Tirana Albania: Great Things To Do For Long Weekend

Tirana city

Do you have a long weekend trip to Tirana? You were in the right place because this blog provides you with great things to do, and some information you may need on your trip to Tirana. For many, the capital of Albania is still an unknown holiday destination. The truth is, I have been planning to do this for a long time, but I was waiting for the right moment. So in the summer heat of July, I made it to Tirana, which was on my bucket list for a long time.

If you are looking for a cityscape, Tirana is the perfect pick. I have visited all the Balkan capitals, and if you ask, which one is my favorite? Well, my short answer and without a doubt, the capital of Albania is one that I prefer. Tirana is one of the most beautiful cities in the Balkan I have been to. The variety of things to do will definitely gives you a delightful long weekend trip.

Table of contents

Tirana's lake

Flights to Tirana

There are daily flights to Nene Tereza Tirana International Airport, the main airport in Albania, where international flights arrive. Tirana is also a destination for bunch of low-cost air carriers in Europe, check these airlines: Pegasus Airlines, Eurowings, EasyJet, Aegean Airlines, Wizz Air, TUI fly Belgium, Bulgaria Air, Transavia, SkyUp Airlines, Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, British Airway, Alba Wings, and many more.

If you check Skyscanner for flights, you will see which airlines flew from your departure airport. It was for me a competing choice between Wizz Air and Austrian. After searching thoroughly with these two airlines, it came with the same price. The additional cost during the booking with Wizz Air is very disappointing, so I have flown with Austrian Airlines. I flew out Friday morning from Brussels and wing-out from Tirana on Monday morning.

Do you need a tourist visa for Tirana, Albania?

Yes and no, it depends on which passport you have. Many nationals can enter Albania visa-free. For more information, check HERE if you are eligible to travel to Albania without needing a tourist visa.

For EU nationals, an ID is adequate for Albania, but there is a drawback. The airport in Tirana has an automated passport control kiosks, which gives you fast access. Those traveling with an ID card you need to fall in line for passport control, but it takes less than ten minutes of waiting. Check HERE for the Albania e-visa application. 

Tanner's bridge

Get local currency before exiting the airport

If you plan to take the bus, you need the Albanian lek, so before exiting the airport, change a small amount. I exchanged just 20 euros and did the rest when I got to the center. I said so because the currency exchange inside the airport is considerably low.

Just behind the passport control, you see a small booth with a sign (no commission). This is the best place to exchange your money at the airport. There are also ATMs inside if you want to withdraw cash, but remember, they will charge 5.00 euros per transaction with debit or credit cards. So I suggest taking euros or dollars and swapping them for Albanian lek.

Getting from the airport to Tirana city

If you arrive during the day you can save money by taking the bus it costs 400 leks (3.75 euros). However, there is only one bus every hour – the service is from 8:00 am to 11:00 pm. You should be lucky if you can catch the bus on time. I was through the airport at 2:00 pm, and he was ready to leave, but he let me in or I had to wait for another hour.

The airport bus parked 50 meters from the arrival terminal. When you exit the building – walk left, where the car rental offices are on your right and the taxis on the left. A bit further is the airport bus with the sign Tirana. As for the taxi, it costs 20 -25 euros, but you will get it a bit cheaper at booking.com. I took a cab from Tirana to catch my flight in the morning and paid 18 euros booked in advance.

Tirana city

The best time to visit Tirana

Tirana can be visited throughout the year, but I would avoid the months of July and August. Because not only is the peak season it is also terribly hot. Generally, spring or fall is the ideal time to travel in the Balkan countries. I was in Serbia in April, and the weather was pretty good, and one month later, I went to North Macedonia, which was an appropriate temperature.

If you thought of making a long weekend trip to Serbia, read my post on how to spend two days in Belgrade. Of course, your trip to Serbia will not be complete without visiting Novi Sad. How to spend the best day in Novi Sad.

Where to stay in Tirana

Tirana has too many to offer in terms of accommodations. Hotels, pensions, apartments, hostels, and much more, whatever your preferences, you can find it in one app of Booking.com. I mostly opt for hotels that are located in the center, where I do not need to walk far in the evening for restaurants. 

I stayed at Hotel Oresti Center – a perfect location in Tirana, a five-minute walk to Skanderbeg Square. At the time of booking I only paid 138 euros for three nights. The room was adequate, with the necessary facilities – the bonus is the location close to everything.

