 6 months later.
Another important artifact is the Ink Pen which was used to sign the Declaration of Independence in 1912, with a copy of the Declaration of Independence that dates back to 1928.
There are more important artifacts and sections in the museum that are waiting for you to discover them.
Skip the line at the museum and learn more with us
The National Gallery of Arts
This building was built as a painting gallery in 1946. However it was made into an art gallery in 1956 and had around 300 art works back then. Nowadays it consists of 5000 art works which show different periods of time and are made by different artists.
The Archaeological Museum
Another one of the best places to visit in Tirana to learn about the Albanian history is the Archaeological Museum. Built in 1984, descendant of the museum built by Hasan Ceka in 1948, this museum tells the history of the country in details through different findings and objects. Albania is a country that is known for its historical heritage.
The museum is divided into sections and one of them which is considered to be the most important is the Illyrian Section. In this section, you will find an original Illyrian helmet that belongs to the year 500 B.C and an ancient map that shows where Illyria started and ended.
What are some other best places to visit in Tirana?
Kadare’s House Museum
This building is one of the few buildings that have such historical value in Tirana. This is where some of the most important Albanian figures lived, among them Dritero Agolli (Writer/Poet) and Ismail Kadare (Novelist/Poet) one of Albanian’s most known novelists.
His apartment was projected by Max Velo and was made into a museum in 2020. You can find his authentic belongings in his old house. In his studio, you will see a map of Tirana where the streets are named the way he did in the books.
What are the modern best places to visit in Tirana?
This was the first hotel that followed the European Standards in Albania and was built in 1993 when the former prime minister of Albania Berisha invited Robert Rogner to build a modern structure that would accommodate diplomates and foreign ministers when visiting Albania. This is build in the Boulevard of Tirana and it was finished in 18 months.
What makes Hotel Rogner special?
One of the things that make Rogner special is its yard and garden. It is considered to be the most beautiful garden in the center of Tirana, it is considered an oasis of vegetation. Here you can find a small forest in the middle of the capital city of Albania. Also, a bunker that is linked to another bunker in Blloku is located in this area of the city.
As for the staff, they are all amazing, and some of them are there since the opening of the hotel.
The cloud is a more modern artwork, made by Fuji Moto, a Japanese architect, who is valued for his ideas and creations. This is a concept that comes from England, and it’s situated in Albania since 2016.
The cloud symbolizes the existence of the human being, being closer to God and hope.
It is an area of 150 square meters and accommodates 100 people.
Are there more interesting places that I did not mention?
Tirana is full of surprises, and an article cannot express all of the interesting, and best places to visit in Tirana.