As the capital city of Albania, Tirana is a practical choice of destination for inclusion on your Albania travel itinerary. It is also a deeply interesting place to experience, especially given the cultural transformation it has been undergoing in recent years. The city combines complex history with fun and unexpected quirks in such a way that there’s little doubt it’s one of the best places to visit in Albania.
Because Tirana isn’t your typical European destination, many visitors don’t know what to expect from the city or how long to schedule there. We recommend allowing three days to fully explore the best places to visit in Tirana. Even with that number of days, it helps to have a guide to make the most of your time there. This Tirana itinerary provides all the information you need to plan your visit, including precisely what to do in Tirana in 3 days for a successful and enjoyable trip.
Best Time to Visit Tirana
Tirana is a destination that experiences all four seasons, which means you’ll want to give some thought to when in the year you decide to visit. What’s nice is that because Albania doesn’t see as many tourists as other places in the region, you don’t have to worry about running into high season crowds as much as about deciding when to go.
The best time to visit Tirana is usually just before or after summer. Visiting the city in April, May, June, September, and October offers pleasant weather for sightseeing outdoors without reaching the high temperatures of summer. As for winter in Tirana, the months between December and February are best avoided because the city tends to be cold and rainy.
How to Get Around Tirana
To fully explore Tirana during your trip, you’ll need to know the best ways to get around. Sightseeing will take you to multiple different parts of the city, but most of the important sights are easy enough to walk to from the center. Still, it’s worth knowing what options you have for public transport to make getting about easier.
Buses are the only public transport available to get around the city. Routes make their way throughout the city and buses are frequent, so it’s unlikely you’ll have to spend much time waiting. Fares for buses cost 40 lek (roughly US$0.34) and are bought on the bus.
Where to Stay in Tirana
Working out where to stay in Tirana is a big step in planning your visit. Tirana has a huge range of places to stay, but it’s still worth organizing your accommodation in advance to ensure you have the best options to choose from. You’ll find hotels, hostels, and apartments right across the city, but generally the best places to stay in Tirana are close to the historical center or in the Blloku neighborhood.
The Maritim Hotel Plaza Tirana is a great choice if you want to spoil yourself during your visit. This elegant five-star hotel is situated right in the heart of the city and features stylish rooms, a spa center, a fitness center, a bar, and a restaurant.
Balancing price, location, and comfort, the Sar’Otel Boutique Hotel is the perfect choice if you don’t want to spend too much. Rooms in this three-star hotel are well lit and full of all the basic amenities, while the hotel also comes with a sauna, hammam, and complimentary breakfast. You can also find loads of great midrange rentals on Airbnb. For some recommendations, make sure to check out our list of the best Tirana Airbnbs.
Finding budget accommodation in Tirana won’t be a problem thanks to options like the D1 Hostel. Located a short walk from Skanderbeg Square, this clean and welcoming hostel has dorms, private rooms, and apartments available. You’ll find more hostel recommendations in our guide to hostels in Albania.
The Perfect 3-Day Tirana Itinerary
Tourists will need to explore several different parts of the city if they want to experience the best of Tirana in 3 days. That’s because even though there are plenty of attractions in the city’s historical center, some of the best things to do in Tirana lie elsewhere. For a comprehensive trip, you’ll also want to travel south of the river to the Blloku neighborhood and the Grand Park, as well as to Mount Dajti on the outskirts of the city. There should even be enough time in your visit for a day trip to one of Albania’s other interesting destinations.
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With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the actual attractions you’ll get to visit with this Tirana travel itinerary. If you follow this guide, you’ll know exactly how to fill your time visiting Tirana.
Day 1 in Tirana
Begin your visit by spending the first day exploring the historical sights and cultural landmarks around the city center.
Recommendation: If you would like to learn more about Tirana’s complicated history, consider booking a guided walking tour. On this tour you’ll visit many of the attractions mentioned below with an expert guide who can tell you more about each sight.
