Situated on a plain surrounded by lofty mountains and hills in central Albania is the town of Tirana. Also often called Tiranë, it’s the capital and largest metropolis in the nation. It serves because the seat of the energy of the nationwide authorities, and can also be Albania’s most important political, monetary, and commerce middle. With a historical past that dates again to at the least the 15th century and an unusual, funky trendy vibe, there are many issues to see and do in Tirana, Albania.
The History of Tirana
The Tirana space has been inhabited for 1000’s years. As early because the Paleolithic period, or Old Stone Age, historic people are known as the area dwelling. A historic Indo-European tribe often called the Illyrians have been amongst its earliest inhabitants. Among the traditional finds unearthed in Tirana embody the ruins of a 3rd-century Roman home and the remnants of a medieval temple close to Shengjin Fountain.
In 1417, the Ottomans conquered the world, and by the early 17th century, the town continued to develop, with a bazaar and a number of watermills constructed. Over the following few hundred years, a number of mosques sprang up, together with the Old Mosque in 1614 and the Et’hem Bey Mosque, whose building concluded in 1821.
The Serbian military occupied Tirana for a time throughout the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913. After 5 years as Albania’s momentary capital, it completely took on the title on December 31, 1925. It remained the capital even after communists took over in 1944 and remodeled or demolished a lot of its buildings. The communist regime wouldn’t fall till 1991, although town skilled additional turmoil with a civil struggle in 1997 and a failed coup d’état in 1998.
Today, Tirana is a novel and a quite funky mixture of its tumultuous previous and a shiny, shining future. The signature, blocky Communist-style structure from that period stays, however, a lot of it has since been embellished with splashes of vibrant coloration.
Because of its Communist-era historical past, Tirana’s Old Town doesn’t have the identical conventional really feel as different previous cities across the nation, however, there’s nonetheless loads to do, particularly once you embody the encircling space. The predominant languages in the world appear to be Albanian and Italian—one thing that helped me out rather a lot, since I’m largely fluent in Italian.
From one-of-a-kind farms to distinctive dwelling castles to pottery workshops, Tirana is a bastion of Albanian tradition. The fare is hearty, stick-to-your-ribs meals, and there are a selection of incredible locations to seize a drink, mingle with locals, and individuals watch. It’s a metropolis that has captured my coronary heart for all of those causes, and I’m excited to share them with you. These are the highest 15 issues to see and do in Tirana, Albania.
Enjoy a Turtle Farm Albania Experience
Albania’s latest native farm expertise can also be certainly one of its most original! Located roughly 25 minutes exterior of Tirana in Daias village, Turtle Farm Albania is Albania’s first tortoise sanctuary. Visiting is definitely one of many prime issues to do in Tirana, Albania!
It’s headed by yours really in partnership with my good buddy and information Erjan Guxha and his household. Turtle Farm Albania is an ardour venture of mine that was born from my love of turtles and tortoises, which started after I was a child.
The Origins of Turtle Farm Albania
After touring around Albania and encountering quite a few Hermann’s tortoises crossing busy roads (and sadly, discovering a couple of that had gotten hit by automobiles), I got here up with the concept of a tortoise sanctuary of kinds the place they might reside safely, removed from automobiles driving at 70 miles per hour.
After some dialogue, Arjan provided up his household’s 2.5-acre farm, which grows watermelon, olives, grapes, cucumbers, figs, tomatoes, and way more.
We transformed the farm right into a protected haven for tortoises discovered alongside the aspect of the street across the nation. After just some months of operation, our household swelled to over 200 tortoises who’ve discovered a brand new, glad dwelling on our grounds.
But Turtle Farm Albania isn’t only a dwelling for our tortoises. It’s additionally a steadily rising vacationer attraction that gives tons of leisure actions to those that select to pay us a go-to!
Meet Our Tortoises
Of course, the celebs of Turtle Farm Albania are our tortoises, who reside in pens arrange across the grounds. Our guests can meet them and rise up shut and private with them, and may even feed them if they need! Our tortoises love watermelon, which the Guxha household grows lots of on their property!
