I visited Albania at the beginning of 2018 and I managed to see some very interesting places. I was in Tirana for three days only, but I found it to be a city rich in culture and entertainment; while people usually prefer to see more natural places in Albania, especially towns by the sea, visiting Tirana was also important to understand a piece of Albania’s history. Tirana is the most populous city in the entire nation (located in an area inhabited by more than one-third of the entire Albanian population) but although the city was founded during the Ottoman Empire, it was expanded and modernized during the 20th century, particularly in the 1990s with the fall of the communist regime. Numerous investments by foreign entrepreneurs have ensured that nowadays the city has many venues and it is especially attractive for young people, due to the large number of cafés and restaurants. I had a chance to walk around the city and see how the locals live; as far as safety is concerned, Tirana is rather quiet but as it happens with all the big cities around the world, you have to be careful especially if you are traveling solo.
Speaking of bars and restaurants, I had a very good time at Millennium Garden, where I tried Puka Beer, which is a delicious Albanian craft beer. I also recommend eating fish at Markata E Peshkut, located in the city center.
1) Tirana Cityscape: I saw the city of Tirana from the top floor of the Maritim Hotel Plaza , one of the best business hotels in the city. The view from there is pretty amazing, as it also includes the mountains surrounding the entire area. Tirana is the seat of power of the Albanian government, as it also hosts the Albanian parliament. The city is now the main economic, financial, political and commercial centre of Albania, and it is home to various public institutions and the university. From the urban agglomeration of buildings, it can be noticed that Tirana is a city in constant urban growth and it has also been awarded the title of European Youth Capital for 2022.
2) Graffiti in Tirana : the capital of Albania is full of graffiti and urban artworks as part of a project that embraces street art as a tool for social cohesion; the many murals located in various parts of the city have helped improve the city aesthetically and have given a new face to its urban fabric as well. In the same year I visited Tirana, a group of street artists organized a street art festival called MuralFest in collaboration with an art workshop in the Italian city of Lecce and the Albanian administration. Murals are increasingly appreciated by citizens in different parts of the world, and the same is happening in Tirana. I spotted this colorful graffiti of a girl dressed in flowers depicted on the façade of a popular bar called NOKI, which is located on the city’s main pedestrian street.
3) Colorful Buildings: The New Bazaar: as I have previously mentioned in my review of Ingrid Fetell Lee’s “Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things To Create Extraordinary Happiness”, Tirana has gone through a series of urban redevelopment projects initiated by the Albanian government; not only did these projects help improve the city’s image, but they also contributed to the reduction of crime. This supports the author’s thesis that colorful environments, including building façades in urban areas, have a positive impact on people’s well-being and mental health.
The building pictured above hosts the New Bazaar, as it is now a modern steel structure with glass roofing. Framing the Bazaar are various buildings with colorful façades designed to contrast the gray, somber colors of the socialist period.
4) National Historical Museum By Night: located in Skanderberg Square, which is Tirana’s main square, the National Historical Museum includes a series of pavilions narrating the history of Albania; Antiquity, Middle Ages, Renaissance, Independence, Iconography, National Liberation Anti-fascism War, Communist Terror and Mother Teresa. Nowadays many of the museum halls are also used for conferences and meetings. The National Historical Museum is the largest museum in Albania and its largest mosaic on the main façade depicts ancient and modern figures from the country’s history. Tirana’s architecture is a mix of traditional communist-era buildings and new modern buildings; the museum was designed and built by famed Albanian architects and the structure is very impressive, especially at night.
5) Skanderberg Square: the square is considered the heart of Tirana. It is named after the Albanian national hero and it likely represents the geographical and political center of Albania. The square is used for the celebration of social, cultural, political, and sports events, and sometimes for commercial activities as well. The eighty-first largest square in the world, with an area of 40,000 sqm, it is reminiscent of the communist era, when it served, in addition to army parades, to showcase the power of the regime. In 2017, the square was completely renovated and is now fully pedestrian friendly; 24,000 sq. m. of its area has been paved with a mosaic of natural stones from other Albanian-speaking lands. The square is also home to places of interest such as the Clock Tower, the Ethem Bey mosque, the city hall, the National Historical Museum, and the opera house.
All pictures are my own.
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