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Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to a One Day in Tirana walking tour! I’m thrilled to the bones to help you get to know Albania better. We all get so used to our own hometown and modern life. Wouldn’t you like to experience a different way of life? Want to visit a city before it becomes the next major tourist attraction like Prague or Budapest?
Then this one day in Tirana Walking Tour is for you! We’ll explore Tirana’s strangest and most interesting monuments. We’ll eat our little faces off. And we’ll soon know more than anyone back home about the history and language of Albania. Plus there will be terrible puns. Let’s not waste any more time!
One Day in Tirana Walking Tour
Where to Stay
Tirana definitely attracts plenty of budget travelers because the prices are still so affordable. And for an insanely low price, I was able to afford a stay at the Prime Hotel. It’s small, but centrally located, and the staff is very helpful. Look at how sweetly they set up my sheets! That’s four-star service on a one-star budget!
And look at this huge breakfast they provided me with every morning! There was a sandwich, a pastry, yogurt, fruit…truly no one could eat all of it. I was spoiled for choice. The one thing I will say is that the coffee isn’t super high-quality, but it’s drinkable. Albania is not yet famous for its coffee plantations.
If you’re looking for a crazy good deal on this hotel, click here. And if you’d rather explore deals on almost 900 even more affordable hotels in Tirana, click here. I’m sure you’ll find something in your budget.
One Day in Tirana Walking Tour
What to Pack?
You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do today. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
Tirana is hot in the summer, so don’t forget the sunscreen, especially if you want to tango in the streets all day. My favorite is the Neutrogena spray bottle because it’s so easy to apply. And as a solo traveler, I can actually use it myself on my own back. I just put it in my purse and re-apply throughout the day.
Finally, if you’re American, you need a universal adapter if you’re going to plug in electronics. European electrical outlets don’t work with American plugs. I suggest the NEWVANGA travel adapter. It’s usable with any electrical outlet in the world, so you won’t need to keep buying new adapters. I always carry two with me, just in case something happens to one.
One Day in Tirana Walking Tour
Morning: National Museum of History
Tirana and Albania are still developing their tourism industry, so their museums aren’t quite as advanced as those of, say, Paris. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some museums worth visiting. And this one day in Tirana Walking Tour is going to take you to a couple of them!
Our first stop is at the National Museum of History. You can’t take photos inside most of the museum, but don’t worry! I have some very entertaining photos of the outside. And I guarantee to stuff your brains with knowledge in an enjoyable way with…
Three Sometimes Not Very Fun Facts: Albanian History
1) Where Can I Start Learning About Albanian History?
You can actually start learning about Albanian history in the square outside the museum. This is the main square of Tirana, Skanderbeg Square. You can’t miss it because it has a giant statue of Mr. Skanderbeg on a horse right in the middle. He’s the national hero of Albania, so it’s only polite to get to know his backstory.
Skanderbeg’s military triumphs came from the 15th century, which is definitely before I was born. Back then, the Ottoman Turks were rampaging through the Balkans conquering everything in sight. The only Albanian who could hold them back? Monsieur Skanderbeg. This seems like a great opening for a movie no one has ever made. I can just see the trailer now: In a world gone mad, who would restore sanity? One man, one name: SKANDERBEG!
Skanderbeg was able to hold off the Ottoman Empire for a long time, but not forever because he died of malaria. So Albania was eventually absorbed into the Ottoman Empire, just like all its neighbors. But now it is independent and Skanderbeg takes his place of honor in the center of town.
2) What are the Different Periods of Albanian History?
There are a lot of them and some are more controversial than others. Fortunately, the history museum has this giant mural/mosaic/”not sure what” outside showing the different periods, starting with ancient Albania. Well, almost all of them. Remember, Albanian history is almost as controversial as that picture of the white and gold/black and blue dress on the Internet.
