Read about the city

For decades, the Albanian capital of Tirana was one of Europe's most closed and inaccessible cities for tourists. Today it is almost the other way around when you think of exploring the sights and neighborhoods and in the meeting with the friendly people of Albania.

Tirana is a city created through centuries of diverse construction from a variety of rulers and the culture and style of leaders. The 13th century Justinian Fort once formed the center of the city, which has since been influenced by not least the Ottoman Empire, Italy and the special Albanian communism.

In the interwar period in the 20th century, Albania was in many ways like an Italian state, although it was a country with its own rule and king. Italian architectures and urban planning largely influenced Tirana's development and laid the grounds for the capital's boulevards and squares.

In 1944, Albanian communists led by Enver Hoxha took over power after a freedom struggle against occupation troops from Italy and then Germany. It became the starting point in a historically unique period with decades of relative isolation from the outside world. There are many remains in Tirana from this time; this is, for example, Mother Albania and Enver Hoxha's pyramid.

In the very heart of Tirana, you can see Skanderbeg Square, which since the 1990s has been subject to rapid development with new construction and beautiful architecture that is also seen in many other places in the city and in the surrounding area, where the mountains is an great place to go for an excursion.

Other attractions

Tirana University

  • Tirana University & Tirana Polytechnical University / Universiteti i Tiranës & Universiteti Politeknik i Tiranës: Tirana University is Albania's leading university, whose foundation dates back to 1957. The main building, which is the seat of the rectorate, is a distinguished work in rationalism.
  • National Martyrs Boulevard / Bulevardi Dëshmorët e Kombit: This boulevard was laid out and designed by Italian architects as Tirana's new and most magnificent street. It was realised during the Italian period of Albania. The boulevard is pompous in the layout, and there are many significant buildings and institutions along it.

The Pyramid, Tirana

  • The Pyramid / Piramida: Piramida is one of the most distinctive buildings in Tirana. The futuristically designed building was constructed as a museum for the country's communist state leader Enver Hoxha, and it opened in 1988. The museum closed with communism in 1991, and Piramida was inaugurated that year as an international cultural center.
  • Cultural Palace / Pallati in Cultures: Pallati in Cultures was erected at the descision of the Communist Albanian Party. The foundation stone was laid by the then head of the Soviet Union, Nikita Krushchov in 1959, and the building was completed in 1963. The architecture is a typical design from the communist countries of Eastern Europe. Various cultural institutions occupy the building.

Tirana Clock Tower

  • Tirana Clock Tower / Kulla e Sahatit: This bell tower rises in the middle of Tirana's street scene, and at the time of construction in 1822, with its 35 meters, it was also the tallest building in the city. In the tower there is a spiral staircase and there is access to the top from which you can look out over the city center.
  • Justinian's Fort / Kalaja e Justinianite : Justinian's Fort dates back to the 13th century Byzantine times. Not much of the fort is preserved, but you can see part of the encircling wall.

Mother Albania, Tirana

  • Mother Albania / Nëna Shqipëri: In Albania's National Martyrs' Cemetery you can see this impressive statue from 1971. It is 12 meters high and stands as a mother symbol for all the country's fallen soldiers. There are 28,000 partisan graves from World War II here, and it was also at this place that Enver Hoxha was buried before the later transfer of his grave.
  • Presidential Palace / Presidenca: The Presidential Palace is the official residence of the Albanian President. The large and imposing edifice is architecturally typical of Soviet construction, and the house was originally the Soviet Union embassy in Tirana when it was completed in 1960.
History overview

    Read about city history

    Tirana Prehistory
    The region around Tirana is considered to be one of the earliest inhabited areas of present-day Albania, thereby taking the settlements many thousands of years back. Traces of Illyrians have been found through archaeological discoveries, and in central Tirana the remains of a Roman house have been discovered.

    Remains and buildings have also been found from the following centuries in the Roman times. Not least some parts of the castle that Emperor Justinian built in 520. The castle was excavated and restored in the 18th century by Ahmed Pasha Toptani. In the area and around Justinian's castle, over the centuries, more houses were added and the number inhabitants increased.