Turtle Farm Albania Activities
Because Turtle Farm Albania is situated on a genuine, working farm, we additionally provide farm actions like grape-picking and tractor rides. For these with extra adventurous spirits, you may go on a wild and bumpy off-roading SUV experience down the backroads by the forests across the village. It’s definitely not for the faint of coronary heart however is a ton of enjoyable!
We additionally provide our home wine and our do-it-yourself rakija, which sells for 700 lekes/$6.93 USD per bottle. We additionally provide home-brewed Turkish espresso, in addition to jam and olive oil, which is constituted of olives grown on our farm. Try it with our recent bread–it’s scrumptious!
Those in search of souvenirs are additionally in luck, as we have now teamed up with native artisans to promote their pottery and handmade bronze tortoise collectible figurines.
Turtle Farm Albania can also be proud to provide conventional, homecooked dinners, which our company can get pleasure from on our sweeping grounds at sundown. There, you may get pleasure from a calming and romantic night whereas eating on mouthwatering Albanian dishes made with components produced on our farm!
The Future of Turtle Farm Albania
The way forward for Turtle Farm Albania is shiny, as we have no plans to broaden in the close to and not-so-near future. Those plans embody constructing Hobbit homes on our grounds for the company to keep in in a single day, providing breakfast to in a single day company, and even establishing a play space for youths.
Visitors to Turtle Farm Albania will help us make these plans an actuality, as we ask for a small donation for individuals who want to expertise our farm. Even for those who can’t bodily go to the farm, we welcome any and all donations right here. All funds raised go to bettering our tortoise habitats and our enlargement initiatives.
Eat Albanian Street Food at Fast Food Albania
It’s typically exceptional how completely different quick meals are in completely different nations. Like in most different nations, in Albania, the time period “fast food” refers to meals that are cheap and simply accessible. But the meals can also be of a really prime quality, making it very completely different from the processed, beforehand frozen quick meals discovered in many different Western nations.
Some of the very best Albanian quick meals in Tirana may be discovered at Fast Food Albania, a small eatery shut to Skanderbeg Square. There, you may attempt souvlaki, which is basically the Albanian equal to a Greek gyro. It’s made with a recent, thick pita wrapped round fatty pork, refreshing tomatoes and onions, creamy tzatziki, crispy French fries, and a splendidly spicy sauce!
The souvlaki is filled with scrumptious garlic taste and numerous fantastically contrasting textures. The recent greens with the fatty pork and creamy sauces make for an incredible mixture, and the standard of the components can’t be beat! It’s certainly one of my favorite issues to do in Tirana, Albania!
Shop at New Bazaar
Located in Tirana’s Old Town, east of the central boulevard, is the town’s largest market, New Bazaar. Also often called Pazari I Ri, the open-air market sells a wide selection of locally-grown fruits and greens. You also can discover regional rakija and wine, and recent meat and fish.
The market additionally sells a lot of incredible gadgets that make for excellent souvenirs. Browse the stalls and distributors for gadgets like antiques, ornamental spoons, and scarves, and Albanian soccer jerseys. If you look exhausting sufficient, chances are you’ll discover a çifteli, which is a standard stringed instrument.
The bazaar, first constructed in 1931, underwent a little bit of a facelift in 2017, with a renovation that fully modernized the market. It has a youthful, brisker look, however remains to be a long-standing staple in town. Head over there to discover some cool keepsakes to take dwelling with you!
Visit Tirana Castle
In the guts of Tirana is among the metropolis’s most distinguished historic websites, Tirana Castle. Also often called the Fortress of Justinian, the fort is a Byzantine-era relic that was constructed a while earlier than 1300. It is surrounded by a 20-foot-high wall from the Ottoman period and consists of three towers.
Due to its historic significance, it was named a Cultural Monument of Albania in June of 1973, whereas its partitions earned the identical designation in May of 2008.
But Tirana Castle isn’t only a native historic website. It’s additionally a dwelling trendy attraction. Inside its Ottoman-era outer wall are trendy resorts, outlets, and eating places. One of the eating places, Ceren Ismet Shehu, is a incredible spot to seize a standard Albanian breakfast!
Ceren Ismet Shehu Restaurant
Ceren Ismet Shehu is a country restaurant with a farmhouse-like aesthetic, so anticipate a lot of wood interiors. The traditional-looking inside matches completely with the menu, which incorporates favorites like trahana, kofta, and Petula.