The best section in the museum is dedicated to Albania in antiquity. They have a truly staggering collection of ancient art and sculpture for such a small museum. However, the Albanians History Museum isn’t interested in proving Albanians are descended from ancient Rome or something. (Remember, Albania was conquered by Italy under Mussolini, so talking about Albania’s relationship with Italy can bring up an Albanian! History! Controversy!)
The museum claims Albanians are descended from an ancient people named Illyrians, but some historians are not really sure that the Illyrians were a real ethnic group. Yet another Albanian! History! Controversy!
This image on the outside of the history museum gives you even more clues about other Albanian! History! Controversies! . First of all, the people in the image represent figures from different periods in Albanian history, but there’s no one representing the Ottoman period. Second, there used to be a Communist star on the image, but this star has since been removed. I guess you didn’t know Albanian history was so fraught with controversy! Wait until you get on Albanian history Twitter. It can get lit.
3) When Did Albania Get Independence?
On the 28th of Nentor, 1912! Can’t you read Albanian, Internet Stranger? (Actually, you probably can’t because it’s not related to any other languages.) But if you guessed that Nentor was November, 10 points to you and to Gryffindor! That means that Albania has only been officially a country for just over 100 years, though Albanians and their language have existed much longer than that.
Albania doesn’t actually mean anything in the Albanian language. In Albanian, the country is named Shqiperi, which means Land of the Eagles. That’s why the Albanian flag has a giant double-headed eagle on it. I tried about a million times to say Shqiperi correctly, and I was never able to manage it. If you can get it right, please send a recording to [email protected]
One Day in Tirana Walking Tour
I promised you a one day in Tirana Walking Tour, didn’t I? And so far we’ve just been walking around the museum! But now that the sun has come out, let’s go explore some of the other attractions you can only see by walking around Albania’s capital. I encourage you to leave some free time for exploring on your own. But I’ll point you in the right direction with…
Approximately Top 5: One Day in Tirana Walking Tour
1) Lunch at Oda
Today we’re going to follow my favorite dining routine: dinner at a fine dining establishment, lunch at a hole in the wall that serves cheap, filling local food. And that hole in the wall today is a seriously cute lunch spot called Oda. You’ll be able to indulge in Albanian classics here, and maybe they’ll even be able to teach you how to pronounce Shqiperi.
I recommend the specialty of the house: lamb liver mixed with cornmeal. I realize that not everyone is up for liver, but the flavor is really intense and interesting. However, if liver is too much for you, just get some normal lamb. And they do have vegetable stews available at Oda if you’re not into meat. Just remember that pork is not widely available in Albania because it’s a traditionally Muslim country.
2) BunkArt 2
Yesterday, we went to BunkArt1, which is located in a former secret Cold War Era bunker and is dedicated to the history of Communist Albania. But BunkArt2, which is just off Skanderbeg Square, is a little different. It’s also located in a former secret bunker, but it’s dedicated to the history of the police in 20th century Albania. Spoiler Alert! It’s not a pleasant history.
The first part of the museum shows how the Fascist Police suppressed the Albanians during the Italian occupation of Albania during World War II. But most of the museum is about the surveillance techniques of the Communist Secret Police, aka “Sigurimi”. Sigurimi was notorious for recruiting ordinary Albanians to spy on their neighbors for them. One of the craziest stories in BunkArt 2 is about a maid who was spying on a family she worked for by putting a listening device in a broom.
Again, why has no one made a movie about Albanian history yet? It could start with SKANDERBEG!!! and end with spy brooms.
3) Enver Hoxha’s House
Enver Hoxha (say it Hoh-ja) is the former Communist dictator of Albania. (Some people call him Little Stalin, which is not a compliment.) But you don’t have to worry that he’s in this house anymore because he’s very dead. You can find the exact address for the house by clicking here.
This house is located in an area called Ish-Blloku, which means Former Block. When Hoxha was in power, this area was just called “Block”, and it was only for high-ranking members of the Communist party. Ordinary Albanians were not allowed to come here. That doesn’t seem in keeping with the Communist spirit to me, but maybe this is why no one lets me be dictator.
