Family city breaks

Take a trip to Tirana, turns out it’s fun, fascinating and easy

Last updated 27th January 2024

A trip to Tirana isn’t just easy – and ahead of the pack – it’s an incredible learning experience for kids and adults.  Jane Anderson and her family explored the city with great local guides and brought back a whole heap of insider info.


Sunrise over Tirana, Albania

Let’s face it, most kids probably don’t even know where Tirana is, never mind that it’s the capital of Albania. Mine didn’t, and for that reason alone, this less-than-obvious city break turned out to be an eye-opener for us all.

Get under the skin of Tirana with Albanian Trip tours

If you want the type of tour guide who immerses you in a destination, Elton Caushi, the founder of Albanian Trip, is your man.

He was born in 1970’s Communist Tirana, and has lived and breathed his city’s transformation from Soviet rule to its present day democracy and bid for EU membership. As a result, his tour was packed with personal anecdotes, insights and first hand experience. Even the origin of his name got a look in: religion was banned in the 70s, and you weren’t allowed to call your child anything with religious connotations, so people named babies after footballers or rock stars, hence, Elton!

He also tells us that before 1991, when Communism fell, “My father was a musician for the official state orchestra and my mother could put together a Kalashnikov blindfolded. Everyone was given target practise!”

On our tour, Elton recommended starting on the Eastern side of the central neighbourhoods and getting a little lost in the secret streets of Rruga Qemal Stafa. Then, after exploring charming Mehalla e Shebegeve, stop by the villa and private gallery of artist Sali Shijaku: one of the most important authors of the Socialist Realism art of Albania, but with a real rebellion in his approach.

Finally, pause at the place where local hero Vojo Kushi was killed in an urban battle against fascist police. The monument dedicated to that is quite something.


Et’hem Bey Mosque, Skanderbeg Square, Tirana

It’s always hip to be square in this city

Skanderbeg Square has become the symbol of Albania’s independence, dominating the heart of Tirana and is currently looking very snazzy having been renovated beyond recognition by 51N4E architects and artist Anri Sala.

Have a marvel at the Orbital Forest around the square, which acts like a crown, planted with wild herbs including sage, and oregano; all found in abundance in the local countryside. Both the National Historical Museum and Adrion Ltd bookstore are worth a look here too. And, if want to catch a sunset, the steps of the impressive Opera House are the place to be.


National History Museum, Tirana

Alternatively, head to Mother Teresa Square where kids can go rollerblading. Elton tells us he used to roller skate in this square back in the 1980s, but only with one skate, as he shared a pair with a friend.

Tirana takes its street art seriously

Even colour was banned in Tirana during Communist times, so most buildings were grey. Now, in a bid to counter that, Edi Rama – current Prime Minister of Albania, and art lover – is actively encouraging not just the painting of many buildings, but colourful street art as well. To get an eyeful of the transformation, check out the brightly painted former Communist flats by the New Bazaar along with vibrant murals on more recent buildings.


Bunkart2 art gallery, Tirana

Get an eyeful of bunkers turned into art galleries

Continuing the grey Communist theme, concrete bunkers were part and parcel of the Soviet era in Albania. However, over the past few years even these have been creatively harnessed and repurposed as everything from art galleries to goat pens.

In Tirana, seek out BUNK’ART 1 and BUNK’ART 2. You’ll find the former on the outskirts of the city in an atomic bunker near the Dajti Mountain, and it’s dedicated to the history of the communist army and daily life during the regime. But the latter is right in the heart of the capital, next to Skanderbeg Square, where it reveals the secrets of ‘Sigurimi’: the political police. Admittedly this is pretty hardcore stuff for kids, nevertheless it makes a compelling modern history lesson.

Although, if you really want to know more about the dark days of Communist rule, head to atmospheric, tumbledown The House of Leaves. Here, a sensitive storytelling approach is taken to the paranoia created by the Soviet regime and how it affected normal households: gripping and moving in equal parts.

Explore Blloku for a hint of what’s trending in Tirana

The trendiest part of Tirana, known as Blloku or Block, used to be reserved just for politburo members – along with their bodyguards or nurses – so unsurprisingly, it’s home to vast villas. Nowadays it’s more like the local Manhattan, and the district where young people hang out it in the evening. Also, it’s the source of arguably the best ice cream in all Albania, Cioccolatitaliani.

Stay up with kids and take them on a night-time tour of the city. The neon, “You are happy! You are in Tirana” sign alone is worth a later than average bedtime.

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The Pyramid, Tirana

Get the best bird’s eye view of Tirana any time

If you want to really wear your children out and get a panoramic view of the city for free at the same time, make a beeline for The Pyramid.

See this Tirana icon from the sky and it resembles a star. However, when you get up close and choose which of the gleaming white stairs to climb and you soon get to grips with this extraordinary building’s crazy architecture.

Though you can still expect a surreal experience. Especially as The Pyramid is surrounded by brightly coloured cubist houses, which look exactly like containers standing on their corners.


Feeding the goats, Bunker Farm

Go seek some thrills and feast at Bunker Farm

When thrills are in order, ride the Dajti Ekspres cable car or the zipline in Petrela, or hike to the Cave of Pellumbas.

Then quieten down at Bunker Farm, a hidden oasis on the outskirts of Tirana where you can feast on delicious food at rustic, alfresco tables. Many ingredients are cultivated on-site including the most amazing honeycomb, plus there’s plenty of space for kids to run around, as well as a pretty tree house.


Tirana from Grand Park

Hang out by the lake or catch a puppet show

The Grand Park of Tirana is the city’s biggest playground, and features green spaces, lush forest and a huge expanse of water where beautiful bays play host to birds, trees, flowers, reptiles and insects.

However, sporty kids will probably be most impressed by the bike trails, climbing walls, table tennis and basketball courts.

Don’t miss the electric train ride round the lake shore, and try to catch a puppet show at nearby ArTurbina Theatre. Then buy a picnic lunch at Mullixhiu, they make amazing local pies.

How to plan a trip to Tirana

How to get there

Direct UK flights to Tirana take from 3 hours

Where to stay

Rogner Hotel features a pool and spa. Family rooms from £113 per night hotel

Book Rogner Hotel

Tirana Marriott Hotel has views over Albania’s top football stadium. Family rooms from £338 per night

Book Tirana Marriott Hotel

Good to know

Book a guided city tour with Albanian Trip 

Intrepid Travel offers a 9-day Albania Expedition including 8 nights’ accommodation, selected meals, activities and transport while on the tour.

See Albania Expedition