The best place to start your sightseeing is Skanderbeg Square. Not only is Skanderbeg Square Tirana’s main square, it’s also home to some of the city’s best known attractions. The large plaza is named after Gjergj Kastrioti, an Albanian national hero who went by the name Skanderbeg.
In the middle of the square stands Skanderbeg Statue, while around it you’ll find neo-Renaissance buildings and interesting landmarks such as the Opera & Ballet Theater, the National Library, and various government buildings.
Et’hem Bey Mosque
One impressive attraction on Skanderbeg Square worth visiting is the Et’hem Bey Mosque. Built in the 18th and 19th centuries, this mosque features ornate frescoes both inside and out. It also plays an important role in the city’s history, as it was outside the mosque that 10,000 people assembled in 1991 in an event that helped contribute to the fall of the country’s communist government.
Tirana Clock Tower
Behind the Et’hem Bey Mosque stands the Tirana Clock Tower, built under Ottoman rule in 1822. In addition to being a pleasant landmark to look at, the clock tower has a 90-step spiral staircase that can be climbed, allowing views of the square and wider city from the top.
National History Museum
You may not know Tirana’s or Albania’s history, but there’s plenty to learn, and the National History Museum is the best place for it. Visiting this museum early on will give you a baseline understanding of the city’s past and will make other attractions you visit around the city even more meaningful.
The National History Museum is hard to miss on Skanderbeg Square, thanks to the enormous mosaic that adorns its communist-era building. While it may not be a huge museum, its exhibits still manage to cover the region’s history, from antiquity through to the modern day.
One last attraction you won’t want to miss on Skanderbeg Square is Bunk’Art 2. Like the original Bunk’Art located near Mount Dajti, Bunk’Art 2 is a once-concealed bunker and set of underground tunnels used by the communist regime, and it has since been converted into a museum and art gallery. Exhibits at the museum explore the hardship and persecution experienced by the Albanian people during the communist era.
Shëtitorja Murat Toptani
Moving away from the main square, it’s time to take a stroll down Shëtitorja Murat Toptani, a lively pedestrian street in the city center. The street is lined with shady trees, as well as interesting buildings, shops, bars, and cafés. It’s a great place to take a break, people-watch, and get a feel for life in the city. While you’re here, make sure to take a detour through the remains of Tirana Castle, where you’ll find more shops housed inside the city’s old fortifications.
Reja – The Cloud
Tirana has a thriving arts scene as you’ll no doubt discover when you make your way to the Reja – The Cloud art installation. This modern addition to the city is located on Shëtitorja Murat Toptani and was designed by Sou Fujimoto. Its design, which is best seen illuminated at night, is meant to resemble a cloud and is often used as a pavilion for events.
Day 2 in Tirana
There’s still plenty more to see in the historical center of Tirana on your second day. However, it’s also a good idea to venture south of the riverfront and up into the hillside around Mount Dajti.
We begin the day with a small historic Tirana landmark to get things going. The Tanners’ Bridge is a picturesque stone bridge built in the 1700s during Ottoman rule, although its placement looks rather odd today among the modern city streets. There may not be much to see here really, but it gives another hint at what Tirana would have once been like.
Pyramid of Tirana
Follow the riverfront, and you’ll soon arrive at one of Tirana’s many communist-era relics, the iconic Pyramid of Tirana. This curious-looking structure was built to be a museum dedicated to dictator Enver Hoxha just before the fall of communism and has served various roles over the years, including a time as a NATO base during the Kosovo War. Work is now being done on the building to convert it into a youth cultural center, so it may look very different in the near future.
Grand Park of Tirana
Moving south away from the center of the city, you’ll soon reach the sprawling expanse of the Grand Park of Tirana. The park is the city’s premier green space and surrounds a large artificial lake, making it a pleasant place for a quiet stroll. You’ll also find plenty of landmarks scattered among its trees, including a cemetery and various tombs to national heroes, not to mention an assortment of cafés, bars, and restaurants.