I like to recommend beginning with a powerful double espresso and some rakija. Rakija is a powerful spirit that’s basically fruit brandy and is extraordinarily in style in the Balkan nations of southeastern Europe. Traditionally, Albanian males drink some with their breakfast each morning.
Like most eating places in Albania, the meals at Ceren Ismet Shehu is recent and farm-to-table. They embody gadgets that will be recognizable to Westerners like over-easy eggs, French toast with honey, tomato, goat cheese, and cucumbers. They even have numerous fruit jams together with fig and blueberry.
Among the native specialties are a smoky beef salami, yogurt with oats and honey, and Petula, which is a sort of golden fried dough that’s served with jams and honey.
I additionally extremely advocate the thick, stew-like fërgesë. This pepper-and-tomato dish comprises ricotta cheese, bits of meat, and olive oil. It’s extraordinarily distinctive, with a lot of texture and taste combos I couldn’t get sufficient of!
But the star of their menu is the trahana, a hearty, porridge-like dish that’s made with bread and grains. I attempted a number of variations of this dish throughout my time in Albania, and the one served at Ceren Ismet Shehu is certainly one of my favorites.
It’s hearty, filling, and earthy, with a slight graininess that provides its nice mouthfeel. After making an attempt it, it’s no marvel it’s one of the in-style breakfast meals in Albania. Trying it’s, for sure, among the many finest issues to see and do in Tirana, Albania!
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Enjoy a Flight of Rakija at Komiteti – Kafe Muzeum
After getting a style of Albanian rakija inside Tirana Castle, you may attempt a greater diversity at a neighborhood bar known as Komiteti – Kafe Muzeum. Inside the bar is a museum of kinds that shows Communist-era knickknacks together with glasses and wood gadgets.
The actual magic of Komiteti – Kafe Muzeum is its open-air bar in the again of the institution. They provide quite a few flavors of rakija, together with a powerful honey-cinnamon, a spicy black pepper, floral saffron, and a tangy and citrusy kumquat.
I personally advocate their warming anise taste, the blackberry, and the floral and berry-like ardour seven sensations taste. They’re all incredible and among the many prime issues to do in Tirana, Albania.
Just preserve in thoughts, they’re fairly sturdy, so take it simple, particularly for those who’re not a lot of a drinker!
Enjoy Albanian Slow Food at Ceren Ishmet Shehu Restaurant
Roughly 20 minutes exterior of Tirana is the farming group of Surrel. There, you’ll discover arguably top-of-the-line eating places in your complete nation, Ceren Ismet Shehu. They serve gradual meals, which is a world philosophy that promotes high-quality, environmentally sustainable meals. The philosophy additionally helps conventional and regional cooking kinds. It focuses on the standard of meals quite than the amount and is strictly in opposition to overproduction and meal waste.
This legendary restaurant is thought for its meat-heavy dishes, which primarily concentrate on veal, goat, and lamb, already in alternative ways. The proprietor, Ismet, is a sort, passionate man who places tons of affection into the meals he prepares, together with his smoked and marinated lamb ribs and rooster kebabs. His meals are world famed; he even obtained the chance to cook dinner for the Queen of England in 2010!
As such, it ought to come as no shock that the restaurant is usually filled with patrons who come from far and huge to get pleasure from Ismet’s cooking. Many of the components he makes use of coming from his personal farm, the place he grows tomatoes, corn, peppers, eggplant, inexperienced apples, peaches, plums, grapes, and way more.
One of my favorite dishes at Ceren Ismet Shehu is the flija, a sort of flaky cake consisting of layer after layer of eggy crepes stacked atop each other. I additionally counsel their medium-rare tomahawk steak, which is juicy and a bit bloody, however nonetheless smoky with a lot of thyme taste.
He additionally provides a scrumptious pepper full of scorching, creamy cheese, and an incredible cheese served with wild berries. Another merchandise that comes full of cheese is his inexperienced pasta.
If meat is extra your factor, his kofta kebabs are tender and smoky. The veal ribs with barbecue yogurt and berry jam made for a mind-blowing combo. Meanwhile, the double-smoked goat meat with beetroot is so buttery, they soften in your mouth.
