The best places to visit in Albania are truly out in nature. However, no trip to a new country is complete without visiting the capital! That's why we decided to stop in the capital, and figure out how to spend 1 day in Tirana.
While it's not as enchanting as some of the other European capitals, Tirana certainly has its fair share of history to explore, as well as some great restaurants and nightlife.
In this guide we're going to lay out a complete itinerary for you to decide how to spend 1 day in Tirana, as well as give you all of the other details for getting around, safety, and more.
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Where is Tirana Located?
Tirana is located in the center of Albania, just 17 miles inland from the Adriatic coast. Albania is a country in the Balkan region of Eastern Europe, which is north of Greece, west of Macedonia & Kosovo, and south of Montenegro.
How to Spend 1 Day in Tirana: Getting There
Being the capital and center of Albania, Tirana is one of the easiest cities to get to in the country.
Flying into Tirana
Tirana has an international airport, which is located just 17 km north west of the city, and a little under a half hour drive away.
Tirana International Airport has direct flights from Athens, Barcelona, Bari, Belgrade, Berlin, Bologna, Budapest, Charleroi, Dortmund, Eindhoven, Forli, Frankfurt, Geneva, Genoa, Hahn, Istanbul, London, Madrid, Memmingen, Milan, Nice, Nykoping, Pisa, Perugia, Rome, Torino, Treviso, Venice, Verona, and Vienna.
Flight Tip: Using Skyscanner you can check the calendar to see which are the cheapest dates for your destination!
Taking a Bus to Tirana
Another great way to travel to Tirana is from other cities in Albania, as well as cities in surrounding countries. Here are a couple of the most popular bus routes to Tirana that you can book:
Other Ways to Get to Tirana
Another great way to travel through Europe is by using BlaBlaCar, which is a carpooling app where drivers rent our their empty seats. It's a fun alternative to using buses, and often times is even cheaper!
Entry Requirements for Albania
Traveling in Europe can get a little bit confusing, as there are different requirements for every country, within both the EU and the Schengen Zone. That's why we're here to clarify a few things for you.
Visa Requirements for Albania
In many European countries, the "90/180" rule applies for those that are not European. This means that in a period of 180 days, tourists can only stay within the Schengen Area for a total of up to 90 days.
Some countries in Europe are part of the EU, but are not a part of the Schengen Zone, while some are in the Schengen Zone and are not part of the EU. There are some that are included in both, while some aren't in either of them. You can imagine that this can get super confusing when trying to calculate your traveling dates!
The good news is though, that Albania is not part of the Schengen Zone. What does this mean for you? Well, it means that you can freely travel here even if you've already expired your 90 days inside the Schengen Area (which is exactly what happened to us). Tourists are allowed to travel in Albania visa-free for a total of up to 90 days within a 180-day period, despite whatever other European countries they have visited beforehand.
Covid Entry Requirements for Albania
While the entry requirements to enter and stay in Europe may get confusing, luckily when it comes to Covid, it's not at all. Albania is now open to all travelers, whether or not they have been vaccinated. There are also no longer any regulations about wearing masks, nor will you find anyone really wearing them anymore.
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Local Adjustments for Tirana, Albania
While traveling there are certain things that may be different from where you are coming from. These are what we like to call "local adjustments", and here are a few to keep in mind while traveling to Tirana in Albania.
Language in Tirana
The official language in Albania is Albanian. Unlike all of the other languages in the Balkan countries surrounding Albania, Albanian has nothing to do with the Slavic languages. It is a rather hard language to learn, and we were really only able to pick up a few phrases here and there.
Do People in Tirana Speak English?
Being in the capital, you will find that plenty of people do speak a decent level of English, especially the younger generations, so you shouldn't have any problems communicating.
Currency Used in Tirana, Albania
The currency used in Albania is the Albanian Lek. Currently (March 2024) the exchange is 96.05 lek for every 1 USD or Euro.
