Capital Culture & Color: Tirana Sightseeing with Art and History Museums
- Sights of the city: See the Palace of Culture, National Theater, historic Et'hem Bey Mosque, the Clock Tower, the infamous Pyramid, and the square named after (and the majestic equestrian statue of) Skanderbeg, Albania's national hero.
- National History Museum: See a replica of Skanderbeg's massive sword, priceless Roman antiquities, magnificent painted icons, Mother Theresa artifacts, and the haunting "Pavilion of Communist Terror."
- National Art Gallery: Visit a light-filled space where Albania's story comes alive through artwork, from 19th century paintings of village life to a powerful collection of Socialist Realism propaganda images of workers and soldiers.
- Blloku: Spend some time on your own in "the Block," a colorful neighborhood that was reserved for Party higher-ups during the Communist era. Now it's home to Tirana's most fashionable shops, cafes, clubs, even a rotating rooftop bar.
About this Durres Tour
Tirana deserves a gardening trophy for coming into full bloom in record time.
Over the two decades since freedom came to town, the coldly gray Soviet-style apartment blocks (and the repressed, isolated citizens inside) have given way to riotously painted buildings filled with friendly, optimistic locals who are out enjoying life. They have a lot of catching up to do.
They've shaken off centuries of invasion and brutal domination and held onto their spirit. They've even taken over the neighborhood where the dictators of the proletariat once kept their villas – and kept everyone else out. The Block is now a happening scene full of French delicacies, the latest fashions, intimate parks, and the cafe life. Remarkable.
But despite all that rebirth, Tiranans have preserved vestiges of the their long and often painful history with Greeks, Romans, Venetians, Ottomans, and others. Many are magnificent, like the treasured 2nd-century Beauty of Durres Roman mosaic at the National History Museum. Others are sources of national pride, like the 36-foot-tall bronze statue of caped 15th-century Albanian superhero Skanderbeg on his battle stallion, brandishing his mighty sword and goat's-head helmet, in the center of his namesake town square.
And there are cautionary reminders of how off-track things can get, like the remarkable collection of Socialist propaganda art at the National Gallery, or the haunting stories depicted in the recently opened pavilion in the National History Museum where Albania's dark, 45-year era of Communist prison camps and terror squads is frankly presented via film, document, and relic.
The fact that Tirana – and Albania with it – has flowered anew after such a long, cold political winter is proof of the country's resilience. And, apparently, its green thumb.
When the tour passes the pompously named Palace of Culture just off Tirana's main square, you may notice it has the unmistakable look of most Soviet Bloc public buildings. But while its cornerstone was indeed laid by Premier Nikita Khrushchev in 1958, it was mostly built by the Chinese. When relations between the Albanians and Russians went south soon after construction began, the Soviet engineers bailed, taking the plans with them. Chinese experts had to be brought in to finish the project.
Please make your way to the Durres Bus Terminal at Rruga Hafiz Podgorica to meet your tour representative.
In need of retail therapy after your tour? Shopping is available 7 days a week, although early closing at 3:00pm on Sundays is generally observed. Look for traditional Albanian souvenirs - embroidery, woolen items and Raki Skrapari, the local liquor.
Plan to walk a total of 1 mile with up to 50 steps over varying surfaces including cobblestones and flat surfaces.
Bus Tour, Cultural, Scenic
Vehicle sizes vary, depending on the size of the group.
English, German, Spanish, Italian, French
Tour Participation Requirements
This experience is rated moderate. Full participation may require extended periods of walking over even and uneven surfaces, steep terrain and/or water activity in a slight current. There may be steps, inclines, cobblestone surfaces, and extended periods of standing. Participants with physical limitations should take this into account.
Suitable for all ages.
Special Medical Restriction
Travelers must be in good health, disclose their physical fitness and advise any conditions that might impact their participation in the tour.
Full refunds issued for cancellations made 7 full days prior to the date and time of requested services. Cancellations made within the 7-day and 72-hour window will receive a 50% refund of purchase total. Purchases are non-refundable inside of 72 hours.
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