I additionally should advocate his silky squash-mushroom-nut tava, which is among the finest dishes I ate in Albania. And after all, you may’t neglect dessert. The baklava with walnuts and vanilla ice cream is a winner, as is the chocolate with ice cream and kadaif. There’s additionally a wealthy and clean blueberry cheesecake that’s merely excellent! Overall, you may’t actually go unsuitable!
Visit Plaku Pottery
One of the very best methods to study a brand new journey vacation spot is to dive deep into their conventional practices. One of essentially the most conventional in Albania is its pottery-making. Fortunately, guests can discover the craft at one of the many oldest pottery outlets in the world, Plaku Pottery, in the village of Farkë, about half-hour south of Tirana.
This rustic potter’s workshop dates again to the Nineties. Surrounded by rural land with stacks of firewood and a lot of roosters exterior, it oozes custom and authenticity. Inside, the potter sculpts clay into a wide range of shapes, together with pots, vases, cups, bowls, Tava dishes, and even piggy banks.
The potter places tons of care and love into his work, painstakingly creating lovely artistic endeavors. He then bakes them in a large oven heated to 900 levels and then shops his creations in an unlimited industrial oven.
Also on the property, you’ll discover his son, who makes pottery that has extra of a contemporary twist. He makes use of plastic clay and double-bakes his creations to make them stronger.
The distinctive materials additionally permit him to make thinner merchandise, which he then paints and sells! Visiting the workshop is definitely the top-of-the-line issue to do in Tirana, Albania, and make certain to purchase one thing to assist the native economic system!
Visit La Fattoria Agro Farm
There isn’t any scarcity of exceptional eating places in the Tirana space, and one other of the areas finest is situated roughly half-hour south of town. Tucked away on the Japanese shore of Farka Lake in the village of Farkë, La Fattoria Agro Farm is one other of the Tirana space’s many gems.
Nature is on full show on the farm, the place you’ll discover chickens, geese, tortoises, and rabbits on the grounds, in addition to different birds and frogs alongside the lakeshore. The restaurant’s terrace on the water is the right place to eat and benefit from the peaceful environment.
Like different farm-eating places in Albania, La Fattoria Agro Farm prides itself on utilizing recent components grown and raised by itself grounds. The sheep, geese, goats, and chickens on the farm are used in many dishes, as are the blackberries, cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, eggplant, leeks, peppers, and pumpkins are grown there. They even fry up frog legs from the frogs in the lake!
I extremely advocate having fun with a big feast of all of their specialties, together with their frog legs, tomato-and-onion byrek, cornbread, fërgesë, and yufka with the rooster. They additionally serve a thick, bitter yogurt, which you need to attempt with the byrek and cornbread. It takes each already-impressive dish to the following degree!
One of the highlights is the frog legs, which are tasty if not a bit scarce on meat. They’re like a barely gamy model of the rooster! The roasted purple peppers and juicy tomatoes in the fërgesë are to die for, and the creamy tagliatelle yufka pairs completely with the buttery and calmly fried rooster. The yogurt-soaked cornbread can also be excellent, and such a novel tackles the dish.
For dessert, attempt a pear soaked in rakija. It’s a candy however very sturdy grownup dessert. If you favor one without alcohol, attempt the hasude, a creamy dessert accented with tangy orange zest. And for those who’re in search of an after-dinner drink, their icy melon liquor is fruity and tremendous refreshing!
All in all, a feast at La Fattoria is among the tastiest you’ll have anyplace in Albania and certainly one of my favorite issues to do in Tirana, Albania!
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Explore Skanderbeg Square and Mother Teresa Square
No journey to Tirana is full without exploring its two most distinguished plazas. The largest of 2, Skanderbeg Square, covers roughly 40,000 sq. meters in the middle of town. Named after Albania’s nationwide hero, Gjergj Kastrioti Skënderbeu, the sq. dates again to 1917 and was constructed by the Austrians.
During the Communist interval, a statue of Joseph Stalin stood in the sq., however, it has since been eliminated. Now, the sq. is dwelling to the Skanderbeg Monument, a big bronze-and-stone statue that portrays the struggle hero astride his horse.
