Tirana is one of my favorite cities in the Balkans, and it always breaks my heart when I hear a traveler has only dedicated a day - or worse, a mere transit stop - to visiting this incredibly vibrant capital.
OK, Tirana isn't "pretty" in the traditional European sense of the word. It'll never beat the Parises or Romes of the world for its beauty. But Tirana has a vibe uniquely its own, and in a world full of cookie-cutter European cities with tourist-packed Old Towns, Tirana is endlessly unique and utterly fascinating, worthy of at least two days on your Albania itinerary.
Get your bearings with a Tirana walking tour. I love starting my time in a city with a walking tour. It helps me to understand what the main tourist sites are, and I find that after doing a walking tour, I can usually tick off about half the things I wanted to do in that city in three hours or less.
I took the Tirana Free Tour on my first visit to Tirana back in 2016 and it was a fantastic introduction to the city of Tirana and the history of Albania. The tour is full of facts without a hint of dullness, as Albanian history is endlessly fascinating and completely new to most travelers.
Go deep into Albania’s dark past at Bunk’art 2. There are two Bunk’arts in Tirana, and each covers a slightly different aspect of Albania’s past. If you have two days or more planned for Tirana, I think it’s worth it to visit both. If you only have one day in Tirana, make it this one.
I’m putting Bunk’art 2 higher on this list of things to do in Tirana because it’s in the dead center of the city, making it far more likely that visitors will come here: it’s pretty hard to miss one of Albania’s signature bunkers emerging from a ground in one of Tirana’s main squares, after all.
See the abandoned Pyramid at the heart of Tirana. The ‘Pyramid of Tirana’ is one of Tirana’s biggest quirks, an abandoned museum set inside a park in the heart of the capital. It was built as a museum in 1988 by Enver Hoxha’s daughter to memorialize him after his death. However, upon the fall of communism in Albania in 1991, the museum’s original function became defunct.
It has since moonlighted as a conference center, NATO base, radio station, film set, and beloved oversized slide by local children (though it is now fenced off to prevent this).
The Pyramid was at risk for demolition for years, but Tirana citizens fought against it; luckily, it was announced last year that the Pyramid will be converted into an IT center for young coders and programmers. If that doesn’t show the direction that Tirana sees itself going forward, I don’t know what does.