    The Ottoman era
    In the 1400s, the Turkish Ottomans came to the Albanian area, and in connection with their first land and property registration in 1431-1432, several settlements were registered in and around present-day Tirana. At that time there were 2,028 houses and about 7,300 inhabitants here.

    The scattered buildings lay on the trade routes in the area, but they only became a formal town in 1614, when Sulejman Bargjini founded Tirana in the form of an Ottoman town with mosque, hammam and a market area. Around those facilities, Tirana grew nicely through the 1600s-1700s.

    The rebellion against the Turks
    The Ottoman Empire's retreat from the Balkans was the result of both a weakened empire and a continued desire for freedom among the many people of the Balkan peninsula. The same was the case for the Albanians, who among the visible changes implemented that from 1889 onward Albanian was taught in the country's schools.

    The Albanian flag waved for the first time over Tirana in 1912, with Albania gained its independence. The Balkan wars of the following years destabilized the area and in a transition Tirana was temporarily conquered by the Serbian army.

    Monarchy and new capital
    At the Lushnjë Congress in 1920, Tirana was chosen as the interim capital of independent Albania, and great plans for the city's development were initiated. The first sketches had been drawn in 1917, but an actual city plan first came about in 1923 from the ideas of Austrian architects.

    Architects Florestano Di Fausto and Armando Brasini, who successfully worked in Benito Mussolini's Italy, designed a new center for Tirana; This included the construction of ministerial buildings and the city's boulevards and squares. From December 31, 1925, Tirana gained the status of permanent capital of the country.

    Several different groups of people also set out for Albania in the 1920s, where there were changing political regimes. In June 1924, a political upheaval took place in the form of Fan Noli's takeover of power. Fan Noli had founded the Albanian Orthodox Church, and he headed the country's pro-British party. His liberal supporters won over former Prime Minister Zogu, who was forced into exile.

    However, Zogu returned and he was elected president in 1925. In 1928, the monarchy was introduced, and Zogu became King Zog I. The monarchy lasted until 1939 with Zog as king, during which time the major facilities in Tirana continued with designs by Italian architects. Designs of the Royal Palace, the National Bank and other large buildings, among others.

    Italian Albania
    In 1939, Albanian fascists came to power through a form of union with Italy, which ruled through a local puppet government. In Tirana, their rule became manifest; for example, larger streets and squares were named after famous facists.

    Officially, Albania was a kingdom where Italian Vittorio Emanuele III was king. Despite almost being an Italian protectorate since 1926, Albania was invaded by Italian troops in April 1939. The Italian occupation lasted until the country's capitulation in 1943, after which Albania was occupied by German troops.

    In the years of occupation, the Albanian Communist Party was established, and here Enver Hoxha became the leading figure. Tirana was the center of the Communists' activities, and they continually increased their connection to the activities against the German occupying forces.

    On November 17, 1944, Tirana was liberated after fierce fighting between communists and German troops, and subsequently a communist regime was established in the country.

    Communist Tirana
    With the communists in power, Tirana was rebuilt and changed throughout the era lasting from 1944 to 1991. Some of the prestigious buildings in the center of the Italian era were demolished to make way for major construction in relation to communist ideology; among other things, the catholic cathedral was destroyed in favor of the Soviet-inspired cultural palace.

    A statue of Soviet leader Josef Stalin was erected in a prominent square in the city, and a central boulevard got his name. Tirana was also changed traffic wise, prohibiting private motoring. Instead, bicycles and buses were the forms of transport, and it characterized the capital's streets.

    As part of the later isolation policy, Albania was industrialized, as was Tirana, where several factories were set up to secure production.

    Expanded came to the center of Tirana, where a government district with residences for the country's tops was erected. The Blloku neighborhood was an exclusive area where the population had no access. The dwelling of Enver Hoxha was also located in Blloku. Head of state Enver Hoxha died in 1985, and a visible memorial was erected in form of a pyramid built for his memorial.

    Tirana Today
    In the 1990s, communist rule had fallen in favor of a rapid introduction of market economy. It created a new Albania and a new Tirana, which over time was greatly expanded. This time it was not standard housing as in previous decades, but rather elegant new houses, office buildings and other things that the new economy gave way to. Time was one with many and rapid changes, so some illegal construction was also created.

