Colorful Tirana, with Art and History Museums
Tour Participation Requirements
Special Medical Restriction
Color is everywhere in free Tirana, fully emerged from decades under the shadow of totalitarianism. The buildings themselves have become colorful canvases, including the giant throng of characters captured in mosaic above the National History Museum's facade. They represent a who's who of Albanian history – everyone from the seafaring Illyrians who founded the country in the 6th century B.C. to proud Communist workers marching in 1981, the year the building opened. A decade later, free elections arrived at last, and Albanians were finally able to march to the ballot box – and be sure their vote would actually be counted.
Many chapters of this long and tumultuous journey are represented within the museum's eight pavilions. Some are magnificent, like the 2nd-century Beauty of Durres – a large ellipticalRoman mosaic lost for two millennia, found, and then lost again before finally being brought here for permanent view.
Other chapters are inspiring, like the exhibit dedicated to the life of Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, an ethnic Albanian better known as Mother Theresa. Or brilliantly captured in pigment, like the works of Onufri, a 16th-century icon-painting master who invented a particularly vibrant pigment of red that's never been equaled. (He apparently took the formula with him to his grave.)
But perhaps the most memorable chapter of all is the one that recounts Albania's dark, 45-year era of Communist prison camps and terror squads via film, document, and relic. If, like most non-Albanians, you weren't fully aware of how off-the-rails things were here, this will open your eyes.
Equally eye-opening is the remarkable collection of Socialist propaganda art you'll see at the National Gallery. These powerful images serve as a vivid reminder that people under totalitarian rule endure a constant bombardment of state-sponsored PR.
Ironically, reproductions of these colorful works sell big in the West: an unintended capitalist success story created by art that vilifies capitalism. It's likely less popular in countries like Albania, where the long years of darkness so recently lifted.
Once around the Blloku
After surveying Skanderbeg Square and visiting the museums, your tour ends across the River Lana for some free-range exploring in a neighborhood with a totally different vibe. Here in "the Block," it's all hipster, all the time. Formerly the drab residential enclave of high Communist Party officials, it's now bustling with fashionable hotels, cafes, and boutiques. Be sure to stop and sip a syrupy-smooth Turkish coffee as you watch the beautiful people go by.
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.