48 Hours in Tirana: A Local‘s Guide

Spotted By Locals
September 14, 2016
9 min read
Image by Daniel Frese
Image by Daniel Frese

Vital and colourful Tirana… The capital of Albania may seem crazy and hectic, but at the same time – peaceful and preoccupied. Tirana perfectly reflects every period of the country’s history: Ottoman rule, World War I, World War II, communism and modern days. Colourful buildings combined with abandoned Soviet buildings give an impression of a constantly shifting city. The beautiful, but at the same time unpolished, city is surrounded by hills, has four insanely beautiful artificial lakes and the Adriatic Sea in the distance. Tirana tries to get rid of the ghost of communism, which desolated the country in the early 1990s, but can still be felt in historical places of the city. The city has a lot to say and it wants to be heard. Tirana – that’s where our local Spotters will take you for your next 48 hour journey.

Day 1: 09:00 – 13:00

Lincoln Garden Cafe Tirana (by Lincoln Garden Cafe)
Lincoln Garden Cafe Tirana (by Lincoln Garden Cafe)

Let’s start your first day in Tirana with a fresh cup of coffee in order to fuel your energy for the rest of the day. For this reason, both Lincoln Garden Cafe and Retro Vinyl Bistro Club are the right options. You can choose between them depending on your needs. So, which one to choose? Lincoln Garden Cafe is a perfect choice during the sunny mornings since almost all of the tables are placed outside. Well, if you are lucky enough, you may grab the table (there are only two!) inside the cafe, but we strongly recommend to stay outside and enjoy the special atmosphere of this place. What is so extraordinary about it? Lincoln Garden Cafe is located in the garden near the house that belonged to a former communist dictator, Enver Hoxha. The garden is huge and cozy, so you can simply relax and leisurely enjoy your morning coffee.

The next spot is Retro Vinyl Bistro Club, which is a better option if you prefer a stodgy breakfast and pleasantly helpful staff. Our Spotter Matilda always enjoys her brunch and morning coffee, surrounded by jazz music. If you enjoyed your visit and the atmosphere of Retro Vinyl, you can always come back here in the evening when cafe becomes more club-friendly!

Blloku Tirana (by Matilda Karçanaj)
Blloku Tirana (by Matilda Karçanaj)

When you are finished with your morning coffee rituals, let’s head to Blloku – one of the most popular areas in Tirana. During the Communist period, Blokku was a restricted area, where only the elite of Tirana lived, ordinary people were not allowed to enter the district. Nowadays, Blloku is a lively place with shopping malls, cafes, restaurants and night clubs. Thus, you can freely choose how to spend your time here: take a walk around this fancy area (here you can still find the residence of a former communist leader Enver Hoxha, like I mentioned earlier), go shopping or sip some tea in a local cafe. We are sure that the time in Blloku will pass by in a split-second! By the way, our local Matilda says that the area is easily accessible via the main public transport called Unaza.

Day 1: 13:00 – 19:00

Ready for your lunch? Our Spotter Matilda amiably offers her favorite restaurant in the city – Serendipity. She always chooses this spot since it has delicious food and reasonable prices. It’s actually a Mexican restaurant located in Rr. Ibrahim Rugova street, in the Blloku area. It is cosily decorated place with a wide selection of Mexican food. If you are not up for spicy meals, Piccadilly Lulishtja is another option. This place is actually a two-stored house that has a garden in front of it. It doesn’t look like a typical restaurant so you might walk pass it. But it is definitely worth the try!

Serendipity Tirana (by Matilda Karçanaj)
Serendipity Tirana (by Matilda Karçanaj)

We have a strong feeling that after having lunch at Mexican/fast food restaurants, you’ve boosted your energy resources to the maximum. Let’s explore the arty side of Tirana! Surprisingly, our Spotter Eri doesn’t suggest you go straight to the National Art Gallery (although it undoubtedly is still worth your attention) and instead offers another option: Galeria Fab. This gallery is part of the University of Arts in Tirana, so the exhibitions mainly include students’ and new artists’ works. Every week the gallery holds different sorts of events: photo or painting exhibitions or short movie reviews. There is no entrance fee (most of the time), so you can freely discover the new talents of Tirana. Let’s support a new generation of artists!