Euros can actually be used pretty much everywhere in Tirana, and we even found the exchange rate to be even better than when using lek at times! This is quite rare to find, so we suggest bringing as many euros as you can before coming to Albania.
Most places around Albania don't accept credit card, but there were definitely many more restaurants, hotels, and shops that accepted credit card than other places throughout the country. However, we do suggest having some cash for street vendors and tipping.
Plug Type in Albania
Albania uses the same plug types as the rest of the countries in Europe, which are types C & F. The standard voltage in Albania is 230V and the standard frequency is 50Hz. If you are from the Americas, you'll need to get a travel adapter for your electronics.
Is Water in Tirana Drinkable?
While some places in Albania have potable water, the city of Tirana is not one of them. We suggest sticking to bottled water while visiting.
How Much Do You Tip in Tirana?
The tipping culture in Albania is not very established. Most people tip in bars by simply rounding up the bill, while in restaurants they'll leave and extra 100-200 lek (between $1-2).
We always left 10% to our servers that did a good job, as wages are pretty low in Albania. However, if you don't receive outstanding service, you don't need to feel obligated to tip like this.
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How to Spend 1 Day in Tirana: The Top Things to Do
Now that you know almost everything you need to know about traveling to Tirana, here is how to spend 1 day in Tirana.
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9:00 Start off With Breakfast
Before planning on how to spend 1 day in Tirana, you'll want to fuel up for a busy day! Grab a cup of coffee or quick breakfast first. (You can head to our food & drink section for options).
10:00 AM Take a Free Walking Tour
One of our favorite ways of discovering new cities and meeting locals is by taking a free walking tour. Especially in a city like Tirana that isn't teeming with stunning places, this is a great way to immerse yourself in the culture, and learn about the history of the city.
Tirana Free Tour offers a tour that meets at the Opera House and starts at 10 am, lasting for around 2-2 1/2 hours. The other option is 2 pm, but we personally prefer the earlier slot.
Some of the highlights that they'll take you to are Skanderburg Square, Et'Hem Bey Mosque, The National Art Gallery, and the Pyramid. If you happen to miss the tour, or they are full, these are the sites we recommend you to go to in the area.
12:30 Check Out the Bunk'Art Museum
Now that you've learned about the history of Tirana and seen some of the main sites, we think you should visit the most important museums in Tirana, called Bunk'Art. There are actually two of them (the more popular one being the second) and you can enter an old bunker and learn about the former Cold War.
1:00/ 1:30 Lunch
Now that you've been exploring all that the center of Tirana has to offer, it's time for a bite to eat! (Keep reading or scroll to the food & drink section for the best restaurant options).
2:30/3:00 Visit Bovilla Lake
Bovilla Lake was hands down our favorite part of staying in Tirana, and is actually an awesome day trip. If you have a car (better if it's a 4x4) you can visit here on your own. The drive is one hour, and the place you'll want to plug into the GPS is Bovilla Restorant. (Don't put Bovilla Lake, as we did this and it brought us to the wrong end of the lake).
You can park right next to the restaurant, and the climb up to this epic viewpoint is just 5-10 minutes. It may not be for the faint of heart, but it truly is worth it!
The drive there is an hour each way, and we spent about 45 minutes walking up, enjoying the view, and waking back. If you go on your own, you'll be able to make it there and back in less than 3 hours.
Visiting Bovilla Lake with a Tour
If you don't have a car and would like to visit Bovilla Lake with a tour, this will actually be a day trip, as the excursions include different activities as well including guided climbs, city tours, and food/drinks. This is also a great option to do, as it will allow you to allow spend 1 day in Tirana hitting the highlights in a different way.
Here are a few of the best tours that we found to Bovilla Lake:
6:00 Recharge & Reset
After a busy day you'll want to head back to your hotel, shower and get ready for the night!
We're sure you're hungry and ready to have a delicious dinner! Scroll to the next part for some great dining options.
