Lively, colorful Tirana is where this tiny nation’s hopes and dreams coalesce into a vibrant whirl of traffic, brash consumerism, and unfettered fun. Having undergone a transformation of extraordinary proportions since awaking from its communist slumber in the early 1990s, Tirana’s center is now unrecognizable from those grey days, with buildings painted in primary colors, and public squares and pedestrianized streets that are a pleasure to wander.
Trendy Blloku buzzes with the well-heeled and flushes hanging out in bars and cafes, while the city’s grand boulevards are lined with fascinating relics of its Ottoman, Italian and communist past – from delicate minarets to loud socialist murals. Add to this some excellent museums and you have a compelling list of reasons to visit. With the traffic doing daily battle with both itself and pedestrians, the city is loud, crazy, colorful and dusty, but Tirana is never dull.
Photos are courtesy of Visit Tirana Instagram page
The center of Tirana is Sheshi Skënderbej (Skanderbeg Sq), a large traffic island with an equestrian statue of the eponymous Albanian national hero at its center. Running through the square is Tirana’s main avenue, Blvd Zogu I, which south of the square becomes Blvd Dëshmorët e Kombit (Martyrs of the Nation Blvd). Most of the city’s sights are within walking distance of the square, though Tirana itself is now one huge urban sprawl. The Pyramid (mausoleum of the late communist leader Enver Hoxha, designed by his daughter, the Mosque and the Clock-Tower and the remains of the Castle of Tirana, and the mesmerizing Bunk’Art museums.