Nowadays, there’s a KFC right across from Hoxha’s house. I heard a local call this “Kapitalist Fried Chicken”. It’s a good joke! And I’m sure Hoxha wouldn’t think it was funny at all.
4) Tirana Castle
You might be thinking that there’s castles all over Europe, and what’s so special about this one? Well, how would you like a castle you can shop in? That’s right, Tirana Castle, aka the Fortress of Justianian, is the actual remnants of a Byzantine-era castle.
But the Albanians turned it into a shopping mall in 2018. Now it’s a great place to go and buy Albanian crafts and goods like olive oil and lavender. Remember, Albania is on the Mediterranean, just like Greece, Croatia, and Italy. So you can get some similar products here for much cheaper than you can in those other countries. Don’t say I never saved you any pennies!
5) Albanian Religious Buildings
As you walk around Tirana, you’ll notice a number of mosques. Many countries in the Balkans who fell under the Ottoman Empire didn’t convert to Islam, but Albania is one of the countries that did. So Islam is still the most popular religion in the country, though many Albanians are not religious. Under Communism, religion was not allowed, so many mosques were closed. That’s why rebuilding mosques in Tirana is an ongoing project to this day.
But perhaps the most popular Albanian religious figure is a Catholic, Mother Teresa. She was born in Skopje, which is in North Macedonia, but she had Albanian ancestry. So Albania likes to claim her as theirs. Really, everyone in the Balkans likes to claim Mother Teresa as theirs. It’s just one more Albanian! History! Controversy!
One Day in Tirana Walking Tour
Evening: Dinner at Padam
If you’re looking for fine dining in Tirana, Padam is definitely the place to go. Just the fact that Tirana has a gourmet restaurant like Padam shows how far the city has come in just a few years. Everyone I met in Tirana was excited about the economic development of the country and enthusiastic about the prospect of joining the European Union.
But enough about Albanian! History! Controversies! for one day. Let’s eat! I recommend the tasting menu so you can try as many exquisite dishes as you can fit down your gullet.
Our first dish is a carpaccio with green apple and cucumber. It was as refreshing as an evening free of Albanian! History! Controversies! Also, look carefully at my photos and I think you’ll see there’s actually a color scheme to this tasting menu.
Our second course is a local fish. The menu said it was Tamara trout, but if I look up Tamara Trout or Tamara Fish, I get LinkedIn profiles of ladies named Tamara, so that doesn’t help me much. This fish is small but it packs a powerful taste, so I think they should call it SKANDERBEG!!!
Then we have the poached egg and mashed potatoes with truffles. If loving truffled potatoes is wrong, I don’t want to be right! This dish is also as sneaky as a maid with a spy broom because there’s broccoli in it. But because of the truffles, you don’t really notice the taste of broccoli.
This was a handmade tortellini filled with game meat. (I should have warned you that Albanian food is really heavy on the meat, so the tasting menu probably isn’t for you if you are vegetarian. But you can order veggie-friendly dishes from the ala carte menu, especially if you eat fish and/or pasta.)
After all these experimental and fancy dishes, it was funny that the main course was steak and potatoes. But they were extremely tasty steak and potatoes, and that’s really what counts, isn’t it?
Now, this is a dish fit for a Skanderbeg! It’s a sweet puffed rice cake with hazelnut mousse and coffee cream on top. I’m always looking for new ways to combine food, and I had never eaten a hazelnut coffee dessert before, even though it makes sense because hazelnut coffee is so yummy. I hope this trend catches on.
That’s a One Day in Tirana Walking Tour!
What would you do on a one day in Tirana walking tour? What’s your favorite Albania! History! Controversy!? And why hasn’t anyone made a movie about SKANDERBEG!!! yet? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY try a one day in Tirana walking tour. If you’re looking for another one day in Tirana walking tour, just click here.