Albania

One Night Stand in Tirana
Albania is a destination that many Europe Gap Mappers would usually skip over. This is because the country is not hugely set up for tourists. Although in this case, when travelling from Greece to Croatia it is the most direct route and cost effective route. You will see on the Gap Calendar link provided on the main Europe page, it is suggested to stay only one night in Tirana. It is just a quick stop over as a means to continue on to Ohrid in Macedonia and other more exciting destinations.

Surprisingly, the city has some aspects that are worth seeing. At the least you’ll go home with an original story to tell. If you’re following the suggested Gap Map itinerary there’s not much time to spend in Tirana so the motto is ‘get in and get out’ this time. It’s the perfect place for a one-nighter because all of the main points can be easily ticked off in a day. Enjoy the affordability of the Lek currency… and see Tirana!

Arrivals

Following The Gap Map itinerary you can get to Albania by taking an overnight bus from Greece. Unfortunately the public transport system from Greece on to other countries is not very efficient. The best option would be to get an overnight bus from Athens to Tirana, the capital city of Albania. This is the most direct and cheapest route on offer. The overnight bus also saves you paying for a nights accommodation and stops you from wasting a day traveling when you could be exploring.

Alternatively, if you decide you would rather skip Albania all together, you can instead take a 6 hr bus from Athens to Thessaloniki in Greece . In Thessaloniki you can stay the night and continue the following day from Thessaloniki to Ohrid in Macedonia where you will link back up with the route. However, this will take a couple of changes in between.

Scroll down for info on Albanias capital, Tirana.

Highlights

The Clock Tower in Skanderbeg Square is an easy sight to visit as it’s located right in the heart of the city. The clock tower is open for you to climb up on Monday, Wednesday and the weekends but is closed during the lunch time hours so visit in the morning or the afternoon for a view from the top.

Blloku or Ish-Blloku otherwise known as ‘The Block’ is where the young people of Tirana hang out. Head to Rr. Ismail Qemali which is the name of one of the main streets and explore the neighboring streets for more trendy cafes, restaurants, shopping and people watching. This residential area was once gated and only allowed entry to government officials. It has only been open to the public since 1991 and since then has developed into the number one spot for night clubs on the weekend.
Take the bus ‘Tirana e Re’ and ask the driver to notify you when you arrive at Ish-Blloku area Rr. Ismail Qemali.

Head over to Dëshmorët e Kombit Boulevard (Nation’s Martyrs Boulevard) for access to many of the local parks. Kick back with a picnic and relax for the afternoon.

Parku I Madh is the Grand Park in the southern part of the city. This is another great place for a picnic as there are loads of shady trees and mountains surrounding the area. There’s also an artificial lake in the middle of the Park.

The Taiwan Centre is a modern entertainment complex situated in the city centre. Here you can find shopping, restaurants, bowling, a casino and more.

Stay

Milingona Hostel is in a decent location just a ten minute walk to the old town and main attractions. The hostel is clean and there’s a balcony with a view of the mountains. Dorm rooms are about 8 Euro. The downfall is that it can be hard to find when arriving because many of Tirana’s streets don’t have signs to guide you. The hostel states on its ‘directions’ page that they can meet you at your drop off point in Skanderbeg Square. Take them up on this offer! Book here

Trippin Hostel is great for its services. The staff can help organize tours and parties. Breakfast is included in the price with dorm rooms costing around 9 Euro.
Book here

Eat

Always keep an eye out for the street food in Tirana. Hole in the wall shops and carts on the corner, sell foods such as Sufllaqe, Doner Kebabs, and Gjiro similar to those you find in Turkey and Greece. They sell for less than 200 L so you can’t get much better than that for value. Also look out for the local specialty, Byrek which is a light pastry stuffed with cheese and spinach. Street Byrek usually goes for just 30 L.

Pastiçeri International is a patisserie in The Block area where you can get your coffee and sweets fix.
Rr. Abdyl Frashëri

NYT Bagels is providing some comfort food to the New Yorker Gap Mappers in Tirana. Cheap, filling and delicious, these bagels are a great lunch time option and taste just as good as the ones made in NYC.
Themistokli Germenji, Tirana

Marion Restaurant is located inside the University campus. It’s a favourite with students for its cheap lunch time meals. It’s a self service style cafeteria with a mix of hot and cold dishes that change daily.
Qyteti Studenti, Tirana

Serendipity the Mexican is where to go if you want something other than traditional food. This restaurant is primarily Mexican with some other non-mex options on the menu too. Wash it down with a couple of Margaritas and you’re ready to hit the town! Dishes range from around 500-700 L which is about 3-6 Euro.
Rr. Ibrahim Rugova 26/1

Gloria restaurant serves dishes that are a mix of Albanian and Italian cuisines. The dinner menu is offered for reasonable prices. A large variety of things are available on the including pizzas and salads. Portions are generous.
Qemal Stafa, prana shkolles F.Noli, Tirana, Albania

King House is another restaurant serving a mix of traditional Albanian cuisine along with some Mediterranean and Italian dishes. Decent prices and lots of variety.
Deshmoret e 4 Shkurtit, Tirana, Albania

Nightlife

As mentioned in the ‘highlights’ section, Blloku is the best area for nightlife in Tirana. For more info on Tirana’s club scene visit www.clubzone.al

Departures…

The next stop on The Euro Gap Map is Ohrid, a lake side town in Macedonia. To get there from Albania, there is a 3 hour bus from Tirana to Struga, a town just north of Ohrid. From there you can easily get a taxi to Ohrid for about 5 euros taking about 15 minutes.