Tirana staircase

How cheap is Tirana

The prices in Tirana are much lower than in major European capitals, even cheaper than the adjoining Serbia and North Macedonia. A trip to Tirana will not rip your wallet apart. The prices of food, drinks, public transportation, and some lodgings are dirt cheap. However, if you stay in a five-star hotel, you will pay the same price as in other places.

The buses are the cheapest I had, for 0.35 cents euro is nowhere to be found in Europe. So, if you are looking for a place to spend a long weekend that does not cost you too much, Tirana will be an ideal place.

Great Things to do for long weekend

A trip to Tirana can be enjoyable, even if only just for a long weekend, and it is pretty easy to walk from one site to another, it is in fact, the best way to get around, walking. If you plan to use public transport, you must know the specified destinations of the buses, as it can be challenging for visitors. I walk most of the time.

1) – Skanderbeg Square

Skanderbeg Square

These would be the best place to start to get your bearings, the most prominent square in Tirana, and hugely pedestrian. It is also a focal point for various cultural events, when I was here in the summer, they closed the whole area for a festival, but I returned the next day and was cleared up and able to have some good photos.

The national hero Skanderbeg statue in a horse is the main attraction of this square. The views were lovely either way you look as you can see the surrounding buildings. Nearby are the Opera House, the National History Museum, and the Et’hem Bey Mosque. This square reminds me of Skopje the capital of North Macedonia, but this central square is more appealing.

And while I mentioned Skopje, you might be interested in this adjoining country. Another excellent city in the Balkan that is worth a long weekend gateway. So please read my post on North Macedonia to give you some ideas. How to spend one day in Skopje. Of course, Ohrid is a must-see in North Macedonia. Ohrid how to spend in one day

2) – Et’hem Bey Mosque

Et'hem Bey Mosque

Et’hem Bey is on the corner of Skanderbeg, a five-minute walk from the main square. It is one of Tirana’s most historic and interesting buildings in the presence of the Ottomans. During the communist regime in Albania, many churches and mosques were devastated, but this one survived. The refined architecture is hard to resist, which gives you the urge to see inside. The mosque is open to everyone, but respect the ceremonies conducted in this very busy mosque.

The exterior artwork on the building is astounding. I have been to many mosques in the Middle East. But I had never seen beautiful frescoes outside in a religious house. On the other hand, it is more impressive inside because of the intricate decorations around the walls and domed ceilings.

Since my last visit to Saudi Arabia, I have become more interested in mosques. Although I am not Muslim, I love seeing places of worship because of their architectural beauty, and this mosque is a gem.

3) – The clock tower

Tirana's clock tower

The clock tower is next to the mosque – this is Tiranas landmark on the central square. Like many others you have seen in any other major European city, it is just a regular narrow building. But this clock tower is a cultural monument that shows the time in Tirana since 1822 – built by Ottomans in Venetian style.

During the war the clock tower was ruined, but agreeably restored. Also, it extended the current height of 35 meters. For a time, it was the tallest structure in town. Nowadays, visitors can climb the tower by going up to 90 steps in spiral stairs. A small entry fee of 200 lek gave you a supreme image of the surroundings.

4) – Bunk Art 2 underground museum

Bunk Art Museum 2

Across the road from Skanderbeg square is the Bunk Art museum 2. Apart from free things to do in Tirana, Bunk Art 2 has an entry fee of 7.00 euros. There were two Bunk Art 1 and 2 museums in Tirana, but the other one was out of the center. 

The truth is, I am not typically a museum person, and this was exceptional for me. If you are interested in Albanian history, this museum presents all the facts in a way that lets you experience it. It provides an understanding to those who suffered under the communist regime. And this museum tells the incredible story of survival. They have a lot of information and great exhibitions that explain history.

5) – Grand Mosque (Namazgah)

Tirana's Grand Mosque

This is a surprising structure that you can find in Tirana, a futuristic-looking religious house. The brand new building of Namazgah is taking its shape in the center of Tirana, and with its four minarets 50 meters high, you barely miss it during your walk. You will find it easily if you type the location on the map, a short walk from the city square.

If compared to Et’hem Bey mosque, this gigantic building seems to be able to occupy 5,000 worship, one of the largest mosques in the Balkan. The construction began in January 2015 and is scheduled to open its doors at the end of 2022, but when I was here in July, it wasn’t completely done.