Toptani Shopping Centre (by Suela)

With some time left, you could go for some shopping. Toptani Shopping Centre is 60.000 square meters and includes 8 floors. You can find anything from clothing- to beauty stores. It’s hard to imagine you won’t purchase anything here. If you’re done shopping you can go to the sixth floor where they have coffee bars and food places. While you’re there, you can enjoy the beautiful view of the centre of the city.

Day 1: 19:00 – 23:00

Zgara Korçare Tirana (by Matilda Karçanaj)
Zgara Korçare Tirana (by Matilda Karçanaj)

Our locals Matilda and Andia have two great options for your dinner, both located at Sami Frasheri street. The first alternative – Zgara Korçare. It is an Albanian restaurant with a lovely atmosphere and traditional food. Zgara Koçrare means Korça’s grill, so the restaurant is well-known for its grilled meat, which Albanians like A LOT. Our Spotter Matilda always takes her foreign friends to Zgara Koçrare since it has a proper menu and high-quality food. And they always enjoy it! Another option for your dinner is a place called Millennium Gourmet. The restaurant is good for elegant dinners as the food presentation is quit charming and so is the restaurant itself. Seems like a great night ahead!

Korpusi Tirana (image by xiquinhosilva)
Korpusi Tirana (by xiquinhosilva)

After your dinner, our local Eri suggest a slightly different, but super memorable experience. For this reason, we have to head to Mother Teresa Square, where we will find Korpusi. Although during the day time this building (which happens to be The Polytechnic University of Tirana – the oldest university in Albania) doesn’t look specifically extraordinary (see the picture above), after 19:00 the atmosphere here changes. At this particular hour the cars are banned and only pedestrians are allowed. At that time, local people start to gather together: families with children, people walking their dogs, groups of teens or students… Sometimes even small concerts take place there. A special recommendation from our Spotter Eri: if you are going to Korpusi, grab some beers and fara, which actually means ‘sunflower seeds’. This combination is super popular amongst locals!

Day 1: 23:00 – …

Kino Tirana (by Eri Mataj)

We understand that the relaxing atmosphere of Korpusi may take you to a whole new dimension, but it’s about time to feel the spirit of Tirana’s nightlife! Let’s check out Kino – one of the new places in the city. This location is renovated into a new artsy, hip and vintage bar. It has a huge space inside and outside. During daytime, this place offers a good workplace where you can sit down behind your laptop, sipping on a cup of coffee. At nighttime it turns into a club. You can choose from a great variety of drinks as well as enjoy the music played by DJs. And show everyone your best dance moves, we know you’ve been preparing!

Day 2: 09:00 – 13:00

You probably had an insanely good night at Kino, so now you need a proper breakfast to properly wake up. We definitely have some nice places to offer. Your first option is called Artist Lounge Bar. There is a wide menu for breakfast which can be supplemented with whatever drink you like. Our Spotter Ingrid is always fascinated by the service of the cafe every time she is there. Artist Lounge Bar is her personal favourite! On the other hand, if you feel the need for a more varied breakfast, go straight to Stephen Center. It serves breakfast meals from all over the world. Even the walls are filled with flags from all over the world. So, just relax and enjoy your morning in Tirana, our Spotters still have a lot to offer!

Artist Lounge Bar Tirana (by Artist Lounge Bar)

Let’s head to Papa Gjon Pali II street. Here you will spot Piramida (The Pyramid) which is located in the middle of Tirana. Piramida is the main locals’ meeting point and a huge help particularly to all tourists that try to orient themselves in the city. This pyramid-shaped building is a former museum that was known as “Enver Hoxha Museum”. Although nowadays Piramida doesn’t have a particular function and it’s mainly just a gloomy abandoned building, but it still should be on your ‘Must see’ list.