It stands 36 ft on top and dominates the sq., which is a part of the biggest pedestrian zone in the Balkans. Bounding the sq. are quite a few essential buildings together with the National Bank, the National Historical Museum, the National Opera, the Ethem Bey Mosque, and the ministries of agriculture, infrastructure, economic system, and vitality.
Mother Teresa Square
The second-largest sq. in Tirana is Mother Teresa Square. Named after the well-known nun and missionary from Skopje is what’s now North Macedonia, it was initially constructed throughout the Italian occupation of Albania between 1939 and 1941.
Built concurrently at Dëshmorët e Kombit Boulevard by Italian architect Gherardo Bosio, it initially honored another person. The sq. initially honored Italian king Victor Emmanuel III, who reigned from 1900 to 1946. After communism fell, it was renamed, Mother Teresa.
Buildings lining the sq. embody the University of Tirana, the Archaeological Museum, the Centre of Albanological Studies, the Polytechnic University, and the University of Arts. If you’ve got time to go to the sq., it’s definitely among the many prime issues to see and do in Tirana, Albania!
Have Breakfast at Byrek te Çastit
If you go to any Balkan nation, there’s one meal you’re positive to discover in every single place: byrek. Also often called burek or borek, relying on which nation you’re in, this flaky, stuffed pastry is a Balkan staple. In some nations, you’ll discover candy, fruit-filled varieties, whereas, in others, you’ll discover savory variations stuffed with meat, cheese, and greens.
One of the very best locations in Tirana to attempt byrek is a neighborhood bakery known as Byrek te Çastit. There, the bakers make numerous several types of byrek, together with spinach, ricotta, mincemeat, onion-and-tomato, and sausage. The fillings come encased in a crispy, golden brown phyllo crust.
Even although the byrek comprise a lot of meat and dairy, they’re not very filling due to the ethereal dough. Their square-shaped mincemeat byrek jogged my memory of an oily meat lover’s pizza, whereas the salty, crumbly ricotta was a bit doughier.
I additionally should advocate the tomato-and-onion, which is fantastically juicy and tangy. Their spinach byrek can also be excellent although it’s the lightest and healthiest-tasting selection. For an extra glutinous indulgence, attempt the sausage selection, which tastes rather a lot like a corn canine!
Enjoy Albanian Coffee at Kafe Flora
After you’ve indulged in some scrumptious byrek, I like to recommend making an attempt at some top-tier Albanian espresso. Not removed from Byrek te Çastit is Kafe Flora, one of the many oldest espresso outlets in the nation.
The café is well-known not solely due to its standing as certainly one of Albania’s oldest but in addition as a result of a tune was written about it in 1972! The tune, known as “Kafe Flora Plot me Burra,” is carried out by Lindita Theodore. The open-air café additionally boasts an incredible environment and is a ravishing spot in the center of town to seize a cup of joe and individuals watch!
I’m an admitted espresso lover, and the type at Kafe Flora is on the level. It’s sturdy and thick and jogged my memory of Turkish espresso. While you’re there, attempt a few of their clean and fruity blackberry rakija. It’s very sturdy however can also be an effective way to kick off your day and one of many prime issues to do in Tirana, Albania!
Dine at Mullixhiu Restaurant
When you’re prepared for a hearty and decadent lunch, head over to Mullixhiu, a well-liked restaurant close to Tirana Lake. This restaurant, whose title interprets to “The Mills,” has three on-site mills that they use to make flour.
The proprietor and head chef at Mullixhiu is world-renowned chef Bledar Kola. He has made it his mission to reinvent conventional Albanian meals. He serves his up-to-date tackle the nationwide delicacies in a country, Nordic-inspired eating corridor with lovely all-wood interiors.
I like to recommend the grainy porridge constituted of bulgur wheat known as trahana. Chef Kola tops it with goat cheese, which provides a crumbly texture and a pleasant trace of salt. You even have to attempt the Petka, which is a pan-fried dish constituted of an Albanian pasta known as yufka. If you want creamy, wealthy pasta dripping with butter, you’ll like it!
Another specialty is the lakror, a pastry comparable to a multi-layered pizza crust with meat and tomatoes. One of the extra distinctive choices is the paçe Koke, a braised veal head stew that makes full use of the animal. The brains, cheek, and tongue are filled with meaty taste! They make the stew an awesome choice in case you have a chilly or a hangover!