6) – Walk through the Blloku district

Blluko District

Blloku is a trendy district of Tirana and extremely popular. This area in the communist days was the preserve of the elite and barely accessible to ordinary individuals. However, after the fall of communism, the neighborhood went into transformation and suddenly became a favorite district of Tirana.

There are many cafes and restaurants – it is also a popular place for nightlife. The buildings here are newer and more modern than in other parts of the capital. Also, the house of communist leader Enver Hoxha is in Blluko but not open to the public.

7) – The Pyramid of Tirana

Tirana Pyramid

The image of Tirana is the pyramid formerly known as Enver Hoxha Pyramid, which has gone a new uplift. A strange structure that most people associate with country’s history. Originally built as a memorial to the former communist leader Hoxha, and used for various purposes.

Since the end of communism in Albania, the pyramid was left unused and almost neglected. Currently, it has a much better look than before. They added stairs on the sides, where you can go up to the top for a view. Also, you can visit inside for free, but when I was there, it was still blank.

8) – The new bazaar (Pazari i Ri)

The New Bazaar (Pazari i Ri)

The new Bazaar, or the Pazari i Ri in Albanian, allocates in the old town. It is a newly renovated marketplace with substantial magnetism, one of the first things I noticed. Although smaller compared to similar structures present in the major European capitals. But here you will find fruit, vegetables, typical products, and small crafts.

Even if you do not intend to buy anything, this is worth a visit to see how the locals do in their daily lives. Additionally, the lively square is pleasant to walk and browse the shops. Also, the whole area catered to restaurants and cafes, one of the best places for dining where you find inexpensive traditional food.

9) – The Grand Park of Tirana

The Grand Park of Tirana

The largest park on the outskirts of Tirana is a beautiful area with walking paths. The relaxing surrounding is an ideal place to escape the hustle in Tirana. You can take a walking tour around the lake if you like to spend some time here. There is also a restaurant and cafe with a nice sitting and view over the lake.

On top of that, you may like to take the train that goes around the park for 250 lek, but I only saw it on my way out. I did not know there were different access to the park. I entered from the other side, which was a steep walk. The only drawback here is the poor signage, so make sure you have a navigation with you. Because there were no signs or direction, I followed my maps to find the exit.

10) – Take the cable car to Dajti Mountain

The view from Dajti Mountains

Your trip to Tirana will not be complete without visiting the Dajti Mountain National Park. It may sound bizarre when you hear about a mountain in Tirana. I also did not expecting that this would come on the list. Regardless of the free sites you may find in Tirana, these are the most expensive things to do. It will cost you 1400 lek (13 euros) for a return ticket with a cable car. Some travelers will go for the hike, but it will take hours to reach the top.

For once in a lifetime, it is worth paying for. It is a 20-minute scenic ride that manifests a countenance of Tirana city. Once you’re at the top, you can walk around or go for ziplining. There’s no time limit – you can spend as long as you want in the mountains, and if you have enough, take the cable car back down.

Tips on how to get from Skanderbeg to Dajti station and return

You start from Skanderbeg Square by taking the blue bus with the sign L11 Porcelain, it costs 40 lek for a ticket. Please remind the ticket inspector that you get off at Dajti if you don’t want to be end up somewhere. The trip will take about 30 minutes from Skanderbeg to the bus stop in Dajti.

Make sure you have a walking map because once the bus drop you off, you still need to do some climbing walk to the cable car station. If you take a taxi, this will take you up to the front door of the ticket counter, but then it will cost you more than by bus. And going back to the center, you just have to wait for the bus on the other side of the road where you get off.

11) – Spend a day in Kruje

The charming village of Kruje
View of the castle from the roadside

Kruje is one hour from Tirana and worth spending for one day if you want to escape the bustle of Tirana. If you are looking for a perfect destination with history and culture, Kruje is the place to be.

This small town lies on the mountain, therefore has a very relaxing atmosphere. The old Bazaar and the castle were the highlights of your trip to Kruje. If you include this to your list, your long weekend trip to Tirana will be gratifying. For further detailed information on how to get there, read this separate blog – A day trip to Kruje and how to get there from Tirana.

Final thoughts: My long weekend in Tirana was a great experience, I never thought that I would love this place. To be honest, I rarely go back to places where I already have been, but Albania is back on my list to revisit except no more in the summer.

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