9:00/10:00 Hit the Bars
Now it's time for our favorite part! Capital cities always have the best nightlife, and Tirana is no exception. The best area to go out is in Blloku, which is a trendy neighborhood full of great places to eat and drink. Two of our favorite places that we recommend to check out are Radio Bar and Pepper Lounge.
How to Spend 1 Day in Tirana: The Best Places to Eat & Drink
We hope you enjoyed our list of how to spend 1 day in Tirana! Now is the time to choose the places that you'll go to eat and drink. Here are a few of the ways to spend 1 day in Tirana eating and drinking.
If you're looking for an insanely good breakfast, wonderful atmosphere, and the best service, then look no further than Coko. This place has a killer eggs Benedict with salmon, spinach, and truffle. Our server Hejda was the most attentive and sweet girl ever, and we loved hanging out here while we had to work a bit.
This is the restaurant where we had lunch. Located right near the water, this place made you feel like you just stepped into someone's home.
They have an incredible tasting menu, and it was definitely a great place to have lunch. We highly recommend getting a reservation here, and also ordering the check as soon as you get your meal, as the service was extremely slow.
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This is restaurant we had dinner, and it was nothing short of amazing. Habitat was highly recommended to us by a few locals, and honestly we got super lucky to get in there without a reservation (we recommend you to get one!).
Habitat is a family-run high end restaurant with only the freshest ingredients, and the tastiest dishes. We received excellent service from the son, and had a beautiful meal there- seriously couldn't recommend enough!
We actually visited here the morning we were leaving Tirana, and were hoping to have breakfast. The cute and colorful cafe is super inviting, but unfortunately they only serve coffee in the morning. We did hear though that this place gets packed at night and is a super fun when it comes to nightlife.
This is the bar that we went to after dinner, and the atmosphere was just great. The outdoor area is spacious and nicely lit, and they have great cocktails.
Bonus: Mrizi I Zanave Agroturizem
This was actually one of our favorite restaurants in all of Albania! While it's not in Tirana itself, we actually stopped here on the way from Shkoder to Tirana (it is a half hour from Shkoder, and an hour from Tirana).
Mrizi I Zanave is a farm to table experience, and has incredibly fresh home cooked meals. They require reservations, and we also suggest to dress decently as it is a very nice place. This place also has an adorable shop with local cheeses and jams, as well as a little petting zoo for children.
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How to Spend 1 Day in Tirana: Getting Around
When we visited Tirana, we actually had a car. However, for the city itself, it truly isn't necessary to have one.
If you'd like to go to Bovilla Lake on your own, we do suggest renting a car, preferably a 4x4. If you are going to spend 1 day in Tirana and not leave the city, you can easily get around by local bus or taxis.
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How to Spend 1 Day in Tirana: Where to Stay
We personally think that the best area to stay in Tirana is Blloku, as it's where you'll find the top restaurants and bars in town. This is also a more upscale area, so is definitely the most tourist friendly, and safe feeling.
Look for a place to stay in Blloku:
Another place that we highly recommend staying is Bujtina e Gjelit. It is simply the most stunning hidden gem of a hotel that you'll find, and is a slice of luxury in Albania's capital.
Unfortunately, we couldn't get a room here, as they book out well in advance. We did get a chance to soak with the owner though, as tour the place, which we will definitely be booking for next time!
Is Tirana Safe?
Tirana, as well as the rest of Albania, is perfectly safe to visit as a tourist! We had no problems walking around solo, nor walking around at night. However, like any big city, we do suggest paying attention ton your belongings so you aren't a potential victim for pick pocketing.
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Other Things to Know About How to Spend 1 Day in Tirana
Now that you know how to spend 1 day in Tirana, here are a few other things for you to know before visiting.
Weather in Tirana
Tirana experiences all four seasons, and has hot and dry summers, with very cold and wet winters.
The Best Time to Visit Tirana
In our opinion, the best time to visit Tirana is in the fall or spring time for pleasant temperatures. Another great time to visit is in December, so that you can experience their great Christmas market that they have.