Where to go shopping in Tirana, where to look for typical stuff, what you need to know before visiting some street markets of the Albanian capital.
This is the first time I’ve written about the street markets in Tirana because they can’t really stand comparison with those I had the chance to see in the Côte d’Azur or Sofia. Yet, I have to say that the street markets in Tirana, the Albanian capital, have their own peculiarity and can actually provide an interesting picture of the life in this city.
The way I see it, it’s useless to go to Tirana just to enjoy the amazing pubs and restaurants in Blloku, have dinner at the Taiwan Center and walk along the main business roads without visiting the places (and their evolution) where locals go shopping and spend their time.
The authenticity of this city, its desire for recovery and the fast pace of this process are clearly evident in the lively street markets where locals hang out, as well as, of course, in its extremely interesting cultural places, such as the bunker museums.
Here’s where to go to get to know Tirana also through its street markets.
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Pazari i Ri, which means “New market” in Albanian.
Sheshi Avni Rustemi
This place is a clear mirror for the very fast evolution of the city. Whoever has been to Tirana before spring/summer 2017, hasn’t been lucky enough to see the completed renovation of the square where the market is now located.
It was pretty shabby before, with broken sideways and electric cables hanging from the windows of the buildings in the area (often decorated with wonderful wall-paintings).
Today, the stalls are piled high with fruit and fresh vegetables, giving a taste of local life. They are covered by a steel and Plexiglas structure and located in a square smartened up by the color of the building walls (wall-paintings are a mantra for the city), with several bars and also spaces for evening music events.
Besides the orderly arranged fruit and vegetables, with particular care for the colors arrangement, many stalls also sell snacks and local street food, like olives, cheese, pickled green tomatoes, fresh figs, wine and Raki (corn-based spirit, very strong).
If you can, with discretion, pay attention to the very Balkan way of “bargaining” among street traders and their customers (who must be traders too in other fields or just by natural disposition).
Tregu i Çamëve
Let’s start by saying that here in Tregu i Çamëve anyone with a cardboard box to turn upside down and two or three packs of cigarettes is actually entitled to call himself a trader.
This daily market fills an entire street for a few hundred meters and it’s the main market for clothing and various objects in Tirana.
At the end of the road there’s Rr. Cameria, the market street where mobile phones, kitchenware and bikes are sold.
The mobile black market is currently very popular in Tirana. I’m not sure whether all phones sold here are stolen or probably meant for resale after a total clearance (yeah, sure).
I hope you won’t buy an iPhone here, nor ask for a receipt.
Topani Shopping Center
The interior of this remarkable example of modern architecture reminds me a bit of the amazing shopping mall I’ve visited in Warsaw, and that I talked about some time ago. Yet just from the inside, because the architectural concept is extremely different outside.
It’s actually a modern and pleasant eight-storey shopping center, with round shapes and a crystal ceiling, which hosts the main international brands as well as bars and diners. On top of that, it’s located downtown.
Shops in the Blloku area
Then, there are the local crafts and handmade products made and sold in Blloku, one of the coolest neighbourhoods in Europe. There, I said it.
On Rr. Vaso Pasha 3, for instance, there’s Natyral & Organic (I’m sure there’s no need to translate), a shop that sells products grown by local farmers, as well as handicraft and organic products perfect for your souvenirs. Meetings for environmental activists are also held in this place.
You’ll also find little independent bookstores like Adrion International Bookshop or small and interesting art galleries like ViviArt on Pashko Vasa Street.
After this post, it’s time for me to talk about Blloku more in details. Just bear with me for a couple of days, ok?