What to do in Tirana, besides the usual “things to do in Tirana”

Leggi in Italiano 

Some very interesting things to do and see in Tirana that guides won’t tell you.

Here I am, writing about Tirana… I still can’t believe I’ve finally visited this town, which I’ve always pictured as an incredibly charming exotic place.

I’ll be straight: I can’t wait to tell you about the fashionable places where I had vegetarian food along with local wine and beer! I can’t wait to write, in the next few hours, about the exhibitions and street markets you just can’t miss.

I’ll do it soon, but not now. I’m too much in a hurry now to tell (and suggest) you the things I couldn’t imagine, that I neither read about nor looked for but luckily stumbled upon and that I think you absolutely have to see. Let’s begin!

Look at the trees, since they hide “something”.

Tirana_cose da fare e da vedere che non trovi sulle guide
Let’s start by saying that there are plenty of green areas in downtown Tirana, and you’ll notice it too. Maples, pines and other very high and luxuriant tree species are found on the sides of large boulevard-like roads and even in the narrower streets of the coolest neighbourhoods (Blloku and the nearby area).

Trees are also useful to help you breathe less chaos and car exhaust gas in a town with a definitely heavy traffic.

Now, look up.
Look at the boughs and you’ll see that there are two visual levels separated by the leaves. Beneath them the frantic city life, the modern pubs, offices and banks.
Up above, behind the leaves, very old and often decaying examples of social housing, along with several air-conditioning fans and satellite dishes with very roughly installed cables. Tirana is a lively place, it’s a European capital.

Yet, it has a different past compared to other capitals, whose signs are too recent and still visible. In a few years they will most probably disappear and the city will put on a new face, totally complying with the rest of Europe. Without saying whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, that’s history. By looking up, you’ll also see the extremely colourful fronts of many buildings: while waiting to renovate the housing sector yet temporary unable to do it, the current mayor decided to paint the buildings with creativity using lively and fresh colours. And mind that here in Tirana, what’s definitely not missing is…

…Street art!

Try this game: take a walk downtown and look for your favourite characters painted on electricity boxes: look for Einstein or Sylvester the cat, the Dude from the Big Lebowsky, Pete from A Clockwork Orange, the Simpsons, the protagonist of Breaking Bad, Salvador Dalì and many more. This is just an example of street art that colours the town. Tirana is full of it.

Bunker art

Another common thing that the Albanian capital didn’t want to remove from sight in the centre are bunkers and bomb shelters. Some are located in the park close to Mother Teresa Square and then there’s Bunk’art. These are bunkers hosting permanent exhibitions where socialism and the two world wars are first explained and remembered, then illustrated and reconsidered through art installations. Well, let me say it, I had the strong feeling that every historic moment of the last 100 years in Tirana has been therapeutically filtered and reconsidered through art. Especially young art.

Blloku, the most Instagram-friendly neighbourhood after Soho.


Before telling you where to go, what to eat or drink, I’d like to show you how bad I am and tell you what I thought when I first saw the different spots and clubs in the Blloku area. It is the most Instagram-friendly area I’ve ever been to after Soho in New York. 90% of the places are a delight for the eyes of passionate Instagrammers or those who work with it, thanks to the wonderful interiors, subject-oriented furnishings and different colour combinations. You get the impression that every owner must have attended an interior design and web/viral marketing course before opening up his/her own place.

Take a guitar or a book and enjoy it by the lake in the park

books artificial lake in Tirana The Grand Park is a 330 hectares park that hosts an artificial lake, an open air gym used by people of all age to keep fit (I’m not kidding, I’ve seen seventy-year-old people do things here you people wouldn’t believe), tables where old people can sit and play cards close to children carousels and a skate ground.

I’ve seen two parks with a similar design concept in Belgrade and Sofia.

I’ve found all this very nice. But what really amazed me and made me feel like “damn, I want this under my house too” is a small booth made of glass with a library inside, where you can choose a book to read or a musical instruments to play by the lake, sitting on small round platforms made of wood. It is an initiative called Libr’Aria promoted by the municipality and the Agency of Tirana Park, which has the goal to encourage mainly young people to enjoy the benefits of reading and spending some time in nature.

This is just the beginning. In my notebook there’s still a lot about Tirana, so stay tuned!


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