For dessert, attempt the boza, which is a fermented corn drink discovered in the Caucasus area, in addition to northern Africa and central and western Asia. Chef Kola serves his boza with ice cream, which provides a candy creaminess to the bitter corn taste. It’s the right approach to wrap up your meal and making an attempt needs to be on everybody’s record of issues to do in Tirana, Albania!
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Eat Souvlaki at OPA
Another incredible spot to go-to for those who’re craving Albanian souvlaki is a restaurant known as OPA in the town middle. This restaurant provides a number of styles of Albanian road meals, which are comprised of rooster or pork grilled on a spit.
The meat is then wrapped in heat, recent pita with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, French fries, and spicy yogurt. It makes for a recent, oily, and creamy Mediterranean deal that’s moveable sufficient to get pleasure from on the go.
Other choices at OPA embody their fried cheese sticks and their fries topped with grilled rooster, lettuce, mustard, and ketchup. The cheese sticks are very comparable to a Venezuelan favorite of mine known as tequeños, which are crispy and golden brown on the surface, with gooey melted cheese inside.
All three dishes pair completely with an ice chilly beer or a wine for those who select. Whether you’re in search of a fast lunch on the go or a quick late-night dinner, all three are among the many finest issues to see and do in Tirana!
Check out the Local Bars
Drinking is a giant part of the tradition in the Balkans. Rakija, or raki, is usually the drink of alternative, however, there’s additionally a rising craft beer scene. The area additionally produces some extraordinary wines! One of the very best locations to get pleasure from a drink in Tirana is a bar known as Duff Sports Bar.
The bar is called after a fictional bar of the identical title from The Simpsons. There, you may get pleasure from some photographs or order a crisp, tasty beer. I like to recommend the Hoegaarden, a traditional Belgian beer that’s thick and refreshing!
In close by Daias village, there’s a small native bar the place the native males hang around. There, you may get pleasure from some enjoyable, if a bit off-color, conversations with the locals whereas having fun with two rakija’s for only a greenback!
Stay at Nano Resort & BioFood
Agrotourism resorts are a few of the finest locations in Albania to get pleasure from recent, farm-to-table meals. In close by Daias is Nano Resort & BioFood. Set in a lush, hilly space 25 minutes southeast of Tirana, this vibrant, inexperienced space is a picture-perfect slice of Albanian countryside.
The resort’s connection to nature is obvious from the second guests to stroll up the vine-lined path and cross beneath the heart-shaped shrub at its entryway. Their huge terrace additionally boasts lovely views of the world, which is paying homage to the Tuscany space of Italy.
On their grounds, in addition, they have cows, chickens, and goats dwelling in doors stables. Their expansive grounds are additionally dwelling to deer and geese, and additionally home a sprawling winery.
Food & Accommodations
Everything served on the resort, from the wine to the cheese to the meat to the greens, is produced on-site. I counsel arriving early or staying in a single day, to get pleasure from their breakfast, which consists of eggs recent from the rooster coop, tomatoes, eggs, butter, marmalade, olives, bread, and a smoky and bourbon-like rakija.
If you keep on the resort in a single day—and I actually counsel you do—you’ll get pleasure from spacious lodging that guarantees most consolation. My room there contained two king-sized beds, an easy however clear restroom, and an arrogant space. It additionally boasted a balcony that offered me a spectacular view of the beautiful, inexperienced grounds beneath.
Between the fantastic meals, the comfortable lodging, and the nice and cozy Balkan hospitality, you may go unsuitable by staying at Nano Resort & BioFood. It’s certainly one of my prime 15 issues to see and do in Tirana, Albania for a cause and will probably be certainly one of many highlights of your Albanian trip.
Between its eating places, distinctive historical past, cultural websites, and distinctive farms, Tirana is a cool and underrated vacationer vacation spot. It hardly ever finds itself on lists of attention-grabbing European journey locations however is chock-full of enjoyable issues you may discover anyplace else. Whether you’re wanting to indulge in Albanian meals and drink, nature, or go to a dwelling fort, Tirana has all of it. It’s certainly one of my favorite locations in the Balkans and I’m positive it will likely be certainly one of yours as effectively. Book a visit to Tirana at present to discover it for yourself!