Piramida Tirana (by Matilda Karçanaj)
Piramida Tirana (by Matilda Karçanaj)

Piramida probably won’t take a lot of your free time, so let’s head a bit further, to Pedonalja e Tiranës. Our local Matilda claims that it is one of the most unique streets in Tirana. No cars allowed here! There is no need to rush, just take your time and walk along the street, enjoy local food from kiosks and feel the pulse of Tirana. Matilda says that Pedonalja e Tiranës is super hectic during national events and absolutely lovely during Christmas time! On this street you can also find Millenium Cinema. Maybe you won’t be in the mood to watch a movie (or maybe you will be?), but you can always explore the surroundings, check which movies are top-line or just grab some snacks in the outdoor cafe.

Day 2: 13:00 – 19:00

Opium Tirana (by Opium Sushi Bar)
Opium Tirana (by Opium Sushi Bar)

We hope you are in the mood to grab some high-quality Japanese food at Opium. The menu is really well-liked and includes sushi, sashimi and seafood (such as scallops or shrimps). Most ingredients are imported from abroad! Our Spotter Ingrid says that “there are some specials that you can only find there, like steamed edamame with salt flakes or the Wakame salad”. Sounds super delicious, doesn’t it? By the way, these dishes are Ingrid’s personal favorites! You can also try some desserts which aren’t traditional Japanese, but are still worth a try.

Nationally Gallery of Arts (by National Gallery of Arts Tirana)

After a refreshing lunch, our local Ingrid suggest to visit the National Gallery of Arts (if you feel that yesterday’s Gallery Fab wasn’t enough). It is a place where great pieces of art are exhibited, restaurated and archived. Here you can find the exhibitions that reflect different periods of Albanian art: the start of Albanian art, Realism, Socialist Realism, Modern art and sculpture and so on. Ingrid says that the section of social realism is probably the biggest in the whole museum since it reflects a huge influence of the dictatorial regime towards the arts.

After a full-scale introduction to Albanian art, it’s the right time to explore some green areas of Tirana. You can easily reach Rinia Park which is the central park of Tirana, or Sheshi Skënderbej, the main plaza of Tirana. We highly recommend to visit Tirana Park on the Artificial Lake, but keep in mind that you won’t be allowed to go there by bike – the park is only for pedestrians!

Day 2: 19:00 – 23:00

SALT Restaurant Tirana Image (Salt Restaurant)
SALT Restaurant Tirana (by Salt Restaurant)

Want to have a nice dinner and at the same time to check out the brand new hotspot in Tirana? SALT restaurant it is! Locals are crazy about this restaurant and people are always willing to come back. Why it is so insanely popular? Firstly, because of its location – it is placed in the very center of the Blloku area. Secondly, its atmosphere: the spot has a perfectly cozy and at the same time super modern interior, which is supplemented with a veranda. Finally, the food! Although the menu is not very large, it mostly includes Italian-inspired dishes which go really well with wine, beer or cocktails. You choose! Our local Ingrid says that locals especially love (yes, that’s the word) is “La pizza lunga” (Long pizza), which tastes fantastic!

Tribeca Bar (by Tribeca Bar)

It’s time to spice up your evening with some drinks in the cocktail bar called Tribeca Bar. It’s one of the top favorites’ of the locals. Every weekend, from 23:00 different types of concerts take place here, mostly rock, jazz or blues. The choice of drinks is really large, you can find everything from high-quality rum or scotch to various types of cocktails.

Day 2: 23:00 – …

Discobox (by Discobox Tirana)

If you want to end your last day in Tirana on a high note then Discobox is your best option. Discobox is the underground club in Tirana and it’s an absolute hot-spot amongst the locals. It sounds a little crazy, but you have to be drunk to get here. This club is considered as an afterparty since it starts after 02:00. A ticket is only €3,50 and your first drink is free once you’re inside. Enjoy the laughter, music, drinks and the company of local people!


More? Check our Tirana blog or app!

Contents

Unlock local hidden gems

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet consect sit dolor sit amet lamet. Lorem ipsum sit.

By creating a new account you agree with our Terms of Service & Privacy Policy.