As I have learnt, the weather in Tirana can pass through all four seasons in one day, with an earthquake thrown in for good luck. But don’t let that put you off visiting or exploring this vibrant city even if the heavens have opened.
Be sure to pack sensible shoes and umbrella and venture out onto the chaotic streets of one of Europe’s little-known gems. This is what you can do:
Visit The House of Leaves
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"House of Leaves" museum in Tirana. The building was originally a clinic but was later used as the headquarters of the National Intelligence Service to spy on Albanians. Very interesting museum! Beautiful designed museum as well! #tirana2017 #tirana #visittirana #visitalbania #balkan #balkantour #balkantrip #albania #urlaub2017 #vscobalkan #instagood #instatravel #travelgram #tatilde #tatil2017 #museum #arnavutluk #houseofleavestirana #art #creative #wonderfulplaces #girlsjustwannatravel #reisen #vscocam #vsco
Located between Rruga Kavajes and the Blloku area, The House of Leaves is a must-see for anyone visiting Tirana. One of Tirana’s newest museums, entry for adults is 700lek and 300lek for a child. Compared by some sites to the Stasi Headquarters in former East Germany, the museum is the site of the previous HQ of the National Intelligence Service, or the House of Spies dating from Albania’s communist era. The original building was built in 1931 as a medical clinic and it was also used by the Gestapo during the Second World War. After the end of the war, it was taken back by the Albanian government and used as a security office. Within its four walls lie a multitude of whispers and legends that are dedicated to the people that suffered at the hands of a brutal, all-seeing, all-controlling regime. The museum is split into 9 sections and comprises 31 rooms in total. Be sure not to miss it.
2. Visit Bunkart 1 and Bunkart 2
Again, no trip to the Albanian capital is complete without understanding the troubles that its people passed through not so long ago. Bunkart 1 and Bunkart 2 are a series of underground passages and chambers, built during the reign of Enver Hoxha to house the political elite in case of the war or invasion that he feared, that never came. Today they have been reimagined as a memorial to those who died and who are still missing, as well as the key members of the party. You can view authentic artefacts, short films, photos and much more- but be warned, it is an emotional and moving experience.
3. Check out a market or two
Tirana has a lot of markets where you can pick up clothes, traditional items, food, and fake designer items for very low prices. My favourite is Tregu Industrial Lahi which is located on Rruga Ferit Xhajko near the University Hospital. You need at least a couple of hours to navigate the narrow aisles and be prepared to haggle for anything that you want to purchase. Whether its leather goods, electrical items, handmade ballgowns, a genuine imitation Gucci handbag, or dried fruit and nuts you are after, this is the place to go. If you go with a friend, it is best to set a meeting place at the beginning because trust me, you are bound to get lost!
4. Get on the Dajti Express
Ok maybe leave this off your list if it is blowing a gale, but if it is just raining cats and dogs then hop on and enjoy the view. This cable car takes you from the outskirts of Tirana, all the way to almost the top of Mount Dajti. From here you can check out one of the several restaurants, dine on some delicious food, wash it down with some wine, and then be less scared on the way down. It takes around 20 minutes each way and has a few rather scary moments but for the best views in Tirana, you have to head here.
5. Go see some art
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Cherry Blossom – Danish Jukni Available for sale at GALERIAKALO Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org / 0697789889 #paintongforsale #artcollectors #paintingoftheday #famouspainter #albanaiartist #artgallery #oilpainting #danishjukniu Danish Jukni was born in Shkodra in 1934 . During his elementary school, in Shkodra, he studied with the Russian painter Victor Puzanov, who was also a great researcher of the Albanian iconography. Danish Jukni graduated high school studies in the Lyceum “Jordan Misja” in Tirana. He then studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, Poland, where he completed his studies in the atelier of professor Fancissek Welerowfski. In 1959 he returned to Albania and began work as a painter and textile designer and later as a professor of textile atelier in the High Institute of Arts. As the first specialist on the field of gobelin, he has created wonderful art products in this field. Honored with the title “People’s Painter”, Junki has also realized many other works of art, among them, the most mysteries and unknown ones, were the intimate ones, until 1990. He was active in many local and national exhibitions, where his most distinguished works were landscapes, portraits, figures, compositions as for example “Electrification”, or the portrait of J. Keraj. He died in Shkodra, on February 3, 2003.
Both the National Gallery and the Kalo Gallery are open all day every day and for a nominal fee, you can explore the history of local art to your heart’s content. Visit the galleries webpages beforehand so you can see if there are any particularly interesting exhibitions on so you know how to prioritise your time. Tirana inspires the artistic streak in me and if you are an artist or creative looking for a bit of inspiration, then visiting these spots is sure to work for you.
6. Drink coffee and watch the world go by
After living in Tirana for the best part of a year, I have learnt to slow down and move at a slower pace. Is it raining? So what. Seek out a cosy looking coffee shop (there are literally thousands), grab a delicious hot drink and watch the world go by.
7. Go shopping!
Tirana is not short of shops by any stretch of the imagination Head to TEG if you are looking for European highstreet brands, go to Blloku for colourful Italian and Balkan fashion, Coin for authentic designer goods, or visit Toptani and Ring Centre for a little bit of both. Myslym Shyri has a great selection of boutiques and jewellery shops where you can pick up bargains that you wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else. If you are shopping in an independent shop, feel free to haggle, particularly if you are buying multiple items- oh and always ask for the price in Lek.
Tirana is never a boring place and there is always something to do. When it comes to museums and galleries, there are much more than the ones I have included on my list, so hit up Google or ask a local for their best suggestions!
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