Albania is one of the lesser-known European holiday destinations, and along with it’s bordering ex-communist neighbours, it has so much to offer for those willing to wander of the typical European tourist track.
A visit to Albania, will likely include passing through Tirana. The capital city of this wonderful country. Chances are you won’t know what to expect from this city because you probably haven’t heard much about it. But like most places that you have no expectations for, you will likely be very impressed.
The colourful capital has gone to great lengths to cover its communist past with primary colours, transforming the once typically bleak communist capital into a vibrant, lively heart of Albania. Although Tirana will likely not win the place of being the Balkans’ most aesthetic city, the huge effort the city has gone to to conceal communism is charming.
There is one man responsible for making Tirana colourful and green and that is Edi Rama. Rama was the mayor of Tirana from 2000-2011 after he changed careers from painter to politician. He was criticised for putting too much focus on the appearance of the city, rather than concentrating on the functionality. It turns out covering a city with rainbow coloured walls can be quite an investment. An investment that may not be the most practical economical decision when the pretty buildings are in need of electricity and the city is experiencing water shortages…
But artistic political blunders aside, Rama’s efforts did bring a unique appeal to the city. Other than colourful buildings, there are a few other touristy highlights in Tirana:
- Skanderbeg Square: This square is the centre of Tirana and home to the huge equestrian statue of Skanderberg (Albani’s national hero). The square itself isn’t that impressive but the history and events that have taken place there are.
- Pyramid: The rundown communist pyramid of Tirana has once been a museum, a nightclub and a cafe. Now it simply sits surreally in the city centre, slowly decaying, covered in graffiti waiting to be destructed.
- National History Museum: If your knowledge of Albania is the same as mine was before I visited Tirana, (very minimal), then a visit to the National History Museum is a good idea. There is a lack of English in the museum but even just admiring photos and relics of the past will give you a great insight into the country’s history.
- Mount Dajti: For the best views of Tirana, catch the cable car to the top of Mount Dajti for 5 euro. It’s also a great place to escape the sweltering Albanian heat.
Loud, crazy, colourful and dusty – There is never a dull moment in Tirana. A visit to Tirana will be an opportunity to discover a city with a rich history and culture and a appealing shortage of the tourist crowds in other European capitals.