Returning to the city streets, it’s time to explore the neighborhood of Blloku a little. Blloku is seen as the trendy part of Tirana’s center, with shopping boutiques, cafés, and bars galore for you to check out. It’s also a great place to wander around thanks to its abundant street art, especially with spots like the rainbow ribbon running across buildings on Sheshi Uillson. It’s in Blloku that you’ll also come across the Former Residence of Enver Hoxha, a villa where the dictator lived until his death in 1985.
House of Leaves Museum
While you will have already learned a bit about Albania’s communist era in other museums around Tirana, the House of Leaves is a great museum to visit if you want to learn more. The building was the headquarters for the secret police and now serves as a museum to reveal the way in which people were surveilled and victimized by the state during that period.
Dajti Cable Car
Finish the day by heading over to Tirana’s eastern outskirts to visit Mount Dajti. There you can take a ride on the cable car to its upper station 1,050 meters (3,445 feet) up this 1,613 meter-high (5,292 feet) mountain. Riding this modern cable car, the longest in the Balkans, you’ll enjoy wonderful views of the surrounding mountain scenery.
Once at the upper station, you have a choice of active pursuits like hiking and paragliding or more relaxed ones like having some food and drink at Dajti Tower while you enjoy the view.
Day 3 in Tirana
There’s so much more to Albania than just the capital city, so why not use the rest of your 72 hours in Tirana by experiencing another of the country’s fine destinations? There are a lot of day trip options, from exploring the country’s gorgeous coast to visiting charming inland towns that are bursting with character and history.
Probably the easiest place to reach from Tirana for a day trip is the coastal city of Durrës. This port city on the Adriatic sea is also your easiest option to see some of the country’s gorgeous beaches, but they’re just the start of what Durrës has to offer.
Durrës Amphitheater is the signature tourist attraction in the city and is the largest amphitheater in the Balkans. You’ll find many more remnants from the city’s Roman days over at the Archaeological Museum of Durrës and another archaeological site over at the Byzantine Forum. Later historical landmarks around the city include the Venetian Tower of Durrës and the fortifications of the ancient city walls.
In terms of beaches, you have your pick depending on how far you’re willing to travel. The Beach of Durrës is the easiest to reach from the city center, but that naturally makes it quite a popular choice. Also quite popular is Plazhi i Golemit to the south, while the beaches on the Bay of Lalzi are generally much quieter.
Albania is home to many picturesque towns, with Kruja or Krujë being a great example that’s not far from the capital. It doesn’t hurt that Kruja was the home of national hero George Kastrioti Skanderbeg and the base from which he repelled Ottoman advances for decades.
Kruja Castle is a must-see attraction in the town, because it’s both an impressive attraction with great historical significance and also houses multiple museums. One is the Skanderbeg Museum, where you can learn about the famous military commander, while another is the Ethnographic Museum of Kruja, which provides a glimpse into life for wealthy families and the interior of a preserved Ottoman house.
Down in the town, you’ll want to make sure you walk through the Kruja Bazaar, which features antique, handicraft, and souvenir stores set along an old cobblestone street.
While it’s considerably further than the other day trips, Berat is a destination well worth the journey and still quite a manageable day trip. The small city is nicknamed the City of a Thousand Windows thanks to its sea of Ottoman-style houses that fill its UNESCO World Heritage-listed historical center.
Walking along the city’s riverfront is certainly the best way to begin exploring here, as it’s from there that you’ll get the perfect view of its traditional buildings, not to mention find the elegant Gorica Bridge. From there you’ll want to head into the Old Town and eventually make your way up the hill to Berat Castle.
The fortifications of the intact castle are the core attraction of the Castle Quarter, but there are a variety of other attractions to be found here as well. The Church of the Holy Trinity from the 13th century, the ruins of the Red Mosque, and the Onufri National Iconographic Museum are a few, but it’s worth thoroughly exploring the area before heading back down the hill.
Before you know it, your 3 days in Tirana will fly by with all the great things on this itinerary. If you had any doubts that you wouldn’t need so long in the city, hopefully you can now see how much Tirana has to offer visitors who give it a chance.