    In recent years, many projects have been completed in Tirana, partly to beautify the city and partly to bring a stop to illegal construction. Thereby, today a harmonious and exciting city center awaits visitors.
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Tirana, Durrës County, Albania

Top attractions

Skanderbeg Square, Tirana

  • Skanderbeg Square / Sheshi Skënderbej: Sheshi Skënderbej is the central square in Tirana and thus the most important in the whole country. Today, the square is dominated by communist-era buildings. The Palace of Culture is where the city's bazaar used to be, the Tirana International Hotel replaced the city's Orthodox Cathedral, and the National Historical Museum is at the site of the former Tirana City Hall.
  • National Museum of History / Muzeu Historik Kombëtar: This museum is one of Albania's most important. It opened in 1981 in the center of Tirana. The museum contains and shows various themes and periods in Albania's culture and history. One can, for example, experience antiquity, the Middle Ages, World War II and the communist era as periods.

Resurrection Cathedral, Tirana

  • Resurrection of Christ Cathedral / Katedralja Ngjallja e Krishtit: This is the cathedral of the Albanian Orthodox Church in Tirana and at the same time one of the more characteristic new buildings in the city. The church was built as a large dome building with a freestanding sky-striking bell tower. Construction was inaugurated in 2012 after eight years of construction.
  • The Block / Blloku: The neighborhood of Blloku is known as the district for wealthy people and formerly for the Albanian Communist Party rulers. Prior to the communists' construction of new homes for the elite, a number of factories were located here, but this quickly changed with, among others, the head of state Enver Hoxha's residence.

Enver Hoxha's House, Tirana

  • Enver Hoxha's House / Ish Vila e Enverit: In the formerly closed neighborhood of Blloku is Enver Hoxha's residence located. Hoxha was Albanian head of state during the years 1944-1985. As head of state, he was the first secretary of the communist party in the country, and was also at the head of the national army and military.
  • Tirana Mosaic / Mozaiku in Tiranë: The name Mozaiku in Tiranë, covers preserved parts of what is believed to have been a Roman house. The ruins of the house were discovered in 1972. Today, you can see and experience the preserved mosaics that offer geometric patterns and reproductions of fish and poultry.
Trips in the area

Shkodër, Albania

  • Shkodër: The city of Shkodër is one of the largest and oldest in Albania. Today, Shkodër is an interesting city to visit, where you can experience the atmosphere of one of the country's major provincial cities. For example, you can take a stroll along the elegant pedestrian street of Sheshi (Rruga Gjuhadol) or visit the Catholic Shkodër Cathedral.
  • Dajti/Mali in Dajtit: The mountain of Mali in Dajtit peaks at 1,613 meters/5,292 feet east of Tirana, and it is a popular excursion destination both summer and winter. The fastest access is by road leading to various spots with access to both the area and stunning viewpoints where the Albanian capital is at one's feet.
  • Durrës: Durrës is the second largest city in Albania and is located as the port of Tirana. Today, there are many sights to see during a visit to Durres, and they cover several eras of the city's long history. There are nice streets and squares in the city, where you can also enjoy a walk along the water. Churches, mosques and museums are also interesting.

Ohrid Lake

  • Ohrid Lake/Liqeni in Ohrit: Ohrid Lake is one of the natural wonders in the mountainous regions between Albania and North Macedonia. The lake is located on the border between the two countries. Ohrid Lake is the deepest lake in the Balkans with 288 meters/945 feet as the deepest point, and its size is up to 15 kilometers/9.3 miles in width and 30 kilometers/18.6 miles in length.
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Shopping
With kids
  • History Museum: Muzeu Historik Kombëtar, Sheshi Carpentry
  • Natural Sciences: Muzeu in Shkencave Të Natyrës, Rruga Kavajës, www.fshn.edu.al
  • Cable Car: Teleferiku Dajti Express, www.dajtiekspres.com
  • Zoo: Kopshti Zoology, Rruga Haxhi Brari
Practical info