I am telling you about the places to visit and our experiences in Tirana, the capital of Albania, one of the places we visited during the Balkan tour. Although it is said that there are not many places to visit about Tirana, one of the tourist destinations of the visa-free Balkan tour, Tirana stands out with its museums and history.
Tirana, the capital of Albania, is surrounded by many architecturally Soviet and Yugoslav buildings. Although it is not very appetizing and it depends on what you enjoy in terms of excitement. You can easily visit the important parts of Tirana in half a day or the whole city in 1 day.
Before you go to Tirana, you should research who Enver Hoxha was and what Albania was like before and after Enver Hoxha. Enver Hoxha left a deep mark on Tirana. After World War II and until his death in 1985, he was against religion and wanted to create an atheist country. For this reason, he used to kill people of religion and those who disagreed with him.
Iskender Bey Square
Alexander Bey Square is the heart of Tirana, the cultural square, the meeting point for people. The statue of Alexander Bey on a horse in the center gives the square its name. Alexander Bey was the founder of the city and he had a great contribution in making the city what it is. That’s why we often hear the name Alexander in Tirana.
There are many places to visit around Alexander Bey Square and you will spend most of your time in Tirana. Since it is in a central location, Alexander Bey Square is also an ideal place to start sightseeing.
The square is huge and even though there is water coming out of the ground in places, the marble floor causes a brightness that you can’t open your eyes in sunny weather. I advise you not to visit without sunglasses. Especially after leaving the museums, you will have a hard time in this open area even with glasses. Public transportation can be used to reach Iskender Bey Square, and those who come by private car or rent a car can use the parking area under the square.
Tirana National History Museum
Perhaps the most important place to visit in Tirana is the National Museum of History in Tirana. The mosaic on the building can be easily recognized by a wall mosaic titled Albanians, which depicts ancient and modern figures of Albanian history.
It has many galleries from antiquity to the present day and I think it is a must-visit museum. Moreover, the entrance fee is quite affordable. Even if you are not going anywhere, I recommend you to visit this museum.
Ethem Bey Mosque
Ethem Bey Mosque is one of the Ottoman legacies in Tirana. Many religious buildings were destroyed due to Enver Hoxha’s efforts to create a godless country, but Ethem Bey Mosque managed to survive. It is located in the center of the city, on one side of Alexander Bey Square. The mosque was built by Ethem Bey in the 18th century. When we visited, it was closed and under restoration. The mosque, which has a single dome, was first turned into a museum and opened for worship in 1990.
Right next to the Ethem Bey Mosque is a clock tower. The clock of Tirana Clock Tower, which was also built by Ethem Bey, had to be changed from time to time. The clock is 35 meters high and you can climb the clock tower for a small fee. I didn’t want to go up because it wasn’t worth the view of Tirana.
The pyramid was built during the communist era by Enver Hoxha’s daughter and son-in-law after his death in 1985. The aim was to honor Enver Hoxha and turn the building into a museum. However, a few years after Enver Hoxha’s death, Communism lost power and the museum could not be opened. After the fall of Communism, the Pyramid structure was demolished because it was a reminder of the bad days, but it could not be demolished. Today the pyramid is in ruins, with broken windows and various graffiti on it. It has become very ugly in appearance.
National Archaeological Museum of Tirana
If you continue on the pyramid road, you will see the building of the National Archaeological Museum of Tirana overlooking a large square. The National Archaeological Museum in Tirana is a museum where archaeological artifacts are exhibited. Although the building looks like a big building, a gallery on the bottom floor has been turned into an archaeology museum. It is nowhere near the National History Museum, but there are some nice artifacts. There are not enough explanations of the artifacts, and some of the artifacts seem to be just put in the showcases. You can visit between 09:00 – 16:00 for a small fee.
A little bit from Tirana…
The Orthodox Resurrection Cathedral is one of the largest Orthodox cathedrals in the Balkans. It is worth seeing because of the splendor of its exterior architecture.
As in other Albanian cities, there are very few places that accept credit cards in Tirana. After exiting under the square where we parked our car, there is a currency exchange office nearby. You can exchange it there at an affordable price.
When you enter the back streets of Tirana, you can immediately understand its poverty in terms of appearance. Buses and buildings are old and neglected. Since the unemployment rate is quite high, the young population goes to work in neighboring countries.
Where is Tirana and how to get there?
There are direct flights from Istanbul to Tirana. Tirana International Airport is the most practical way to get to Tirana. You can also take a bus from the airport to the city center. You can also rent a car during your long Balkan tours and plan a route with a stop in Tirana like we did.